Preached at Riverview Park in Cascade, IA on July 19, 2015.
Open your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 4:1-6. This week the kids have been learning about the Gospel. In light of that, I will be preaching about the Gospel. To do this, I will be using 2 Corinthians 4:1-6. So let us read our text, I will pray that God would give us understanding, and then we will get to work.
I have titled my message, “The Open Statement of the Truth.” I get this title from verse 2. Paul is speaking about his ministry of sharing the Gospel to unbelievers and he says in verse 2, “We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”
For those who don’t know who Paul is, he was the chosen instrument of God to take the message of Jesus Christ to the world. He was the first person to take the Gospel to the continent of Europe. Paul was a Church planter, and Paul’s church growth strategy was to simply proclaim the truth of the Gospel. He goes from place to place and openly declares Jesus Christ as Lord.
As he says in verse 1, he does not participate in disgraceful or underhanded ways, he does not use cunning to trick people into believing, and he does NOT mess around with the Word of God. He simply preaches the Gospel.
Why would Paul be so willing to simply proclaim the Gospel? Why would he place so much faith in a simple open statement of truth? The reason is because this truth is like no other truth in the Universe, for it has the ability to penetrate into the heart of man. You can see Paul’s understanding of the Gospel in Romans 1:16.
Now here is the problem. Some of you, if not many of you in this park, do not know what the Gospel is. No one has ever shared with you the Gospel, nor have never read the Bible to see the Gospel for yourself. Which is a major issue if the GOSPEL is the power for salvation. For if you don’t’ know the Gospel, then you will not be saved.
And because of that if I were to ask you today, “Are you going to Heaven or Hell?” Most likely, all of you would say Heaven. If I were to ask you, “Why do you believe this?” Some of you would say, “Because I go to Church.” Folks, going to Church is not the Gospel. A building has no ability to save your soul from Hell. Never once does Jesus say go to the Church and you will be saved. Not once. Brick and mortar has no special power over you soul.
Others of you may say, “I am going to go to Heaven because I am good person.” Unfortunately, the Bible says the complete opposite about you. Romans 3:12 says, ”No one does god, not even one.” Jesus himself reinforces this truth in Luke 18:19 when he says, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except god alone.” No one is good enough to get to Heaven. Every single one of us on this planet has sinned, and our sin is enough to send us to Hell.
So do not for once think you are going to Heaven because you go to a building, and participate in a certain liturgy. Nor should you think that you are going to Heaven because you are “good.” Neither one of those things are the Gospel. However, Satan would love for you to believe this, for if you do, you will spend eternity with him.
So today, I am going to proclaim the open statement o f the truth, and my prayer is that you would have ears to hear, and would accept the Good News and place your faith in Christ Jesus as your Lord and as your Savior, if you haven't already.
God is the Creator
Let us start with verse 6. It says, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness.” Where does this verse come from? It comes from the beginning, Genesis 1. In the very beginning, before there was creation, there was God. He existed before space/time.
Scientists love to talk about a “Big Bang,” which is the scientific explanation of where the Universe came from. Scientist believe at the moment of the big bang there is what is called singularity. Singularity is the existence of infinite density and infinite temperature, and in that moment of singularity there is no existence of the laws of physics, and it was from that moment of singularity that all the Universe came from. What science can’t tell you is what is behind the Big Bang? What caused the Big Bang? What is infinite in density and infinite in temperature? What can exist outside all of the laws of physics?
However, the Bible does. God has told us explicitly how it all began. The Infinite, Eternal, Sovereign God is the force behind all of Creation. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.” Paul in 2 Corinthians 4 is reminding us of that reality in verse 6. He is reminding us that God is the Creator. God is the Potter. God is Sovereign, and the evidence of this reality is all around us. Look at the sky. Look at the grass. Look at your hand. Look at your children. Look at a bumble bee. Creation screams that it has a creator, and logic screams this as well.
Just think about it. Everything that has a beginning has a cause. We call this cause and effect. For example, at one time this amphitheater did not exist, but now it does. How did it get hear? This amphitheater was built by builders. How do I know this? Did I see them build it? No. The reason I know that builders built the amphitheater is because it exists. The builders were the cause of this existing. Likewise, as we look around, how do we know that this world was built? Because all things that exist have a cause.
Humanity Is Blind
However, here is the problem, we fail to thank God. We fail to give him the praise that is due his name. Instead of giving God glory, we instead give other things glory, like ourselves.
I think verse 4 tells us why, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.” Because of the deception of Satan and the subsequent fall, humanity is blind. This is the reality for who have ever lived. Because of Sin we fail to see God as God and therefore give Him the glory he deserves. Therefore instead of living for Him, we blindly live for other things.
And because of this blindness we have made a mess out of the world. From day to day we leave a wake of disaster behind us: Murder, abortion, sexual immorality, drugs, drunkenness, coveting, divorces, lying, the list can go on and on. The world is an absolute mess. However the worst is found in verse 3, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing”
The biggest issue in our life is sin. But why? What is so bad about living in sin? Why can’t we live our life our way? The reason is because God is a just God and he will not ignore our rebellion against him.
Imagine being in Wal-Mart and seeing a father with his 5 year old son The child is whining and complaining because he wants a gun. The father tells him “No, you cannot have a gun, you will hurt yourself.” Then imagine the 5 year old turning to the father and flipping him off and grabbing the gun and run out of the store as he attempts to load it with bullets. Then imagine the father shrugging it off, or laughing about it. Would you think he is a good Dad? Of course you wouldn’t, so why do we assume God shrugs off our sin.
God is our Father in Heaven and he is a Just God. Each one of us will stand in judgment before Him. The coming judgment of God was one of Jesus’ most common messages during his three year ministry. He was constantly warning people about the coming judgment.
For those who do not believe in the Gospel, your destiny is found in verse 3, you will perish. Romans 6:23 says, “the wages of sin is death.” And this perishing is not just physical death, but it is eternal death, Hell. Every single person who does not accept the good news of Christ is guaranteed to live all eternity in a place that Jesus described as “eternal torment.”
Once again, why do I say these things? Because it is an open statement of the truth. It is what Jesus proclaimed, it is what John the Baptist proclaimed, it is what Peter proclaimed, it is what Paul proclaimed, it is what the early Church proclaimed, it is what the entire Bible proclaims, and it is what all Christians today should proclaim. People must hear the bad news before they will accept the good news.
Christ is the Glory of God
So what is the good news? The good news is Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the good news. This is why the Angles proclaimed to the Shepherd's in Luke 2:10 regarding the birth of Jesus, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The good news is found in the person of Jesus Christ. The answer to your biggest problem, sin and death, is not found in a building, it is not found in a ritual, it is not found in yourself. It is found in Christ alone.
This is the whole point as to why Jesus came into the world, to save sinners like you and like me. Jesus said of himself in John 14:6, ““I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
God sent Jesus into the World to fix the world's problem, sin. He was a rescue party of one, sent behind enemy lines to rescue his bride. And the way He rescued her was to live a perfectly sinless life and then lay down his life for her. Jesus was the only person to walk this planet without sin. He was perfectly righteous. He then died on the cross, and God the father, poured out all of his wrath against sin upon His Son.
As John the Baptist rightly said in John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! “ Jesus took away our sin. All of it. He paid every last cent for the sins of the world, past, present and future. For those who trust in Jesus, there is nothing left for you to do to pay for your sin. No penance. No purgatory. Nothing. Christ has done it all. This is why Jesus cries out on the cross “It is finished.” This is why the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. This is why the author of Hebrews says that Jesus, our great High priest, sat down after ascending to Heaven. Because all the work was completed. This is why Jesus says in Mathew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This is why Jesus says in John 8:32, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This is why in Hebrews 10:14, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” One sacrifice. Perfect. Forever. This is why it is called grace, for it is entirely a gift.
And this is what the world, and perhaps some of you are blind to. Look again at verse 4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” According to this verse, what does Satan desperately not want you to see? The “gospel of the glory of Christ.” What is the gospel of the glory of Christ? It is that Christ did all the work, and paid for all of our sin, therefore he gets all the glory.
The only thing left for us to do is it believe. That's it. This is how we receive the gift of Jesus' payment for our sins, and his righteousness.
The question I have for you today, in the sight of God, is do you believe in Jesus? Do you place your trust in his life, death, and resurrection? Do you have faith in the sufficiency of his sacrifice, and that on the third day he rose from the grave?
It is my prayer that today, just like it says in verse 6, shines in your hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Let's pray.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 17, 2015.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 4:4-7. This is the second Sunday that we are in this text due to its immense relevance and truth to our lives. As always, there is a lot of ground to cover, so lets get right to it and read our text, pray, and allow God to speak to us in our need.
Last week we talked exclusively about joy. Verse 4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” We saw that we are designed for joy. Our hearts and souls crave joy. Every decision you make in life is filtered through the question, will this make me happy?
Unfortunately, humanity, because of sin, pursues joy in the wrong place. We look for joy in things of this world, instead of the One who created the world. God designed us to find joy only in Him. As we said last week, the chief end of man is to glorify god and enjoy him forever. This confession is supported by passages like Psalm 16:11.
Good and Bad Concern
The Greek word for anxious is merimnaó. This word can be used positively or negatively. Early in this letter Paul used it in a positive way when he was speaking about Timothy in Philippians 2:20, “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned (merimnaó) for your welfare.” Obviously when Paul uses the word merimnao, he is speaking of good qualities of Timothy.
However, in out text for today, Paul is talking about the negative form of merimnaó . Which means to be worried, distracted, “to go to pieces.”
I believe this distinction is important for us to understand. We need to recognize that there is a God glorifying concern. It is a concern that drives us to love people. It is a concern that Timothy and Paul had for the people of Philippi. It is the same concern I have for each of you, and my wife, and my children; specifically my concern “for your progress and joy in the faith.” The reason I think this is important is because I believe too many people take “Don’t worry about it” too far; the “let go and let God” philosophy of discipleship can lead to apathy and isolation within the body of Christ. So as we talk about anxiety, understand we are not talking about the Godly concern, compassion, and love that we are called to have for other people.
Do Not Be Anxious
What Paul is talking about in our text is the bad anxiety. In fact let’s start the same place that we started last week with the recognition that this is a command, “Do not be anxious.” This means that being anxious is against the will of God. It is a sin to be anxious.
So once again, like last week, let’s ask the question, do you think of anxiety this way? When you are worried about money, relationships, health, your job, tornadoes, persecution, etc. do you recognize that God is not pleased by your anxiety? Do you recognize that Jesus died to pay for you sins, one being your anxiety? Let’s look at some other passages that supports this command not to be anxious.
Here is a quote from John MacArthur, “Worry is the sin of distrusting the promise and providence of God, and yet it is a sin that Christians commit perhaps more frequently than any other.”
And today we see the command of God telling us to not be anxious about anything. This means don’t be anxious about your job, your finances, your health, your children, your retirement, your life. We are a nation of worriers. We live in the most affluent place and the most affluent time in all of history. We are the cream of the historical crop, yet we walk around afraid of our shadow. I have never once lived in a house that didn’t have food in the cupboards. I have never once gone to a closet that had empty hangers. I have never once gone without medicine for myself or my family. I have never once gone to bed worried about neighborhood bombings, or someone kicking down my door to take me hostage. And I am guessing that very few of you have either, however we run around like the sky is falling.
You of Little Faith
Why? Because we lack faith in an all-powerful, all knowing, all present, all loving, Sovereign God of this Universe. We have taken the God Who Is, and shrunk him down to the God we want him to be, and because of that, our lives are a wreck. We don’t believe that God is in control. We don’t believe that he has the power to change hearts, move mountains, heal disease, provide bread, or calm the storms. We don’t believe the God of the Bible.
We forget that Jesus himself says in Matthew 10:29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” If God is control of the falling of a sparrow, he is control of your life. Trust him.
We forget what it says in Ephesians 1:11, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” All things include your current circumstances. Trust him.
We forget the promise of Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Whether you recognize it or not, if you love God your struggles, no matter what they are, are being used by God for your good. If you do not love God, then this promise is not for you, because all things will actually work towards bad, namely your destruction in Hell.
How crucial are these text! We desperately need to remember these words when our marriages are hanging by a thread, when we lose our job, when we get the call from the doctor, when our lives are falling to pieces. So how do we do it?
We Pray with Gratitude
Verse 6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” The answer to your anxiety is to pray with thanksgiving.
This is important, the text doesn't just say pray, but pray with thanksgiving. This is crucial. And I am guessing that very few of you implement this. My guess is that you are really good at praying and making your requests known to God, but rarely is your heart full of gratitude. Most likely you are so focused on your problems, the last thing on your mind is to be thankful, but this is exactly what you must do.
So how might this look? Lets say I go to the doctor and they tell me I have cancer. That night I am laying in my bed and can't sleep because I have a thousands thoughts running through my mind. My wife, my kids, this church, the chemo, the finances, the uncertainty, etc. Then I start to pray:
“Father, I am a wreck. I don't know what I am going to do. Thank you for being with me in this time of difficulty, and thank you for hearing my cry. Father, I am worried about my wife and kids. They are so precious to me. Thank you Lord for blessing me with me. Thank you for putting them in my life. If something happens to me, please be with them. Father, I am not sure how this is going to work with Cornerstone. I don't know if I will be able to keep up the pace. You are doing so much good in those people's heart, and they are so on fire for you. I praise you and thank you for all you have done. Will you keep doing it? Father, I am scared about dying. I am scared of the pain and the uncertainty surrounding it. Father, thank you for the life that you have given me. Thank you for all the days that you have blessed me with. Thank you for creating me and sustaining me up until this point. Father, if you do decide that I should die. I thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for sending him to die on the cross for my sins, thank you for pouring out your wrath upon him, so that I could be forgiven and have eternal life in your presence. Thank you that death is not the end, but the beginning. Thank you for the glory that awaits me in your presence. Thank you for loving me and never forsaking me.”
When I pray that way, what do you think is running though my mind at the end of that prayer? More of God's Sovereignty and less of my anxiety. When I put my worries up against His blessings, His goodness vastly overshadows my problems. When I pray with God-centeredness, my perspective on my situation changes. I quickly realize that God has always been in control and will always be in control.
This is what I love about this text, it is so practical. When we implement this strategy of praying with thanksgiving, our prayers are being answered just by the formula of our prayer, and the pinnacle of the formula is gratitude for Jesus Christ. There is no greater blessing in our life the the gift of God's Son. No matter what you have going on in your life, if you pray to God with thanksgiving in your heart for the gift of Jesus Christ then the peace of God will descend upon your mind and your heart. Why?
I have no doubt that this is was how Paul lived his life. Remember, when Paul wrote this letter, he was not skipping through the tulips, he was walking thought the valley of the shadow of death, chained to a Roman guard. He had way more “problems” then most of you will ever experience, and it was the Soverign Love of God that sustained him in the hardest of times. I have no doubt that this is how all the apostles lived, for they had to. Our lives are pleasure cruises compared to theirs. Listen to what Peter says.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 8, 2015
Turn with me in your Bibles to Philippians 2:17-24. Over the last several weeks we have been unpacking what it looks like to be a disciple of Christ. We have seen that the life of a disciple is a life of progress, a life of working out, a life of sanctification. The end goal of this journey for a disciple is for us to look like our Rabbi, or teacher, our Master, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Who we are told in verse 8, “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Today, we are going to examine two disciples in the midst of their journey of sanctification, Paul and Timothy. So let us read our text, pray, and get to work.
When Paul found Timothy, we are not sure how old he was, but most people believe him to be in his late teens or early twenties. However, at that age Timothy was already a follower of Jesus Christ. We are told that the Christian brothers in Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy. We don’t know all the details but we can piece a few things together. We are told in 2 Timothy 1:5 that Timothy’s grandmother and mother were both believers in Jesus Christ. Paul says this in his letter written to Timothy:
I want to spend just a brief second to encourage parents and grandparents. Your role in your children and grandchild’s life is crucial. You are to be like Lois and Eunice. So many “Christians” are utterly failing in this area of their lives. God has given you a child to steward. He has give you this Child for the chief end of glorifying Him and enjoying Him. Therefore, the first responsibility you have as a parent is to introduce your child to his or her Maker., and then teach them about Him The only way this is done is by opening up the Bible. This should be of first importance. This is more important than gymnastics, or baseball, or boy-scouts, or even school. From the moment they are born until the Lord returns, you should be constantly pointing them to Jesus Christ.
Timothy was a product of this type of child-rearing. And because of this, when Paul first encountered Timothy, he knew instantly that Timothy would be an asset to the team. So what did Paul do? He invited Timothy to join him in his second missionary journey.
What is amazing is that it appears that Timothy agreed without hesitation. At least, if there was hesitation, the Bible is silent on it. In fact, Acts 16 is amusingly nonchalant about Timothy leaving his home, his comforts, his friends, his girlfriend, his mother and grandmother, and his dreams.
When I was 18, I have to admit, nothing like this was on my radar screen. The only thing I thought about was going to college, finding a wife, getting a job, and pursuing the “American Dream.” I don't recall one time asking God, what do you have for me? This was not the mindset of young Timothy. Timothy was not focused on the things of this world; he was focused on the things of God. And when the call came he was ready, and he sacrificed all that he knew and followed Christ right out of his town and into the mission field.
In between that moment of Timothy joining Paul and the writing of this letter to the Philippians approximately 13 years had passed. In those 13 years Timothy was fundamental in the operations of the ministry. He was Paul's apprentice, his right hand man, his apostle in training. Timothy was a crucial part of the planting of numerous Churches, including Philippi. He was regularly used by Paul to strengthen existing Churches, such as Thessalonica. In six of the 13 letters written by Paul, Paul indicates that Timothy is right alongside him in the ministry. This is true as Paul writes the letter to the Philippians. We saw this in the very first line of the letter to the Philippians, “Paul and Timothy, servants [doulos] of Christ Jesus.”
The bond between Paul and Timothy was a beautiful one. You can see it in the words of Paul in our text today. Verse 20 say, “I have no one like him” and in verse 22, “how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.” What amazing complements from the Apostle Paul.
As we have discussed many times before, the Apostle Paul not just anyone, he was the greatest follower of Christ this world has ever seen. He wrote 13 of our New Testament books. He was God’s chosen light to the gentiles and was the first to take the gospel message to the European Continent. He was one of the few people who have ever existed that performed actual miracles, and even raised people from the dead.
For a lot of us, it is hard to relate to Paul. We hear about how God chose him, and used him, and then we look at our lives and they are drastically different. At times, it is hard to relate to Paul. That is not the case for Timothy. He was a young man in a small town, whose mom loved Jesus and wanted the best from him. He read his bible and cried out to Christ for forgiveness of sins. He then plugged into his local church and started to love people with the love of Christ. One “random” day, Paul showed up and invited him on the journey of his life. This is the story that most of us can relate to. Can all of us be Paul's? No, not in one sense. But can we all be Timohty's? You bet.
So what was so great about Timothy? What made him so great in Paul's eyes? Was it his oratory skills? Was it his ability to lead people into powerful worship? Was it his cutting edge church plant strategy? No.
So let us ask the question, what is a drink offering? The first place we see a drink offering mentioned in the Bible is Genesis 35:14 when God changes Jacob’s name to Israel. However, where we see it more prominently is the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. First in Exodus 29, then in Leviticus 23: and again in Numbers 15:1-10.
It is most likely that this is what Jesus was referring to when he implemented the Lord's Supper in Matthew 26:27-28, “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my blood of thec covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Paul was following in the footsteps of his Savior, for he was pouring himself out for many, and Timothy was doing the same. Both of these men were Christ centered, which translated to them being other oriented. They were willing to give up everything, including their own lives so that others would know the wonderful treasure of knowing Jesus Christ. They lived their life poured out, constantly emptying themselves for the faith of others.
How foreign is this concept to many of us. We have turned Christianity into another commodity to be consumed. We walk into Churches demanding a certain level of catering. Each Sunday morning is evaluated in accordance to how well the service fulfilled our needs and desires. Is this the aroma that you want to rise to the nostrils of our God?
Church is about loving God, and loving others. These are the two greatest commands, and Jesus says if we get in line with these two commands, then everything falls into place. Too often we turn our Christian walk into loving ourselves. However this flies in the face of what we are told it means to follow Christ. Jesus tells us that when we choose to follow Him, we are to die to ourselves.
Instead of being self-interested, we should be eagerly pouring ourselves into the lives of others. We shouldn't look at people in this Church as means to ends. We shouldn't see them as an end in themselves. Like Paul and like Timothy, we must be willing to go to them, to encourage them, to love them, and to die for them.
I hate to end on a sour note, but I could not escape feeling the need to call to our attention the words of Jesus when it comes to living selflessly. These are the words of Jesus regarding judgment day.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 1, 2015
Turn with me to Philippians 2:14-18. Over the last several weeks we have been unpacking what it looks like for Christians to progress in our faith. We began by understanding that our walk as Christians should be one that match the gift of our salvation. Meaning that we should outwardly display the reality within. Or to say it another way, if we talk the talk, we should walk the walk.
Last week, we examined how this progress in our faith is one that involves both our working, and God working within us. That we are to be actively pursuing Christlikeness, however our pursuit is driven from within by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us. This process of transformation is what the Bible calls sanctification. The end of our sanctification occurs upon our death or upon Christ's return, for at that moment the Christian's work is done and we enter into the final rest of our Father and we be like our brother Jesus Christ.
Today we are going to get more specific regarding this process of sanctification. We are going to look at a specific sin, a specific purpose, a specific solution, and a specific result. So with that said, let us read out text, pray and unpack these four verses.
In verse 14 we see Paul exhort the Philippian Church to “do all things without grumbling or disputing.” I think it is important for us to recognize that this statement is not disconnected with the first part of Paul's letter. Therefore you could say, progress in your faith without grumbling or disputing, or count others more significant than yourself without grumbling or disputing, or be obedient like Jesus without grumbling or disputing, or work out your salvation without grumbling or disputing. Pual has spent a significant part of his letter exhorting the church at Philippi, and his desire is that they do all these things, not as a burden, but with joy.
As I thought about this text this week, I have to admit that I felt the weight of my sin. I confess I am a grumbler. I wouldn't necessarily use that phrase. Instead I would call myself analytical or critical, perhaps I would even go so far as to admit that I complain about things, but those are just words. The reality is that when Paul is saying don't grumble or dispute, he might as well use my name right after his rebuking.
This week I have felt like grumbling about the weather, my work, my to-do list, the lack of progress in certain areas of my life, the gas tax, the apathy of others, my sleep habits, food, the list could go on an on. This is not to mention the constant sighs that I express throughout my day, as if I can't bare my circumstance one minute longer. The bottom line is that this week I have felt like one giant baby, whining about every little thing that comes up.
And this is the sad part, I was not rebuked one time for my whining. As I went about complaining and grumbling, the world joined in on the conversation. In fact, many times the more I complained the more worldly fellowship I had. People were mesmerized by my poisonous tongue. Why? Because people love the darkness. The world loves sin, and grumbling and disputing is sin.
Many of you, however, may be saying, really? Is it that big of deal to vent once and a while? Or perhaps you are saying, aren't I entitled to my opinion? Can't I stand up on my soapbox? Can't I express myself and let my voice be heard? The answer to this is no, you can't, at least you can't if you are a Christian.
I want to direct your attention to verse 15. Paul uses a phrase that is not arbitrary. He calls the world a “crooked and twisted generation.” This is not the first time this phrase is used in the Bible. It is used by Moses in Deuteronomy 32:5 to describe the nation of Israel during the time they wandered in the desert.
For any of you who have read about those 40 years, which I hope that all of you have, you will know that there is one word that describes those people, complainers. No matter what God did for them, they whined and complained. They grumbled and disputed. This began almost instantly upon Israel's leaving of Egypt. They complained about being led to the Red Sea, they complained about the lack of water, they complained about food, they complained about not having the right food, they complained about Moses, they complained about the people who occupied the promise land. Complain, complain, complain. This was the display of their hearts after God led them out of Egypt. God had chosen these people to be His people out of all the nations of the world, and how did they respond, they grumbled and disputed.
What was God's response to Israel's complaints? Yes he did provide, but also He killed a fair amount of them. He sent a plague, he swallowed some up in the ground, he gave Miriam leprosy, and he kept all of the adults, including Moses, from entering the Promise land. Why was God so angry about their complaining? Because their complaining was a provocation towards God. Their complaining was an assault on God's Sovereignty. Their complaining was the exact opposite of what they should have been doing, trusting in God, having Faith in God. God desired to use them to display himself to the nations, but what they were displaying is discontent, disunity, and disobedience.
Why is this important to us? Why should we care about Israel of 4,000 years ago? Aren't we different as followers of Jesus? Yes, we are different, but that doesn't mean we are perfect and without sin. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2.
The Old Testament is not irrelevant. The nation of Isreal while wandering in the wildernss is not irrelevant. It is to be an example to to us. We are to take heed, lest we fall. We must recognize that grumbling and disputing kindles the wrath of God, it does not please Him. In fact, God killed his Son on the cross to pay for your sins, not just adultery and murder, but also grumbling and complaining.
Every time you complain about your food, your job, your circumstances, your life, you are complaining about God's providence. Just like Israel, you are questioning the Sovereignty of God as he unveils the plans that he has for you. This is what Paul is trying to get across to the people of Philippi as they work out their salvation, as they obey as Jesus obeyed. He wants the Church to sojourn with rejoicing and not with grumbling.
And don't forget Paul's condition as he writes these words. Paul writing these things while he is chained to a Roman guard. His circumstances are way worse than most of you will ever experience. In this letter do you see complaining? No you see Paul rejoicing, proclaiming, edifying, but you never see complaining. With each step Paul takes, no matter how difficult, he uses it for an opportunity to glorify God, not to grumble against God.
Shine as Lights in the World
Which leads to my second point. Our purpose as disciples is to shine like lights in the world. This is why you live in your neighborhood. This is why you work where you work. This is why you go to the school you go to. This is why you have facebook friends. Your responsibility, your call, your purpose is to shine with the light of Jesus Christ into the darkness that surrounds us.
When you grumble and complain, you are not shining. Instead there is a dark cloud that descends over your testimony. You look just like the world that you are sent to save. As Paul says, you are acting twisted and crooked. Instead of acting like Christ, you are acting like Satan. Do you think that your complaining is going to cause one of your friends or family members to say, “Wow, tell me about your faith. I want know more about the God that you seem not to trust.”
We as followers of Jesus Christ are to be radically different. We are to stand out. We are to be salt in this decaying and tasteless world and we are to be light in the midst of the darkness. And this is to be true in all circumstances, and especially true in difficult circumstances. For when your circumstances are the darkest, your light can shines more brightly. For example, think about the cross. It is the darkest day in all of human history. Creation is killing the Creator. This is the most depraved and wicked act imaginable. However, it is with this backdrop of darkness that we see the light of Jesus Christ shine most gloriously. Did Jesus grumble and complain and dispute with his father? No. He prayed “Thy will be done” and “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” For the Joy that was set before him Him endured the cross.
We are called to be like Christ. We are to be his disciples. We are to follow his lead. When our circumstances are not up to our standard of selfish entitlement, we need to check ourselves before we vent, before we give our two cents on God's providence, before we grumble about the circumstances God has ordained for our lives. So how do we do this?
Hold Fast to the Word of Life
Look at verse 16. What does it say? It says we are to “[hold] fast to the word of life.” What is the word of life? It is the gospel. It is the message of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the promise of God that through the death of His Son, your sins are forgiven and you will have eternal life.
I want you to feel the weight of this. You and I deserve to go to Hell. We deserve to have the wrath of God come crashing down upon us. But God, because He is love provides a way that the price of our sins can be paid and so that we can be reconciled to our Maker. That way is that he kills his Son Jesus. He did this for you! Instead of punishing you for your wretchedness, he punishes Jesus for your wretchedness. And if that was not enough, not only does he forgive you but he adopts you into his family and promises you that you will receive the inheritance of being a child of the Almighty God. And if that is not enough, you will get to enjoy this inheritance forever and ever. Meaning that in a billion years from now, you will still be enjoying the unlimited joy of being a child of God.
And if you have repented of your sins and trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, this is yours right now.
Paul is telling us that we must hold fast to this gospel truth. We must not be casual about it. We must cling to it violently. Never letting these promises slip out of our mind. E must keep our eyes focused to these words, and they must be the anchor of our life. We must hold it, as it holds us.
The question is, are you holding fast to the words of life? Are you clinging to the words of Jesus with white knuckles. Are you soaking, and meditating, and delighting, and cherishing the word of life?
This week I saw a quote from Charles Spurgeon that was somewhat aggressive. Spurgeon said, “There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write “damnation” with your fingers.” Does this describe you? Does your Bible sit on the shelf day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year with almost no attention? Instead of holding fast to the word of life, are you holding fast to facebook? HGTV? ESPN? Your business?
I echo what Paul says in verse 16, I do not want to stand in the day of judgment and realize that all of the labors of Cornerstone were vanity. That they were worthless. That my preaching and teaching has fallen on deaf ears. For we know that on the day of Judgment, everything will be revealed. At that time we will not have to look at the dust of our Bibles for God will reveal the dust on our cold dead hearts.
And it only makes sense, for those who who do not have the words of life implanted in their heart, of course they will act like Israel. Of course you will whine and complain and grumble and dispute with God. For that is your nature. You are a rebel, an enemy, an antagonist of God.
But this should not be true for real, authentic followers of Jesus Christ. We must heed the warning of Israel, for we have hope. The hope of eternal life through faith in Christ. And this hope should spring up into our joy.
Be Glad and Rejoice
And that is exactly what we see in verse 17 and 18, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.“
If God has begun a work in our hearts, and we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ, and we trust in the promises of God, then first we should love to be reminded of these things. And each time we saturate ourselves in the good news of Jesus it should produce in us good feelings. Not feelings that are rooted in our circumstances, but feelings that are rooted in the cross.
This is why Paul could rejoice despite his imprisonment. This is why the Church in Philippi could rejoice despite the threats of their opponents, and this is why you should rejoice when the gas tax goes into effect next week, and when the temperature is negative 24, and when you get laid off from work, and when you get a call from the doctor with bad news. Because our joy is in the word of life.
Let us commit ourselves to stop complaining and start proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. Let us work our our salvation without whining. Let us act like we have actually received the greatest gift ever imaginable. And Let us rejoice.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on January 25, 2015
Open your Bibles to Philippians 1:18-30. Today, I am preaching on my favorite verse in the Bible, Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I believe this simple statement should be the heartbeat of every Christian, in every moment.
To begin today, I want to start where we left off last week, joy. Last week we discussed the joy found in the Gospel. Once again, the gospel being the good news that we are saved from God’s wrath and receive eternal life if we place our faith in Christ alone. Paul, despite being imprisoned, was rejoicing because the name of Jesus was being proclaimed and preached. Despite Paul’s chains, the gospel was advancing, in fact Paul being chained was giving people courage to speak Christ more boldly. And this made Paul rejoice. Why? Because Paul was loved Jesus more than anything in all the Universe. The mention of his name brought him joy.
We see this expression of joy in our first verse today, verse 18, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” However, Paul does not stop there, and neither will we.
Paul continues to express his joy by saying, “Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”
With this statement Paul continues to express his joy, but transitions to another source of his joy and that is living and dying for Christ. And this is what I am going to be talking about today. The title of my sermon is “The Joy of Living and Dying for Christ.” This sermon may be difficult for some of you, not because it is theologically difficult, but because it is radically counter cultural.
Honor Christ in Your Body in Every Moment
The goal for every Christian is to honor Christ in your body in every moment. As a new creation our new orientation is to exult Jesus with every fiber of our being no matter what your circumstances are. Over the last month we have been soaking in this truth. Four weeks ago we examined Romans 12:1 where it says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” The next week we examined Philippians 1:1, and we looked at what it means to be a servant of Christ, which in Greek is doulos, which is actually best translated as a slave of Christ. And then last week we read about Paul’s four year imprisonment and how even his significantly dire circumstances were God ordained means by which Paul was to fulfill his calling. The over-arching theme of today’s text is Paul’s hope to honor Christ in everything he does.
As you recall, Paul is imprisoned, and as he sits there chained to a Roman guard, life and death hangs in the balance. There is no guarantee that he will make it out alive. In verse 19, Paul says, “for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance.” Many of us assume that deliverance means released from jail and ongoing life, but that is not how Paul is thinking. Paul sees deliverance to include deliverance through death. Paul’s life truly hangs in the balance, the Romans were not known for their mercy, at any moment the command could come down to kill Paul. If you want an example, just think about John the Baptist.
Paul’s mindset as his life hangs in the balance a desire to honor Christ through it. This is his primary concern, to make the name of Christ great, no matter how bad it gets, and it does not get any worse than the threat of death. Is this easy for Paul? Absolutely not, let us not worship Paul, he is flesh and bone just like you and I. He saw himself as wretched and the chief of sinners, recognizing that he was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. He was a person who depended upon the prayers of his brothers and sisters and the power of the Holy Spirit to produce in him the full courage necessary to exult Christ in midst of the valley of the shadow of death. So how does one magnify Christ in their life? Let us start with the statement, to live is Christ.
To Live is Christ
The statement by Paul, “to live is Christ” is, in my opinion, the most profound yet simple reality every to be expressed. You cannot summarize existence more succinctly than this. What is life? Christ. What does it mean to live? Christ. What is my purpose? Christ. What is the point of the Universe? Christ. Paul says the same thing, yet more completely in Colossians 1:16.
So what Paul is saying is that to live is Christ is to live in such a way that everything you do matches the reality you have been saved from Hell and your citizenship is in Heaven. You live as if this is not your home. When people meet you, they think, “You are not from around here are you.” You talk different, you work different, you love your spouse different, you raise your kid different, you spend your money different, you dress different, you respond to problems different, you spend your free time different. Everything about you screams different. Everything about you screams follower of Jesus. This is your new orientation. As the world revolves around self, we revolve around the hope we have in Christ.
And make no mistake that this life that is completely, and entirely oriented around living for Christ is a life of faith. This faith is a backwards and forward faith. It is backwards in that we place our faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. We believe and trust in his completed work on the cross. Our faith is also forward in which we have assurance in our salvation and that on judgment day we will not be sent to Hell, but will be invited into the presence of the living God, where there is abundance of joy and pleasures forevermore. We believe that through the blood of Jesus we are God’s adopted children, and therefore will receive and inheritance that is unfathomable and dwarfs the dust of this world.
To live is Christ is a life of faith. In fact, the greater the faith, the greater the honoring, the magnifying, the making Christ look great in your body. And the more and more and more you truly believe in the reality of what Christ did and what awaits you through Christ the greater your joy.
To Die is Gain
Satan hates the gospel. For the gospel is the good news of His defeat. The gospel is the story of Christ crushing his head. It is the gospel that reminds Satan that Christ now has all authority on heaven and on earth and the clock is ticking until the end comes and Satan is thrown into Hell.
Because of this Satan goes to all extents to stop the gospel from being proclaimed. He begins very subtly. Perhaps he will tempt you with the cares of this world. When that doesn’t work he will give you some social persecution, such as glances or jokes at work about your faith. When that doesn’t work he will resort to name calling, intolerant, unloving, bigot, hate monger. When that doesn’t work he gets physical. He may burn down your house or church, lock you up or beat you. However when that doesn’t work, and you still persist to proclaim Christ, he reaches for the last straw and he threatens to take your life. What happens when even that won’t work? What happens when you stare Satan in the eyes and say, make my day, for to live is Christ and to die is gain? What happens when even God takes the wages of sin, which is death, and uses martyrdom to magnify and make great the value of Christ in your life? I’ll tell you what happens, it makes Satan shutter.
The song we sang today, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” is based upon the last words of a man in northern India who was called to renounce his faith in Jesus Christ. He began to sing “Though no one joins me, still I will follow." His wife was killed, and he was executed while singing, "The cross before me, the world behind me." This is what it looks like to magnify Christ in your death. It is said that the display of this man's faith led to the conversion of the chief and others in the village.
The very last conversation that Peter had with Jesus is found in John 21. The Wednesday night small group discussed this passage last week. In the conversation, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Each time Peter says, “Yes.” Then Jesus ends the conversation by saying this:
If you can't, then you don't know my Jesus, for He is worth it. He is better than anything this world can offer, and I encourage you to know Him more.