21 February 2011

True Joy is Found in Spiritual Maturity

PHIL 2:12-18

What happens to a person when they grow? Everything changes doesn’t it? Think about it for a moment! From the time you are conceived to the time you’re born........and to the last day you pass into eternity! You are changing every day from what you were! Everything changes from what you wear to what you eat! Everything from what you know to what you speak about! Every day we are learning something new! If you don’t believe me then you are exactly what Paul talked about in the previous verses! Paul comes to a part in his letter which should cause all of us to examine our lives very carefully (Look at v12-13) Now we must not misunderstand what this verse of scripture is saying! It doesn’t mean a self help or a salvation by works.............God has a highest of standards, and He knows will never attain it in our sanctification! But this verse says “Work out your salvation” NOT!Work for your salvation, work towards your salvation, work at your salvation. Why? Eph 2:8-9 "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." We must always remember..........NO ONE can work his or her salvation out, unless God has already worked it in! Again going back to (1 v6) Paul says “Work out your own salvation" which means gives us the encouraging words to go on, walking by the same rule minding the same things, till your salvation is completed. When is our salvation completed? When we get to Heaven. So until that day comes we must progressively be growing, maturing in these areas of life, maturing in our walk with Him, filled with a deep love for God and a love for the body of Christ! Walk in righteousness and not destroying your testimony to those around you. Bearing fruit unto holiness as you strive to grow more and more into the image of the Son. Not indulging ourselves in habitual sin! Luke 13:24 says "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." Paul says you must; work our salvation with fear and trembling.

Fear in this text (means) to be put in fear; alarm or fright:, be afraid, exceedingly be afraid, fear, terror.

Trembling (means) a “trembling”, that is, quaking with fear: - + tremble (-ing)...... It's the idea the Psalmist had when he wrote “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling......” Ps 2:11.

Another prime example of this is found when Peter, James, and John witnessing the Transfiguration! "He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified." Matt 17:5-6. Fear and trembling is the attitude which every Christians is to pursue their sanctification. It involves a healthy fear of offending God and a righteous awe and respect for Him and a hatred towards our personal sin! John Bunyan says "Christian; let God's distinguishing love to you be a motive to you to fear Him greatly. He has put His fear in your heart, and may not have given that blessing to your neighbour, perhaps not to your husband, your wife, your child, or your parent. Oh, what an obligation should this thought lay upon your heart to greatly fear the Lord! Remember also that this fear of the Lord is His treasure, a choice jewel, given only to favourites, and to those who are greatly beloved." The Lord takes great pleasure in your salvation! (v13). The Lord takes such great pleasure in our salvation........God loved us when we were sinners, when we had no righteousness and we didn’t and couldn’t love Him back. Do you realize you’re closer to salvation today, than you were yesterday? He hasn’t finished rescuing you yet! He has secured you in His sovereign election, but He hasn’t completely delivered us yet into glory! Remember that blessed promise that Paul said in the early part of his letter! But until that day comes....until He calls us home we are to practice something as we grow in His grace. We are required to do something in the meantime.........He says! “Do all things without complaining which means without grumbling, muttering sounds people make when they are disgruntled. It has a negative response to something unpleasant, inconvenient or disappointing, arises from self centered person. Again this comes from the fact we are naturally selfish people! "I want what I want and I don’t like it when I don’t get my way!" Who else grumbled because they didn’t like the situation they were in? The nation of Israel! “Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His word, But complained in their tents, And did not heed the voice of the LORD. Therefore He raised His hand in an oath against them, To overthrow them in the wilderness, To overthrow their descendants among the nations, And to scatter them in the lands.” Ps 106:24-27. There is another group of people who aloso grumbled because they didn’t like the situation they were in? The local church!

• I don’t like the music; it’s too new and modern for my liking.
• This building is either too hot or too cold.
• The sermon is too long and I have a roast in the oven.
• I wish the preacher would speak more on my needs being met and less on sin.
• I hate the colour of the pews and the lighting of the sanctuary.
• I can’t hear when the preacher speaks (but I always seat at the back of the church)

See by nature we are all natural born complainer just like our father and mother back in the garden. And this behaviour hasn’t diminished throughout history! This pattern still lives on! Paul also says do all things without disputing which means doubting, questioning something, or disputing the truth of a matter, it’s the idea of questioning or criticizing something or someone. Why does Paul emphasize these areas of the Christian life? Because they are most destructive enmities to the body of Christ!

• This behaviour or practise of life can close church doors and splits.
• This form of behaviour produces unforgiving hearts.
• A life of deception to the reality of your present sin.
• A decline in spiritual growth and fellowship with a holy God.
• A hindered Christian life that is ashamed as you stand before Christ! Remember what John said “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” 1 John 2:28.

The reason Paul wrote about this wrong behaviour because he knew what this could do to the body (the church). There is a good reason for stopping this behaviour! (Look at v15)  “that you may become” this is a process that we are striving for, growing towards something that we don’t possess yet........Believers should have the attitude in pursuing godliness so that we may become what? Blameless describes a life that cannot be criticized because of sin or evil; no charge can be sustained against you. Harmless can be translated innocent, describes a life that is pure, unmixed, and unadulterated with sin...to be sincere in all your actions of life because it’s Christ who lives in me! 1Thess 5:23-24 says "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it." Without fault (means) above reproach, spotless without blemish! 2 Peter 3:14 says "Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace." Why all this? This world we live in as Christians is a crooked and perverse nation, a perverse world of rampant sin! Crooked means what is bent, curved, or twisted. Perverse means to distort, that is, (figuratively) misinterpret, or (morally) corrupt, turn away. We must be examples of Christ on this earth that is full of wickedness and filth!! "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Matt 10:16. Jonh Gill gives a great example for the Christian in a perverse culture“All the saints are like lilies in the valleys, liable to be trampled upon by the foot of every wild beast; like roses among thorns, to be scratched and torn; and like Lots in the midst of Sodom, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: the whole world lies in sin, and the saints are enclosed on every side with wicked men.” Our character and our actions should line up according to God word says, not according to the flesh (not according to selfish me)!! What believers are to be is BLAMELESS and INNOCENT children of God, who are above REPROACH. This means we live out our lives in such a way that the world or our community has no room to speak ill of your present behaviour. Why? Because we are children of the living God who is sanctifying us daily by His good pleasure! (v13). We are to be a light, an influence to a godless generation, by fulfilling the Great Commission, a life that is pursuing obedience and godliness. We are to be lights to a fallen and broken society!! What does that look like? When you look up to the Heavens at night, what do you see on a clear night? Billions of bright stars that light up the night time sky. The same goes for us here! When God looks down from Heaven, He should be able to see those same bright lights (you and me) in a dark and broken world. That’s the joy that God wanted the church to have each and every day! So how do we do have an effective light (ministry) or Christian life that are pleasing to God?  By what Paul writes in the following verse (v16)“Holding fast the word of life” which means holding out offering something for others to take. According to that definition.....what are we to offer? The gospel of truth, which when believed, produces spiritual and eternal life for those who listen. Paul said to the church at Corinth “Now then, we are ambassadors (representative) for Christ, as though God were pleading through us...” 2 Cor 5:20. The Gospel is called the word of life, because of the effects in which it produces. Paul wrote in Eph 2:1 "And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;" We have been quickened by His grace and the power of His word. We were once dead in our sins, but we have been made alive in Christ Jesus our LORD. May your light never go out in a world that is dying in darkness, who desperately need the Light of His precious Words. Remember what Jesus said in to the disciples in Matt 9:36-38 “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."

• We are the Harvest
• We are the light
• We have the truth
• We are the Labourers in a perverse and crooked community....country....world!

As the late great Jim Elliot said "God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life that I may burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like You, Lord Jesus." Why must we pursue this passion of spiritual maturity? (v16-v18) “.... So that I may rejoice in the day of Christ... that I have not run in vain or labored in vain." Paul is saying that he desires that for us so that his efforts were not wasted or worthless. When he could look back and rejoice in the faithfulness of his brethren. The people whom he served would be a source of his eternal JOY. When Paul is face to face with our Lord he will find out that he did not labor in vain......We are to be blameless and pure both before others and before God our testimony must stand the test of time. We are all (every single one of us) are to hold fast the word of life to others by living and proclaim the wonderful grace of our Lord who brought salvation to you and me.

• Our every breath is to proclaim Christ
• Our every day actions are to proclaim Christ
• Our sanctification works are to proclaim Christ
• Our testimony is to proclaim Christ
• Our complete lives are to proclaim Christ

Christ is to be supreme and worthy of all my attention and adoration! True joy is found in a continuing life that is maturing into the image of the Son as a light to a crooked and perverse generation!! SO LET ME ASK YOU THE SUNDAY QUESTION! Is your life reflecting the joy of spiritual maturity?

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