Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Losing Self to Gain Christ

Devotion: Philippians 3:4-7

In our passage from last week, the Apostle Paul warned the Philippians of those who would seek to steal their joy by encouraging them to put their confidence in someone or something other than Christ. While the Apostle certainly has salvation in mind, we may expand that idea to include the conception of the self (i.e. who I am) and how and who defines the self. The temptation today is to demand the autonomous creation of identity. In other words, the culture teaches, that the individual gets to define self in numerous categories and that self-determination is tyrannically imposed on others. The value presented here is the value of definition, specifically self-definition. The place of the Christian in this is to question if that is something really to be valued at all.
Too often as we confront a culture gone mad we attempt to combat the symptoms, but do not touch the disease--those being the worldview values underlying the increasingly strange list of things that can, should and must be self-determined about the self and must, in turn, be accepted if not celebrated by others. When Christians go to war on these issues we typically think we will dissuade the other from a list of behaviors and they will come around to our way doing things. We too often leave untouched the sick and deadly worldview values and thus accomplish nothing in the long term, if we accomplish anything at all.
A better approach is to deal at the level of values, which I use here almost in an economic sense. A value is something we desire/want and will give of our resources (whatever those may be) to obtain it. Understanding this concept of a value, a good question to seek to answer would be, "What is it that a particular person values and how are those values determined?" When we get at values, we can understand confidence. Hence:
"though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ." -Philippians 3:4-7 ESV
The Apostle demonstrates here the works-based worldview he had prior to his faith in Christ Jesus. He believed and acted upon values that stated that what you are by birth and what you do as a result of that is your reason to be confident that you have right standing with God. To be sure, the Apostle abandoned these values when he came to know Christ, realizing that these were false values leading to a false confidence.
The same is true today and we, as followers of Jesus, need to apply that truth. My self-worth is not determined by self-definition and your acceptance (if not celebration) of my self-definition. Instead, my self-worth is determined purely by the death of the Son of God on my behalf. Christ Jesus, out of pure love, gave himself in my place upon the cross. In humility Christ emptied himself that I may be filled with the presence of God. In that worldview, what is valued is not self, but Christ. My values are further determined by the values of Christ Jesus and never by the prevailing whims of culture.
When we meet people who are confused in a deeply confusing age, the kind and loving thing is to discuss what is valued and to honestly share our values as followers of Jesus. And remember, what we value above all else is Christ and even the self is not too high price to pay to gain him.

News for You:

  • We are hosting an evening of community prayer and worship of February 28 at 7 p.m. Please plan to come and pray with us.
  • Ash Wednesday is March 1. We will have services at both noon and 7 p.m. for those wishing to enter into a season of repentance in preparation for Resurrection Sunday.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Whence Confidence?

Note: Sorry to take an unexpected hiatus. Illness and other pastoral duties kept me from my weekly posts the last few weeks. Hopefully this will be a very isolated break.

Devotion: Philippians 3:2-3

After the Apostle Paul charges the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord he warns them of those who, if possible, would take away their joy. There are simply those in the world who want to be so serious about all things that joy is simply squeezed out. Christ Jesus in Matthew 11:19 stated, "The son of Man eating and drinking and they say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds." It is not that Jesus came to eat, drink and be merry, but rather that in the joy of God's redeeming love, Christ Jesus celebrated when sinners came near to him because in drawing near to the Redeemer they drew near to their salvation. This is the heart of God--not that you should be condemned, but that you should be saved (John 3:16-21, Mark 10:45). The angel of God announced the coming of the Redeemer as good news of great joy (Luke 2:10). With all this joy in salvation we could begin to think that everyone will rejoice, yet in practice we know this is not the truth as the Apostle makes clear.
"Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh" -Philippians 3:2-3
The Keepers-of-the-Way-Things-Are (KOWTA) do not find joy in the coming of Christ Jesus in any shape or form. When Christ came in the flesh his earthly ministry was met with derision, denunciation and eventually, death. When Christ comes to a sinner in faith too often the KOWTAs seek to steal that joy of salvation. The Apostle here warns the Philippians of this possibility when he specifically warns them to beware of those who would seek to impose the Jewish ceremonial law onto those who have their salvation in Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is the fulfillment of the Jewish ceremonial law and those who follow him are not longer under its constraints. Yet, the KOWTAs then and now want to be sure everyone does just as it has always been done. This is confidence in past method and not in King Jesus the Redeemer.
While the circumcision party does pop up here and there with calls to return Christians to the Jewish ceremonial law, far more common today in the new KOWTAs is a reliance upon a particular way/method/mode of being/doing Church. Worship music fights are often a clash with the KOWTAs of two different camps. Church budgets are often the product of KOWTAs. Even something so simple as amending the bylaws can lead to a KOWTA battle. The remedy for these and countless other examples is Christ Jesus.
Christ Jesus is our confidence--never a way of doing things. Our salvation belongs completely to him and to no one else, not even ourselves. The entry into the covenant people of God (what circumcision symbolized and is now symbolized in baptism) is accomplished in his saving work upon the cross and confirmed in his resurrection. Our salvation is completely the work of God and we add nothing to it by our own works. We are God's covenant people because God has chosen us for Himself. Thus, we have the authentic Spirit of God who leads us into worship in various forms and we put our confidence in Christ Jesus in whom we glory.
So watch out for the KOWTAs who would steal the joy of salvation and place upon the burden of slavishness to a set of practises as if they were necessary for you to be saved. The only thing necessary to be saved is Christ Jesus. Through the Spirit's gift of faith in Jesus you have every confidence in the world of your salvation. Yet if we seek to add our confidence based upon our own actions, we have no confidence at all.
Rejoice with the one who rejoices to give you redemption and let any who would lessen your joy fall silent.

Opportunities to Serve:

  • Our music leader, Elder Don Pearce, will be gone for the next 3 Sundays. We are looking for any in the congregation would like to help lead worship on February 26 and March 5. If you are interested, contact Pastor Bill.
  • Jeff Jeremiah, the Stated Clerk of our General Assembly, has asked for your help in raising awareness and calling on our government to take action regarding the wrongful imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey. You can read more about the situation here. You can also sign a White House petition here. The goal of the petition is to garner 100,000 signatures by March 8 so that it will require an official White House response.

News for You:

  • The church office will be closed on February 20 in observance of President's Day.
  • We are hosting an evening of community prayer and worship of February 28 at 7 p.m. Please plan to come and pray with us.
  • Ash Wednesday is March 1. We will have services at both noon and 7 p.m. for those wishing to enter into a season of repentance in preparation for Resurrection Sunday.

Shout Out:

Thanks to everyone who made our Mad Hatter Tea Party such an enjoyable time of fellowship. A special thank you goes to Jim and Sandee Freese for many hours of preparation and clean up.