I have been reading a lot lately concerning the Christmas Story. In my reading I found this wonderful article written by Dr. John MacArthur and wanted to share it with all my BishirBlog followers. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
The Truth of the Nativity
The story of the first Christmas is so beloved that singers and storytellers across the centuries have embellished and elaborated and mythologized the story in celebration. However, most people now don't know which details are biblical and which are fabricated. People usually imagine the manger scene with snow, singing angels, many worshipers, and a little drummer boy. None of that is found in the biblical account.
Christmas has become the product of an odd mixture of pagan ideas, superstition, fanciful legends, and plain ignorance. Add to that the commercialization of Christmas by marketers and the politicization of Christmas in the culture wars, and you're left with one big mess. Let's try to sort it out. The place to begin is in God's Word, the Bible. Here we find not only the source of the original account of Christmas, but also God's commentary on it.
We can't know Jesus if we don't understand He is real. The story of His birth is no allegory. We dare not romanticize it or settle for a fanciful legend that renders the whole story meaningless. Mary and Joseph were real people. Their dilemma on finding no room at the inn surely was as frightening for them as it would be for you or me. The manger in which Mary laid Jesus must have reeked of animal smells. So did the shepherds, in all probability. That first Christmas was anything but picturesque.
But that makes it all the more wondrous. That baby in the manger is God! Immanuel!
That's the heart and soul of the Christmas message. There weren't many worshipers around the original manger—only a handful of shepherds. But one day every knee will bow before Him, and every tongue will confess He is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11). Those who doubt Him, those who are His enemies, those who merely ignore Him—all will one day bow, too, even if it be in judgment.
How much better to honor Him now with the worship He deserves! That's what Christmas ought to inspire.
Unvarnished Truth Luke 2:7 sets the scene: "[Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."
That verse is explicitly concerned with a lonely birth. There were no midwives, no assistance to Mary at all. The Bible doesn't even mention that Joseph was present. Perhaps he was, but if he was typical of first-time fathers, he would have been of little help to Mary. She was basically on her own.
Mary brought forth the child; she wrapped Him in swaddling cloths; and she laid Him in a manger. Where usually a midwife would clean the baby and wrap Him, there was no one. Mary did it herself. And where usually there would have been a cradle or basket for the baby, there was none. Mary had to put Him in an animal's feeding trough.
When Christ entered the world, He came to a place that had some of the smelliest, filthiest, and most uncomfortable conditions. But that is part of the wonder of divine grace, isn't it? When the Son of God came down from heaven, He came all the way down. He did not hang on to His equality with God; rather, He set it aside for a time and completely humbled Himself (Philippians 2:5-8).
Unlikely Testimony Luke 2:8-20 describes the experience of the shepherds when Jesus was born. Think about that for a moment. Out of the whole of Jerusalem society, God picked a band of shepherds to hear the news of Jesus' birth. That's intriguing because shepherds were among the lowest and most despised social groups.
The very nature of shepherds' work kept them from entering into the mainstream of Israel's society. They couldn't maintain the ceremonial washings and observe all the religious festivals and feasts, yet these shepherds, just a few miles from Jerusalem, were undoubtedly caring for sheep that someday would be used as sacrifices in the temple. How fitting it is that they were the first to know of the Lamb of God!
More significant, they came to see Him the night he was born. No one else did. Though the shepherds went back and told everyone what they had seen and heard, and though "all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds" (Luke 2:18), not one other person came to see firsthand.
Scripture doesn't describe how the shepherds' search for the baby Jesus actually unfolded, but it's not unreasonable to assume that they entered Bethlehem and asked questions: "Does anybody know about a baby being born here in town tonight?"
The shepherds might have knocked on several doors and seen other newborn babies before they found the special Child lying in the feeding trough. At that moment, those humble men knew for certain that the angels' announcement was a word from God. After their encounter with Joseph and Mary and Jesus, the shepherds couldn't help but tell others about what the angels had told them. They became, in effect, the first New Testament evangelists.
The shepherd's story is a good illustration of the Christian life. You first hear the revelation of the gospel and believe it (Romans 10:9-10). Then you pursue and embrace Christ. And having become a witness to your glorious conversion, you begin to tell others about it (Luke 2:17).
May God grant you the life-changing spiritual experiences and the ongoing attitude of enthusiasm and responsiveness that causes you to tell others that you, too, have seen Christ the Lord.
(Adapted from God's Gift of Christmas.)
The Thanksgiving Season is a wonderful time to heighten our sensitivity to the blessings bestowed on us by God. Thanksgiving grabs our attention, shakes the cobwebs loose, reminds us of God’s most precious gifts and convicts us of our lack of contentment.
Thanksgiving has always had a special place in my heart. It rekindles the kind of God Centered Gratitude that our Lord both demands and deserves.
Allow me to share SIX BLESSINGS that have deeply touched me through the years and prompts me to give thanks to God. As I reverse them they always rekindle my gratitude and I hope they help you to do the same.
I Am Grateful For The Lords Salvation. (Colossians 1:12- 14)
I am grateful for earthly life which I am keenly aware that the Lord gave me. But far more I am thankful for the forgiveness of sin. No work of God is beyond my comprehension yet closer to my heart. Before coming to Christ each of us lived lives in self imposed prisons, guilty, lonely, spiritually blind, fearful of death and life and no means to pay our sin debt. Our destiny was eternal separation from God lost in the eternal destruction of hell. But how Christ pardoned us from the penalty and power of sin. How he has delivered us from the dominion of Satan and translated us into the kingdom of the beloved Son, ( Colossians 1:12-14). He has taken away the threat of hell and now we live in the hope of heaven. He has dismissed His divine wrath and brought us in to divine benediction. He has given us abundant life, His daily presence and provisions. We daily sing of His salvation. We walk with Him, talk with Him, His Holy Spirit lives in us. Thanking God for saving our soul should be our year round unceasing occupation ! Luke 17:12-13 teaches us that we should fall to our knees and worship him for healing our souls. Thankfulness is a mark of the genuine christian and unthankfulness is a mark or the unforgiven and wicked, (Romans 1:19-20).
II. I Am Grateful For The Lord’s Word. (John 17:17)
I am thankful for the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth- The Holy Bible! The world is gripped by lies, half truths, false teachers and false teaching. Conflicts about philosophies, political systems, world cultures deceive the masses and yet we have the TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH. The world has questions and no answers, the born again believer has questions and answers found in God’s Holy Word. Answers for every area of life most importantly answers how to find forgiveness of sin and eternal life. Thanks to the Lord we have a copy of GOD’S WORD. We have an eternal, objective, incontestable, irrevocable, unchangeable standard we can depend on for all matters of life. God’s Word is the words of life that offer us answers in every issue of life.
III. I Am Grateful For The Privilege And Power Of Prayer. (Matthew 7:7-11)
That we can come boldly to the Throne of God and make our requests unto our loving and listening Sovereign. That we can make petitions for ourselves, intercessions for others. That we can “ ask it shall be forgiven, seek and it shall be found, knock and it shall be opened” , (Matthew 6-7). I am thankful that we can pray privately, corporately, unceasingly and we can pray from anywhere and at any time. Prayers that shake our world and send the gospel in power. I am thankful that prayer changes me personally and moves the mighty hand of God.
IV. I am grateful for the Lord's storms. ( Mark 4:39 )
Perhaps the most difficult time to give thanks is when we are in the midst of a storm of life. Setbacks, challenges, trials can hinder our sense of contentment and gratitude. When the storms come giving thanks rarely are my first reaction. Being thankful for adversity is never easy but always right. But from my experience I know the difficult times are ones in which God seems to be most at work in my life. He is closely working on me as He prunes, strengthens, teaches, developed my faith and in general makes me more like Himself.
The more mature we become in Christ the more grateful we become for the SOVEREIGN STORMS our Lord allows to enter our lives.
V. I am grateful for the Lord's church. ( Matthew 16:18 )
I am thankful for the Lord building His true and genuine church. I have loved the church since the moment the Holy Spirit moved into my life at my new birth. I am a stronger believer in the church than without. It is the place as a believer that I find my place I belong. I am thankful for the family of God that gathers in it to strengthen and scatters from it to lengthen. I an thankful for the churches that have stayed the course of spreading the true gospel and living pure and holy lives. For those that are standing for the full course of Bible truth. Resisting fads, remaining faithful to the biblical purposes that the Lord instituted the church for in the first place. It fills my heart with gratitude to be a part of the Lord’s church. To partner in life and ministry.
VI. I am grateful for the Lord's people.
The Lord has placed people in our life! No mistakes! All ordained! Our parents, mates, children, grandchildren, friends, other Christians now and those who are now in heaven, pastors, deacons, teachers and the list goes on. Our earthly families are so precious and our sisters and brothers in the family of God. How Blessed we are for each one. Living life with others is far better than living alone. Giving thanks for the partnerships, guidance, help that others have brought to our lives fitting for each of us 365 days a year.
I am thankful at this time of year and my desire is that I will rekindle such thanksgiving every day of the year for the rest of my life. Hope you do the same!
How Much Do You Own in That Direction?
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Dr. George W. Truett was a great preacher who pastored First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas for 47 years. He pastor 47 years at this church and afterward Dr. W. A. Criswell pastored another 50 years or so. Only two senior pastors for a century. WOW!
Dr. Truett was once entertained in the home of one of the wealthiest oilmen in Texas. After dinner, the man took Truett up yo the rooftop patio of his home. Pointing to the field of oil derricks, he said, “Dr. Truett, that is all mine. I came into this country twenty-five years ago penniless, and now I own everything as far as you can see in that direction.”
He then turned in the opposite direction, and pointing toward waving fields of grain, he said, “It’s all mine. i own everything as far as you can see in that direction.”
He next tourney toward the east, pointing to a large herd of cattle… and then to the west, pointing to a great virgin forest that extended to the horizon… and each time he waved his hands and said, “It’s all mine.For twenty - five years i have worked hard and seed, and today I own everything you can see in any direction from my house.” The man paused at that moment, expecting words of admiration and praise from this preacher. Instead Dr. Truett laid his hand lovingly on his shoulder, pointed upward, and asked, “ And my friend, how much do you own in that direction?”
Good question for both the rich and the poor.
Jesus spoke in parable form concerning our falling into trap of seeking of things.
13 And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
14 And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
22 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
23 The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
24 Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?
25 And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
26 If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?
27 Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
28 If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
29 And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.
30 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
31 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.
32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.
34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Notice verse 20, “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” The Lord calls the person who seeks after earthly things more than eternal things- A FOOL!
There are at least 6 reasons why Jesus considered this man a fool.
I. HE WAS CONCERNED ONLY WITH EARTHLY THINGS!
A. Earthly Things Can Lead Us Into A TRAP.
One can get to the place where no longer does a person possess things but things possess us! They begin to control our time, thoughts, emotions our entire lives.
B. Earthly Things Can Lead Us To In Them TRUST.
The fact is that earthly things can be lost at any moment, and the will never bring complete satisfaction in this life.
C. Earthly Things Are TEMPORAL.
2nd Corinthians 4:18 teaches us that things seen are temporal but things unseen are eternal. Everything we see with our earthly eyes will one day be finished, over, gone. We must live for the things we do not see. Today in America someone won a lottery worth 1.6 BILLION dollars. Truth is after that person dies that 1.6 billion dollars won’ be worth ONE DIME unless they choose to somehow connect it to eternal things.
II. HE CONSIDERED HIS EARTHLY GOODS HIS OWN.
Notice he he speaks with himself, he considers all his possessions as his own. We are not mature Christians when we consider all we have as ours. Everything we have belongs to the Lord- lock, stock and barrel. This man was a fool when he considered his earthly goods his own. He did not see his rightful place a stewart of God.
III. HE THOUGHT THINGS WOULD SATISFY HIS SOUL.
Verse 19 says, “ I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry. He thought things would satisfy his soul. If you have lived very long you have found that is not true! If we get more money, a new car, more time off, more trips, more friends, bigger this better that, they will not completely satisfy. This world will never satisfy the heart of man, only CHRIST can !
IV. HE PLANNED FOR TIME NOT FOR ETERNITY!
Another reason Jesus calls this man a fool is he made many plans for this life and no plans for the life to come. The old adage, Eat, Drink and be Merry for tomorrow you die is one of the Devil’s lies. Because everyone will die in this world but as soon astray die here they will be alive elsewhere. No one ceases to exist, everyone will live somewhere for eternity. Bob Jones Sr. the great preacher of the last century said, “ The greatest thought that ever occurred to him was he was going to live somewhere forever.”
V. HE THOUGHT HIS SOUL WAS HIS OWN.
He addresses his soul as his own. Tis is the act of a FOOL! The biblical truth is we all belong to God by the right of creation. That does not me you are his or that you are going to heaven. Once you trust him you belong to Him by right of redemption and regeneration. It is never our soul and particularly after we have been purchased and cleansed by his blood. 1st Corinthians 6:19-20 teaches we are not our own.
VI. HE WAS NOT PREPARED TO DIE!
This is the most foolish thing a person can ever do. Prepare for our education, careers, marriages, health, vacations, homes, retirements, and so many other things but not “ PREPARED TO MEET OUR GOD”. And the only way to be prepared is to repent of our sinfulness and to receive Christ’s gracious payment for our sins on the cross! So many think they have plenty of time to make that decision yet the Bible teaches us that every time we put that decision off we harden our hearts more and more against the gospel. There will be people alive as I type this blog that in a minute or so that will leave this world in death. Someone will be tragically murdered, others will suddenly have a car accident, others will have massive stroke, many will suddenly have their lives end thinking they have plenty time to make to come to Christ! It is a most FOOLISH thing to not be prepared to die. Hell is full of people who thought they would have another opportunity to sense the Holy Spirit drawing them yet today their eternity has begun and their eternal destiny of separation from God will never end.
SEEK GOD FIRST AND THE THINGS YOU NEED (EARTHLY AND ETERNAL) WILL SEEK YOU!
Lets Pray : "Dear God, please give me the wisdom to keep my heart turned toward heaven and lay up treasures there rather than here on earth. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer Lord help me each day to live in such a way!
Why Do We Have A Missions Conference ?
Today at Liberty Baptist Church we begin our 2018 Missions Conference. It is an annual event of our church and has been for nearly 30 years. This is not the only time of the year that worldwide missions is emphasized, in fact evangelistic outreach is focused on daily in all our ministries and missionaries visit our church continually through out the year. So why do we and why should others have a Missions Conference in the local church? Conferences like we have here at LBC used to be a part of most all biblically minded churches, they were vital and brought about many positive impacts both to the local church and the cause of missions worldwide. But over the past few decades they are beginning to be the exception and not the rule. In many churches they have become a thing of the past. I have heard several reasons for this which include: 1 ( People are to busy with many other things to participate in and they will not attend). 2. (Missionaries do not want to spend that many days at one church). 3. (Conferences are expensive and the church will not get anything in return). 4. ( People are more concerned about home missions rather then world missions). 5. ( People get worn out with several services back to back). Once we really begin thinking about these reasons we come to an understanding that they really just reveal the condition of the heart. They simply don’t stand the test of biblical nor rational thinking. People are busy and they allow themselves to be busier than ever. Night after night, day after day, weekend after weekend they are attending a lot of events and seem not to wear themselves out. I have found tat missions starts immediately once I rise from bed. It starts in my home, as soon as I leave my home and everywhere I go through out life. Home Missions and World Missions is all the same in my understanding of the Lord’s mandate of taking the gospel.
So with that in mind let me share a few reasons why we should have a Missions Conference!
1. To Inspire: To enliven and to motivate the church and the missionary to the gospel mandate. To spur on; to remember this is the life of the church. The purpose of the church is to share the gospel with the world we are a part of and to the uttermost parts of the world.
2. To Enlighten: To give knowledge, to instruct, to give spiritual insight as to how to get better
in this Great Commission of our Lord! To listen to the reports and messages with an
intense desire to be a missionary wherever we may be.
3. To Encourage: To encourage the missionary and the church together. Those who go and those who send are participating in one of the most exciting endeavors known to man. At the same time their mission is one of greatest difficulty and challenge anyone will partake in. The lonely missionary needs the exhorting of the church and the church body needs to see the commitment and the surrender of the sent one. The church needs a visible reminder that we also are sent to our world. It is amazing what happens in several days of assembling together as we are exhorting one another. Commitments of the past are renewed, hope for hopelessness has been gained, the spirit of depression replaced with the vision and an attitude of thankfulness for this great call our Lord has given each of us.
4. To Enlist:
*The church inspired to pray for missionaries around the world.
*Individual Christian’s inspired to share the gospel where they are now.
*Divine inspiration for those called to GO as missionaries.
*Inspired to give financially to the great gospel cause of missions.
According to the scripture, the Church SENDS the missionary (Acts 13:1-3) and the Missionary REPORTS to the Church ( Acts 14:21-28). The purpose of a Missions Conference is to CHALLENGE true believers to be MISSION - CENTERED. By INFORMING believers in what God is DOING and in what still needs to be DONE in the fields of harvest. By STIMULATING believers to be INVOLVED with missions through praying, giving, and going. By PRESENTING a challenge to all to RESPOND to God’s personal call to missions. By ENCOURAGING believers to REJOICE in what God is doing through missions around the world. By OBEYING a scriptural PRACTICE as, according to scripture, after each missionary journey in Acts, a mission conference was conducted. ( Acts 14:24-18, 18:22, 21:17-19 ).
The longer I live in this world the greater I long for the next world- HEAVEN! I can't take the credit for such, it is a work of God in me that is setting me apart (sanctification) for His glory. I feel more uncomfortable in this world. More unwanted, more as a stranger, more uneasy with all the sin that surrounds me and is in me which is a daily part of being here. Often, I feel dirty and guilty as I seek to live holy in an unholy place. Now I want to say that there is much beauty and blessing as we travel this sod and the Lord has taught us to "rejoice this is the day the Lord hath made." I realize that earthly life is a gift to enjoy and invest in, and earthly life can be abundant as we live with Christ ruling in our hearts. BUT still the longer I live I desire more and more for the day I will depart and be with the Lord. I praise God for that great work of his in my inner man which is getting me ready to transition from one place to another. I suspect it will be a process and Lord willing there is still lots to do for the Lord on this earth BUT there is growing in me a deeper desire for my complete redemption to be fulfilled.
You may ask why or what is the main motive of your desire. I hope it is the same desire as the Apostle Paul when he was ready to pour out his last drink offering of life to the Lord and to be with the Lord as we read in II Timothy 4:6-8. You see for nearly 35 years the Apostle Paul had walked with Christ and served Him in sharing the gospel, planting churches, being used to write much of the New Testament. He said, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept (defended) the faith." Paul had labored, sacrificed and battled. Yet his greatest battle was not against false teachers, demons or Satan. His greatest battle was against his own personal sin. The weariness of life is bound up in the reality that while we are trying to be successful in the battle against the outside forces we are constantly having to fight to overcome the fight which is on the inside. The longer the believer lives the more they long for ETERNAL RIGHTEOUSNESS!
As e study the scripture we find there are two basic things a genuine believer longs for. First, they long for the presence of Christ. Secondly, they long for the absence of sin. The Lord spoke about this in his Sermon on the Mount. He said inn Matthew 5, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled." The genuine believer has been given a HUNGER for RIGHTEOUSNESS. Thank the Lord that for the believer they have received IMPUTED righteousness (Romans 5). And that they are receiving IMPARTED righteousness (Romans 6) as they are being sanctified. But we will not receive FULL and COMPLETE righteousness until we leave this world and are with Christ in heaven.
You see the longer we live the greater the desire to become FULLY righteous. It is part of our salvation. It is a work of God in us. And we begin to understand more and more that FULL righteousness will not be until the Lord takes us in death or rapture of the church. I can testify today that what has become one of my deepest longings is to be in the presence of Christ and to be absent of sin. To be absent of sin is to be fully righteous. The greatest CROWNS of REWARD are the general crowns given graciously by God to all His redeemed followers. They are:
THINK ABOUT IT!
Never ever knowing another temptation of sin.
Never having another evil thought.
Never saying another evil word.
Never experiencing another fear.
Never committing another evil deed.
Never again feeling or being guilty.
Never desiring a substitute for our Lord.
Never being unfaithful.
Never being deceived or deceiving.
Never being jealous.
Never depressed or discouraged.
NEVER EVER STRUGGLING WITH YOUR PERSONAL SIN OR THE SIN OF SOMEONE ELSE EVER AGAIN!
Sounds pretty sweet to me. May we live now with that great hope and until that day of hope arrives may we FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT knowing that one day the fight will be over once and for all.
"Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” II Timothy 4:8
Philippians 2:6–8 reveals the way Jesus thought at his incarnation when he took a human body. SO it helps us to understand how he wants his redeemed followers to live our human lives.
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
We are not naturally inclined to think of ourselves in a lesser way nor are we taught such in today's secularized culture. In fact we are inclined and taught the exact opposite. Yet the Lord Jesus when he was born in a manger began his human life of humility which ultimately brought him to the cross! So we see our view of living is much different than the Lords, in reality totally opposite.
We are inclined and taught to think much higher of ourselves. We desire more recognition. More achievement. More attention. More exaltation. Yet our Lord in human flesh shows us we should think lower of ourselves. We should have more humility, more service, more sacrifice.
We are inclined and taught to promote ourselves yet Christ modeled emptying ourselves, ( Luke 2:7). We are inclined and taught to think self gratification yet Christ taught by lip and life to serve others, (Mark 10:45).
We are inclined to disobedience yet Christ lived in obedience to the Father and teaches us to live our lives seeking to please the father not our flesh, ( John 8:29 ).
Christ chose death for mankind bringing salvation to all who would repent and receive by faith his atoning work on the cross. Yet human nature is inclined to choose temporal life and short term success in this world at the expense of long term loss in eternity.
For those who have received Christ and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit it is possible to think and live like Christ. In his power we can choose a different way of life. As we do it will change our life and transform our daily thoughts and actions. Bringing results that are abundant and eternal.
Which direction will you think about yourself?
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus"—Philippians 2:5
Paul the Apostle in his epistles often used athletic metaphors to help explain spiritual truths to the readers. He spoke of boxing in I Corinthians 9:26, wrestling in Ephesians 6:12, fighting in II Timothy 4:7. Paul's favorite much-repeated metaphor was FOOTRACE, which he used in Acts 20:24, Romans 9:16, I Corinthians 9:24-26, Galatians 2:2 & 5:7. In Philippians 3:12-21, he reveals one of the greatest characteristics of his life, he understood he was in a Race of Life! He knew he had been given a christian race to run, his race was to win a prize and at the finish line his prize would be Christ, Himself! Paul lived with one primary goal of life and that goal was an upward and high call from God. He lived each step of life with that goal in mind. Every step of life must be toward Christ. For Paul every decision, purchase, relationship, thought, needed to fit into his primary goal and if it didn’t he understood it would affect how he ran this race which was set before him and there would be a possibility that he would not finish this race in the fashion that the Lord would be pleased with.
Paul was not only a participant in his own race but he became a coach to all believers running their particular races. The Holy Spirit gave Paul some RULES for SPIRITUAL ATHLETES which he shares in Philippians 3:12:-16. I would like remind myself of these rules today and encourage each reader as well to run by the rules in order for each of us to finish our races and not end up on the sidelines.
RULES FOR SPIRITUAL ATHLETES
I. NEVER CEASE TO IMPROVE ! ( 3:12 )
Paul understood that the Christian life is a lifetime process of growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord. Paul knew he was not perfect and his pursuit in the flesh for perfection was in vain and his pursuit in the Spirit would be a process. It was clear to him that what he was seeking was perfection (Christlikeness), and every step he took should help him become more like Jesus but that would never be complete till he left this world and was then made completely perfect in glorification. The Apostle Paul was undoubtedly the most committed, dedicated, spiritually mature christian who ever lived yet he confesses that he has not attained perfection 30 years after his salvation experience! God uses Paul to teach us “ perfection in this life will always be a goal (for the believer ) never an achievement in this life”. The Christian must never stop running the race toward the High Calling of God in Christ Jesus as long as they have breath. So every day lets get up and join the race again to become more and more like Jesus. Follow after this ONE thing! Give this your MAXIMUM EFFORT 24/7!
II. ALWAYS STAY FOCUSED! (3:13)
Every runner in a race knows they must fix their eyes ahead of them. Those who watch the crowd, look at their feet, glance backwards are likely to fall. Maximum effort must also have focused concentration on a point ahead. Pauls says, “ this one thing I do”. Many dabble in a lot of things and accomplish very little and succeed in nothing. Verse 13 teaches us that we must “ forget things behind and reach forth to things ahead”. To STRETCH every spiritual muscle! Distractions are the enemy of success in life. It is like texting while driving or looking in the rear view mirror constantly. These bad habits will take you out of the race pretty fast and often permanently. The spiritual athlete must say focused on Christlikeness.
III. HAVE A PROPER MOTIVATION! (3:14)
The motivation is to win the race, cross the finish line, finish the race. The race is often not fun, it will be painful at times and is exhausting. But the finish line is what it is all about. PRESS ON is the heart of this passage. I PRESS is in the present tense and suggests we are to continuously, constantly run. We are running to the prize and not lose the prize. We will have opponents and obstacles in this race. What is our ONE consuming passion of life? Why do we get up every day? For Paul it was a passion to know more of Christ so he could become more like Christ! It wasn’t food, job, career, friend, family, pleasure, recreation a vacation. Everything the spiritual athlete does must come under the authority of the HIGH CALLING of God in CHRIST JESUS upon our lives. EVERYTHING must fit into the goal of becoming like Jesus! The proper motivation is a HEAVENLY MOTIVATION not an earthly one.
IV. RUN YOUR OWN RACE! (3:15)
Paul addressed the issue of others in the Philippian church who were teaching that you could become totally Christlike in this life. They taught that perfection was possible in this life and the result of such fales teaching was people ceased attempting to become like Christ. They were SPIRITUALLY SIDELINED! Paul encourages them to continue running their own races, and he actually uses sarcasm with those who teach the possibility of complete perfection this side of heaven. Paul exhorts the believers to have THIS MIND- to continually think you are not perfect, you need to keep running at maximum effort, your OWN RACE because you know by experience you have not attained perfection yet. Be a BIBLICAL THINKER as you run your personal race we each run the race according to God’s gifting us, assigning us a particular race, giving us allowed times and abilities.
V. KEEP RUNNING YOUR RACE! (3:16)
Paul gives one more rule - let us walk. The word walk in this verse is in the (continuous tense) and is used for living one step at a time. LET US KEEP WALKING, LIVING, PARTICIPATING in the RACE of LIFE. Keep attempting to become like Jesus until you see Jesus! Don’t retire from this at age 48, 62, 70 ! RUN TO THE FINISH! NEVER QUIT! PRESS ON ! We so often give up to soon. We don’t finish because we give up. We are to endure in this race and persevere. Don’t give in to pain, laziness, pleasure, opposition, obstacles, age, fatigue, sickness, nothing! Keep your passion no matter your age. Keep your fire for God. DIE CLIMBING! You may have to pace your race! You may need to adjust your race but never stop running your race till Christ comes for you in death or rapture. Then you will receive your TOTAL PERFECTION, your CHRISTLIKENESS and you will have FOUGHT YOUR FIGHT, FINISHED YOUR COURSE , KEPT YOUR FAITH! YOU WILL HAVE BEEN A SUCCESSFUL SPIRITUAL ATHLETE, one who hears the words WELL DONE!
I wanted to share a few more AMAZING GRACE STORIES this week. God is moving in powerful ways here at Liberty Baptist Church in Sweetser, In. My purpose in sharing these stories is not to bring glory to man but to God and to encourage others by seeing that our Lord is building His kingdom here and around the world. God is graciously working through the lives of His children.
AMAZING GRACE STORIES!
What's Your Story?
Today we received a call from a mother who lives in another state. She shared that her adult son has been attending Liberty Baptist Church for several weeks and that he called to tell her how the Lord has been working in his life powerfully since he has been attending. This mother was so excited to thank our church for the ministry the people of Liberty have been extending to her son and his wife. She said she and her husband have been praying intently now for several years that this would take place. They were so thrilled that the Lord was answering their prayers through His ministry here at Liberty. That is another AMAZING GRACE STORY!
What's Your Story?
Debrina Vanness is a young lady who rode on the bus and attended Liberty Baptist Church as a child and teenager. For several years she stopped attending but just a few months ago she came back to church with her children and that Sunday evening the Lord spoke to her in a powerful way and she rededicated her life to the Lord. Since that time she has been faithful to attendance and has actually began serving in the bus ministry. Debrina works at a care facility and was helping a 101 year old who was bedridden. The lady expressed she was very afraid to die. Debrina began to share the gospel with her and asked if she would like to receive Jesus Christ as her Savior. She shook her head yes and Debrina lead her in a prayer of salvation. The lady squeezed Debrina's hand as she prayed and a strong peace entered the room. The family of this lady had been stnding out in the hall and as they entered the sweet peace as well and they were thankful for Debrina helping in such a way. After Debrina's shift ended she went home and about 5 hours after this event she was contacted and told that the 101 year old lady had died. BUT in reality she was still alive and will be forever! Five hours left in life and still God had AMAZING GRACE for her. What an AMAZING GRACE STORY!
What's Your Story?
This past Sunday the message theme was from Ephesians 2:1-10. The focus was GOD'S GRACE IT REALLY IS AMAZING! During the invitation five people raised their hand letting us know they had just prayed to repent and receive Jesus as Savior. This reminds us of the how the Lord will work when we preach the gospel of grace. It is God's amazing gracious work among us! We have already been in contact with several of these people and will contact the others in the next day or so in an attempt to begin to disciple them. But the cool thing is one of these men actually called the church and asked to meet with a pastor so he can LEARN HOW TO LIVE FOR JESUS! That shows evidence that there is a INWARD POSSESSION OF AN OUTWARD PROFESSION. What an AMAZING GRACE STORY!
This week on our church web sight, we've added a new page entitled SHARE YOUR STORY. We are asking our congregation to share stories about how the Lord is working in their lives and the lives of others with whom they are connecting. All of us love a good and positive story, especially one that reveals the power and grace of our Lord as He works mightily in the lives of people in bringing them to salvation and abundant living.
You will be able to share your stories for others to be uplifted and the Lord to be glorified. There is so much bad news --let's help get some good news out as well. These stories can be about a multitude of things where God has worked in the lives of people. It is easy to do. Just go to the “ Connect” page and click on SHARE YOUR STORY and share what God is doing in and around you! Be mindful of those you share about, you may want to ask permission before sharing names.
I have shared two short stories that have been submitted and will soon be shared on our new sight.
What's Your Story?
A young mother of two was invited to Liberty a few weeks ago by one of her coworkers who attends Liberty. On her third Sunday of attending, she sought a pastor out after the service and said, "I would be ashamed to die and see the Lord." At that moment, she was led in a prayer of repentance of sin and acceptance of the Lord's gracious gift of salvation. She is now beginning a discipleship program and her life has been changed forever. Keep inviting others to church. God's Word is powerful.
What's Your Story?
Two weeks ago a young wife and mother received Christ as her Savior. She has been in church the last three Sundays. She and her husband came to the Midweek meal last Thursday and attended an elective class. She has begun Liberty’s new believer's discipleship Bible Study . She has decided to follow the Lord in believer's baptism next Sunday. Praise God for the Power of the Gospel. Let’s keep sharing the gospel because it is the POWER of GOD!
I suspect that after reading these two short stories that you have been encouraged as a christian and church member. I am sure that the Lord has been glorified and that each of us have been reminded that we are each a part of the GREAT STORY our Lord is writing for all eternity. What a day it will be when we see how all our stories were linked together for the Glory of God.
Ephesians 2:7 “ That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
Reasons for Scripture Memorization
Committing to our memory is beneficial in every arena of life. It is especially important for the follower of Christ to regularly work at storing up God’s Word in our hearts and minds.
It definitely requires much effort and time to accomplish such but all the effort will pay off in both earthly and eternal dividends. Following are a few reasons we need to memorize the Holy Scriptures today for tomorrow!
I. It will assure victory over temptation.
“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). Remember that Jesus overcame the devil’s temptations by proclaiming, “It is written” (Matthew 4:1–11). When you are tempted to sin, you will be empowered to do the same if you’ve memorized empowering Bible passages. The Holy Spirit will bring to mind the Scriptures you have stored in your heart, working like the “sword of the Spirit” to defeat evil; this sword is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17).
II. It will reveal God’s will in our life.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). Whenever you are faced with a choice—big or small—you can know that the Holy Spirit will bring to mind Scriptures that will help lead you in the way God wants you to go. The Holy Spirit will never lead you contrary to the Word of God. The Word of God is His will for you—so do everything possible to fill your mind with Scripture.
III. It will provide help during trials.
“Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart” (Jeremiah 15:16). Often in our busy lives things happen that are very difficult and we are not in a place that we can sit down and read our Bibles. Sometimes when we’re hurting, tired, offended, discouraged, it can be very easy to dwell on our difficulties and very hard to pick up our Bibles and read them. So often we have heard our Lord speak to us through the Word which we have stored up for such a time when we didn't even have the strength or the desire to read our Bibles. Think about the joy it is to help bring to a friend, co-worker, even a stranger a Word from God by spontaneously speaking His beloved promises, for his or her exact need, from your heart!
IV. It will enable to learn & live God’s Word and lead others to God.
“Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness” (1 Peter 3:15). Sometimes our witnessing opportunities take place at moments we least expect them. When others ask us for reasons for our inward hope. We can be prepared to answer their questions immediately because we have memorized the truths of God’s holy word. Past preparation makes all the difference in our present opportunities.
V. It will sustain focus on God, developing a deep relationship.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). The Word of God changes us in every way. Every moment we spend in God’s Word is another moment in communion with God. As we spend time with God we become more like Him. What better thing to do than to prayerfully focus on a Scripture, to focus on the mind of God, and solidify His Word, His will, and His heart into ours?
Terry has been the Senior Pastor of Liberty for 30 years. He and his wife, Karen, have 4 children, 11 grandchildren, and 1 spoiled dog named Cooper.