Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Good Works To God's Pleasure

In Sunday’s sermon we discovered in Philippians 2:12-13 not only that joyful followers work, but that this work is something that very much pleases God. Since Christians who are taught that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone often conclude salvation-produced, God-pleasing good works don’t matter all that much, I want us to look at more biblical evidence.

 1. Good Works In The New Testament.

To begin, let’s look at how much the New Testament emphasizes good works and what those good works are.

 ·   Genuine repentance brings about fruit, which is the same as saying good works (Mt. 3:8).

·   Those who are genuinely part of the kingdom of God and thus have eternal life are those who do the will of the Father—another way of saying they do good works (Mt. 7:21-24).

·   Good works demonstrate one has trusted Christ for salvation. This would include desiring God’s glory and honor, along with immortality (Rom. 2:6-10).  Since works either demonstrate the presence or absence of salvation, God will judge men by their works (2 Cor. 11:13; 2 Tim. 4:14).

·   Good works involve obeying governmental authorities (Rom. 13:1-4).

·         Paul clarifies that faith, hope, and love are part of the work to which God calls us (1 Thes. 1:3).  Here “work”, “labor,” and “patience” are parallel.  These also, in context, are part of the way the Thessalonians demonstrated the Spirit was working in them in response to the gospel (1 Thes. 1:4-5).

·         Paul speaks of the “work of Christ” which in context consists of ministering to the needs of the fellow believer and evangelizing in the process (Phil. 2:30).

·         The ministry of Christian leaders (1 Thes. 5:13; 1 Tim. 3:1; 5:17) is part of the work that God brings about in some saints.

·   Good works include helping those in need, especially fellow believers (2 Cor. 8-9).

·         The fruit that is produced by the Spirit (and this is opposite the works of the flesh, so fruit=good works) includes: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control (Gal. 5:19-23). 

·   Good works involve all that God calls us to do.  All these works flow from the grace-giving saving work of Christ in us and the work of the Spirit (2 Cor. 9:8; Gal. 2:20; 5:22-23; Col. 1:12-13) and bring glory to Him (Col. 1:10; 3:17).

·         God sovereignly planned and prepared ahead of time that our grace-filled, Christ-bought salvation would bring about good works (Eph. 2:8-10).  Such good works are so important to God He reveals through Paul those who are rich in this life should be rich in good works—including being generosity and sharing what one has (1 Tim. 6:18).

·   Our carrying out of Christ-bought, God-glorifying good works leads to increased knowledge of God and joy (Col. 1:10-11), which also proves to us the goodness of God’s will (Rom. 12:2).

 2. God’s Pleasure in Good Works.

Paul affirms that God is pleased in obedience to his moral will (Rom. 8:7-8). More specifically, elsewhere it is clarified that God is pleased in the good work of sexual purity (1 Thes. 4:1-3). Hebrews 11:5 also emphasizes that walking with God in faith and obedience pleases God. Finally, the New Testament affirms that God the Father is pleased in his Son because he obeyed him perfectly (Mt. 3:17; Luke 3:22; John 5:30; 2 Peter 1:7).


Given this thread of New Testament teaching, we should not be surprised that Paul affirms in Philippians 2:12-13 one of the results of God’s gracious working in the Christian is that he desires to please God by doing his will—i.e. by working out his salvation.

Pleasing God With You As A Joyful Follower,


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Team Work

Last Sunday I preached on living and loving like Jesus, and we delved briefly into some of the implications. As we continue through Paul’s letter to the Philippians, one essential we will repeatedly discover is that if we are to go against the flow of our own sin nature, the world system around us, and that of our ultimate enemy, Satan, we need the help that comes to us on our team in the form of mid-range groups (Bible Fellowships) and our smallest groups (Iron Man/Woman Teams). And we need this help for two main reasons.

To begin…

1. We Need Help In The Means Of Grace God Has Given Us

In other words, if we are to use the tools God has given that help us grow, keep him first, and keep us living on purpose, we need people coming along side us, praying for and with us, encouraging us, holding us accountable, and helping us to apply the gospel resources we have. Some of the tools God has provided for us and with which we need help include: Bible intake, prayer, worship, and disciplemaking.

What this means is that we must not only be in a Bible Fellowship and an Iron Man/Woman Team, but that BF and IM/WT should be largely focused on our helping each other carry out our purpose and to use the tools God has given us, those gracious means through which Christ transforms us.  

Without such a team we will most likely lose our focus.

This leads to the second main way we need the help of our team.

2. We Need Help To Say, “Yes” To The Best Things And “No” To Too Many Lesser Things

We all have only so many hours in a week. We also all have differing abilities when it comes to how much we can do in a given time.  We all will also have to say, “No” to some things for which we do not have time and “Yes” to the most important things. Some will have to say, “No,” to more than others.

One of the toughest areas where we must do this is with activities for our children in late elementary through Senior High. The demands upon them and upon us as parents who must take them and/or attend events can be very intense. And, if we are not careful, they can drown out what should be our most important priorities as Christ followers.

 The answer is not to take our children (or ourselves) out of all activities other than church. Participation in school, community, and other activities can be very important to our children’s maturity, as well as to our mission as Christians. The goal is to put Christ first (Matthew 6:33) and then fill in what holes are left in our schedule once that is done. So, ask yourself the following questions to assess how you are doing.  Are you too busy to:

a. Read, study the Bible, and pray?

b. Read, study the Bible, discuss it, and pray as a family?

c. Invest your time in discipling your children and others?

d. To gather together in corporate worship, a Bible Fellowship, and/or Iron Man/Woman Team?

If your answer is, “Yes,” then frankly you are too busy, in danger of dishonoring Christ through that busyness, and you are in danger of keeping Christ out of first place in your family, which means that whatever else you accomplish, you are about to fail your family!

“But, Tom,” you ask, “How do we deal with this busyness when our sons and daughters are in sports or other activities and frankly if they are going to succeed, it takes a lot of time?” I have the following responses to guide us in the right direction:

a. You will have to decide what is most important for your children—what they cannot really live without: Christ, or  ________?

b. You will have to decide what God does or does not say in the Bible about what makes a good parent. We often are far more in fear of what other people think about our parenting than God, and far more focused on cultural definitions of good parenting than God’s.

c. There is not one way to answer the question of, “How Much?” for all, nor is there a formula to give. Different families and individuals can handle different levels of activities, while keeping priorities intact.

d. Put Jesus and his priorities in place first and then decide what you have time left to do after this.

e. If you have to make hard decisions, such as to limit your children to the number of sports or activities in which they can participate, or you have to say, “No,” sometimes to coaches and what they are requiring by way of time commitments, this is where your team comes into play. Don’t try to do this alone. Ban together for discussion on what and how to do it, to pray together, to support one another, and to gain wisdom in how to approach this.

Paul tells us in Philippians 1:27 that we stand firm, “by contending together, side-by-side, as teammates, for the faith that emerges from the gospel.” If we do not stand together, then surely we will all fall alone.

Joyfully On The Team With You,


Monday, June 19, 2017

So, Let's Be Specific

In Sunday’s sermon we discovered we are to think and act like Jesus. Yet, if we do this, what will this mean?  Let’s be very specific as we provide an answer from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

1. We will make our main purpose in life to show how great God is (Phil. 1:11), which more specifically will require us to show how great our Savior, Jesus Christ is (Phil 1:20-21).

2. This purpose will be achieved by the following characteristics and activities:

·         We will do the things that please God (1:11; 2:12).

·         We will grow to be content and happy in our Savior (1:18-23; 2:14-15; 3:1; 4:4, 10-13).

·         We will learn to depend upon God in prayer (1:3-11; 4:6).

3.  In order for us to see those characteristics and activities in our lives, we will do the following:

·         We will grow in our knowledge of God and his will through taking in the content of the Bible (1:9; 2:16)

·         We will pray alone and with others often.

·         We will allow others to invest in us and we will invest in others—understanding that we cannot honor God and live on mission without the help of each other (1:5, 7, 27; 2:19-30). In our congregation, this means involvement in a Bible Fellowship and an Iron Man/Woman Team.

·         We will intentionally and prayerfully work to help family and others to know Jesus, grow to be like him, serve him, and share him. To put this in other terms, for all of us, this means we will pray for and invest in unbelievers to help them become believers, in believers to help them become those who win others to Christ, and in those who win others to Christ so they can become multipliers—those who turn around and help others do the same (1:5, 12f.; 2:5-11, 19-30).

·         We will look for the right niche in which God wants us to serve him and others as we use our spiritual gifts (1:1-2).

As we continue on through this letter of Paul to the Philippians, we will unpack each of these points mentioned above and discover how we should carry them out in relation to each of the mission fields in which Jesus Christ as placed us: Family, work, community, friends, neighbors, and church.

Glorifying God With You As A Joyful Follower,


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Preach The Gospel To Yourself

In Sunday morning’s sermon I brought before us some of what it involves for us to live like Jesus from Philippians 2:5-11. This is a pretty tall order, especially since we discovered that it means we have to give up our desire to fit in with everyone else around us and we have to give up our excuses for why we are not helping people (including our sons, daughters, and spouses) know, grow in, serve, and share Jesus to the glory of God, all so they can help others do the same.

Two responses immediately come to mind for many of you. To begin, “But Tom I have failed at this!”  Some might even add, “…and it is too late for me to do this with my own family! It just feels hopeless.”

Second, some of you might say, “Tom, I am scared to start. It is so out of my comfort zone and I just don’t know what to do!”

To both responses I say, “Preach the gospel to yourself.” This means, on the one hand, we are reminded that in Christ we are forgiven for our sins and there is therefore now no condemnation (Rom. 5:1; 1 John 1:7). Our favor with God is not based upon what we have achieved, having the perfect record with discipling our children, or the perfect record with discipling anyone else. It depends upon Christ and Christ alone (Phil. 3:9). As such, we can stand strong and go forward with hope.

On the other hand, because the grace of Jesus Christ that is with us and in which we stand (Rom. 5:2; 2 Cor. 13:14) not only saves us (Eph. 2:8), but also transforms us (Titus 2:11-13), the gospel reminds us that we can do whatever God calls us to do (2 Cor. 9:8-10; Phil. 4:13, 19). If our children are still under our roof, we can begin to disciple them and pray for them. Our God will help us (Mt. 28:20)! If our children are already grown, we can pray that God would bring others along to disciple them and/or would give us opportunities to impact them positively. Additionally, we can invest in other people for their benefit and God’s glory. And the very God who has worked so powerfully in us has also promised to answer our prayers for this mission (John 14:12-14). So, pray, pray, pray. Depend upon God to show you the way forward and to bring you to the right person to give you help.

By all means follow the model of Jesus Christ, but also do not forget his main ministry:  To save us and also to enable us to live under the Lordship of our God and to experience his blessings.

So, wherever you find yourself in relation to Sunday’s sermon, preach the gospel to yourself.

Preaching The Gospel To Myself As a Joyful Follower With You,