Philippians 3 Part 1–Bragging Rights

Paul was the super pharisee.  If one wanted a poster child for how to “do religion” Paul was easily that guy. He was circumcised, Part of the tribe of Benjamin, trained by Gamaliel the ultimate Rabbi.  He knew all the traditions, all the law and exactly what to do.  He attacked the Christians with zeal and complete abandon. Any Jewish leader would be proud of Paul’s record.  Paul, however, realized that it was not his knowledge or performance that made him righteous.  Paul went as far as to say that stuff was bio-waste compared to the surpassing greatness of Christ,  Paul no longer needed to flaunt a resume–He simply needed to trust God and allow God to transform him into the image of Christ.
 
We are the same.  We are not a product of our accomplishments.  We can never “DO” Christianity to a level that our actions bring us justification.  In fact, as Paul so elegantly articulated it, our efforts to earn salvation look, smell and feel like bio-waste! We need to know Christ! As we get to know him we quickly see that it is His grace and His mercy, not our background or performance that brings us salvation. If we will simply trust and follow His lead–He will restore our relationship with God, and he will prepare us for the journey that lies ahead.  In addition, the Lord will change our hearts and our desires to conform to His image.  There is simply no greater gift than the salvation we receive by trusting Christ alone.
 
God Bless You
 

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 1 Final–Living A Life Worthy of the Gospel

Paul was at the end of his life. He was imprisoned and awaiting final judgment from Rome and Nero.  It was hard to keep a stiff upper lip, as it were.  Still, Paul demonstrated to the Philippians the critical choice we each need to make each day. We have to choose to rise above our circumstance and live. We cannot give up on life when it is difficult. We must not only live but live in a manner that is worthy of the gospel. In Paul’s life, that meant that he was not afraid to share Christ with each of the palace guards that were chained to him each day.  Paul reminded the Philippians that their rising above the circumstances of each day showed their enemies that faith is stronger than anything life can throw at them.
 
In our lives, we have to live our lives in a manner that is worthy of the Gospel. We have to face each day with peace and faith. Knowing that ultimately, if we remain faithful we will stand firm and see His hand. He will meet our needs and help us to live above whatever the world throws at us. It is difficult to remain faithful through trials.  But, God does difficult better than anyone.  Like Paul, we have to decide to live and not only live–but live in a manner worthy of the Gospel.
 
God Bless You

If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

Life Worthy of the Gospel

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,[e] striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Ephesians 5 Part 1–How Must We Live?

Paul next attacks the elephant in the room;  “How do people act when they are saved?” Since they are freed from the Law, How does one behave?  The answer is quite simple, Walk in a way that honors God and is consistent with the calling of Christ.  Christians are not to be the brash, vulgar deceitful lot; instead, they are to walk with humility, patience, and kindness. People should never fear that they will be evil, proud deceitful or mean. Their purpose for living is to draw men to Christ–not, cause men to run and hide in fear.
 
That message is as true today as it was when Paul penned this letter.  We, as the Lord’s chosen need to stand out for whose and who we are.  We are the ones that folks love to deal with. We are the ones that folks can trust.  We are the selfless and joyful ones–not the crabby, narcissists.  We need to conduct ourselves in a manner that makes people glad they were with us, did business with us, and have been in contact with us.  We live each day to honor God with our lives.  
 
While the principle sounds simple, it is one difficult task.  It is not to be taken lightly, nor, is it going to be easy.  The world of trial and temptation will constantly pull us away if we let it.  Help us, Lord, to walk humbly with you, and allow you to lead us as we live lives that resemble you! 
 
God Bless you

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord.

Ephesians 1 Part 1–God’s Spirit Our Hope of Glory and Unity

The Book of Ephesians was Paul’s guide to the churches of the significant truths that come with being part of the family of God.  One overriding truth was the idea that from before creation God knew His chosen and wanted to be in a relationship with them.  God wanted to adopt those willing to receive Him. He did not form acquaintances or friendships–He adopted them as full heirs to the kingdom. While there is great diversity among those that came to know Christ, God has called for unity among them.

In addition, God left His Spirit as a mark, a deposit, and a guarantee that those who receive the Lord are forgiven and predestined to spend eternity with Him. His spirit is our hope of glory.  If we trust the Lord, the Spirit will guide and comfort us through good times and bad. It is the Spirit of  God that drives us forward and carries us through the most challenging of days.  We can rest assured that the Lord is with us and draws us to Himself and to each other as a community and a family. Thank You, Lord, for your promise and the Holy Spirit our reminder and guarantee of your covenant with us!
 
God Bless You

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him, we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Galatians 5 Part 2–Living in Freedom Produces Spiritual Fruit

Next, Paul helped the Galatians to understand what freedom really looked like.  In the world view, freedom was the absence of rules. So to live free one could throw caution to the wind and commit any act they chose. No matter how evil, no matter how perverse–if one was free, they should have at it.  Paul was helping the people see that that freedom did not allow the benefits of freedom to work. Instead, it would simply install a new set of chains and enslavement.  
 
Instead, Paul says one becomes free to think, act and live selflessly. The freedom in Christ is the only freedom that is real.  When one walks freely in Christ, that person desires the joy of selflessness. they receive great joy in serving others. They see and feel a life that does not seem like a treadmill in a hamster cage. That life produces fruit–Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control.
 
As we examine our own lives, Our first question needs to be who is in charge. If the answer is ourselves, then we have not obtained the freedom we long for.  We may be able to act horribly without consequence, but, it will become obvious that that life is ultimately slavery to sin and our own selfish desire.  If conversely, we follow Christ and His leadership, we see glimpses of the fruit of the Spirit, and we see how selflessness is critical to living a fulfilled and happy life.  Take time today to spot Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. These should be common themes in our lives. If not, then we need to examine our lives to determine who is the master. Unless it is God, we will remain imprisoned in our own sin and selfishness.
 
God Bless You

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions21, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

2 Corinthians 4–A Priceless Message in Jars of Clay…

Paul is serving up two messages this day. The first message is that the light of God is delivered to those that would believe in a very straight forward way.  There are no tricks, nor is there a lot of pomp and ceremony. The truth is simply that God loves us, but, our sin has separated us from that love. Christ came and revealed God’s love to us and then demonstrated it by His death, burial and resurrection. We must accept God’s gift and follow Christ to restore the relationship with God and have eternal life. While the message is simple, many are blinded to that truth simply because they are not willing to submit or believe in the spiritual aspect of life.
 
The second message is equally critical–as messengers, we are like jars of clay. We are neither glamorous nor are we impervious to the attacks of life or of our enemy Satan.  What is more, as we follow God, we can be assured that we will be pressed down on every side–but not crushed. We will seem perplexed–but not in complete despair. We will be persecuted–but, not abandoned-He will walk through it with us!!! We will be struck down–but not destroyed! We will be containers full of Christ’s Gospel–ready to die; knowing that even in our death–Christ’s gift of life will be revealed.  It is so much bigger than us, so we must live ready to do whatever it takes to reveal Christ to all who might believe!!! 
 
God Bless You

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

I Corinthians 11 Part 2–Church is More Than Simply Gathering

The Corinthians never had a problem getting together, in fact, that was one of Paul’s major concerns.  The people were coming to argue and to party.  The regular meeting to take communion had become a combination tailgate party and runway to show the haves vs have nots.  Some people would come to the fellowship and not have anything while others would come and get drunk and eat bread until they were sick. Paul was furious.
First, communion is for remembering the sacrifice Christ, it was not about us. So, when folks came in and used it as a buffet and bar, clearly Christ was neither the focus nor purpose for the communion. 
In addition, If folks were coming to communion underfed and hungry, the church should have been meeting those needs in another forum–not communion.  The church body should not have had a “have’s” and “have not’s” division. It is unthinkable to have such issues in a prosperous and growing church.
 
As believers, we need to keep our focus on Christ, His sacrifice and His leadership.  Communion is an opportunity to stop, take stock and refocus upon Him.  When we come together as believers, we are blessed to share that experience of remembering His sacrifice and love for us. We must never use that time to focus on our needs or our accomplishments.
As a body, Christians must focus on how to serve Christ and the others in His church. We must be proactive in our service and humble in our demeanor–if we will, then the Church will be a family, not a meeting place. Our gathering will be a joyful time and not a time of jealousy, pride, and infighting. Help us, Lord, to gather with the desire of honoring you and not focusing on ourselves.
 
God Bless You

 In the following directives, I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent, I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.