Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Desire for Understanding: Understanding the Gospel's Liberty (Part IV)

"Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; that your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again." (Philippians 1:24-26)

In Christ's gospel, Paul found the liberty to live and serve others as needed. Yes, he did desire to see Jesus more than anything; however, the present need of the church required his physical presence for at least a few more years. In this, he was at rest. Not only does the gospel give the believer liberty in life and death, it also gives him liberty to serve others as long as God's will would have it so.

The purpose of Paul's continuance cannot be overlooked. He desired the spiritual furtherance of his brethren. He desired to see them grow in faith toward Jesus Christ. This, in turn, would bring joy into their lives. The selflessness of this desire on Paul's part is quite conspicuous. The believer has not been left here to serve himself; he has been left to serve others. His purpose in life is to encourage others toward a relationship and fellowship with God. If a Christian is not doing this with his life, he will experience emptiness and discontentment.

Paul's ultimate goal was that Christ be glorified in the spirits of His people. Paul was not trying to further these people for any selfish reason and neither was he trying to inappropriately exalt himself. He wanted the rejoicing of his Philippian brethren to be centered in Christ. Every Christian's goal should be the glory of his Savior. A man can be driven by many different motives. He may encourage others out of a desire to be praised. Feeling good about one's own actions may lead a person to minister. Many different motives can empower an individual's service; however, the only motive that will stand at the judgment seat of Christ is the motive to glorify the King.

Having expressed a desire for growth and a desire for understanding of the gospel's proclamation and liberty, the Holy Spirit now transitions into a desire for steadfastness on the part of His people.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Third Book

The third book is now complete and available at
Titles available include Malachi, Romans, and Daniel.

A Desire for Understanding: Understanding the Gospel's Liberty (Part III)

"But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:" (Philippians 1:22-23)

The fruit refers back to the things just mentioned. Paul found himself caught between two desires. The joyful prospect of being with Christ overwhelmed him. Paul had his priorities straight. Some professing believers are so preoccupied with worldly goals that they rarely think of departing to be with Christ. Paul's life was spent serving Jesus; therefore, it is only natural that he should want to be with the one for whom he lived. Living for one's own self rather than for Jesus Christ will prevent a believer from looking forward to his meeting with the Savior. When a child has not conducted himself appropriately during the absence of his father, he does not eagerly look forward to his father's return. Every believer can experience the same type of anticipation that Paul experienced if he will make spiritual things the priority in his life. Exalting the Scriptures in the home, actively serving in a God-fearing church, seeking to reach others with the gospel and allowing the Holy Spirit to control one's thoughts and actions would be a good place for a Christian to start in finding peace at the thought of Christ's return.

Paul labeled his being with Christ as "far better," and his life demonstrated that he truly believed what he wrote. How a Christian spends his time demonstrates whether or not he believes that being with Christ is far better. Talk is cheap. A believer's personal and public life openly declares his view of Christ's value.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Desire for Understanding: Understanding the Gospel's Liberty (Part II)

"According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:20-21)

Paul's relationship with Christ could not be revoked; however, his fellowship could be strained if he were to fail his Savior. Of this, he was ever mindful. He did not want to experience shame due to faithlessness when the time came to see Jesus face to face. His eager expectation and hope was that he would boldly display the character of Christ's Spirit in his life. Clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, Paul found absolute liberty in the gospel. He was not threatened by life or by death. If God were to allow his life to continue, it simply meant that each day would be an opportunity to experience and to demonstrate the holy character of Christ. On the other hand, if God allowed Paul to die, such an event would be the means by which he would be brought to his eternal rest. Paul's obedience to God's will enabled him to understand and practice such peace. The Christian who is kicking against submission to Scripture will have a very difficult time understanding such peace, because he is not submitted to the Spirit who makes this peace possible. Also, a lack of Scriptural teaching in the church and a lack of personal study will inhibit a believer from understanding and applying this truth. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)." The assurance of a believer's victory over both life and death is a biblical teaching; therefore, one needs to be in the Bible in order to understand and apply the teaching.

What threat to a man's peace could be greater than life and death? When the believer allows the gospel to conquer these two major foes, what remains to threaten his tranquility? When a man is fully submitted to God's will, and when he is fully submitted to the righteous commands of Scripture, neither life's failures nor death's uncertainties may plague his soul. "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life ... shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39)." When a believer's desire is that people see Christ shining through him, each day may be lived in the peace of God regardless of the circumstances.

Carnality is the enemy of this principle. When a Christian is in rebellion, Christ's Spirit is being ignored and quenched; therefore, he cannot experience such peace and boldness because he is resisting the very Spirit of peace. Allowing the flesh to choose its response to the circumstances which God allows will always result in feeling threatened by either life or death.

Paul's desire was that Christ be magnified or exalted in his body. He wanted to glorify God in the way he looked, acted, dressed etc. He did not want to engage in anything that would be a possible offense or distraction to people. He knew that his body belonged to God and that it should be used for God. This principle alone is reason enough why a Christian should abstain from certain things. Obesity, alcohol, smoking, tight or revealing clothing, harmful foods and beverages, worldly music, crass speech and worldly entertainments are just a few examples of things which have no place in a believer's life. Christ is not magnified in these things; the flesh is magnified.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Desire for Understanding: Understanding the Gospel's Liberty

"For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ," (Philippians 1:19)

This sentence may also be translated, "For I know that this for me shall lead to salvation through the prayer of you and the assistance of the Spirit of Jesus Christ." Paul's spirit found great liberty in the gospel. He had nothing to lose. By faith in the blood of Christ, he had been delivered from future damnation as well as from the present power of sin. Everything that came into his life was being used by God for the purpose of sanctification. Everything was complimenting that ultimate work of complete deliverance to which Paul looked forward. Paul's primary focus was not on physical deliverance but on spiritual deliverance. By means of the saint's prayers and the Spirit's ability to work in the hearts and lives of people, Paul was persuaded "that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)." Psalm 28:7 says, "...Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant." God takes great pleasure in the spiritual wellbeing of His people. If Paul was imprisoned, it simply meant that the gospel would be spread among the Roman soldiers. If contentious individuals preached with the motive of harming him, it simply meant that Christ would be preached in places He otherwise may not have been. The more they tried to persecute Paul in his cause for Christ, the greater his reward in heaven. "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven (Matthew 5:11-12)." Yes, everything was working out for Paul's salvation. Everything was complimenting that day when he would forever be with Christ.

Paul did not have the monopoly on this principle. The circumstances of every believer are being used of God to compliment that work of salvation which He has performed in the soul. Rather than become despondent over unpleasant circumstances, perhaps a Christian should realize that the Lord uses such events to sanctify His children while leading them toward their final home in heaven.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Desire for Understanding: Understanding the Gospel's Proclamation (Part IV)

"What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." (Philippians 1:18)

Responsibility for the gospel's preservation and proclamation does not rest with the believer. Yes, every Christian has been given the individual task of proclaiming the truth of Christ; however, should he fail to do so or should the God-fearing man become scarce, God will preserve His gospel. He will ensure that it is proclaimed in some way. His power is sufficient to use circumstances, intimidated people and insincere people for the purpose of spreading His truth.

Paul found peace and great joy in this reality. He was able to rejoice in God's power while remaining faithful to the task which God had placed in front of him. When a Christian forgets that the gospel's preservation and proclamation are primarily the responsibility of God, he will begin to make compromises. As a man witnesses the degradation of society and the rejection of the gospel, he may be tempted to lower his guard and put aside biblical separation for the purposes of evangelism. This is very dangerous. Instead, a Christian should remain loyal to the biblical defense and preaching of Christ's gospel while allowing God ultimately to guide its preservation and proclamation.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Desire for Understanding: Understanding the Gospel's Proclamation (Part III)

"Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel." (Philippians 1:15-17)

God also used insincere people to proclaim His gospel. Their motives were not pure; however, God's sovereignty supervised the actions of these insincere people and ensured that something positive resulted from it all.

Paul acknowledged God's ability to use such insincerity for His glory, yet he did not have fellowship with such people. God's power is sufficient to use any circumstance and any person for the purposes of proclamation; however, this is not license for a Christian to neglect the need for separation from unruly or disobedient people. In this day and age, many disobedient and liberal churches are proclaiming the gospel or some form of it, and God possesses the ability to bring good out of such things; yet, a believer must be careful to remain aloof from such people.

Lastly, God also used sincere people in the gospel's proclamation. The motives of these people were birthed from a heart of Christian charity. Rather than cause Paul more harm, they simply wanted to aid him in his work for Christ. Christ-like love must be at the heart of a believer's witnessing. If it is not, the believer will fail to witness as he should, and he will not show appropriate compassion toward those in need.

Paul said that he was "set" for the defense of the gospel. At first glance, one might think that this word conveys the idea of standing; however, its most basic meaning is to recline or to lie down. Just as a building's foundation is firmly laid so that it might not be shaken, Paul firmly laid himself down for the service of God. A believer will never stand if he does not first learn to lie down firmly in submission to the ultimate plan of God. Nothing could move Paul. Regardless of what came to pass, he was determined to hold his ground while defending the truth of the gospel.  

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Desire for Understanding: Understanding the Gospel's Proclamation (Part II)

"And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear." (Philippians 1:14)

People who had been too intimidated to openly proclaim Christ suddenly found strength through God's grace in Paul's life. The phrase waxing confident is one verb which means to be persuaded. Having observed God's faithfulness to His servant in bonds, the timid suddenly became bold. Instead of sitting by, wringing their hands, they found access to the boldness of the Holy Spirit, "being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform (Roman 4:21)." Undoubtedly, Paul's detention was unpleasant in many ways; however, the edification of the weak in spirit was one result of such bondage. Not only were these weaker brethren helped, but those to whom they boldly proclaimed Christ also became benefactors of the circumstances which God had allowed to come upon Paul. These spiritual brethren were not made void of godly fear but rather they were freed from the fear of man. The fear of man cripples a Christian's service, but the fear of God gains access to the proclaiming power of the Holy Spirit.

Human perception is so short-sighted! In faith, Christians must commit their circumstances to the Lord, because only He can turn an unpleasant situation into a source of encouragement for the weak thereby helping both saved and unsaved individuals.   

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Desire for Understanding: Understanding the Gospel's Proclamation

"But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;" (Philippians 1:12-13)

God is powerful enough to use a man's circumstances for the proclamation of Christ's gospel. Paul did not want the Philippian believers to bemoan the fact that he resided in Rome as a prisoner; he wanted them to understand that God was using his circumstances for the welfare of others. The word for palace is the Greek word from which praetorium is derived. This word could be referring to the governor's official residence, or it could be in reference to the praetorian guard. In any case, Christ's work in Paul's life had been put on display. Roman officials, soldiers, household servants and common people were afforded the opportunity of witnessing God's grace in Paul's life. People who had never known anything but moral degradation and idolatry were suddenly confronted with God's holiness and love as seen in Paul's changed heart.

The text says that Paul's bonds in Christ were manifest. In other words, they were put on full display. They were the talk of the palace and the surrounding area. One can only imagine some of the questions that may have circulated. How could a man in bonds have such peace? How could a Roman citizen who had yet to have any legitimate accusation brought against him find the strength to have such quietness in his soul? Who is this Jesus whom Paul keeps proclaiming? What is the resurrection from the dead? Is there only one God, and does He offer forgiveness? Yes, many questions. It would be easy for the outside observer to say, "Poor Paul," but God's Spirit wants His people to realize that His grace is sufficient to use the worst circumstances in furthering Christ's kingdom.

When hard times come into a man's life, he is often tempted to ask questions such as, "Why me?" "Does God not see that I already have enough troubles?" "Why do such things have to happen now?" "For what purpose have these things come upon me?" Often times, the flesh responds to trials by saying, "This hurts." "I do not like this." "This is uncomfortable." "This is embarrassing" or " This is humiliating." However, God is sovereign enough to use any circumstance for the proclamation of the gospel. His Spirit is able to give grace and peace to the one who is willing to put his trust in Christ's ability. After Joseph had suffered the afflictions of Egyptian captivity, God raised him up to a place of prominence for the purpose of saving the lives of many people. At the end of his life, he was able to look his persecutors in the eye and say, "Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones (Genesis 50:19-21)." Through Paul's example, every Christian is admonished to beware of his attitude during times of affliction.   

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Paul's Desire for the Church: A Desire for Growth (Part IV)

"Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God." (Philippians 1:11)

Growing in the knowledge and application of God's love will manifest itself through the fruits of righteousness. What are these fruits? Some of them are mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance... ." God wants His people to be filled with these things, not simply show traces of them. The world should not have difficulty in noticing the difference between itself and the Christian. If it does, the one professing Christ is either a false professor or a carnal one.

These fruits of righteousness are manifested by means of Christ's Spirit. They are not brought about by man's effort. As previously mentioned, the Christian is not responsible for bringing about the change in his life. He is responsible for submitting to God's Spirit who desires to change the believer from the inside out. A self-righteous man believes that he becomes sanctified through his actions. He believes that wearing certain clothes, listening to certain music and engaging in certain religious activities makes him acceptable to God; however, the self-righteous man who says "Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou" is denounced in Isaiah 65:5 when God says, "These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day." Man does not produce the fruit of the Spirit, the Spirit does. God's Spirit desires to dress differently than the world. He desires to listen to holy music. He desires to abstain from fornication and adultery. He desires to love others and walk in humility. The fruits of righteousness are the strict property of Christ's Spirit. By allowing the Holy Ghost to fill him, the Christian is afforded the blessed opportunity of being completely filled with works that should be considered foreign to a lost world.

Ultimately, God the Father is to receive all the glory for what is done in the believer's life. When Christ's Spirit truly brings about good works in a Christian, the result will be the glorification of God; and when man brings about the work, God's glory will not be the focus. Many believers boast of glorifying God through their actions; however, God is glorified through strict obedience to Scripture. The Spirit does not bring about fruits of righteousness which do not harmonize with Bible doctrine. Many carnal people have pursued an unbiblical desire while proclaiming, "Let God receive the glory." God can use anyone's actions, but His Spirit does not motivate the saint to unbiblical behavior. In complete compliance with the written Word, the Spirit of the living Word brings about fruits of righteousness to the praise of the Father - the Giver of the Word.