Sunday, May 31, 2009

What is Truly Important in Life? - Philippians 3:10-12

What is Truly Important in Life? - Philippians 3:10-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 31, 2009 AM

Mike Hayes an award-winning NYC radio producer wrote about how his life priorities were changed suddenly in his Senior year of college. He wrote that “During my junior year in college, I ran myself ragged…. I had two roommates that year, Scott and Dave. Scott was a giant, about 6’ 4” and 200 pounds of solid muscle…. Dave was the polar opposite. About 5’ 7” and maybe 100 pounds. Dave was plagued by diabetes and a heart condition. He had to closely monitor his diet, and he added about six or seven pills to his daily regimen of food as well.” Mike’s relationship with God suffered as much as his relationship with his friends. His “wake-up call came the next year.” “I had moved into a new residence hall with other friends… I got the call from Dave's new roommate... Dave was headed to the hospital. ‘Something with his heart.’ It didn't look good.” Dave was dying yet he was only 20 years old. Dave’s one chance was a heart defibrillator. Sitting with friends, waiting for Dave’s surgery, Mike began to realize all the time he had missed with his friend Dave and how much he needed God back in his life again.

He writes, “I was a better person when I graduated later that year. I was better for the friendships I had made with these men and women who had banded together to support their friend in his time of need…. I never let him become so distant from me again. During the last five years of Dave’s life, I attended his block party every year, and there wasn’t a Super Bowl that I didn’t watch in his basement. Dave died December 8, 1995. He was only 25. I thank God for those last five years…. Every year, I take December 8 off from work. I use that day to tell those around me how much I love them and how my life would be worse if it wasn’t for their presence.” What is truly important in life for you?

Paul writes, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:10-12) Paul had discovered what was truly important in life and he shares with us the three things he had discovered.

First, Paul wanted to “know Christ and the power of his resurrection!” Here is an open and honest confession to the Philippians of the Apostle for us to read. Paul had already trusted his life to Christ. He had placed his faith in Jesus, but now Paul was sharing that he desired above all to “know Christ.” He literally wanted to know Jesus by experiencing Him fully in his life. Remember, back in verse 8, he had written: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things!” For Paul it was more than a feeling or a head knowledge of God or of Jesus. It was the intimate “power of [Jesus’] resurrection” that would change Paul’s entire way of thinking and living! It is this power that brought Jesus back to life that operates in the life of every believer because they have “been raised with Christ!” (Colossians 3:1) To fully know Jesus is to fully know the power of His resurrection. The idea is one of overcoming resistance. For Paul that resistance was anything that kept him from fully knowing Jesus. His life no longer depended upon following a set of rules and regulations, but was instead empowered by faith. Paul would declare: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) Do you want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection? What is truly important in life for you?

Secondly, Paul wanted to know “the fellowship of sharing in [Jesus’] sufferings, becoming like him in his death!” These “sufferings” Paul mentions were not Christ’s sufferings on the cross. He did not want to submit himself to some weird cultic self-abasement or flagellation. Paul knew that the suffering of Jesus on the cross could not be shared or duplicated. They were Jesus’ alone to endure. Remember, Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8) But Paul did desire to participate with Christ, since he was one of His, in suffering for the sake of the gospel. At the very beginning of Paul’s journey with the Lord, Ananias had told Paul what God had said to him concerning Paul’s life: “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:16) And throughout the Apostle’s life he had indeed suffered for the sake of the gospel: “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27) Paul realized that Christians “always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:10) Paul was not some sadomasochist, he was a willing follower of Jesus who willingly gave himself over to “the fellowship of sharing in [Jesus’] sufferings, becoming like him in his death!” The words “becoming like Him” translate to “being conformed inwardly in one’s experience to something.” As Christ died for sin, so a believer has died to sin: “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7) In fact the word here for “resurrection” is used nowhere else in the New Testament. It literally means an “out-resurrection.” Paul wanted folks to see Jesus when they saw his life. Paul became like Jesus when he died to himself and let the world see Jesus. That was his “out-resurrection”! What is truly important in life for you?

Finally, Paul realized that he had not “obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Paul knew he had not arrived: “Not that I have already obtained all this.” He knew he had to walk further with the Lord, and Paul also knew that he had not “been made perfect.” He had a ways to go! However, Paul pursued his life in Jesus like a long distance runner going for the goal. He saw his life as beginning when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and it now stretched out before him to the finish. He could not see all the obstacles, hardships, or what might occur in his life, but he certainly saw the finish line. Paul ran for the goal: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” The goal of every Christian is to head for the finish line. Some have already finished the race, others are near its end, but many of us our far from the final ribbon. Along the way Jesus gives us water for our thirst and sustenance for our downcast souls. We can rest beside the still waters and picnic in the green pastures, but we to never forget to get up and get going to finish the race that God has called us to.

Psalm 112:6 states that “the righteous man will be remembered forever.” David H. Roper notes that “One reason we’re left here on earth and not taken to heaven immediately after trusting in Christ for salvation is that God has work for us to do. ‘Man is immortal,’ Augustine said, ‘until his work is done.’

The time of our death is not determined by anyone or anything here on earth. That decision is made in the councils of heaven. When we have done all that God has in mind for us to do, then and only then will He take us home—and not one second before. As Paul put it, ‘David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep’ (Acts 13:36).

In the meantime, until God takes us home, there’s plenty to do. ‘I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day,’ Jesus said. ‘Night is coming when no one can work’ (John 9:4). Night is coming when we will once for all close our eyes on this world, or our Lord will return to take us to be with Him. Each day brings that time a little closer. As long as we have the light of day, we must work—not to conquer, acquire, accumulate, and retire, but to make visible the invisible Christ by touching people with His love.” What is truly important in life for you?
This article is the copyrighted 2009 © property of Lee Hemen and may not be copied or reproduced in any way shape or form without using the full text of this entire article, and getting the permission of its author.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lose it all for the Lord! – Philippians 3:7-9

Lose it all for the Lord! – Philippians 3:7-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 24, 2009 AM

What would you be willing to die for? The love of your life? Your family? A pet? Job? Perhaps you would dare sacrifice yourself in order to save someone else’s life like for a kidney or heart transplant or a blood transfusion? The Reverend Thomas Baker went as a missionary to the Fiji Islands and died there in July of 1867 and was eaten by the local populace. They did not eat him because of his missionary work but rather he lost his life for messing with the local chief’s hair – actually the head man’s comb that kept his hair in place. One villager who took part in the cannibals’ feast was quoted in contemporary accounts as saying “we ate everything but his boots,” and one of Baker’s boots is reportedly on display along with his Bible, the fork and the bowl used to dine on him, at the Fiji Museum in Suva. Don’t worry about going there now, the cannibalistic decedents apologized in 2003 for their ancestor’s role in the culinary faux pas.

A lot of folks willingly lose their lives for the silliest of reasons. Drinking and driving, the “recreational” use of drugs like marijuana, sexual promiscuity, or like one young man who went swimming on a hot spring day and disregarded the near freezing water of the Sandy River. Now, let me ask you again the sobering question: What would you be willing to die for? Paul teaches us that he was willing to lose all he had gained in life for the sake of Jesus Christ. He was willing to lose it all for the Lord. Let’s discover why…

READ: Philippians 3:7-9

Do you consider your life worthless? Some do because they either see their life as futile or they have simply wasted it. How different are the lives of two young men when you compare them side-by-side. One, having won multiple gold medals, the most of anyone in the history of the Olympics, who lost the respect of million when he willingly and blatantly smoked pot. While the other, an NBA star known for his community service and compassionate heart, has lost almost everything due to Parkinson’s disease. One by choice and the other not, but both have lost. In losing it all for the Lord…

I. Paul considered everything in life worthless compared to knowing Jesus! (Vv. 7-8a)

1. Spiritual poverty is found in the presence of the Lord when the riches of His grace enter into the souls of man! All the things Paul had just gotten through listing (Vv. 5-6) that many in his day and age considered worthy, he now saw in a different light. He related, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss!” Why? For Paul it was a matter of a changed heart. His life’s focus was now “for the sake of Christ.” In our economy today a lot of folks have lost everything. They measure their lives through their personal profit or loss. Paul did as well and when he looked at his life he realized its true worth. “What is more,” he dramatically writes, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” Everything in life took on a whole new perspective for Paul when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. He finally saw that what he once saw as so important in life did not matter anymore. His life had changed just as it does for anyone who places their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. When Paul looked at the world around him he now saw it through different eyes. The eyes of eternity. The scales of his eyes had fallen off and they were now wide open to the urgent need of the saving grace of God for the world. Proverbs rightly states that “A man's riches may ransom his life, but a poor man hears no threat.” (Proverbs 13:8) Paul saw his own spiritual poverty and found riches in the presence of the Lord and His grace! Do you? What are you willing to die for? Paul considered everything in life worthless compared to knowing Jesus!

EXAMPLE: There is an old joke about a man who loved old books. He met an acquaintance who had just thrown away a huge old Bible that had been stored in the attic of his ancestral home for generations. “I couldn't read it,” the friend explained. “Somebody named Guten-something had printed it.” “Not Gutenberg!” the book lover exclaimed in horror. “That Bible was one of the first books ever printed. A copy just sold for millions of dollars!” His friend was unimpressed. “Mine wouldn’t have brought a dollar. Some guy named Martin Luther had scribbled all over it in German.” As someone once quipped, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Paul considered everything in life worthless compared to knowing Jesus!

Many have given up gas-powered vehicles in order to ride bicycles or have chosen to recycle and reuse everything. There is nothing wrong with that kind of mindset but it can become more than a lifestyle and be more like a religion. However, I wonder what would happen if Christians today believed as passionately about the gospel as many do about recycling? How many Christians are willing to give up everything for the gospel’s sake? In losing it all for the Lord…

II. Paul considered everything in life garbage for the sake of the gospel! (Vv. 8b-9)

1. What we value most in life says a lot about what we believe! We can lose finances, a loved one, or priceless object but not see them as Paul did. Paul willingly “lost all things.” Do you understand what he is saying here? He willingly gave up all he had once considered to be important in life, he now considered “them rubbish,” (literally “dung”) that he “may gain Christ” -- the good news! But there was more in it for Paul than just this because he also wanted to “be found in him.” Job’s friend, Zophar the Naamathite, told him that although man’s “pride reaches to the heavens and his head touches the clouds, he will perish forever, like his own dung.” (Job 20:6-7) Wow! He knew, as did Paul, that everything in life is nothing but rotting refuse compared to knowing God. However, Paul understood that he could come to know God intimately whereas Zophar did not have this insight. You see Paul knew what he now truly wanted in life: “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” Paul wanted to not only intimately know God through Jesus, but be known of God and stand totally holy before Him! Paul knew that “God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Few people in this world are willing to die for something other than themselves. Truly for Paul, “to live is Christ and to die” well was truly “gain” for him because he now knew that righteousness can only come from faith in Jesus. This was the good news, the great news, the gospel. Paul considered everything in life garbage for the sake of the gospel!

EXAMPLE: There are three things you can do with garbage: You can collect it, scatter it, or dispose of it. Some people are garbage collectors. They collect the trash of life and hold onto it like it was treasure. We can collect things and make them more important than people. We can collect money and make it our lifelong goal to collect as much as possible. We can collect prestige or diplomas thinking that they will outlast our lives and perhaps someone somewhere will place a plaque in a public square where people sit and pigeons roost. But whatever we collect in life is so much trash when we finally come to life’s end. None of it matters as we lay in a hospital bed waiting for our final breath. Paul was once the proud owner of life’s achievements, of things that in our day would seem rather odd. And just as we see these things as kind of weird, so too will the garbage of life we hold onto so dearly seem to those who come after us, unless we are willing to give it all up for the gospel message. A message that many have tried to place on the trash heap of history but still is revived whenever anyone gives their life to Christ. Paul considered everything in life garbage for the sake of the gospel, do you?

On this Memorial Day we remember and honor those who willingly died for their country. They saw its freedom, liberty, and justice as worth dying for. What are you willing to die for? In losing it all for the Lord Paul considered everything in life worthless compared to knowing Jesus, and Paul considered everything in life garbage for the sake of the gospel!
This article is the copyrighted 2009 © property of Lee Hemen and may not be copied or reproduced in any way shape or form without using the full text of this entire article, and getting the permission of its author.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Beware of False Piety! - Philippians 3:1-6

Beware of False Piety! - Philippians 3:1-6
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 17, 2009 AM

How often have you seen children at play and some little killjoy just has to retort, “That’s not how you are supposed to do that!” or “You’re not following the rules!” Could this be the first glimmers of legalism in the life of this juvenile Pharisee? How would you describe legalism? Where does it come from and why does it occur? I suspect that we begin to allow legalism to creep into our lives, and especially our theology, because we have an unfounded sense of self-doubt or guilt. We then find security in following a set of guidelines or rules. What one person says is living a holy life can be a way to try to get you to adhere to their preconceived piety and their own brand of legalism. Scripture teaches us to be aware of false piety.

Paul would shout, “Beware of false piety!” because it often finds comfort in legalism. We discover that the Philippians had their legalistic detractors as well. They were a group of folks called “Judiazers,” who wanted their fellow Christians to go back and adhere to their brand of legalism. For them it was Jesus plus following the Old Testament law. Placing your faith in Jesus and also doing all the requirements of the law because after all, isn’t God’s law eternal? Sounds good, makes you proud to know you have been living righteous and can make a check mark on your list of good things to do for the Lord, right? Except it ignores one glaring fact: Believers in Christ are saved by grace through faith and not by following the law, least you begin to boast and think you can earn your way into God’s grace. Paul writes the Philippians and tells them, “Beware of false piety!” Let’s see what Paul says about this, shall we?

READ: Philippians 3:1-6

Aretha Franklin sang, “Chain, chain, chain… chain of fools,” and her song could fit well with what Paul was addressing here with the Philippians because there were fools in Philippi that wanted to wrap chains around believers in Christ after they had been set free from such legalism. You may ask, “How do we keep ourselves from falling into the same trap of legalism?” (Great question!) Paul would say…

I. Beware false piety by remembering who saved you in the first place! (Vv. 1, 3-4a)

1. Remembering to rejoice in Jesus, means repetition is good for the soul! Notice that Paul writes them “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!” No, he was not coming to an end of his letter, but rather the thought he had begun in the previous chapter! Namely, that their “attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus,” who died to set people free from legalism and the law! They were to remember to rejoice in this! So, before stressing the serious danger of putting confidence in their worldly “flesh,” Paul wanted them to be reminded of who saved them. He used the word “rejoice” at least seven times in this letter and so it was important for Paul, the Philippians, and thereby for us as well! He continues by relating that “It is no trouble (literally ‘no problem’) for me to write the same things to you again!” Paul had no trouble in telling them again that their faith was founded squarely on Jesus Christ and not in following the law or any good works they could try to do to appease God or to sooth their own guilty conscience. He wrote the Ephesians: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) He would bluntly write, “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…” period! (Galatians 3:25-26) And, Paul saw this reminder as “a safeguard for” the Philippians and all Christians! He continues, “For it is we (Christians) who are the circumcision, we (Christians) who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh!” It was good for them to remind themselves of the fact of their faith in Jesus alone! Sola Fide! Paul is telling them to beware false piety by remembering who saved them in the first place!

EXAMPLE: Vernon Grounds writes that “Perhaps no one since the apostle Paul has written more graphically about the experience of spiritual bondage than the great theologian Augustine (AD 354–430). Although blessed with extraordinary intelligence, in his younger years he had wallowed in deep depravity. Looking back, Augustine gave this account of his struggle: ‘I was bound by the iron chain of my own will. I was rather an unwilling sufferer than a willing actor. And yet it was through me that habit had become an armed enemy against me, because I had willingly come to be what I unwillingly found myself to be.’ Many of us have gone through a similar struggle.” Grounds is correct, we want deliverance from sin yet find ourselves unable to shake off the chains of our habitual lifestyle. However, as we turn in faith to Jesus Christ alone, we are liberated and can repeat the words of the old hymn: “Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night, Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come; Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light, Jesus, I come to Thee.” We would do well to beware of false piety by remembering who saved us in the first place!

Mark Twain is quoted as saying that you can tell if something you did was morally good if you “felt good afterward.” Oh, really? So then, if it left you “feeling bad,” it was therefore morally wrong? Twain’s statement can be understood in two ways: One is that good or bad conduct can produce good or bad feelings. The other is that feelings determine what is good or bad! Wow! That is inherently dangerous because our feelings are never a reliable indicator of moral conduct. False piety produces a false sense of feeling righteous, holiness, and security. However, Paul teaches to…

II. Beware of false piety by keeping a careful watch over what you believe! (Vv. 2, 4b-6)

1. It means staying alert for those who want to rob you of your faith! Rightly so Paul would have none of it and bluntly writes them to “Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.” (Aren’t you glad Paul is so sensitive to those who disagreed with him?) Paul used the term “mutilators” to describe those Jews who mutilated the gospel by insisting on their felt need to mutilate the flesh in order to be rightly related to God! Yet in our day and age these folks still exist and still give those of us who speak the truth of the gospel a frustrating time. Just as these Judiazers wanted to “mutilate” the Philippians’ “flesh” again by being circumcised, we find those today who desire the same thing! They want Christians to be tied up and chained to rules and guidelines of eating, drinking, or what to wear or not wear. Paul would tell the Romans that “circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.” (Romans 2:29) “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” (Romans 14:17-18) What these phony pious people were doing was trying to get their fellow Christians to adhere to the old set of regulations that Christ had totally fulfilled through His death, burial, and resurrection! And, Paul understood this false theology! He had been part and parcel of it and writes that “I myself have reasons for such confidence.” He did because he had onetime “put confidence in the flesh!” Being “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 legalistic righteousness, faultless.” (Philippians 3:5-6) Paul therefore knew what they were up against! This is why he writes them to beware of false piety by keeping a careful watch over what they believed!

EXAMPLE: Part of the training to be a US Secret Service agent includes learning to detect counterfeit money. Agents-in-training make a thorough study of the genuine bills--not the phonies--so that they can spot the fake currency immediately because of its contrast to the real thing. The child of God can learn a lesson from this. While it is helpful to study false religions and be fully aware of their dangerous dogmas, the best defense against such error is to be so familiar with God's Word that whenever we encounter error, we will spot it at once and won't fall for it. Today many are being led astray because they don't recognize how they are being deceived. For example, if a person isn't solidly grounded in the teaching of salvation by grace, he may swallow the line of the legalists who inject human works into the matter of being saved. A thorough knowledge of essential biblical doctrines is the only way to detect counterfeit theologies. This is why we are to beware of false piety by keeping careful watch over what we believe!

It isn’t for nothing that the Bible warns us early on in its pages that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) False piety does just that. It gives us a false sense of self-worth. Paul teaches us to beware false piety by remembering who saved us in the first place and to beware of false piety by keeping a careful watch over what we believe!
This article is the copyrighted 2009 © property of Lee Hemen and may not be copied or reproduced in any way shape or form without using the full text of this entire article, and getting the permission of its author.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Servants of God - Philippians 2:19-30

Servants of God - Philippians 2:19-30
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 10, 2009 AM

Every mother knows that their children show different characteristics and qualities. It does not necessarily make one child any less in the eyes of a loving mother, but rather unique and individual. Mothers do this with their children because they see special things in each child that make them special only to her. Why else would Mary, the mother of Jesus, ponder in her heart the things she saw and experienced in the life of her son? I know my mother often “pondered” the things she saw displayed in the lives of her children! For instance, when we brought huge night crawlers into the house and then chased her around with them because she thought they were baby garter snakes. Then, there was the time we were all lined up in a row to “confess” our crime of breaking her favorite cookie jar and none of us would crack. Years later her devoted daughter would admit it was her fault but that she honestly thought one of us boys would get the blame because we were always “up-to-something.” Then there was the time our huge cedar tree next to the house burnt down on a clear and cloudless day due to “lightening.” Heedless of her eldest fireman son, she found it plausible and looked past his culpability in the arson and deemed him a “hero” for saving the house with his quick thinking in using the water hose. Mothers do that with their children.

In this section of Scripture we find Paul addressing the Philippian church about two young men who he relied on, and I believe it is a testament to their character, probably learned from their mothers, that shines through in their lives as servants of God. In fact, we know this to be true of Timothy because Paul mentions in a letter to him “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5) Let’s therefore take a look these servants of God.

READ: Philippians 2:19-30

Learning the skills of shepherding a group of people is something that often takes time. However, one thing I have learned over the years is that if you are not called of God to serve people and present the gospel, you will not last as a pastor. It has to be something that you desire because, like sheep, people can often be very frustrating. Sheep can stomp, kick, and bite but the shepherd cannot harm the flock. Sheep can wander every which way but loose, but the shepherd has to go and look for the wayward individual. Sheep do not care if you have not slept, are tried, or hungry – they just want to be fed the very best food and watered with cool clear water. Timothy was such a shepherd. Let’s take a look at…

I. Timothy, the fellow shepherd of the gospel!

1. A true shepherd serves both his master and his sheep! A pastor serves Jesus and others. We find that Timothy was a blessing to both Paul and the Philippians. Far too many shepherds want to cut and run when things get tough, leaving the sheep to the wolves, but not Timothy! Jesus said these people are like “hired hands” and the “hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” (John 10:12-13) Notice however that Timothy was dependable and responsible: Paul writes that “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon,” because Paul knew wherever and whenever he sent Timothy, Timothy was a trustworthy kind of guy. He was a true shepherd. In fact, Timothy means “valued of God.” Paul also knew that Timothy would relate back to him the absolute truth of the situation in Philippi and Timothy would be accurate in his spiritual assessment. This is why Paul writes “that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you.” Timothy took a “genuine interest” in the “welfare” of the Philippians because he deeply cared for the sheep. Why would Paul bring up this kind of thing with his readers? Evidently, he had been betrayed by someone else: “For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ!” However, Paul knew he could trust Timothy: “But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel!” Wow! Timothy had a father-son relationship with Paul! Therefore, Paul trusted Timothy because he had no one else “like him,” literally that was “like-minded,” (isopsuchon), which means “equal in spirit.” Just as Jesus was equal to the Father in deity (2:6), Timothy was equal to Paul in the characteristics of being a shepherd -- a pastor! Paul therefore hoped “to send him… soon.” Timothy was a fellow shepherd of the gospel.

EXAMPLE: I can remember learning lifelong truths from my mom. She taught me to appreciate a job well done: “If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside. I just cleaned the house!” She taught me logic: “If you fall down and break your leg, don’t come running to me!” She taught me justice: “One day you will have children and I hope they turn out just like you!” Yes, we learn a lot of things from our mothers and one of them is to be dependable. I mean just try and forget Mother’s Day one time and you’re toast! We know that good mothers are always there to heal the hurts, give out the hugs, and help out with the science project. That’s what moms do for their children, and somewhere in the process of serving their children, hopefully, their children learn to serve others. This is to be true for the Christian as well. In our relationship with Christ if we want to be the people God has called us to be in His Son, we learn to serve. And, that is exactly what Timothy learned as he watched Paul’s life. He learned it first from his mother Eunice and saw it in Paul as he lived for the Lord. Timothy was a fellow shepherd of the gospel.

Just as Paul trusted Timothy he also trusted Epaphroditus. We will later learn that evidently the Philippian church had sent him with gifts they had collected to help Paul and his work. Paul writes that “I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:18) In his writing, however, Paul related that Epaphroditus was much more than a bringer of good gifts. Let’s take a look at this servant of God…

II. Epaphroditus, the willing soldier of the gospel!

1. A soldier in the Lord is willing to keep waging the battle! Epaphroditus’ name literally meant “follower of Aphrodite,” so he was a Greek from a truly Greek home that honored false gods. But now Epaphroditus was a battle-hardened warrior of the Lord! He had to leave behind his family heritage, religion, and follow that which had changed his life completely! How do I know this to be true? Notice how Paul describe this young man: He calls him “my brother.” Where Timothy had been like a son to a father, Epaphroditus was like a brother (adelphos), a womb partner to Paul! Spiritually reborn just as Paul had been, Epaphroditus understood what it meant to leave everything you once held dear behind in the dust. Also, a brother is not subservient in any way but rather like a “fellow worker,” a companion, a co-laborer in the work of the Lord! Shoulder to shoulder he shares the heavy load of getting the gospel message to a sin-fallen world. Epaphroditus had shared with Paul perhaps imprisonment, hardship, and the day-to-day grueling work of ministry. In fact, Paul goes on to call Epaphroditus a “fellow soldier,” which is literally a “co-campaigner” or fellow foot soldier in the field of battle waged for the gospel of Christ! Epaphroditus was willing to camp out in the field and crusade for Christ! He was willing to rest during the lull of the fight and join in with Paul in the frontline when needed! Wow! Where Timothy was a spiritually sensitive son to Paul, Epaphroditus was a battle-hardened warrior for the Lord, ready with the armor of God to go and do battle with Paul! The Philippians must have known this because they had sent him as their “messenger (ambassador)… to take care of [Paul’s] needs.” He not only helped heal the wounds of conflict Paul had suffered, Epaphroditus had been struck down himself! He had been ill and had “almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help [the Philippian Church] could not give” Paul. Paul tells them to “Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him” because Epaphroditus was a willing soldier of the gospel.

EXAMPLE: I remember the first time I discovered how fun it was to freak your mother out. We were walking down the dirt road that ran in between our mailbox and home. A house along the way was rented by a young man who owned a big Saint Bernard named “King.” He was huge, fierce-looking, but unbeknown to my mother, the biggest sap on the face of the earth! King and I used to “wrestle” with one another. He would drag me around like a ragdoll but never hurt me. He saw me and came bounding out of his dog house woofing up a storm and my mother instantly placed herself between me and him. She was going to face down this behemoth and protect her “baby.” Immediately understanding what was occurring, I grabbed a small stick and ran towards King yelling at the top of my lungs “You leave my mom alone!” Mom was now in a state of panic. Her skinny little boy was going to be eaten by a huge dog and to her shock I stuck my hand in his mouth and began to scream, “Mom! He is eating me! Help!” Of course he was not doing any such thing and in fact began to rather enjoy this new game and drag me around the yard by my arm. Mom went into action. She started to pound on this bewildered dog and yell like a Hebrew, “Let my little boy go!” He, of course, turned tail and hid in his doghouse. All I could do was roll on the ground and laugh. Then it dawned on mom what was occurring and how her cherubic five-year-old son had set her up. She did not see the humor in it at all. But I learned a lesson that day: Little red-headed mothers can become big time warriors when their child is threatened. Epaphroditus would understand. After all, he was a co-campaigner and soldier with Paul for the gospel. All Christians should be. Are you?


Today we discovered two young men who were servants of God: Timothy, the fellow shepherd of the gospel and Epaphroditus, the willing soldier of the gospel! Could others, besides your mother, see these kinds of characteristic these two men displayed in their lives in your life as a Christian?---This article is the copyrighted 2009 © property of Lee Hemen and may not be copied or reproduced in any way shape or form without using the full text of this entire article, and getting the permission of its author.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Fear and Trembling - Philippians 2:12-18

Fear and Trembling - Philippians 2:12-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 3, 2009 AM

My brother Ed and I had been getting on our mother’s nerves for most of the day and so we knew that when our father got home, we would hear about it. That is, unless we did something about it right away. You know, like a few well placed acts of “kindness” towards our dear old mother who was, after all, the “apple” of our eyes. Why, yes, that would work because after all how could anyone want to punish someone after they had done so much good? Right? Sadly, I am here to relate that it did not go as well as we expected. Ed and I still faced the consequences of our actions.

Christians can also get caught up into thinking they have to “do something” in order to get God to love them. However, Paul’s words remind us that “it is by grace we have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) What then does Paul mean when he writes the Philippians to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”? If our salvation is already purchased through the blood of Jesus, what then does it mean for the Christian to “work out your salvation” here in these verses? (I am glad you asked!) The key here is not the word “work” but rather the idea of “fear and trembling” that follows because it is here that Paul was trying to teach the Philippians how they were to live for the Lord. Let’s discover what fear and trembling should mean in the life of a believer.

READ: Philippians 2:12-18

The idea of fear and trembling is not a popular one for us because we want to think of God as only loving and kind. Well, let me set your mind at ease -- God is loving and kind -- but we are to approach our lives in Him with fear and trembling in that we know who He is and we know who we are. He is God and we are not. We are His people bought at a great price by the death of His Son. Paul relates that it begins by…

I. Doing everything without complaining or arguing! (Vv. 14-15)

1. A disrespectful child complains and argues! This was why “doing everything without complaining or arguing” was so important to Paul for the Philippians! He wanted them to “become blameless and pure, children of God.” Paul knew that compared to the richness and grace of knowing Jesus, the rest of the world was “crooked and depraved.” The corrupt world does not understand holiness. They think that it is a way of acting instead of a way of life. One can “act” holy and not be. Holiness comes from an inner quality of a life that has been changed by the power of God. The Philippians were not to be like the rest of the world, instead they were to “shine like stars in the universe” as compared to the sin-darkened generation they lived in. The idea of being “blameless and pure” is one whereby their lives were lived so differently from the society they were a part of, that they would be a stark contrast to the rest of the world! Paul knew that there is nothing worse than someone who complained or argued all the time. “It’s not my fault!” “It wasn’t me!” “Why does God treat me this way!?” “When will I get a break!?” I am sure you heard these kinds of things as well. But in the life of a Christian, complaining should be rare if not non-existent. Why? Because Christians are to be “blameless and pure.” Meaning without faults and harmless. Simple and unmixed with the stains of the sinful world around them. Christians are to be different because they have the Spirit of God within them. Christians are to approach their lives in Christ with fear and trembling remembering they are to be different from the rest of the world, without complaining or arguing.

EXAMPLE: After we had spent the day fuming, fussing, and fighting, my father would tell Ed and I, “I expect more out of you as my boys. I expect you to act like young men and treat your mother with respect while I am not here. I am ashamed of your actions.” We knew that our Dad loved us but we also knew he expected more from us because of our relationship – we were his sons and we were to act like it. When we had not acted like the “blameless and pure” children he desired we approached our relationship with “fear and trembling.” Not because we expected to be punished but because we knew what our father expected of us and it was a manly responsibility. He wanted us to be gentlemen whether he was there or not. He wanted us to be different from the rest of the neighborhood boys. The believer’s life in Christ is to be different from the rest of the world. While the world can be nice, friendly, and giving – they do it for ulterior reasons. Christians are “to do everything without complaining or arguing, so that [they] may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which [they] shine like stars in the universe!”

We discover that Paul’s whole goal in his life lived for the Philippians was to be “poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from” their faith. Even if he were to be “poured out like a drink offering,” that is to die for his faith, he would be “glad and rejoice with all of” the Philippians who joined him in living for Jesus. Why? Paul wanted them to work out their salvation with fear and trembling so that they would…

II. Hold out the word of life!

1. Selfish children do not share! What does the message of the cross mean to you? How important is it? Do you fully understand what it means for the world you live in? Are you willing to give up everything to share it with others? If not, you are not ready for the kingdom of God. How sad is it when Christians hold onto the gospel only for themselves like greedy children. Notice that Paul wanted to see the gospel message of Jesus Christ spread throughout the known world! Paul’s only goal in life was to see the kingdom of God established, and it was in this that he could “boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.” He knew he could then honestly and openly stand and proclaim, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when He comes? Is it not you?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19) What a thrilling thing for Paul or any Christian to strive for! To be able to stand at the throne of God and say, “Look at all those who came to know You because I was willing to hold out the world of life!” Just as the drink offering was poured out on the altar of the Lord in the Temple, Paul was willing to have his life poured out for the cause of Christ. He would not have the Philippians be sorrowful or sadden should they hear of his death for the sake of the Gospel! Rather, Paul wanted the Philippian Christians to join him in rejoicing and being glad that they too now were part of the offering as well! Christians hold out to a sin-fallen world the “word of life. It is something we should daily approach with “fear and trembling” because of the importance and implications of the message. It is a matter of life and death for those we come into contact with on a daily basis. But more than this, do you realize that we are the last generation of Christians to proclaim the gospel message unless those who come after us are willing to be “poured out” as well and “hold out the word of life.” If you do not fear and tremble over that, you should.

EXAMPLE: From the time we were little until we grew into teenagers, my father wanted my brother Ed and I to learn to share with one another. It wasn’t because we were poor and did not have much, it was because he wanted to instill in us the attitudes and actions of compassion, caring, and selflessness. No parent wants to raise children that only think of themselves first without any regard for the needs of others. Christians are to be the children of God, and like Him we are to be full of compassion, care, and selflessness. We are to be the servants of all. Why? “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8) Christians are to hold out the word of life with fear and trembling as we share the gospel with others around us.


How do you live your life for the Lord? Do you approach it with fear and trembling remembering whom you serve? Do you do everything without complaining or arguing? Do you hold out the word of life as if it were the greatest message ever? Oh, dear child of the Lord, I pray you do!
This article is the copyrighted 2009 © property of Lee Hemen and may not be copied or reproduced in any way shape or form without using the full text of this entire article, and getting the permission of its author.