So then, in this way, my dearly loved brothers, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord, dear friends. I ask Euodia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord. And I ask you, my faithful friend, to help these women. They served with me in telling the Good News, together with Clement and others who worked with me, whose names are written in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let everyone see that you are gentle and kind. The Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything excellent and worthy of praise, think about these things. Do what you learned and received from me, what I told you, and what you saw me do. And the God who gives peace will be with you.
Paul begins the last chapter of Philippians expressing again his joy. Remember, the entire book is about having joy no matter what! The Philippian church is a great source of joy for Paul. In fact, he tells them they are his greatest possession! They are his “crown.” He does not mean that he “owns” the church. No, the church belongs to Jesus! What he means is that God gave him the charge of growing the church there and equipping it for the Lord’s work. They are “his” in that he is responsible for them and wants to see them become successful, faithful, and to glorify God. In the same way, Pastor Tim and I have great joy to have you as members of this church. We have great joy to be the pastors of this church. We want to see you become mature, successful believers, able to do anything the Lord asks of you! But how can you do this if you do not “stand firm?” To be successful, faithful believers who glorify God, we must stand strong. But how? Paul gives us two ways of doing this.
One way to stand strong is to be in agreement. It is a powerful thing for a church to be in agreement. A church of one mind, as Paul taught us in an earlier chapter of this book, is able to do anything the Lord wants.
Paul gives the example of Euodia and Syntyche. These two women had some kind of disagreement that was bothering the church, and it bothered the church enough that Paul felt he had to say something. Interesting to this is that Paul says both women are faithful Christians who helped him spread the Good News about Jesus. But yet they had a disagreement! The problem seems to be that they allowed their disagreement to upset the church. Perhaps they did not follow Matthew 18:15-20?
Good Christians disagree all the time. This side of heaven it is impossible for us fallen people to agree 100% on everything. What is important is how we handle our disagreements. Matthew 18 teaches us that we are to keep our disagreements private as long as possible, until it is obvious we are unable to settle it between ourselves. If I cannot solve a problem with another Christian by myself, privately, then I am to get trusted brothers or sisters to come with me and try to solve the problem privately again. Only if that fails am I to bring this problem to be settled by the church! It is a sad thing if your church has to step in and solve your personal issues. It is even more sad if you refuse to settle them on your own. We need to reach agreement among ourselves before our disagreements hurt our church the way these women had hurt their church. Stand strong by agreeing in Christ!
The best way to stand strong is to always rejoice in the Lord. Why is this?
- If you have joy, it is hard to be negative.
- If you have joy, it is hard to have conflict or drama.
- If you have joy, it is hard to give in to temptation.
- If you have joy, it is hard to not love people.
- If you have joy, it is hard to not love Jesus!
A joyful person is difficult to tear down. Satan wages war against joyful Christians, because he knows their joy in the Lord is infectious! Sometimes Satan will use your circumstances, your family, your friends, your job, your school, etc. to try and steal your joy. How can we have joy in the face of spiritual warfare and physical realities?
HOW TO ALWAYS HAVE JOY
Paul gives us several ways to always have joy:
Be “gentle and kind” or “reasonable.”
Be gentle and kind with each other. Some translations use the word “reasonable.” Be fair with one another. It is difficult to be negative, confrontational, and unloving when you are kind to people. Even better, it is difficult for others to be that way to you! Kindness, especially in the face of others wronging you, is the biggest and best “revenge” one could get. Kindness is like burning coals to those who do evil (Romans 12:14-21).
Don’t worry about anything, because Jesus is coming.
Why are we so worried about “stuff?” Why do we worry about our economy so much? Why do we worry so much about our money, jobs, school, families? Jesus is coming! He has and will take care of everything we need! And when he comes, we will no longer want for anything! “How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)
PRAY! PRAY HARD!!!
Prayer is so very important in the life of a person who loves God and belongs to Jesus. Oftentimes we do not see God work in our lives because we have not asked him to work in our lives (James 4:2-3). If we are standing strong in Jesus, the Bible promises us that our prayers will be successful. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16) But there are certain things we must be sure to do in contrast with what the world would have us do when we pray.
- We must pray to God alone. We must not pray to anyone other than the God of the Bible. We do not pray to Allah. We do not pray to the Mormon or Jehovah’s Witnesses god. We do not pray to Buddha. We do not pray to pagan gods and goddesses. And we most certainly do not pray to “saints!” None of these can hear our prayers, least of all “saints.” Only God in heaven can hear our prayers (1 Kings 18:20-40), prayed in the name of Jesus (John 14:12-14) by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27).
- We must pray with urgency and desperation. We must beg God to do something! We must be serious and desperate for him. We must cry out to him in total dependence.
- We must pray with thanksgiving. We must thank the One who has commanded us to pray to him, that he might bless us. We must thank him for the many blessings he has already given us, for the blessings he is now giving us, and the blessings we are begging him to give us in the future. After all, God does not have to give us anything!
Paul promises that if we will do these things, we will have joy AND peace!
THINK ON THESE THINGS!
Paul teaches us that another way to have joy is to think on several things. We are to think on what is:
- True. We need to keep our eyes open for what is true. That is why we listen carefully to everyone and compare them against Scripture. If we are not listening, nor comparing with the Bible, we cannot know if someone is teaching us falsely. Be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11!
- Honorable. Does this person/thing honor God? Does it acknowledge that God is who he says he is and that he has sent his Son, Jesus? Does it acknowledge Christ as the only way of salvation?
- Just. Is the thing right? Is the thing fair? Is it right or fair in the same way or similar to the way God is?
- Pure. Does it mirror God’s purity? Nothing in this fallen state can ever be truly pure, but we can look for examples that echo the purity of Christ.
- Lovely. Does it reflect the beauty of God? Does it reflect the beauty of Jesus? Does it reflect the beauty of Scripture?
- Commendable. Does it do a good work? A good job?
- Excellent or worthy of praise. Does it reflect the excellence of Jesus? Does it make you praise God?
It is very hard not to be joyful when thinking on these things!
FOLLOW YOUR LEADERS!
Lastly, Paul teaches us that to have joy, we must follow our leaders.
This does not mean that we are to be blindly obedient or to copy everything we do. We are not independent fundamentalists! This means we are to follow the example set by our leaders. How do we do this?
Watch your leaders. Watch how your pastors, teachers, deacons, etc. serve the Lord. Apply their example to yourself. Figure out from watching them what interests you about serving the Lord and what you think you can do or may be called to do.
Listen to your leaders. Pay careful attention to what they teach you. Pay careful attention to their instructions. If they are teachers of the Word, their teaching will be as life and breath.
Learn from your leaders. Don’t just watch and listen, learn! Seek to understand what they have taught you through your observation and listening. Apply it to your life. Let their teaching change you. Let their teaching change how you face life and the world.
Practice what you have learned. Don’t just blandly accept what you see, hear, and learn – PRACTICE IT! You will never have joy if you just agree in your mind, you must actively be joyful! You must choose, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to act joyfully whatever circumstance you are faced with. You must choose, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to trust what the Bible teaches no matter what your family, friends, school, job, or the world may say about it. You must choose, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to believe and trust in Jesus alone for your salvation, no matter what anyone else says. You must put into practice what God would have you learn and know!
And the best part is, God has promised to be with us if we will but do these things!
A FINAL WORD
I want to leave you with some final thoughts about what we’ve talked about today. Let’s compare how the world says to have joy with how the Bible says to have joy.
- The world says that joy means overcoming circumstances. Instead, the Bible says joy means trusting Jesus because he has ALREADY overcome our circumstances! All of our sins, hurts, struggles, hopes and dreams were overcome on the cross once and for all. We can have joy in Jesus alone!
- The world says that joy is something you must do. Instead, the Bible says that because Jesus has already done all that is necessary, the only thing we can do is trust and obey God. We must believe in Jesus, trust him with our lives, and obey him until we die or he returns!
- The world says that joy means having or doing “stuff”. Instead, the Bible says that joy is not found in “stuff,” but in agreement, gentleness, and thinking on what is good. “Stuff” can never satisfy nor bring joy. What it brings is temporary. It only lasts as long as the new car smell. But the joy that Jesus gives is not temporary, but permanent. It is eternal. And it is only for those who belong to him!
DO YOU HAVE JOY?
Do you have joy? If not, maybe you need to seriously think about what we’ve learned today. Maybe you need to let go of what the world says. Maybe you need to put aside what your family and friends have said. Maybe you need to stop believing the lies Satan has told you about having joy. Start believing today in what God has said is the way to have joy – believe and trust in Jesus alone. Following him is the only way to have true joy no matter what may happen in your life!
This summer I will be preaching through the book of Philippians. I try to preach through at least 1 book every year, and thus far I have preached through 1 John and James. I also preached through the first 2 chapters of Romans before circumstances forced me to end that series. I have also taught several books during our Wednesday night Bible studies. I always enjoy preaching or teaching through a book of the Bible. It settles me and allows me to be more open to what God wants our people to hear week by week. Topical preaching is becoming rather difficult to do as I become more and more expositional in my methodology.
As I’ve seen several others do, I thought it would be nice to share what materials I’m using for study and prep.
Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Philippians by Moises Silva. Silva’s commentary is technical enough to engage those familiar with Greek, but not so much that a layperson cannot access it. Very insightful and a good help.
Philippians: An Expositional Commentary by James Montgomery Boice. Having read Boice’s books on the 5 Solas and the Doctrines of Grace, I’ve been eager to get into one of his commentaries, each of which is borne out of his own extensive preaching through the book.
The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Epistle to the Philippians by Peter T. O’Brien. This is first and foremost a technical commentary, directly engaging the Greek text of Philippians and is heavily theological in nature. I expect to use this to better understand the text and the theology it communicates.
One commentary I dearly want but cannot find is this:
The Letter to the Philippians (Pillar New Testament Commentary) by G. Walter Hansen. The Pillar series has been getting a lot of good press from pastors and seminarians alike, and by many of those whose book recommendations I take seriously. Fairly new to the scene, I used several of the available commentaries during seminary and really liked the ease of use and expositional nature. If I were to collect a commentary set, it would be the Pillar series, without a doubt.
I’m also using my Calvin’s Commentaries and my Matthew Henry Commentary, as well as my MacArthur Bible Commentary. But these are more supplemental as the 3 listed above are my main sources, the go-to books for this series.
I’m not reading any sermons, and I’m not using any devotionals or Bible study guides so as to approach Philippians as freshly as possible with an eye towards our people. I haven’t seen any non-devotional, non-commentary books out there yet, but I’m looking.
This is the sermon I preached at Louisville Baptist Deaf Church on December 27, 2009.
Glorifying God in 2010
You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you children of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you children of Israel!
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.
(Psalm 22:23; 86:12)
2009 is gone! Did you glorify God in 2009? Did you spend time with Him in:
- Serving your church and others?
OR did you waste your life in 2009?
John Piper, author of the book “Don’t Waste Your Life,” wrote about a couple who retired to Florida. They worked hard, contributed to society, got ahead as much as they could, saved as much as they could, and then retired. They never did anything else worth doing after they retired. Indeed, the highlight of their days was to go to the beach and collect seashells. That’s it! What a waste of a life!
I’m here today to urge you, brothers and sisters, don’t waste your lives! God must be your top priority!
So today I’m going to give you some practical things you can do to glorify God in the next year. I have preached this sermon before, and some of you may remember it from last year. But I want you to understand, this sermon is from my own personal reflection and study, and I use it each year as a measure of how much I have grown and how much I need to improve. Each thing I will tell you about today is an area God has shown me I need to grow, and I’ve found many believers struggle in the same areas. We are all in the same boat!
How to Glorify God in 2010
1. Spend time every day in God’s Word.
“I have hidden your Word in my heart, so that I will not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11
“I will enjoy your Laws; I will not forget your Word.” Psalm 119:16
“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path!” Psalm 119:105
The Bible is our spiritual food. Remember that Jesus told the devil we do not live on regular food alone, but from everything that comes from God’s Word. Why do we not read His Word often? Why do we not love it? Why do we not turn to it for guidance? Don’t waste your time with other things – spend as much time as you can reading the Scripture! How can I do this?
Try to read at least 1 chapter from the Old Testament and New Testament every day. If you read 4 chapters a day you will read the whole Bible in 1 year! You can look on the internet and find many Bible reading plans that are set up in many different ways. You can choose one that you like and fits your reading ability better. But don’t neglect reading from your Bible every day, even if it is just one chapter.
2. Spend time every day in prayer.
“Let everyone who is godly pray to you…” Psalm 32:6
“When you pray, go into your room and close the door and pray…” Matthew 6:6
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42
“…pray always!” Romans 12:12
“Don’t stop praying!” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Prayer is very important to the believer’s life. Prayer is the way we tell God what we need. It is the way we ask Him to act in the world. It is also the way we learn to listen to Him. Without prayer, many things would never happen. Yes, God is in control of all things, but He has shown over and over in the Bible that He requires His people to pray before He will act. Remember 2 Chronicles 7:14? “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Sometimes prayer is God’s requirement for us to obey before He will act.
Yes, this means we need to have a “quiet time!” Have a special time of prayer, either in the morning or at night, where you can pray. I do not mean Bible study. This time is different. Remember the Scripture says to “be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) Take time each day to do nothing but talk to God and listen to Him. Get rid of your distractions – turn off the TV, turn off the computer, put away your books (yes, even your Bible!), and go to the Lord in prayer.
You also need to make sure you are praying before you read your Bible or do any sort of Bible study. Remember, the Holy Spirit is there to assist you and to “guide you into all the truth,” (John 16:13) and we would be very rude not to ask Him to help us to understand what we are reading! Often when I find myself stuck trying to understand something I am reading in Scripture or working through a book or Bible study, I can usually see that I failed to ask the Holy Spirit to lead me as I read.
By the way, praying for your food does not count! Many people say they pray often, but when you ask them more deeply, they really mean that they prayed before a meal. This is not real, serious prayer! Pastor Tim recently taught us that real prayer involves begging the Lord to do something to make Himself known. Real prayer involves the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26) guiding us and praying with us. Real prayer seeks God’s will for the situation and His glory.
3. Seek to become a mature believer.
“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are so slow to understand. By now you should be teachers, but you need someone to teach you again the first lessons of God’s message. You still need the teaching that is like milk. You are not ready for solid food. Anyone who lives on milk is still a baby and knows nothing about right teaching. But solid food is for those who are grown up. They are mature enough to know the difference between good and evil.” Hebrews 5:11-14
Don’t be satisfied with “easy faith!” “Easy faith” does not care if something is true or not as long as it sounds good! There are many false preachers and teachers out there who are tricking people into thinking God wants them to have an easy life free from stress and struggle. Joel Osteen wants people to believe God wants you to have “your best life now.” But the Bible teaches differently.
Jesus said he didn’t come to bring peace but a sword and to divide families against each other (Matt. 10:34-37). Struggle will be something that happens often in a believer’s life. We have it easy here in America. We don’t have to struggle very much at all. But in other countries believers are being jailed and maybe even killed right as I am telling you this!
Here in America we can best avoid “easy faith” by becoming a servant. Remember, Jesus humbled himself by giving up his heavenly status and privilege to become human and become a servant. He also said that the world would know that we are His by our love for each other. Not only that, the second of the two greatest commandments were to love others as we love ourselves. When the world sees that you truly love your brothers and sisters in Christ, and that you truly care about the world’s well-being, they will be attracted to you and want to know more. They will want to know why you are serving them and each other. And you must be ready with an answer: Jesus! Serve your brothers and sisters in Christ. Serve those who are not believers. James 1:27 says that true religion is to care for orphans and widows in their afflictions. Serve your church and your fellow man!
How can I become a more mature believer? Begin by striving to be like the Bereans in Acts 17:10-12 – “search the Scriptures every day to find out if these things are true.” In fact, the more time you spend reading your Bible and praying, the more mature you will become! Keep your maturity growing by applying what you have read and learned in your life through serving the church and the world around you.
4. Share the Gospel with someone often!
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
“Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” Mark 16:15
“Always be prepared to explain to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Peter 3:15
I shouldn’t really have to explain this one. But so often this is the one area we are weakest. We sometimes do really good at reading our Bibles, and we do a good job being faithful in prayer, but we fail horribly at telling people about Jesus! A lot of times I find myself trying to be pleasant and enjoy our time together instead of looking for an opportunity to share the Gospel with a person. But sharing the Gospel is a habit that we have to develop. Here’s one way you can do that:
- Make a goal of telling someone about Jesus at least one time every week.
- When that becomes easy, make your goal to tell someone about Jesus 3 times a week.
- Finally, when that becomes easy, make your goal to share Jesus at least one time every day!
Once you have built up your confidence and made witnessing a habit, you will be able to watch for opportunities to share the Gospel and take advantage of them often. This does not mean you will always share the Gospel. Sometimes it will mean you plant a seed. You might invite someone to hang out with you again in hopes of having a chance to talk about Jesus. You might get a chance to invite a person to church. But when evangelism becomes a habit you will always look for chances to bring a person to Jesus as the Holy Spirit leads you.
Glorifying God in 2010
Remember, here are 4 ways you can glorify God more in 2010, and in every year after that:
- 1. Spend time every day in God’s Word.
- 2. Spend time every day in prayer.
- 3. Seek to become a mature Christian.
- 4. Share the Gospel with someone often.
Let us work together, encouraging each other and asking the Holy Spirit to lead us in each of these areas in the new year!
Stephen’s Note: This is the sermon I preached at my Granddaddy’s funeral on Saturday, August 15, 2009. It is not verbatim, and I’m positive I’m missing many things I said, but I will try to get as close as possible to what I can remember, since I don’t use a manuscript!
I come to you this morning laid low. I am laid low before God, before you, and before my Granddaddy. I have nothing to rest on today but the grace of almighty God. I have nothing to trust in today but the truth of His Word. And trusting only in His Word, I’d like to begin by reading to you from the Gospel of John.
John 16:5-7 – But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
As Christ left us so that the Spirit of God could come down from heaven, so it is to our advantage that my Granddaddy has been taken. None of the things I will tell you today are possible if he is still here with us. What are those things? A friend of mine sent me a quote from a man by the name of Buchanan. I do not know who this man is. But I believe it is an appropriate example of what we face today. He said:
The world isn’t big enough, long enough, deep enough to explain even one single life in it. Death, no matter how natural its causes, is always unnatural, a brusque intruder a gloating enemy, and death shouldn’t be allowed to have the last word. We weren’t made for this world only. We were made for eternity. The world is not enough.
Imagine that. The world is not enough. It was not enough for my Granddaddy to simply live out his life, have his children, and die. No, he had to do more than that! He had to influence the lives of everyone around him, and every single one of us here today has been influenced by him in many ways. With that in mind, we have to ask the question, “What IS enough?” What is enough for us is very simple.
What IS Enough?
It is enough to experience the glory of God here in this life. For us today that means we experience the glory of God through our memories of Granddaddy. There is one memory in particular that sticks out to me today. It is the story my Grandmother told me of how my Granddaddy was saved.
Granddaddy grew up Methodist. If you know anything about the Methodists, they baptize their children, their babies. Many people who were baptized as babies grow up believing they are Christians, when in fact they are not. I don’t say this to offend any who are from denominations that practice this, it is a simple fact. That baptism is a promise of salvation. Where we fail is to call people to that salvation. As such, there are many who are not believers who think they are simply because they received a baptism at such a young age.
What did my grandmother do? She witnessed to my Granddaddy. She called him to the salvation of which his baptism was a promise. “Hey! Remember your baptism! Come to Christ!” She told me that one day she had prayed, “God, whatever you must do to save him, do it. If I am in the way, remove me. If my children are in the way, remove them. But save him!” Can you imagine the kind of prayer that is? It is akin to Paul saying that “I wish I could give up my salvation so that just one more could be saved!” No sooner had she prayed this, than who should knock on her door than the pastor of our church! He was a man by the name of Hayden Center, pastor of First Baptist long before I was born, when my dad and aunt were young. And that night God used pastor Center to save my Granddaddy.
We experience the glory of God in this life through the legacy Granddaddy leaves us in his family and friends. Everyone who meant anything to him is here today, whether physically or “in spirit.” His life impacted everyone here. The glory of God is revealed in how God used him to impact each of us, through the lessons he passed on to us. I can see his legacy in my dad, and how my dad has passed that on to me, and how I hope to pass that on to my children. I can also see him in my aunt, and in my cousin Charley, and in how he teaches his own daughter. God is glorified by the legacy of my Granddaddy to us.
But it is most important that we experience the glory of God eternally. And this is where the Gospel speaks to us.
How the Gospel Speaks to Us
One of the dominant themes of my ministry over the past few years has been the Gospel. What it is, how it impacts us, how it changes our lives, how we live it out. And I can see from my Granddaddy’s life the Gospel speaking to me very clearly.
The essence of the Gospel is what Christ has done for us. He has died for our sins, risen from the dead to give victory over Death, drawn us to Himself by the power of the Holy Spirit, and made us alive that we might repent and believe in Him. There is great power to comfort and give hope in the Gospel. Without His work, we have no reason to hope for comfort, no reason to believe any good has come out of the reason we are here today. Why?
The Gospel is our comfort in all times, in all situations. If we have believed the Gospel, Jesus promises the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Other translations of Scripture use the term “Comforter” to describe the Spirit. Jesus had to leave so that the Helper could be with us, guiding us, comforting us, reminding us of the promises God has made to us in His Word. And so we are comforted that Granddaddy is with Jesus, because unless he left, the Holy Spirit could not comfort us with the glory of God. The Spirit also gives us what the world cannot – a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God knows the thoughts he has towards us, thoughts of good and not of evil, to give us a future and a hope. The promise of the Gospel is a future and a hope! Through Granddaddy’s legacy, we realize he has given us the tools to continue with life, and that is the work of the Spirit in us.
The Gospel speaks into every part of our lives. How? Because the cross embraces every emotion we have — grief, anger, confusion, sorrow, joy, happiness, hope — all the emotions of human experience. They were all bound up on the cross and crucified with Christ. All the things we feel today were nailed to that cross with Jesus. They have no claim on us! They have no control over us! If this were not true, I would be sitting with my family, a weeping mess. I do not want to stand here speaking to you today! But how I feel has been crucified with Christ and replaced with the promise of the Holy Spirit. That is how the Spirit enables us to go on when our own strength is not enough and gives us the grace to endure. You can know that Christ has died for what you are feeling this very moment, and has sent the Holy Spirit to comfort you, to strengthen you, to lead you out. Indeed, Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew, “MY burden is easy, MY burden is light.” By the power of the Spirit, Christ took our sins, our emotions, our fallenness upon Himself and crucified it.
Lastly, the Gospel shows us our need for Christ as the source of enduring grace. Jesus said, “Come to ME, and I will give you rest.” Not our family, not our friends, but Christ alone! Yes, we embrace each other this weekend. The first thing I did when I got here from Louisville was hug my grandmother, then my dad, then Charley, then my sister Angie, then the rest of the family. I have hugged many of you this weekend. But I have not gone to them. I have gone to Christ through them. I have trusted in the embrace of Christ through you this weekend. When we as believers hold up each other in times of trouble, it is Christ who works in us and through us. Unless Granddaddy goes away, we cannot come to Christ for the grace we experience through each other today!
How Can I Receive This Grace?
You may be asking, “How can I receive this grace?”
For believers, simply trust the promises God has made to you. Realize that God is NOT finished with you yet! Philippians 1 says “I am sure that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Jesus.” God’s not finished with you yet! God is NOT finished with you yet! There is so much more to be done! There is more of Granddaddy’s legacy to pass on! More of his love to share! More! Both my cousin and I are about to have a second child. You see, we have more of Granddaddy to pass on to our new babies! God is NOT finished with us yet!
Also, we need to understand that God has an over-arching purpose to be fulfilled in our circumstances. Ephesians 1:11-14 says that
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
You see, we have inherited from Granddaddy a rich legacy, just as we have an inheritance in Christ. The Holy Spirit is the promise of that inheritance. And God has determined to work in us to bring us to that inheritance. He will work in us to pass on what Granddaddy has given us, that He might be glorified.
If you are NOT a believer, there is only one way to receive this grace — Christ! Yesterday I was told of a family story about one of the ladies in our family who is here today. She had memorized Romans 8:28, which reads, “All things work together for the good of those who love God, those who are called according to His purpose.” My Granddaddy had her recite the verse to him, and when she said the second half of the verse, he told her, “Good! You remembered the last part! That’s the most important part!”
Those who are called according to His purpose! These promises of the Gospel I’ve told you today only for those who belong to Jesus! The Psalms say that “God has not done this for just anyone, He has done this for His people.” The only way you can receive the comfort, the hope that the Holy Spirit gives us is through the work of Christ. If you want comfort today, you must repent of your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you AND your household. I am begging you today, do not leave here without the great Savior who saved my Granddaddy and gave us this wonderful inheritance through him!
Right about this time Granddaddy would be telling me to “Wrap it up!” So I’m going to do just that. I’d like to close with a quote from a man by the name of Paul Washer. He is a preacher in Alabama. I don’t know if he knows of my circumstances, of our circumstances this weekend. But he put out this quote and I thought about it deeply as I drove down here from Louisville. He said:
We are always cast upon God whether we know it or not. It is good to be weak, to have no footing except the grace of God.
No footing but the grace of God. Without His grace I could not stand before you today and speak as I have. Without His grace we could not look at each other and smile at the memories we have of Granddaddy. It is good that we grieve today, for we experience today the Gospel speaking to us, covering us with the glory of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s pray.
The next sermon I plan to preach (this Sunday Jan. 20) will be over the following text:
10I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)
This passage will be the foundational text and will be built upon by related sections in 1 Corinthians chapters 3 and 4.
Meanwhile, keep reading The Bruised Reed. I’m about halfway through and will attempt to finish up this week. After that I’m going to reread it to take notes and hopefully by the end of next week post a review.
Since we are now full-term (38 weeks — see sidebar) that means all posting will, of course, be subject to Baby Newell’s decision to be born or not, so stay tuned!
The Silent Holocron usually dedicates Monday space to the sermon that will be preached the following Sunday. Since Stephen has been grossly negligent in posting his sermons, the next few will be “catch-up” posts until we get to Romans 2:12-16 or thereabouts, where Stephen is currently located.
What can be known about God is clear to them, because God has shown it all to them. God’s eternal power and character cannot be seen. But from the beginning of creation, God has shown what these are like by all the things he has made. That’s why those people don’t have any excuse. They know who God is, but they did not glorify him or even thank him. Their thoughts are useless, foolish hearts are in the dark.
With these verses, Paul continues his masterful offensive that ought to leave no doubt that everyone needs the Gospel. Having shown clearly that sinners suppress the truth, he then moves to a proposition that ought to surprise even the atheist:
Everyone Knows About God.
God has clearly shown us in creation that:
- God is the CREATOR
- God is ETERNAL
- God is INVISIBLE
- God is POWERFUL
- God is WISE
- God is ACTIVE
- God is GOOD
God also keeps the universe from blowing up!
Think about this short list for a moment. Even if you don’t believe in God, humor me and think about it for a moment. What would it take for someone to create our physical universe? What kind of Person would it have to be? Such a Person would have to be all the things listed above, and more. You could come up with this list all by your lonesome, without a Bible to tell you about it. I bet you could even come up with a few descriptors the Bible doesn’t use.
And just by the mere fact that you are able to conceive of the kind of Person it would take to create our physical universe, Paul forcefully declares:
You Have NO EXCUSE!
If you know all of these things, there is only one thing you must do: WORSHIP GOD. There is, quite simply, no way around it. If such a Person were to exist, you are quite frankly required to submit to Him. He made you and keeps the universe together in such a way that you are able to be alive. He has provided for your every physical need. You should recognize you have no rights whatsoever that were not first given by Him. You should understand that you have no room to talk or even to complain! You should thank Him profusely and offer yourself to Him gratefully.
The fact of the matter, sadly, is that even though everyone knows all of these things, no one wants to worship God. Everyone flatly refuses to worship God! Everyone, everyone refuses to recognize God for who He is. Every single person who has ever lived, is now living, and will live in the future refuses to worship Him. Why? Because we are ungodly people.
This failure to worship God despite knowing who He is, is a lot like hearing people who know sign language coming to a Deaf gathering but refusing to sign in a room full of Deaf people. It is a gross, profound insult. And to insult God is to sin. And, quite frankly, if you know sign language (or know who God is), you have no freaking excuse for not signing around us (or not worshipping God).
We Refuse to Glorify God
Because we sinners suppress the truth, we do not give God glory. We do not give thanks to God. When we do that, our thoughts become worthless and our hearts become foolish. Our hearts are “in the dark.” Some Bibles say that our minds become “stupid.” I love this word in this context. It makes a very forceful statement. No one likes to be called stupid. Yet that is exactly what it would be to refuse to sign at a gathering of Deaf people. That is exactly what it would be to refuse to worship God despite knowing who He is. Utter and total stupidity. The way the Bible says this makes it sound like ungodly people are “useless, foolish, and clueless.”
A saying comes to mind when I think of this kind of refusal. “Who died and made you God?” Indeed, what makes you think you have the right not to worship Him? What makes you think you are so much better than Him? Just knowing who He is ought to be a humbling experience. Instead, ungodly people rise up in complaint and stubbornness.
There is, quite simply, no excuse for that.
Why God Sent Jesus
God sent Jesus…
- Because you and I knew who God is, but tried to hide the truth. In contrast, Jesus knew who God is and proclaimed it!
- Because you and I did not want to worship God and give Him glory. In contrast, Jesus wanted God to be glorified in all things!
- Because you and I have become useless, foolish, and clueless. In contrast, Jesus was useful to God, wise, and looked for God’s plan in everything He did.
That That is why Jesus died on the cross. He died on the cross because we could not do these things, but He could!
Jesus, Our Only Hope
Because we are useless, foolish, and clueless, our only hope is for God to show us mercy. If God shows us mercy, He will change us into useful, wise people who know His will. And the Bible is very clear that God has shown us mercy by sending Jesus. Won’t you submit to His mercy today? Won’t you gain wisdom and purpose today? The Bible tells you in John 3:16-17 that
For this is how God loved the world: He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him.
What’s Your Excuse?
The Silent Holocron usually dedicates Monday space to the sermon that will be preached the following Sunday. Since Stephen has been grossly negligent in posting his sermons, the next few will be “catch-up” posts until we get to Romans 2:12-16 or thereabouts, where Stephen is currently located.
Revealed is the wrath of God from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness. (Romans 1:18)
An Abrupt Shift
After speaking so positively about the Christian life in the first half of chapter 1, Paul suddenly shifts gears. It is as if he has kicked things up a notch. After laying down a foundation for himself and a basis for the Christian life, Paul suddenly goes on the offensive. Those of you who are football fans might understand what Paul seems to have done here if I use a football analogy.
By The Script
In football, it is not uncommon for teams to script the first 15 plays they will run on offense. The team will run a set of plays designed to set the tempo and probe the defense. What this is intended do is establish who they are and what they will do. It will test the opposing defense for any weaknesses that their game plan can exploit. It is fairly common for these scripts to lead directly up to the “big play” that is designed to firmly establish the offense as the one setting the tempo. Often you will see teams at the beginning of games run the ball generously with a lot of short, quick passes. Then all of a sudden a “bread and butter” play is called and the team goes directly to their strength. The quarterback will send a receiver deep and hit him with the pass. The offensive line may suddenly assert itself and open up a gaping hole into the secondary which the running back hits for a 20-yard gain.
Paul has done exactly that in the first half of Romans 1. He has carefully laid out his credentials, his purpose in writing, and what he intends to say to the Roman believers. Capping his script, he boldly declares in verses 16 and 17 that the Gospel is his purpose for writing. Now, with verse 18, Paul hits his “bread and butter” play. And he does so in spectacular fashion.
The word Paul uses here, apokaluptetai, is from the same word that gives us the name of the last book of the Bible. It means to reveal. To reveal something means show something or make it known to people. What is interesting about the word in this verse is that in Greek, it is in the past tense. This suggests to us that whatever Paul is about to tell us, it has already been revealed or shown to us. The way in which the word is used tells us that this thing Paul is about to talk about was shown in the past and is still being shown today! What has been revealed?
The Wrath of God
Paul states clearly that it is the wrath of God that has been revealed. What is “the wrath of God?” Well, first of all, “wrath” means strong anger that causes punishment. This means that God is angry enough to punish the person He is angry with. Paul is saying that God’s anger has been revealed in the past and is still being shown to us today! But just what is God angry about?
God is angry with the ungodliness of humanity. What is ungodliness?
“Ungodliness” is refusing to accept God. It is the flat refusal to acknowledge Him as Lord over all. This does not even have to be a conscious refusal, as Paul will show later in this chapter. Simple failure to accept Him as God is enough to be counted among the ranks of the ungodly. It is a rejection of Him, and more specifically, of His Son, Jesus.
Ungodliness is living a sinful life. It is a refusal to follow God’s Law, especially as it is written in the Bible. Paul will later show that the Law is written in the hearts of humans, so as to leave no one with an excuse.
Ungodliness is doing things that are shocking and outrageous. Now, let me make something very clear. All sin is shocking and outrageous to God. All sin, no matter how “small” or “insignificant,” is a direct insult to a holy God. It is utterly and totally outrageous that anyone would even dare to insult the Creator of the universe. How dare we? What gives us the right? He brought us into this world, and He alone has the power to take us out! Shocking.
Would you not be angry if someone treated you in this way? So then it is no surprise that ungodliness angers God.
God is angry with the unrighteousness of humanity. What is unrighteousness?
“Unrighteousness” is not living in a holy way. If one is not godly, one cannot be righteous. Sin prevents us from being holy creatures, as the Bible commands. And because of this failure to do as God has commanded, God is angry.
Suppressing the Truth
Paul then links the ultimate insult towards God to ungodliness and unrighteousness. Sin suppresses the truth. What does that mean?
To “suppress” something means to hide something or keep it secret. What does sin do to hide the truth?
- It convinces us that we are in control.
- It convinces us we don’t need God.
- It convinces us that our way is better than His way.
- And most horribly, sin convinces us that we can save ourselves. We got ourselves into this mess, therefore we can get ourselves out.
How do we know these things?
Well, first of all, each time we sin, it bothers us less. Just look at some of what we consider to be horrible sins: Pornography, killing, drugs and alcohol addiction, lying, bad language, and gossip. Do you notice what happens the more you do these things? You become less sensitive to them. In fact, the less sensitive you become, the more you have to do it in order to feel something from it. In other words, the more we sin, the more immune we become to sin.
Second of all, when we become immune to sin, several things happen. We begin to love and enjoy sin. We don’t want to do what is right. We don’t want anyone to tell us it is wrong. We start to hate the truth. We try to silence the truth. We kill the truth when we can’t silence it.
Does this sound familiar? One need look no further than attacks against Christianity to get a good example. A more common example is the attacks against religion by homosexual groups. They are in love with the idea of being gay. They love their sin. For some reason I cannot fathom, they even enjoy gay sex! They don’t want to have natural sexual relations. They do not want anyone to tell them homosexuality is wrong. They hate the Bible and anyone who tells them it is wrong. They try to silence those who say it is wrong through misinformation, intimidation and false accusations of hatred, bigotry, and intolerance. They have not yet tried to kill anyone (to my knowledge), but they are already trying to kill the Bible by vainly and stupidly trying to say that the Bible does not really mean what it says.
I can’t help but notice how similar this process is to another situation in history. The exact same process happened to Jesus. and what makes it worse is that Jesus is the truth.
Jesus Is the Truth!
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).” Jesus was hated, attempts were made to intimidate, slander, and silence Him, and He was ultimately killed, all because He is the truth. But there is a big problem…
You Can’t Kill The Truth!
Only the truth can save us from our sins. You ask, “How can the truth save me from my sins?”
When You Believe The Truth…
- Jesus takes your sins onto Himself. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that Jesus was made to be sin for you, that God’s righteousness might become real in you.
- Your sins are forgiven because of His death. Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14, and 1 Peter 3:18 make it very clear that Jesus’ death on the cross secured forgiveness of sins for believers.
- You begin a new life in Jesus. Romans 6:4 makes it clear that just as Jesus was raised from the dead, those who believe in Him are also raised to a new life in Him.
- Sin becomes horrible to you again, and you will not want to sin any more.. Paul vividly shows this struggle in Romans 7:15-25. He says, “I just don’t get it! Why do I sin? I hate sin! I despise it! I can’t wait to be rid of it!” He thanks Jesus for giving him this attitude! Only one who has been forgiven and given eternal life can have such an attitude to sin.
- You will be able to change your life! Ephesians 4:17-6:20 is the textbook on what new life in Christ does for you. You are able to put away your old life, your life of sin, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, put on the new life that Christ has given to you. You will be able to do what is right. You will be able to live in harmony with others. You will be able to trust in the protection of God when you face sin and temptation.
Now, to close, I have a question for you:
Do You Suppress The Truth?
Do you? If you believe I have spoken about you today, then the Gospel is for you. Don’t suppress the truth any longer. Don’t resist God’s grace any longer. Surrender to Him. He is calling you graciously to accept Christ. Jesus said in John 8:32, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Let go of your unreasonable hatred of the truth. Let go of your selfishness. You know the truth. Surrender to Him today, and you shall be free forever! Pray that He will give you faith to believe, and you will no longer be in chains, but in freedom!