Saturday, September 21, 2013

Philippians 1:3

"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,"

How much of our prayers are focused on ourselves? Can we be honest and say that we pray for other people on a regular basis? And with that can we be honest and say that we are thanking God continually for those people?
This is something that I am still learning within my own life. I have a list of individuals that I desire to pray for and thank God for every day, but I admit that some days I find myself lacking in this area. Even still, a lot of the time when I do bring them before the Lord I quickly see myself jumping to asking God to reveal to them the sin in their life that I can see so clearly.

While this is not necessarily a bad thing, how many times do I just simply thank the Lord for putting those people into my life as a blessing? This is a challenge that I put before each one of us, that we would give thanks for the people in our lives. I pray that I will see them as more than just a human, but as a person that is made in the image of God and that in all my remembrance of them, meaning every time I pray for them, that I will thank my God in heaven.

Notice that Paul says "my God." This word "my" brings in for us a very personal outlook. Paul here is doing two things:

  • First, he is showing us that God is a very personal God. God is not just the Ruler of the universe that we must fear and obey. He is much more than that. God is intimately involved in each of our lives. He knows each one of us better than we know ourselves. Out of every individual that has, is and will ever live God knows us personally and desires us to share in that personal union with Him.

  • Second, he is setting an example for us to follow. We are to treat this as fact and live every day of our lives knowing and understanding and comprehending and acknowledging that God is intimately acquainted with each one of us, whether we like it or not. However, Paul wants us to enjoy this and be filled with thanksgiving because God meets us where we are at and relates to us on an individual level.

Look at the wording that Paul uses. What is this remembrance that he is talking about? I believe it is more than just prayer, although he does go on to talk about his praying for them, yet I believe he is thanking God for them every time he remembers them. In his thought process it seems that even in times when they just pop into his mind for a split second and in those times when he is actually praying and having longer lasting thoughts for them, he can't express the thankfulness of his heart enough.

Notice the whole of the verse. What else is he thanking God for? He is thanking God for the work He has done in Philippi. Paul doesn't take any credit for what God has and is doing. What a humble attitude of giving it all to the Lord. Truly we are to renew our minds and our entire thought process is to be God Himself.

1.      Do you thank God for the people He has placed in your life every time you remember them?

2.      Do we humble ourselves and give God the credit for the work He has done through the ministry that He has given unto us?

3.      Even if you have a rough relationship with someone, or for some reason they are hard to love, do you still thank God for that person every time you think of them? If not, then according to God's Word something is wrong in your life.
I can almost guarantee that not every single one of these believers were best friends with Paul or that even Paul had the same amount of happiness for each person. We as natural people show different levels of ourselves to different people. It would be absurd to think that everything was just peachy.

These were normal men and women who struggled with normal sin problems. Paul had a fleshly nature just like us, but he realized that even if he didn't always get along with someone they were still a gift from God to him in order to further his growth in the Lord.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Philippians 1:2

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

What does grace mean? It means undeserved kindness; unmerited favor; and true grace is un-coerced. It seems strange that Paul would write something like this because if you think about it, how can a sinful man that is completely separated from God ever even understand the grace of God...let alone give it to another sinful man who doesn't deserve it either? It is because these aren't sinful men anymore. Paul made it very clear in verse one that these individuals to whom he is writing to are saints in the Lord Jesus.

Notice what is happening with this grace. It is being poured out. It is being thrust toward. But where is it going and from where is it coming from? Paul goes on to answer these questions and actually declares that the only possible source that true fulfilling grace can come from is from God Himself. What we see here in this verse is that God is continually lavishing His grace upon these believers, who are in fact saints in His beautiful Son.

Are the saints in Philippi just going to read this letter one time and then never look at it again? I seriously doubt it and that is the same for us. I have read the book of Philippians many times and every time I read through this verse I am continually reminded of the grace that God is showing me every step of the way through all circumstances of my life and every moment of every day.
The very fact that I am breathing right here right now is only by the grace of God. Every happy moment, time of suffering, hurt that I feel and even death is all a result of His loving hand upon my life and it is His grace that will continue to be granted to me as I remain here in this world.

NOTE: As we continue through this study in the book of Philippians, I want you to notice the word order of every verse and see how the verses continue to build upon each other throughout this epistle.

Before you can have peace with God you need His grace. Paul understands that grace always precedes peace in every instance. And Paul gives the only logical source of where this grace and peace can be found and that is from God and in Christ Jesus alone.

Grace expresses more of the character of God than any other word ever spoken. Can you imagine if we had never jumped into sin? We would have never been able to understand the grace of God to the extent that we do. Even in our sin, as dark as it is, God can take our rebellious nature and use it to bring about something good for His glory.

Grace refers to the act of God in extending blessing to man based on the cross of Christ. Paul uses this word in every single letter and when he begins his epistles, "peace" is always second after grace. Peace is always the result of grace that is received.

Where else can you find true fulfilling grace and peace? Nowhere! God's grace and God's peace is the best kind and it is the longest lasting. The book of Ephesians actually tells us that Christ Himself is our peace (Eph. 2:14).

True peace comes only from the Godhead. What we see throughout history is that the nations of the world are always in conflict. They try and give each other a big slap in the face and then they try and make peace, yet it never lasts. There is always an end goal of one or both of the parties wanting to eventually take full control. 
This is why wars are rampant. So many times we try to find peace by any other means. We waste our lives looking in so many places, but if we never put our eyes on Jesus, then we will never find it. The point is that if Christ is not in it from the start, then there never was peace to begin with. Also saying that true godly peace, once it begins, never ends.
Notice that so far Paul has mentioned Jesus three times, thus showing the true meaning of this epistle and declaring the preeminence of our Lord. He has mentioned the Father once and he hasn't mentioned the Holy Spirit at all, however, without the working of the Spirit this letter would never have made it into print.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Divine Sustenance in Exercising Judgment

Colossians 1:16-17 says, "For by Him [Jesus] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him [Jesus] and for Him [Jesus]. He [Jesus] is before all things, and in Him [Jesus] all things hold together."

This key word "all" is mentioned four separate times within these two verses and has the idea of the total value. All means all, and that's all, all means! It is all-inclusive. It represents the whole amount. There is nothing existing, besides God, which is outside of this meaning. In fact, the only thing that is not made out of anything would be God Himself, because He is not an invention.

Now let me ask you the question, what is held together by God? Everything! This includes the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, even their hosts'. In all reality, even in discussing the very nature of God, I personally believe that from a logical conclusion it would be utterly inconceivable, improbable, and absolutely impossible for God to have ever in all of eternity create an object in which He was not sustaining and holding together its very existence.

I know what you are probably thinking, however, in no way does this belief limit God. In actual terms it brings the highest glory to God because the focus is not on something He can't do. The emphasis is on His greatness and full supremacy in holding together what He has made. By His very nature God is the only self-sustaining being in existence. Everything else is held in His hand.

Throughout scripture we find many things that God cannot do, however, they are always character issues. God in very essence of nature cannot create someone higher than or equal to Him. He cannot lie nor can He tempt. He also, by no means, can create something that sustains itself.

For the very existence of a product proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that something or someone is sustaining and maintaining it. If there was to be such an item that was not held together by the sovereign hand of the Most High God, then this particular device would have no time nor place to run to because it would flee itself into nothingness faster than the twinkling of an eye.

A thought came across my mind the other day. I began having an image of the Noahic Flood. As this was an incredible judgment, I began trying to imagine God working up and moving in such a way that His power was causing the floodgates of heaven to rain upon the earth and destroy it. I immediately thought to myself that God doesn't have to work up or put forth any effort to bring chaos into creation. All He has to do is simply loosen His grasp on holding it together. If He removes His sustaining hand, then you and I are done for.

However, there is also another way He can exercise wrath and that is upon the unbelieving. He can, as we just talked about, remove His hand, or He can grab ahold of you fiercely and directly by His hand and push wrath upon you while sustaining you to live through the pain (Hell).

The human soul was created and formed by God. We were made in His image. Therefore, as humans we will never in all of eternity cease to exist. Some will inherit eternal life and live forever with God, while many will perish into everlasting destruction. So which group of people is being held together by God? The answer is "yes!" For all of eternity, whether you spend it in heaven or hell, God will be sustaining you through that.

Can you imagine the sinner in hell having divine assistance? However, this God-given assistance is only there in order that the sinner will justly pay for his crimes forever. If God would let the sinner out of His hand and refused to sustain him, then the wicked would be in fact burned up in the wrath of Almighty God and would in fact become an object of nonexistence.

Therefore, what we see from Scripture is that there are two forms of divine judgment that God has and will distribute:
  1. God can simply remove His sustaining hand and let go of the object, thus making it cease to exist (Revelation 20:11) and/or slightly loosen His grip in that as it is still within His control, it is despairing and imploding upon itself.
  2. God can also hold the object in a tight squeeze not allowing for them to ever have the opportunity to break loose and at the same time He is actively pouring wrath upon them in furious anger (This is His dealings with the sinner in hell).

Should we dress nice for church?

Within our culture, there is a growing trend about how one should dress themselves at church. Many will say that "God is more concerned with the heart than He is with the appearance." This statement is true, however, let's think this through.

Imagine you meet the girl/guy of your dreams. The two of you end up dating and your feelings for one another grow deeper and stronger as the days go by. Boyfriend will propose to girlfriend because he has a desire to spend the rest of his life with her. Truth is that you have already had many talks about getting married and a few months later that will become a reality.

How will you dress on that day? You will not dress like a slob to your wedding and in most cases neither will you dress casual. The culture for weddings is still to dress your best. The amazing thing is that you will never find a couple on their wedding day that is more focused on what they are wearing than on their spouse to be. Instead of dressing nice simply out of duty and having the feeling of "I have to," deep in their heart is a burning fire that wants to please their mate and they say "I get to."

Many will pay money that they don't have simply to impress the other person. They will go out of their way to make it a special day that they will never forget and out of love and respect for their soon to be spouse they will aim for the very best.

Now I am sure that most of you know where I am going with this. I think it is interesting to note that in the book of Revelation, the church at Ephesus had all of its doctrine spot on. They knew the ins and outs. They knew 1 Samuel 16:7 which talks about how God measures the heart. They knew all of these things, yet they had lost their first love (Revelation 2:4).

They had split the hairs of doctrine so well that they had it all right, yet that became their focus and instead of being consumed with God they were obsessed with just knowing about God. Earlier in this church's life, they would have gone out of their way in order to present their best before Jehovah God, yet the stages of life came in and they began taking God for granted.

Has our attitude about this subject caused us to lose our first love? Our relationship with God is about the heart, but just as a woman craves for her husband to love her, she also desires him to continually go out of his way to impress her, do things for her, and prove his love by showing in action that he wants to give her the very best.

Where is that "love" within the church? In my own heart I have seen myself try to make excuses. I rationalize it by telling myself that I am always in the presence of God, therefore I can't always look my best. If you are a believer in Christ, then it is true that you are inseparably linked with God, however, whether you and I want to except it or not there is a difference.

Our culture has chosen for there to be a specific day out of the week that we come together as a body of believers and worship our God. Why do we dress our best for a mortal girl or a mortal guy, yet refuse to honor the Immortal God by the way we dress? I say this in love so please show me grace, but if you and I dress ourselves the best for a mere human rather than for God, then it is possible that we have become man-pleasing idolaters!

God wants our love for Him to be greater than that of a man and a woman on their wedding day and He doesn't want that to end. He desires that our wedding day love for Him will continue throughout the remainder of our lives and on into eternity.

However, the same concept goes with the fact that if somebody does come to church in jeans or shorts and a T-shirt, then we are not to judge. God does measure the heart. All I am saying is that I believe we should out of love and reverence for our great God and Savior give Him the very best because that is what He deserves. None of us know the heart of another, yet each of us is to glorify God in the highest!

In conclusion, remember that everybody's "best" will be different. Not everybody will be the same, however, each and every one of us is to fully submit ourselves to the Father's will, both internal and external.

Dressing your best is not at all a way to somehow earn God's acceptance because you can never earn it. If you are a believer, then you already have God's full acceptance. Now as believers' in the risen Christ, let us work from that acceptance enjoying God and glorifying Him forever.

"...whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31