Thursday, October 18, 2007

Philippians 3:10-11


10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

1-That I may know Him-This is not to know a lot about Jesus, but to know Him personally, experientially! In order for you to cultivate a personal relationship with Jesus, you must learn more and more of what He said and did. Then, the more you ask, "What Would Jesus Do?", the more you will discover this Jesus intimately.

2-That I may know the power of His resurrection-Paul and Timothy shared this passion-to know the power of Jesus, the power that raised Jesus from the dead. It's important to realize that it was the resurrection power that changed the disciples from a weak-willed group of stumble-bums into a confident team of revolutionaries that turned the world upside down! When you know the power of the resurrection of Jesus, you know that it supersedes all powers within the universe.

3-That I may know the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death-Paul experienced this greatest of powers, the power of the resurrection, when Jesus apprehended him on the road to Damascus, THEN he was persecuted, beaten, stoned, thrown into prison and his life constantly threatened. He quickly came to know the fellowship of Christ's sufferings. You simply cannot have one without the other-the good with the bad. Note that the sufferings and death of Jesus is the greatest demonstration of love ever! To know and share in His sufferings and death is to absorb that principle into our lives, so that we may know how to be lovers in this cold, cruel world.

4-That I may attain to the resurrection of the dead-This is not expressing any doubt that there is the resurrection of the dead at the end, but an expression of Paul's ultimate goal, that somehow, whatever the path may be, he will make it to the grand day of the resurrection.

These heart desires give great insight into what Paul and Timothy felt was most important. And, it sets an example for us. I have meditated on these verses over the years, but I've never felt more in tune in my heart with these desires than I do today. I want to know Jesus better, THE PERSON OF JESUS AND NOT JUST THE FACTS ABOUT HIM!

I want to know and experience the power of His resurrection, THE POWER OF JESUS AND NOT BE LIMITED TO MY ABILITIES!

I want to know the fellowship of His sufferings by being conformed to His death, THE PICTURE OF JESUS' LOVE FOR EVERYONE!

I want to somehow attain to the resurrection of the dead, no matter what road God leads, THE ULTIMATE PURPOSE OF DEFEATING DEATH THROUGH THE RESURRECTION PAVES THE WAY FOR MY RESURRECTION SOMEDAY!

This reminds me Jesus' words in the Gospel of John, I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE; HE THAT BELIEVES IN ME, EVEN THOUGH HE DIES SHALL LIVE! I want to live that resurrection life and share in the sufferings of Jesus. How about you?

Philippians 3:1-9


1Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. 2Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 3for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, 4although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. 7But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,

This is one of Paul's most profound writings. He is sharing His experience, strength and hope in finding Jesus. He sets forth a biographical sketch of his religious life and it is impressive! He did everything just right, keeping every last letter of the law as he understood it and was most zealous about it. What he is saying is "There is no one you can find who had better religious credentials than I have." But he views all of these accomplishments as a pile of manure when compared to knowing Jesus as Messiah and Lord. You heard it right. MANURE. That's the word used for what is translated "rubbish" here and "dung" elsewhere.

Paul was doing his best to be righteous before God-to do, do, do! But when he found Jesus (or, when Jesus found him on the road to Damascus), he came to realize that Messiah Jesus has already done all that is needed to be done to be righteous before God and invites all those who are 'weary and heavy-laden' with do, do, do, to come to Him and He will give you rest. Like Paul we tend to want to do, do, do, but with Jesus it is DONE. Through His righteousness we can become righteous by faith.

In Paul's zeal to be righteous, he was a good religious Jew who was looking for God's Messiah (God's Christ) to show up someday. He can be truly called a follower and seeker of the Messiah or you might even say that PAUL WAS A CHRISTIAN. THEN JESUS APPREHENDED HIM! Think of it! Paul, being a seeker and follower of the Christ could have been called a Messianic or a Christian, then he met Jesus who claimed to be the Christ he was looking for all along.

This is why I shy away from being called a "Christian" or putting myself in the position of defending the religious system called Christianity. My own experience is that I was a Christian, having grown up in the culture and faith of Christianity, yet that was not transforming in my life. I did not experience spiritual transformation until Jesus apprehended me. Then I became a follower of Jesus. This would be no different than a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Jew, Mormon or agnostic. These are all cultural traditions and faiths. No matter what cultural background you find yourself, you can be a follower of Jesus. Once Jesus gets hold of your heart (apprehends you), you are transformed and become a new person. HOWEVER, YOU DON'T NEED TO BE CONVERTED OUT OF YOUR CULTURAL BACKGROUND. I know many Jewish followers of Jesus or Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Catholic, Baptist or whatever followers of Jesus. Once you see Jesus in this way, you don't have to argue and debate religion with anybody. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. There is no one who ever lived to be compared with Jesus! You don't have to feel compelled to "convert" someone from one religious system to another. If you are going to do anything, introduce people to Jesus. Lift Him up and all men will be drawn to Him. I have come to realize that even Jesus doesn't want to become a Christian. He wants to be Lord, Savior and friend. You see, it really is JESUS PLUS NOTHING.

Philippians 2:25-30


25But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; 26because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. 27For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. 28Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you. 29Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; 30because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me.

Apparently, Epaphroditus had been sent to Paul by the believers in Philippi to come to the aid of Paul. While attending to Paul, Epaphroditus became deathly ill. Now, Paul wants to send him back to the Philippians to see how they are and to show them that he is well, too. Paul identifies Epaphroditus as "my brother", "fellow worker", and "fellow soldier", a man who was in sync with Paul and Timothy in every way. He is held up as one who ought to be held high and received with joy.

As I read this scene I have many thoughts about how we should be acting today. First-we must be about networking people from one city to another. We tend to be so self-focused that we ignore the fact that there are many like-minded believers throughout the world. Whenever you connect one follower of Jesus with another, you have not only bound them together but you have empowered both in the process. The only thing that matters is what happens "life on life"-our relationships with one another in the fellowship of Jesus.

Second-we must be about using all our travels to connect with the fellowship of Jesus elsewhere. With all the travel that we do in our world it's a shame to miss out on the dynamic blessings that could happen as we meet one another or focus on gathering together in the name of Jesus. Instead of blowing in and out of town (which I've done so many times in the past), I am planning ahead and seeking out what family members are there in the city. I want to meet them and do a two-way-they be an encouragement and blessing to me or I may be a blessing to them. What you will find is that your visit is so appreciated. I see this as one of the most significant ways of loving other disciples wherever you go.

Third-we must be careful to joyfully honor and respect those who are giving their time to minister to others. There are so few who have been released to give of their time. They could use your affirmation and encouragement. And when you affirm and encourage them, you will attract others who seek to be released.

Again, this paragraph demonstrates the tight relationships of the few who were used by God to turn the world upside down! Paul, Silas and Timothy spent only a little over three weeks in another Greek city, Thessolanica, and from this visit the Thessalonians were so positively affected that they in turn had a major impact throughout all of Asia Minor.

So, the early disciples used Jesus' methodology of the power of the few and changed their world, having an indelible impact on their culture. Today, most disciples ignore Jesus' methodology of the power of the few and seek to charm and win the masses, having little impact upon our culture. GO FIGURE. Do it Jesus' way with the power of the few and change your world or do it the "modern" way with the pseudo-power of the masses and have little or no mark on society.

Philippians 2:14-18


14Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. 17But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. 18You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.

While working out your own salvation as God is already at work in you for the willing and the doing of His good work, you must be careful not to get caught up into murmurings and disputings. Murmurings remind me of the grumbling of the children of Israel against God and Moses when wandering through the wilderness. Murmurings is a moral rebellion against God. Disputings is an intellectual rebellion against God and His leadership. These two issues mentioned here aren't so rare within a fellowship of believers. Unfortunately this kind of thing is most common and so hurtful and disruptive within the fellowship.

I have served as senior pastor of three churches over a 27 year period-from as small as 400 people to as large as 10,000 and the same is true at all levels. There is a constant murmuring and complaining within most fellowships which is a perpetual simmering of negativity which can only serve evil purposes. These little seemingly "harmless" actions can cause major damage.

So, we are urged to refrain from murmurings and disputings, and if we do, we will prove ourselves to be 4 things:

1. You will prove to be blameless and innocent-not being a target for criticism.

2. You will prove to be children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

3. You will prove yourself able to appear as lights in this world of darkness

4. You will prove to be able to hold fast the word of life.

Think of it. All of this-blameless, innocent, above reproach (counteracting a crooked and perverse generation), shining as lights in the world of darkness, and being able to hold fast the word of life-is all greatly affected by your murmurings and disputings.

Over the years I've heard the murmurings and disputings of one person for over 30 years. He has followed me in every ministry I've endeavored. He has relentlessly shown up to nearly every good thing I've endeavored to accomplish. I can't seem to get rid of him! His name is ANONYMOUS. He sends me notes and emails, always complaining about something or arguing with me over something I did or said. I used to listen to him and his messages dragged me down. I've changed my tactics in handling the ANONYMOUS notes and emails. I read them, consider the truth contained within them and then I pray that God will either change their hearts or move them along to bother another ministry.

BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, those believers in the fellowship of Jesus who DO NOT murmur and complain are responsible for a most wonderful testimony of God's grace in this unfair world and His light in this frightening world of darkness. So, is the application here to WATCH YOUR MOUTH AND MIND? No, I think the application of this passage is to WATCH YOUR HEART.

To me, those who are caught up in the snipping and sniping within the fellowship are dealing with the things that just don't matter in comparison with the joy we can share now and when Christ returns. This is what is being said here by Paul and Timothy-IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER, SO SHUT IT UP AND SHUT IT DOWN!