The Christian Life
The past year has been filled with many different events; some good and some bad. And there have been many different approaches/reactions to the events that have unfolded before us. The worldly reaction has been epitomized by extremes. We have seen men like Algore declare that the world is going to end because of Global Warming. We have watched as an antichrist has been elected to the highest office in the land. And the world has wholeheartedly bought the lies of these men.
Now what about the Church? What has been the reaction there? It too has been full of extremities. There has been the conservative or biblical reaction based on an understanding that God is sovereign and is directing all things according to His predestined plan from before the foundation of the world. Then there has been the frenzied, world-like reaction that has come from Arminian believers and church people.
Arminians of course are those who have not been rooted and grounded in the truth due to poor teaching and the riding of hobby horses; that is the pet doctrinal teaching of pastors who will not go any further than they have already been taught themselves. And then the Church people don’t know the truth, are in church for other reasons than the worship of God; (to look good in the public eye, to pick up girls or guys, etc.) and therefore react the same as the worldlings because they are worldlings themselves.
So I raise the question; what is the proper reaction to be? Christians are in this world but we are not to be of it. We have been called out to the world; indeed the Greek word for Church is Ekklesia which literally means the assembly of the called out ones. Paul declares that we have died and our lives are hidden with Christ in God. And not only have we died to the world having been baptized into Christ, but we have been raised to walk in newness of life. We are new creatures in Christ Jesus. Old things have passed away and all things have become new. And as Christians we are to be laboring in the word and doctrine to understand what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. We are to be spending our time renewing our minds in the word of God so as to be transformed from the old mindsets, the old habits and metamorphoo’d into a new mindset; a new way of thinking, Gods way of thinking.
We are to take every thought captive to the word of God, to “Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.1Th 5:21-22. We are given this warning in 1Jo 4:1 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” We are to rest on the firm foundation of the word of God. We are to hold to it’s councils for God who cannot lie will never lead us astray.
Remember from our study of Pilgrims Progress that there is only one way, one path for the Christian to be follow. Goodwill told Christian; “Look before thee: dost thou see this narrow way? That is the way thou must go. It was cast up by the patriarchs, prophets, Christ, and his apostles; and it is as straight as a rule can make it: this is the way thou must go. Christian then asked a very astute question: “But,” said CHRISTIAN, “Are there no turnings nor windings, by which a stranger may lose his way?” To which Goodwill gave the answer; Yes, there are many ways butt down upon this, and they are crooked and wide: but thus thou mayest distinguish the right from the wrong, the right only being strait and narrow “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Mt 7:14.
Now let us go to the Law and to the Testimony to receive wise council for the Christian life. Our text for this morning is found in Philippians 3 and we will begin with verse 1 “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. Let’s stop there. Here is a command which is repeated in Php 4:4 with a double emphasis. “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” You remember that to repeat something in the Greek is to emphasize it. It’s like putting an exclamation point at the end.
And Paul continues in verse 1 saying; “To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.” Did you catch that? It is a safeguard to be reminded. Indeed “We must therefore pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away.”Heb 2:1 Today we celebrate The Lord’s Supper; a rite of remembrance. Jesus said; “Do this in remembrance of me.” Notice that He didn’t say, “do this in order to get saved or to stay saved but do this to remind yourselves of the sacrifice I performed on your behalf. Observe the Lord’s Supper in order to stir up your minds, to stay humble before God rather than puffed up as though you did anything to save yourself!
I remember a movie titled “Quo Vadis” and specifically a line in the movie: “remember thou art only a man.” You see, we can get puffed up so easily. We can forget the fact that God is God for a moment or a season and begin to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to. In other words, we get full of ourselves as we begin to look around like Nebuchadnezzar and we begin to think that we are the sovereigns of our own lives. This is what happens when we forget that we are only men and women who are saved by the sovereign grace and good pleasure of God who chose to have mercy on us. We cannot worship God in such a mindset for we are too busy worshiping ourselves.
To rejoice in God is to acknowledge that He is the giver of all that we have and to acknowledge that we are merely stewards of Gods belongings. And it is a safeguard to us to have such a mindset for when we think in such a manner we are walking in humility for we understand that we have nothing that we did not receive from God and we praise Him from whom all blessings flow.
The next thing Paul says to us is 2 Beware of the dogs, here specifically both seducers (those who would lure you away from the faith) and sectarians, (those who believe they are the only true church and if you don’t belong to them you are lost). The scriptures refer to the wicked as dead dogs who are the leaders of the pack when they confront godly ministers. And though the dogs of Egypt would not move their tongues against Israel, yet these greedy dogs both bark and bite true believers for they are instruments of the devil to do his will. And like their father they too are ravenous when they get among the flocks. Like
Worldly Wiseman they spout words that seem right but do not believe; indeed, John Trapp warns; “do not receive them for they will but bemire you with fawning; yea, like mutts they will suck your blood with licking, and in the end they will kill you, and cut your throats without biting. Beware of them, therefore, beware, saith the apostle here.”
beware of the evil workers, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.”2Co 11:13 The devil’s ministers look like ministers of righteousness. They may be nice, pleasant and gracious but like Judas they kiss in order to destroy. How many pastors occupy pulpits each Lords Day who are in reality ministers of the devil? How many of the devil’s minions occupy pews each Lords Day who know not our Lord Jesus Christ? It is frightening indeed; especially since we here have firsthand knowledge of such thing. We have seen a wolf in the pulpit and he didn’t look like a wolf. No indeed; he was nice and pleasant and gracious to our faces. But his doctrine was the doctrine of demons and we had to flee out of Sodom without looking back.
Worse still we have dear friends there who have been deceived by the wolf. Jesus warned us that antichrists and false prophets would be so convincing that they would be able to deceive the elect if that were possible.
Now did you notice how Paul made a double emphasis in this passage? He has used two expressions to say the same thing. He spoke of dogs first and now declares that these dogs are evil workers. Now he goes further and triples his emphasis which should really cause you to perk up your ears. He says; beware of the false circumcision; Who are they? They are dogs, evil workers whose sole purpose in life is to bring division in the Church and cut it into little pieces.
These wicked men and women love destroying congregations and causing church splits for their own greedy desires. They may be seeking to gain a following for themselves or they may merely want to cause the destruction of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ which gives them great pleasure.
Now let’s look at the term “False circumcision.” You will remember that the Jews believed that their works saved them. One of these works was circumcision, a cutting of the foreskin which rite God ordained to identify His people from the pagan nations who did not practice such things. While this was an identifying mark, the Jews made it a work which if performed, would gain the favor of God and so put you in right standing before Him.
Today there are denominations which have made baptism a work which gains the favor of God. In other words they teach that “If you do these certain things, God will be pleased with you and He will save you.” But is this biblical? Is this true? I doth say thee nay! Paul tells us in Eph 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.” And in Ro 9:11 we read “for though the twins (Jacob and Esau) were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls… So I can stand before you today without fear of twisting the scriptures and say from a biblical perspective that if we are saved at all we are saved by the grace and mercy of God plus nothing. Paul says in Ro 9:16 “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” Christians are baptized in obedience to His command not in order to be saved but to identify ourselves as those who have been saved by the grace of God plus nothing. Like circumcision it is a rite which identifies us as God’s people.
This is why Paul says in verse 3 “for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, we have nothing to boast about before God for it is by His doing that we are in Christ Jesus. Look at Ro 2:28-29 “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.” Who performs the true circumcision? It is the Holy Spirit. Salvation is “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost…” Tit 3:5 Where then is boasting? It is excluded is it not! Outward deeds do not a Christian make.
Indeed, we have only to examine the life of the Apostle Paul to see that works gain nothing in the eyes of God. Notice verse 4 of our text and see how Paul shuts down any and all confidence in works as a way to God. He had spent his whole life up until the Damascus road experience trying to gain the favor of God by his works. He says although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; He was a true physical descendent of Jacob/Israel. The Jews believed that their heritage made them acceptable to God though the scriptures tell us that we are saved, not by blood, nor by the will of the flesh, nor by the will of man but of God; that it is by His doing that you are in Christ Jesus.
But Paul went further than merely trusting in his family heritage. He joined the church and as to the Law, (that is the Ten Commandments, the Torah, the Mishna and the Talmud) he became a Pharisee; We have looked in depth at the Pharisees and suffice it to say that they went to great lengths to get on God’s good side writing extra books to explain what God really meant when He said, “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it Holy” and standing out in their gardens counting mint leaves in their gardens so as to offer God a tithe of everything as if God needed anything.
And being a good Pharisee he hated Jesus and felt it necessary to try to get rid of His followers so 6 as to zeal, he was a persecutor of the church; Listen to his own testimony as he stood before Agrippa 9 “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. 11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.” Ac 26:11 Jesus had declared this much to the disciples in John 16:2 where He said that “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.” Think about the Inquisition where the Whore of Babylon believed that they were serving God by killing and torturing the ‘heretics’ who in reality were the truth circumcision.
Note what Paul says next, “as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. That’s quite a statement is it not! In the eyes of men he had achieved a ceremonial righteousness, a legalistic perfection according to the dictates of Phariseism.
But on the day he fell before the blazing light of the holiness of God all of his self righteousness was undone. In his own words this is what happened to him; 7 But whatever things were gain to me, all those wonderful accolades from his colleagues and the supposed benefits he had derived from his ‘personal holiness’ those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Paul now looked upon all the ‘good’ he had done as an unclean thing.
But he goes further than this to say in verse 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, In comparison to Jesus Paul viewed everything that the world values as valueless, empty, worthless! Jesus Christ, the man he had hated and persecuted had become the One “for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish (dung; worthless and detestable) so that I may gain Christ, All the things Paul had so valued, he now viewed as dung. Do you look upon the world and all it has to offer as dung? Or do you still have idols in your heart?
Remember that as a Pharisee Paul had many idols including himself. He viewed himself as someone whom God needed, valued, etc. Indeed I have stated many times that the Pharisees believed that they were doing God a favor by allowing Him to spend time with them! Paul had been one of them. But now he saw himself in a proper perspective. He knew that he was nothing and that in reality, God had done him a great favor by calling him on the Damascus road. God was now all in all and Paul had become nothing and less than nothing in his own eyes.
This goes contrary to the mindset of the modern church where men and women strut around boasting that they are somebody. Pastors are now called: ‘the Right Reverend so and so’ or Dr. such and such, or ’Prophet’ or ‘Apostle.’ Deacons are now elders in the church and exercise authority over the pastor and the congregation while the biblical office of deacon was that of a servant who was to meet the physical needs of the flock.
Women have invented the office of Deaconess so they too can have power in the church. And not content with this they too have stepped into the pulpit to exercise authority over the church and usurp the authority of men. Then there is the congregation who has decided that they must rule over the pastor. What is this but the inmates in charge of the institution!
Then there are the sheep, the congregations who now tell the shepherd where they want to go and what they want to eat and so on. In other words, the pastor is no longer the shepherd of the sheep. He no longer has any say in what goes on in the church. The pastor is now merely a figurehead, a cheerleader; a facilitator. Can you say Ichabod?
Do you see how upside down this is? Do you understand that those who have gone this route are guilty of adding to and taking away from the word of God with their extra-biblical activities?
Those who have engaged in such things have taken their eyes off of Jesus Christ; have turned aside from the law and the testimony and have chosen rather to suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness and create a church after their image and likeness. They have clamored for a pastor who is successful rather than holy. They have clamored for ‘feel good’ messages rather than longing for the truth of the word of God. And they have sought for the approval of the world rather than the smile of God. I believe it is safe to say that probably most of the churches in our land are in direct opposition to the scriptural model of what the church is to be. We have gone away from the biblical model of Acts 2 and are paying the price for it. We have gone the way of the Pharisees.
But this is exactly what Paul had fled from when Jesus called him. Rather than looking good in the eyes of the world Paul desired to be with Christ. His own words were “that I might gain Christ 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, he had discovered the futility of trying to attain this in Phariseism and having found salvation in Jesus Christ he could say with Isaiah; “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isa 61:10
He had tried to work out a righteousness of his own but when he met the Lord he learned that the only righteousness that is worth anything is that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, You see again that salvation is the gift of God, that it is all of grace. We had no righteousness ourselves and being sinners by our very nature we stood condemned at the judgment bar of God already because of our unbelief. We stood wretched, poor, miserable, blind and naked before a Holy God who will by no means clear the guilty.
But God stooped down and had mercy upon such wicked men and women as we are. He understood that we could not distinguish between our right hand and our left and He graciously called us to Himself, giving us the gifts of saving grace and saving faith. He sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law that He might redeem those who were under the condemnation of the law. Jesus took our sins upon Himself and suffered our punishment taking the list of ordinances that were hostile against us and nailed it to the cross. And then He called us. The Father drew us to His Son in mercy. And we did the only thing we could do. We responded! He had given us saving faith and we responded by trusting in Him for the salvation of our never dying souls.
But salvation is only the starting point. We don’t get saved and then go on about our sinful God hating lives. He whom the Son has set free is free indeed and we begin to walk in newness of life. This is different from those who merely go through the outward motions of responding to an altar call, getting baptized and having our names put on the church roles. Christianity is much more than going to church and paying tithes.
Paul is very clear when in verse 10 he reveals his hearts desire; “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. The very first thing Paul wants is to know Jesus! Many people know about Him. Many people try to teach His words. But they don’t know Him. They have never known Him. They have merely said, “Lord, Lord.” There are many people in this place. There are multitudes of church people and false prophets roaming the length and breadth of the land proclaiming that they are somebody. But in reality they are lost and undone and in danger of hellfire. They don’t know Him and worse still, He doesn’t know them: that is, they are not His children. They are religious goats whose end is destruction, whose god is their bellies, who set their mind on earthly things.
They have no desire to know God. Their theme-song is “From a distance.” They want to know God from a distance and they want Him to keep His distance so they can ‘be free to live their own lives.”
The difference between the true Christian life and the counterfeit is really clear isn’t it! Real Christians want to know Jesus. They want to be close to Him whom their souls love. They have experienced the power of His resurrection the moment they were saved and they long for the day when they will be finally resurrected from this world of sin for like Paul they want to be with Jesus.
They want to be partakers of His sufferings as well. I’m not saying that Christians are masochists but I am saying that Christians are willing to pay any price to live for Jesus; even if it means suffering for His names sake. The Apostles rejoiced when they had been beaten by the religious leaders. The testimony of true Christians is seen in Re 12:11 “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
This is the essence of the Christian life. It is a life that is swallowed up in Jesus; a life that breathes after Jesus. Keith Green described the Christian as “Someone who is bananas for Jesus!” “And” Jesus said the true Christian will be devoted to God the Father. He said; “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” Mr 12:30
The true Christian will see the daily events as the unfolding of the will of God who over-rules all things after the council of His own will. And like Jesus Christ our Lord the true Christian will continually entrust himself to Him who judges righteously! The true Christian will not trust in himself for anything but will rest in his Lord who always does all things well. He will walk through this world as one who treads on forbidden ground hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. He will not always react well under pressure but he will always return to the Lord in repentance and renewed devotion to the One who saved Him 20 “For” he knows that “our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”