Sun, Dec 27, 1998

Steady On!: Philippians 3:18 - 4:1

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.

STEADY ON!

PHILIPPIANS 3:13-4:1

As the New Year approach's, many people are making their New Year's resolutions, desiring to do or not do something in the coming year. As 1999 approaches, some will try to lose weight. Others may try to spend more time with their family. Or they may try to get into an exercise program. And for the most part, they are very sincere with their resolutions, desiring very much to keep them, only to become disappointed and discouraged on how fast their hopes and dreams have fallen by the wayside as they look towards the next year to try and do better.

I do think the New Year should cause us to reflect back on the previous year so that we can learn, we can grow from the failures and success we have made. And then we can look forward to see what God is going to do in us and through us in the coming year. You see, if you can reflect back on the previous year and see no change, no growth in your life, then you are in a backslidden condition in your relationship with the Lord. Our faith is a walk, not a standstill or a move backwards. We, as Paul, should be able to say as we reflect back "...I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14.

In other words, Paul realized his past was not perfect, he was persecuting Christians before he got saved, consented to the stoning of Stephen, and he couldn't change that, but he could learn from his mistakes, and now grow, striving for the prize, to reach the goal that God has placed before him.

Now in saying all that, I find it interesting on how the average person spends his life. If you lived to be around 70 years of age, this is how you might spend your life if you were the average person:

20 YEARS SLEEPING

20 YEARS WORKING

6 YEARS EATING

7 YEARS PLAYING

5 YEARS DRESSING

1 YEAR ON THE TELEPHONE

2 1/2 YEARS SMOKING

3 YEARS WAITING FOR SOMEBODY

5 MONTHS TYING SHOES

2 1/2 YEARS FOR OTHER THINGS

(INCLUDING 1 1/2 YEARS IN CHURCH)

Now to spend 1 1/2 years in church in a life span of some 70 years, you must, on the day you were born, begin to spend 5 minutes of each morning and every evening in devotions, plus three hours a week in church, just to get 1 1/2 years of spending time with God in a 70 year life span. I find it amazing at what we spend a lot of time doing and then what is not that important in our life, and that then is manifested in the way we conduct ourselves!

Now please don't misunderstand me, I am not trying to lay some big guilt trip on you, trying to get you to come to church or whatever. My desire is to have you draw close to God, to allow Him to transform your life. I don't want you to make some New Year's resolution saying that you are going to read the entire Bible this year, or go to church on Sunday's and Thursday's, get involved in this ministry or that ministry. My desire is that you continue walking in the Lord, doing those things that will help you to grow, not out of guilt, but out of love and a desire to know Him more and more, and make Him known!

Please turn with me in your Bibles to Philippians chapter 3, and lets begin reading in verse 15, as Paul is going to exhort us to walk properly.

PHILIPPIANS 3:15-4:1

Paul, at this point in his life, is in a Roman prison, and he is writing to the church in Philippi that Paul established on his second missionary journey. And throughout this letter are words of exhortation for the Philippian believers.

In verse 15 Paul opens up with the word "Therefore" which takes us back to what he has said in the previous verses. Paul was speaking of knowing Christ as we suffer as He did. That we continue on, pressing forward, not thinking we have reached the goal, but striving always to be like Him. That is the mind-set we are to have. Now Paul realized that all may not believe him, but he asks them to seek God, for God would show them.

Now when we are born we can't walk, we can't crawl, we can't even roll over. All we can do is lay there, having someone else care for us. And as we begin to grow, develop, we lift ourselves up, we begin to crawl, we roll over, and before long, we are walking and caring for ourselves!

The Christian life is really no different. When we are "born again", that is when Jesus has become Lord and Savior of our life, we are spiritual infants. We need to be fed. We need help getting around. But, over time, as we grow, as we mature, we begin to lift ourselves up. We begin to crawl on our own. And before long, we begin to walk, and that should continue on for the rest of our life. A child that grows up but still can't care for himself is a tragedy. And the same is true for Christians. And as we walk, we are moving forward, God has not called us to retreat, in fact, our spiritual armor doesn't cover our backside! So don't turn or you may get a fiery dart where you would rather not get one. And God has also not called us to stop walking, to be stationary, but to move forward for His glory and our transformation!

As I said, it is always sad to see Christians who never grow up, but remain spiritual infants all their life. Paul is exhorting them to live up to what they already have in Christ. Too often Christians live below their position that God has for them in Christ. They are comfortable being immature in their walk with the Lord. But Paul did not want to see them continue in that condition. And Paul is exhorting them to follow his example and the example of those who are mature in the Lord. To watch how they walk, pattern their life after them. In fact, in Ephesians 4:1 Paul says, "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called." In other words, this is what God has done for you, walk accordingly!

Paul continues on by saying that there are those who are walking and they are not to be followed. Their example is flawed. Paul is speaking of the Judiazers who would come in after Paul and they would teach salvation by grace and then they would add the law to it. In fact, they believed you were not really saved unless you added to Christ these things. And that kind of false teaching broke Paul's heart, to see this deception going on, and he calls them "the enemies of the cross of Christ."

You see, they were focused on "earthly things", satisfying the law of God, which no man could ever do! The law was there to show us our sin, to tell us we could never keep it, for it was not just the outward observance of the law, but it was also the heart. As Jesus said that if you even lusted after a women in your heart, you already have committed adultery! The law showed us our need for a Savior who could cleanse us from our sins.

Now were these Judiazers saved or not? That is a tough question and I am not going to answer it for you. I'll let you decide that for yourself. But I will say this, many Christians have begun the race with great success and then failed in the end because they have moved away from God's Word, His truth, and moved in their own direction. We are told in Galatians 3:3, "Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" Now I don't believe that you can lose your salvation, but you can lose your rewards. As Paul said in I Corinthians 3:15, "If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."

One example that the Bible gives us of a man with great potential and in the end fell far short of all that God had intended for him, is the story of Samson. And we, like Samson, have great potential to be used mightily by God, but it truly depends where you are walking!

In Judges chapters 13-16 we are told of the story of Samson, who was one of the Judges in Israel, before there was an earthly king in Israel. And during the period of the Judges the children of Israel would go through this cyclical pattern of sin, servitude, supplication, salvation and then silence before God, and once again that lead to sin and the repeating of the cycle.

During one of their sin cycles, God brought the Philistines upon them, who oppressed them for forty years. And during this time God brought forth a male child who was to be special, for God said to Samson's mother, "For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines." Judges 13:5.

Samson was going to deliver Israel from the oppressive hand of the Philistines. And when he was born and began to grow, we are told that "...the Spirit of the LORD began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol." Judges 13:25.

How could he fail? The Holy Spirit is empowering him to do the work. Well, he can fail and he did fail. You see, God had empowered him for service, that was God's part. But Samson resisted what God wanted to do in his life. He quenched the power of the Holy Spirit in his life. His walk was hampered by the direction he was heading.

His first mistake is he goes down to the Philistines and there he lusts after one of the Philistine women, he desires her so badly, that he marries her. But that marriage ended in disaster!

Then he goes to Gaza and finds a harlot to satisfy his fleshly desires. Continuing down that destructive path, cutting off the power supply of God in his life, restraining the power of the Holy Spirit in his life, and yet he was not completely cut off at this point.

And then he meets Delilah, a Philistine woman who he falls in love with again. And her bases for being with him was not love, but prosperity, for she was going to find out the secret to his strength, remove it, and then let the soldiers come and take him captive, making her rich. And Delilah would ask Samson what the secret to his strength was, and he would lie to her, a great witness of what a man of God was all about. But then she has had it, and turns on the tears and badgering so much, that he finally gives in and tells her it is his hair that gives him the strength. Now the hair really did not give him strength but it was a symbol of his consecration with the Lord, and once that was cut, we are told "...he did not know that the LORD had departed from him." Judges 16:20.

Interesting, isn't it? He had walked so far away from God that he didn't even realize that fellowship had been broken, the power of God in his life severed. And we are told in Judges 16:21, "Then the Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze fetters, and he became a grinder in the prison." You see, sin BLINDS US, it BINDS US, and it GRINDS US! It puts us into bondage. Instead of pressing on, walking ahead in the Lord, Samson has allowed sin to cause him to walk around in circles all day long at the grinding mill!

But Samson's story does not end there, it was not over yet. God is gracious even in our failures. As Samson had all this time to reflect on what he did and his relationship with the Lord, he repented and returned to the Lord and fellowship was restored. Now the Philistines were very proud and excited about capturing Samson, he was a trouble maker to them, and no one was able to stop him up until this point. And one day, as they gathered to worship their god, Dagon, they brought out the hero of Israel, Samson, to put him on display and have him entertain them. And as this blind man was lead into the temple by this young lad, Samson asked him to place his hands on the pillars of the temple so he could rest. Which he did.

Now we are told that "Then Samson called to the LORD, saying, 'O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!' And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on his left. Then Samson said, 'Let me die with the Philistines!' And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life." Judges 16:28-30.

Samson had great potential to be used by God, but because of his walk, his resisting the Holy Spirits guidance in his life, he destroyed more of the enemy in his death than he did in his life! Yes, he was saved, but he lost many rewards that the Lord had for him. And you can look at others in the Bible who experienced difficulty in their walk and suffered for it, like Lot, Saul, Ananias and Sapphira, and-so-on.

It is as Hebrews 12:1-2 says, "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Don't let sin entangle you and keep you from finishing the race! Continue walking in the Lord, being guided by His Spirit. Don't resist or quench what the Spirit of God is doing in your life, transforming you into the image of God! If you resist, you won't be transformed, but conformed to this world!

Now some of you if not all of us, have been discouraged at times, thinking of all the time, all the years that we have wasted, when we could have been doing things for the Lord, growing in the Lord. All that wasted time, and we can focus so much on that, that it causes us to become paralyzed in our movement today, tomorrow and the next day. In Joel 2:13-14, God gives us the solution to our problem, and shows us His grace and mercy that He bestows upon us when we don't deserve it. We read "So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, And leave a blessing behind Him; A grain offering and a drink offering For the LORD your God?"

In other words, don't make your mourning an empty, outward display, but come before God and rend your heart, make yourself sensitive to the Lord and return to Him. Why? Because our God is gracious, He is merciful, He is slow to anger and full of great kindness. He desires to do good, to bless us and he is waiting for us to turn to Him.

And those wasted years in our life. Those years when we were far from God, not walking, don't lose heart, God is gracious and merciful. In Joel 2:25-27 we read, "So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the LORD your God And there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame."

God wants to and will restore those years that have been wasted. He is waiting for you to return to Him so He can work in you and then through you to touch the lives of others. But He is not going to work through you until He first works in you. And as God begins to work in your life, you will not be able to take the credit for what is being done. You will see the hand of God upon you and it is the Lord then that receives the honor, the glory, for what is being done. As Matthew 5:16 says, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

As we approach the New Year, 1999, the question you must ask yourself is "Now or when?" If you are not going to get serious about your walk with the Lord now, when are you going to do it? How long will you delay. Samson waited till he was so consumed with his way of life, just meandering through, that his sin blinded him to the things of God, bound him to his fleshly desires, and ground him up into a man left in captivity.

Think about your life this way. Yesterday is a canceled check. Tomorrow is a promissory note. Today is the only cash you have - spend it wisely! Ask God to help you to number your days. Moses put it this way in Psalm 90:12, when he said to the Lord, "So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom." Don't let us waste our time here, for none of us know how long we have. May we spend our time wisely by walking in the Lord. By following after Him. As Paul said in Colossians 2:6, "As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him."

I am not a big fan of New Year's resolutions because, for the most part, they are broken. And many times, when we don't lose the weight we wanted, when we don't stop smoking like we said we were going to do, when our exercise program has deteriorated to getting up and changing the channel on the television instead of using the remote control devise, and-so-on, we can become very discouraged.

Instead of making a New Year's resolution, just commit yourself to the Lord, and allow Him to work in you and through you this coming year. And whatever you accomplish in 1999, just keep pressing on, keep moving, STEADY ON! As Paul said in Ephesians 3:16-20, "that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height; to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us."

As I close this morning, and we prepare ourselves for 1999, let me leave you with this poem to reflect upon"

STEP BY STEP

He does not lead me year by year

Nor even day by day,

But step by step my path unfolds;

My Lord directs my way.

Tomorrow's plans I do not know,

I only know this minute;

But He will say, "This is the way,

By faith now walk in it."

And I am glad that it is so,

Today's enough to bear;

And when tomorrow comes, His grace

Shall far exceed its care.

What need to worry then, or fret?

The God who gave His Son

Holds all my moments in His hand

And gives them, one by one.

Barbara C. Ryberg

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