Sun, Feb 17, 2019

Joshua 5:11-12 From Milk to Meat!

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JOSHUA 5:11-12

FROM MILK TO MEAT!

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Joshua chapter 5 as we continue our study through the Word of God.

            In our studies so far in Joshua we have seen Moses die and now the Lord places Joshua as the new leader. He is going to lead the children of Israel into the Promise Land, the land of Canaan.

            We have seen two spies go into the city of Jericho and rescue Rahab the Harlot. Now she is still in Jericho but when the children of Israel come and attack this city, whoever is in her home with the scarlet cord in the window, will be spared.

            And we saw how that was a picture of Christ and how His blood cleanses us from all our sins and the angel of death, in a sense, the judgment of God will pass over our lives.

            And then they crossed over the Jordan River into the Promise Land and they are waiting, they are preparing for the battles that they will face in the land of Canaan. God has given them this land, but they needed to walk or step out in faith and see what God was going to do in them and through them as He gives to them these victories!

            And, as I have said, their first battle will be against the people of Jericho and they were a formidable opponent! And as they are waiting to go into battle, the Lord is preparing them, and He is preparing them spiritually speaking you might say.

            Remember what we have seen so far. We have looked at A RENEWAL OF CIRCUMCISION or the cutting away of the flesh.

            What is that all about? Remember, they had left their wilderness wanderings behind them, the flesh life, the carnal life and now they were living a life of the Spirit. And if you are going to do that then you must cut ties with that old life, that carnal life and do to that you must crucify the flesh, put it to death – CUT IT OUT!

            And I think we all understand this but putting it into practice each and every day is difficult. You see, if you are feeding the flesh, living for fleshly desires, then you are carnal! Not only carnal but the works of the flesh will be manifested in your life and that is not a good thing.

            And we do need to understand that this is not one battle or two battles or three battles! This is a constant battle in our lives. That is why Paul makes this very important point as he tells us in Galatians 5:16, that we are to . . . Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

            Why go back to that which had you in bondage?

            Make no mistake about it, if you want to live that victorious Christian life, you must crucify the flesh, cut it out in a sense, and walk in the Spirit letting the Lord guide you and lead you in all that you do and say!

            It is as Paul said in Philippians 3:3, For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

            So the first thing they were to do as they prepared to do battle against the people of Jericho was A RENEWAL OF CIRCUMCISION, which they did. They obeyed the Lord.

            The next thing that they were to do as they prepared for battle, was the CELEBRATING OF PASSOVER!

            Keep in mind that Passover was first celebrated in Egypt as they placed the blood of the lamb on the doors of their homes so the angel of death would pass over their homes. And then they celebrated the Passover meal.

            This feast was again celebrated at Mount Sinai and then they neglected to celebrate it until they are in the Promise Land here in Joshua.

            And the idea here is that they were to, “Remember the Work!” and the reason for that is we have to understand that it is only through God that we can accomplish anything, even our salvation!

            And as we look back on the finished work of Christ, as we celebrate communion, we understand that the same God who saved us will see us through anything we face in life and ultimately, He will bring us home to glory!

            And lastly, as we will see this morning, the Manna stopped and now they were to gather the food from the land. They are in the Promise Land, the land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, and the idea here is, THE APPROPRIATION OF THE LANDS PRODUCE!

            Before we get to our text this morning, let me share this story with you and it will show you where we will be going. We are told,

            In First Things First, A. Roger Merrill tells of a business consultant who decided to landscape his grounds. He hired a woman with a doctorate in horticulture who was extremely knowledgeable.

            Because the business consultant was very busy and traveled a lot, he kept emphasizing to her the need to create his garden in a way that would require little or no maintenance on his part. He insisted on automatic sprinklers and other labor-saving devices.

            Finally she stopped and said, “There’s one thing you need to deal with before we go any further. If there’s no gardener, there’s no garden!”

            There are no labor-saving devices for growing a garden of spiritual virtue. Becoming a person of spiritual fruitfulness requires time, attention, and care.

- 1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers

 

            How true that is. We must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and it does take work, there must be effort on our part.

            And that is what we will see as we look at two main points. The first, SPIRITUAL BABIES! And then, MATURE IN THE FAITH!

            So with that as our background, let’s begin reading in Joshua chapter 5, beginning in verse 11 and see what the Lord has for us as we look at this topic – FROM MILK TO MEAT!

 

JOSHUA 5

VERSES 11-12

            What we see here after the men and boys were circumcised. After they celebrated the Passover feast, the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land.

            Why in the world did the manna or this bread from heaven stop? Think about it, for some forty years God provided this bread from heaven for them and now, nothing! And yes, forty years of eating manna can get old.

            Think about it. You had your manna bread. Your manna cakes. Your mann-icotti! Sorry! But it can get old.

            But now, they are in the land of Canaan! God has brought them into a land flowing with milk and honey and this land will now sustain them. In other words, now it was time for them to grow!

            And this is the third experience the Lord was leading them in, THE APPROPRIATION OF THE LANDS PRODUCE!

            Make no mistake about it, I believe the same is true for us as Christians. We need to grow in the Lord and not remain spiritual infants all of our lives.

            And that is our first point, SPIRITUAL BABIES, and Paul rebuked the Corinthian church for their immaturity, for remaining babes in Christ, as he told them in I Corinthians 3:1-3, And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?

            Some have a hard time with this because they don’t believe you can be a Christian and still be carnal. But Paul clearly shows us these are immature Christians, carnal Christians for he calls them brethren and he calls them babes in Christ. 

            In other words, they are not growing up! The Greek word that Paul uses for carnal is SARKINOS, (sar’-kee-nos) and it speaks of being “characterized by the flesh” or being dominated by the flesh. 

            Folks, we need to understand that the message of the cross is more than justification, it also speaks of our sanctification, but if you are allowing the world to control your life, you will remain carnal, fleshly, you won’t grow up in the Lord!

            You see, this group of people saw themselves as very spiritual, using the gifts of the Spirit and yet Paul says they are carnal, immature, babes in Christ and instead of digging into the meat of the Scriptures, they still were taking only milk, baby food! 

            They may have seen themselves as being ready for the deeper things of God, but they were not living up to the basics they already had, the things they were already taught! Another aspect of this are those that just teach milk week after week, meal after meal. 

            Both points will keep you spiritual infants, you will not grow.

            Also, in Hebrews chapter 5 Paul wanted to speak to these Jewish believers about the deep things of God. He wanted to talk about Melchizedek as he says, of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. Hebrews 5:11-13.

            You see, Paul wanted to explain more about Melchizedek and how that relates to Christ but because of their immaturity, because they were dull of hearing, lazy, slothful with their spiritual lives, they wouldn’t understand what he was saying.

            Keep in mind that these people he was writing to were Jewish believers, they knew the Old Testament very well, but because of their spiritual condition, they just didn’t get it!

            And this was not the first warning that Paul gave to these Jewish believers.

            The first warning that Paul gave them was in Hebrews 2:1-4 that dealt with them drifting away from the truths of God.

            The second warning is found in Hebrews 3:7-19 and it deals with the hardening of their hearts to the things of God.

            And here in Hebrews chapter 5 it is a warning against spiritual immaturity or what we might call, ASD or Arrested Spiritual Development!

            Now think about this for a minute. At this point some of these Jewish men and women could have been believers for some 30 years and yet, they were still babes in Christ. 

            Paul is not speaking of new believers here, which is normal for them to be babes in Christ, but this is not normal. 

            Imagine the head of some company speaking to a room filled with new employees and he begins his lecture by saying, “ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ!” 

            And then he closes the meeting, that is all he has learned, that is all he knows as the head of the company. 

            Yes, you need to know your ABC’s, the basics but you also then need to grow and be able to put the letters together, you need to be able to form words and sentences and-so-on.  Growth is the thought and it was what they were lacking! 

            And please understand when Paul speaks of them being teachers, he is not talking of the gift of teaching but to be able to share their faith, to teach others the things of God, to show them the things you believe. 

            Yes, babies are cute, and I love them, but a 20-year-old who is still crawling and is saying Goo-goo and gaga is tragic!

            Paul also spoke of this in Romans chapter 14 as he dealt with the liberty we have in Christ. And yet, for those who were clinging to the Law, they were remaining spiritual babes, they were not maturing in the faith.

            And the evidence for that immaturity was that they refused to eat meat, they honored certain days over other days of the week. They were legalistic and yet they saw themselves as mature in the faith, and Paul is telling them that they are not mature in the faith but weak in the faith, spiritual infants!

            Now we don’t want to remain in this condition and thus, we need to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So we are going to finish-up looking at the second point, MATURE IN THE FAITH!

            And this is interesting how this is played out here in Joshua chapter 5.

            Listen again to what we are told in Joshua 5:11, And they ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day.

            Remember, the manna was the food that they ate in the wilderness those forty years. And, as I have said, it was bland, it was boring, and it was monotonous. And that was the wilderness life.

            But now they are in the land of Canaan, the Promise Land. And this is a picture of a life of the Spirit. There was excitement, there was all kinds of new experiences that God was going to give them as they walked by faith and not by sight.

            It is a time of maturity as you read the Word of God and it is so exciting to see the things that God is showing you. You are not dependent upon others to teach you, but God is teaching you as you read His Word! It is not that we can’t learn from others, we do. But we are also learning as we read and study the Word of God.

            What I want you to see here in Joshua 5:11 is that they ate “parched grain” or roasted grain or unleavened bread the day after Passover.

            Look at what is happening here. The children of Israel, after they entered the land, they celebrated the feast of Passover on the 14th of Nisan, and the next day, according to Leviticus chapter 23, they celebrated the feast of Unleavened Bread, which ran for seven consecutive days!

            What is leaven a type of in the Bible? Leaven or yeast is symbolic of sin in the Bible. And remember what Paul said in Galatians 5:9, A little leaven leavens the whole lump. (We also see this in I Corinthians 5:6)

            What Paul is saying is that just a little bit, just a tiny bit of leaven will permeate or infect the entire lump of dough until it was all leavened.

            And Paul’s point is not just about dough, it is a picture of what sin and false teaching, false doctrine does in our lives. Just a little sin, just a little bit of false doctrine, if it is not dealt with, will grow and spread through our life or the life of a church until everything is corrupted.

            Let me show you what I mean. Back on January 19, 2004 my dad died from cancer. What happened?

            Well, back in April of 2003 he was diagnosed with colon cancer and had part of his colon removed. And that sounds great, the cancer was removed.

            But that is not the end of the story. You see, just one little stray cancer cell can metastasize and travel throughout the body and that is what happened with my dad. Many of the lymph nodes that they biopsied were positive for cancer. The lymph nodes are like a highway that runs throughout the body!

            And knowing that, within less than one year the cancer spread to his brain, his lungs, his liver and he died. 

            Paul’s point is this. A single false doctrine can spread, some little sin can multiply and grow and not only affect and destroy the person, but it can grow and multiply through a church and destroy many lives.

            Make no mistake about it, like leaven or cancer, it must be completely removed, or it will continue to grow and devour many lives!  

            Now, what is the significance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread to us as Christians?

            Well, what we see in the Feast of Passover, first of all, is that Passover speaks of REDEMPTION!

            Then, as we move on to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, it speaks of SANCTIFICATION!

            That should just make sense to us. Before God deals with the sin in our lives, we must be saved.

            What did the Lord tell the children of Israel after He brought them out of Egypt, after they were saved by the blood of the lamb being placed upon the doorposts of their homes? We are told in Leviticus 11:45, I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

            Just like with the children of Israel, sanctification is not dealing with our salvation for we are saved by the blood of Christ applied to our lives by faith. It is dealing with our growth in the Lord, our maturing in the faith!

            Look at the picture that is painted for us here. When the children of Israel were slaves down in Egypt, living a sinful life in the world you might say, God saved them to a new live by the shed blood of the lamb. Now that they have this new life, they are to live it.

            And you can say that God has called them to live an UNLEAVENED LIFE!

            And, as we have seen, leaven is a type of sin and thus, God has called them to live a life apart from sin, or as we read in Leviticus, I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. Leviticus 11:45.

            Now, isn’t that exactly what the Lord has done for us? You bet it is. Let me show you what I mean.

            We are saved, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, applied to our lives by faith.

            He has redeemed us from Egypt you might say, from the world system that is in opposition to God and He tells us in I Peter 1:13-16, Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’

            I love this because what the Lord told the children of Israel, He is telling us. He is saying that we were once in this world and slaves to sin. We were in bondage just as the children of Israel were in bondage down in Egypt.

            But now we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and we are a child of the King and we are members of the Kingdom of God and we need to live that way. What way? AN UNLEAVENED LIFE!

            Now, what was one of the problems that Moses had with the children of Israel? They kept wanting to go back to Egypt, back to the world, back to being slaves, back to that bondage that they were in.

            And let’s face it, as you look at what they went through, you can see that it was a lot easier for the Lord to get them out of Egypt than it was to get Egypt out of them!

            Now, before we are too harsh on the children of Israel, if we are honest with ourselves, we would see that it was a lot easier for the Lord to get us out of the world, but it is a lot harder for the Lord to get the world out of us!

            And that is exactly what He is doing now, getting the world out of us, THE SANCTIFICATION PROCESS!

            You see, salvation is the miracle of a moment, but sanctification is the work of a lifetime. It is where we grow, mature in the faith as we are drawing closer to the Lord! We are allowing Him to work in us so that He can work through us!

            Let me share this with you and then we will look at some things we can do to MATURE IN THE FAITH. We are told,

            I suppose we all know that as Christians we are meant to grow up, to mature. We begin as infants in the faith and need to develop into adults. The New Testament writers insist that we must all make this transition from milk to meat, from the children’s table to the grown-up’s feast. And yet even though we are aware that we must go through this maturing process, many of us are prone to measure maturity in the wrong ways. We are easily fooled. This is especially true, I think, in a tradition . . . [which] places a heavy emphasis on learning and on the facts of the faith.

            The Bible is the means God uses to complete us, to finish us, to bring us to maturity.

            When Paul writes to Timothy, he talks to him about the nature and purpose of the Bible and says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). That word complete is related to maturity. Paul says that Timothy, and by extension me and you and all of us, is incomplete, unfinished, and immature. The Bible is the means God uses to complete us, to finish us, to bring us to maturity.

            But what does it mean to be a mature Christian? I think we tend to believe that mature Christians are the ones who know a lot of facts about the Bible. Mature Christians are the ones who have their theology down cold. But look what Paul says: “That the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Paul does not say, “That the man of God may be complete, knowing the books of the Bible in reverse order,” or “That the man of God may be complete, able to explain and define supralapsarianism against infralapsarianism.” He does not say, “That the man of God may be complete, able to provide a structural outline of each of Paul’s epistles.” Those are all good things, but they are not Paul’s emphasis. They may be signs of maturity, but they may also be masks that cover up immaturity.

            When Paul talks about completion and maturity, he points to actions, to deeds, to “every good work.” The Bible has the power to mature us, and as we commit ourselves to reading, understanding, and obeying it, we necessarily grow up in the faith. That maturity is displayed in the good works we do more than in the knowledge we recite. And this is exactly what God wants for us - he wants us to be mature and maturing doers of good who delight to do good for others. This emphasis on good deeds is a significant theme in the New Testament (see Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14, etc) and the very reason why God saved us.

            This means that spiritual maturity is better displayed in acts than in facts. You can know everything there is to know about theology, you can be a walking systematic theology, you can spend a lifetime training others in seminary, and still be desperately immature. You will remain immature if that knowledge you accumulate does not motivate you to do good for others. The mature Christians are the ones who glorify God by doing good for others, who externalize their knowledge in good deeds.

            Of course facts and acts are not entirely unrelated, so this is not a call to grow lax in reading, studying, and understanding the Bible. Not at all! The more you know of the Bible, the more it can teach, reprove, correct, and train you, and in that way shape your actions and cause you to do the best deeds in the best way for the best reason. More knowledge of God through his Word ought to lead to more and better service to others.

            But in the final analysis, Christ lived and died so he could “redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). Knowledge of God and his Word is good. Knowledge of God and his Word that works itself out in doing what benefits others - there is nothing that glorifies God more than that.

- https://www.challies.com/christian-living/the-one-sure-mark-of-christian-maturity/

 

            In other words, Christian maturity is seen as we live out what we say we believe. It is applying the truths of God found in the Word of God to our lives.

            We have seen this in our study in Romans. Paul spends 11 chapters on doctrine, showing us all that God has for us. And then, in Romans 12:1-2 he tells us, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

            In other words, you know the truths of God found in the Word of God, Paul has spoken of them already, now live out your faith, apply these things to your life. Paul was not just writing information down, but here is the truth, now live it.

            And he tells us to use the spiritual gifts that God has given to you in love. He tells us to behave like a Christian. He tells us that we are to submit to government. He tells us to love our neighbor. He tells us to put on Christ. He tells us to walk with the liberty we have in Christ and do so with Christian love. He tells us to bear each other’s burdens. And he tells us to glorify God together as brother’s and sister’s in Christ!

            And you will find this same pattern of Paul’s in Ephesians. The first three chapters deal with doctrine and then Paul says beginning in chapter 4, I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Ephesians 4:1-6.

            Again, this deals with application. It is where the rubber meets the road you might say. It is living out our faith as Paul tells us to walk in unity. He tells us to exercise the gifts that God has given to us in love. He tells us to put on the new man. He tells us not to grieve the Holy Spirit. He tells us to walk in love. He tells us to walk in Christ. He tells us to walk in wisdom. He tells us what the home is to be about as he speaks of marriage and children and parents. He tells us how we are to work as he speaks of bondservants and their masters. He speaks of putting on the whole armor of God so that we can walk in victory!

            And, again, this is speaking of maturity, of growing in the Lord! But how is it done? How do we grow in the Lord so we can manifest the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and not the works of the flesh? I want to spend the remaining time we have this morning looking at that topic, of how we can grow or mature in the Lord – THE SANCTIFICATION PROCESS!

            There is a custom in Italy, not sure if this is still practiced, but as midnight rolls around on New Year’s Eve, the streets are empty, not a soul is to be found. There is no traffic, there are no pedestrians, even the policemen take cover. 

            Then, as the clock strikes 12 and the New Year is ushered in, the windows of the houses fly open. And the sound of laughter, music and fireworks is heard as each member of the family pitches out old crockery, detested ornaments, hated furniture and a whole catalogue of personal possessions which remind them of something in the past year they are determined to wipe out of their minds.

            I know, kind of strange but what can I say? But think about it, isn’t that what we are to do as Christians? You bet it is. I am not saying we wait for the New Year, but each and every day we should be evaluating our lives and seeing what the Lord wants us to throw out from our lives, purge from our lives. Those things that are not helping us but hurting us.

            I have thrown around this word “sanctification” and maybe you are still not sure what this is all about.

            The word, sanctification in both the Hebrew and the Greek, speak of being separate, to set apart. (QADASH in Hebrew, and HAGIASMUS in the Greek) 

            We are to set our lives apart, separated from sin for use by God. 

            Now positionally speaking we are complete, we are perfect in Christ. 

            But there is the practical sanctification in that God is working in us, conforming us to His image and that process will continue on till we go to be with Him.

            Paul said this in his letter to the Thessalonians, For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God. . . . For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. I Thessalonians 4:3‑5, 7. 

            What is God’s will for our life? Our sanctification, being clean in our walk with Him on a practical level. 

            And yet many believe that the Christian life requires no effort on the believer’s part. It all comes from Christ who lives within us, and thus, all we have to do is NOTHING! Just sit back and wait for God to work!

            Now that is completely wrong, for we are to live by faith allowing God’s Spirit to work in us and make us holy, but that is only part of the picture. 

            Hebrews 6:11‑12 says, And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. 

            We are to be diligent in our walk with the Lord, doing what is right before Him.

            One pastor recounts a story of a woman who came up after he spent an hour teaching on striving after holiness, having a walk with the Lord that is worthy of the calling by which He called you. 

            She said, “I think you have it all wrong when it comes to sanctification and the believer’s daily walk with Christ, Scripture says ‘Not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ There is no call for us to discipline ourselves or exert human effort. We are commanded to live by faith. That means we don’t do anything. We simply yield to God and let Him do it all.”

            Now that sounds great and she even used Scripture to support her point, but she is wrong. You see, she is saying, like many believe, that a Christian is to be passive in the process of spiritual growth, maturity and let God do everything. 

            That means whenever we do anything wrong, it is God’s fault for He is responsible for our behavior and we are not. And you can easily see how faulty that kind of reasoning is.

            Now many gravitate to the other end of the spectrum and feel that they must do it all, which just degenerates into a form of legalism, as they develop all kinds of doctrines that say “Thou shall not . . .”

            As you look at the Scriptures, in regard to our sanctification, we see a union of God’s sovereign control and a believer’s effort. 

            Turn to Colossians chapter 1 and let’s look at verses 28 and 29 where Paul tells us, Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.

            Paul is speaking of labor and striving in the work to present every man perfect. The Greek word for labor is KOPIAO, which speaks of working to the point of exhaustion, wearisome effort. 

            The Greek word for striving is AGONIZOMAI, which means “to strain”, “toil”, or “suffer” and it is a word from which we get our English word “agonize” from.

            What we see here is that Paul is doing all he can to see that men live holy lives, to present them perfect. 

            But it is not only his labor, or his striving, but he says that it is also “His working which works in me mightily.” 

            That means we as Christians are to live our lives to please the Lord, striving after holiness, and allowing the power of God’s Spirit to help us fulfill that goal.

            Let’s look at Philippians 2:12, which for many, is a very controversial Scripture. We read, Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

            Paul is calling for us to work out your own salvation which can be very confusing. 

            I thought we are saved by grace and not by works? The word work is the Greek word KATERGAZOMAI which can be translated “keep on continually making the effort to work out your salvation.” That is our part in the sanctification process.

            You see, we are not working our way into heaven for that is contrary to what the Scriptures teach. That work has been done by Christ.

            Now we are to take what God has done in us and live it, let that work that Jesus is doing in our lives be seen by others. In other words, work out your own salvation.

            And please understand that this is not a call to unbelievers but for believers to strive for holy living based on the resources we have. 

            Paul said in II Corinthians 7:1, Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 

            And remember what we read in Ephesians 4:1, I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.

            That means it is not going to be easy, but you are going to have to work at it. The flesh, the world and the Devil are going to try to draw you away from God and His will for your life.

            Now don’t lose hope because the best way I know of trying to stay on track, trying to move towards the goal that God has planned for your life, is to stay in His Word and in fellowship with Him. 

            Listen to what David said in Psalm 119:9‑16, How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You! Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes! With my lips I have declared All the judgments of Your mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.

            If we want to walk down the path of holiness, to allow that sanctification process to continue in our lives, we need to saturate ourselves with the Word of God. 

            Now how can the Word of God keep us clean? Simple. As you allow the Word of God to fill your life, as you begin to move in the wrong direction, the Word of God will alert you to the danger. We call it conviction as the Holy Spirit shows us what we are doing is wrong and it is the Scriptures that show us as well!

            You see, you still have the ability to continue down that wrong path, but you also have the ability to move in the right direction as the Word of God shows you.

            Listen to Peter’s cry in I Peter 2:11, Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul. 

            He is not saying just to sit back and let God do His thing. He is calling for us to flee, run, turn away from fleshly lusts that are trying to destroy our walk, our witness to others.

            Remember what we read in I Peter 1:13‑16, Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’ 

            Peter is saying that all of us can remember the former things we have done, and how we did them out of ignorance many times. 

            But now that you are a child of God, now that the light of God has shown upon your hearts, and we have His truth in our minds, don’t fall back into those evil ways. We should know better.

            To gird yourself spoke of the soldier pulling up his long robe and tucking it into his belt.  This way he could move easily and not be tripping all over the place as he fought. 

            Peter is calling for us to gird our minds, don’t allow the enemy to trip you up, but know what is right and what is wrong. Apply the truth of God to your life. Strive for holiness! Why?  Because God is holy, and He desires us to be like Him. Set your life apart to be used by Him.

            We have looked at our part in striving after holiness, living that life that God has called us to live. 

            But God also plays a vital role in living this out in our life. In Philippians 2:13 we see Paul saying, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

            How awesome to realize that God is working in each of our lives, empowering us to do His will for His pleasure. 

            Paul put it this way in II Corinthians, 3:5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.

            So as we travel down this road of sanctification, it is God who is working in us to complete the work He has started. 

            Again, Paul said in Philippians 1:6, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

            God is instilling or filling us with godly desires that will be manifested in the things we do, our behavior and that is then pleasing to God. 

            In I Thessalonians 5:23 Paul said, Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

            But we first must be dissatisfied with the sin in our life. 

            Paul said in Romans 7:24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 

            Those that are comfortable in sin, doing evil, have no desire to do what is right. 

            But we should have a desire to live as God wants us to live. To walk in a manner that is worthy of the high calling that we have received in Him. 

            As the Psalmist said in Psalm 103:1‑5, Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

            I like the way one writer summed this up for us. He wrote, “The uniqueness and mystery of Christianity is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). He is our sanctification and our sufficiency. God calls us to holiness and then makes us holy. He calls us to serve and then mobilizes us to serve by His own power and presence. It is His work, and it is our work ‑ a divine partnership. But the glory belongs to Him alone. In that there is absolute sufficiency! No matter what the issue of life, the source to turn is God! Who but a fool would settle for less?” (John MacArthur)

            So you want to live that victorious Christian life? You want to grow in the Lord? Then be in His Word, surrender to His Spirit’s leading, and do those things that God is calling for you to do!

            Remember the story I shared about the strange New Year’s custom in Italy as they threw out the window all their garbage they wanted removed from their homes and lives. 

            We as Christians must deal with sin in that manner on a daily basis. We must allow God to remove that garbage, confess it before Him and strive after holiness.

            Paul put it this way in I Corinthians 9:24‑27, Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” 

            Paul was in a race to win, a fight to knock‑out the opposition, and he was a man that prepared himself daily for what he was going to encounter. 

            Thus, at the end of his life he was able to say, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. II Timothy 4:7‑8.

            Thus, Paul admonishes us to, But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I Timothy 6:11‑12.

            I think Job sums this up for us as he tells us, . . . ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, And to depart from evil is understanding.’ Job 28:28.

            As mature Christians we will recognize our need for Christ that will bring us beyond our failures and blessings, so we can grow increasingly effective for our Lord and grow in sanctification. That we are focused on the goal of holiness to be the person God created us to be. He created us to be images of Himself, and as images we are to reflect His character, that goes beyond ourselves to the purpose He has. It is not about our needs but His need, it’s not our purpose but His purpose.

            And let me give you a few things that may help you in this area and then I will close.

            BELIEVE THE WORD OF GOD

            BE LESS DEPENDENT ON SELF AND MORE DEPENDENT ON CHRIST

            TAKE THOSE STEPS OF FAITH

            DON’T LET SITUATIONS IMPACT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

            ALLOW GOD TO WORK IN YOUR SO THAT HE CAN WORK THROUGH YOU

            SPEND TIME WITH GOD – LISTEN TO HIS VOICE

            And those are just a few things that may be helpful in your relationship with the Lord, as you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

            Let me share this with you and then I will close. We are told,

            “Some years ago,” says a lady, “I made the acquaintance of an old peasant in a little German village. He was called Gottlieb, signifying ‘the love of God.’ If ever heart was filled with love to God and to all God’s creatures, it was his. He possessed one or two apple and pear trees; and used to amuse himself in the summer by picking up the fallen fruit, and heaping it up in a corner of the shed.

            Once I came upon him as he was stooping to pick up a fallen apple. ‘Don’t you weary, Gottlieb,’ I asked, ‘stooping so often, and then lying all alone by the roadside?’ - ’No, no, miss,’ he answered, smiling, and offering me a handful of ripe pears; ‘I don’t weary: I’m just waiting, - waiting. I think I’m about ripe now, and I must soon fall to the ground; and then, just think, the Lord will pick me up! O miss! you are young yet, and perhaps just in blossom: turn well round to the Sun of Righteousness, that you may ripen sweet for his service.’”

- New Cyclopedia of Prose Illustrations

 

            What a beautiful picture that is. God is still working in us, never forget that. And as Peter admonishes us, may we take heed. He said, You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. II Peter 3:17-18.

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