Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Stand Firm in the Lord

Devotion: Philippians 4:1

The Apostle concludes this section on who to and not to imitate by calling the Philippians to greater faithfulness.
"Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. " -Philippians 4:1
This is one of the passages of Scripture that simply needs to be read over and again. In it we find the Apostle's love for the Church, his longing to be free from his imprisonment to be with the Philippians again, his joy that they are following Jesus in faith and his confidence that whatever accomplishment and accolades he may have, his greatest is that a Church of believers is flourishing in Philippi where none existed before his proclamation of the Gospel.
The command then to stand firm in the Lord to the Apostle's brothers and beloved is in light of the example the Apostle is setting in prison for the his faith and for the benefit of those in that community. To stand firm in the Lord is to maintain the truth and walk in the light of Christ. To stand firm in the Lord is to imitate the Apostle. To stand firm in the Lord is to lay down any other confidence, any other accomplishment and any other accolade and instead find one's whole worth in Christ. Read through this passage many times. Memorize it if you are able. Above all, though, stand firm in the Lord.

News for You:

Small Groups start on Sunday. If you have not signed up for a group yet, do so quickly! Do not miss an opportunity to study God's Word and build relationships!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Devotion: Philippians 3:20-21

Last Sunday we celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus. I advised the congregation to read together in families or with friends 1 Corinthians 15. I am surprised I have not received any questions regarding the 'baptism on behalf of the dead' found in 1 Corinthians 15:29:
"Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?" -1 Corinthians 15:29

Two schools of orthodox thought have emerged on Paul's mention of the practice, but both support the same conclusion. First, Paul may mention a practice of the Corinthian church of baptizing dead relatives by vicarious proxy. In this view the Apostle mentioned a practiced, but did not approve it to show the absurdity of denying the resurrection of the dead. In essence, with the first view, the Apostle is saying something like, "Look, if there is no resurrection of the dead, why bother doing this dubious practice?" Now, this first view is problematic on many levels, not the least of which being that the New Testament in general and the Apostle Paul in particular are exceedingly clear that salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (see Romans 10:9).
The second school of thought attempts to understand the term 'dead,' as not referring to people who have died, but rather the physical, earthly, lowly, fallen body as dead. The idea of being dead in sin has some pretty clear biblical backing (Ephesians 2:1) and seems to fit the wider context of the New Testament. In this view, the emphasis is on baptism, not the dead and the argument is something like, "If your body, dead already, is going to be disposed of at physical death, why bother baptizing the physical, spiritually-dead body at all?" Personally, I lean toward this second school of thought on the difficult passage as I think it is both charitable to the Apostle and fits better in the wider context of the passage regarding taking risks for the Gospel with the assurance of resurrection forming the basis of that risk-taking.
The Apostle Paul is clear that resurrection, that is the restoration and perfection of the physical body after death (or in the case of those who will witness the physical return of Christ, at the end of time) is the final and ultimate Christian hope. In our passage from Philippians this week he puts it like this:
"But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself." -Philippians 3:20-21
When read in the wider context of his teaching, the hope of resurrection is why we seek to follow Christ. If Christ Jesus has been resurrected, then those who seek him in faith as Lord should have the same hope and the same end in mind. We are to be changed in faith: no longer citizens of a fallen earth, but citizens of heaven with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities that entails. Our hope is that when Christ returns, we will be changed to be like him physically in resurrection even as we are changed in faith now to be like him in the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Put your hope in Christ and that kind of change that resurrection brings.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Devotion: Philippians 3:18-19

In our devotion last week the Apostle Paul put himself forward as an example to be imitated (and others who followed in the faith he proclaimed). A positive example, one we may seek to imitate, is vital to the life of a maturing disciple of Jesus. On the other hand, we also need to heed the warning the Apostle gives of those who are enemies of Christ.
"For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things." -Philippians 3:18-19
The Apostle grieves the news he must report to the Philippians, but truth is truth. The truth is that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. To be an enemy of Christ's cross is to be an enemy of salvation itself. It is to arrogate life and purpose as one's own choice. The cross of Jesus Christ tells us two things at all times. First, sin is worthy of destruction. When Jesus became sin itself on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21) he took to himself the just wrath of God over sin. Sin is corrosive, self-centering and deplorable. The cross is what sin deserves and what I deserve as a sinner. Yet, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ tells us something else, namely and secondly, grace is more wonderful than we could dare to dream. The cross is the place where God reconciles man to himself (see, for example, Colossians 1:20) and makes peace. As sin meets the destruction it deserves in Christ Jesus, peace is made between the believer and God through the grace-filled blood of Christ Jesus. When the horror of sin is truly grasped, the wonder of grace is revealed. That sin is forgiven instead of punished should lead us to a life of thankful obedience to the one who saved us by his own blood.
To be an enemy of the cross of Christ, then, is to reject the atoning work of Christ and to remain at war (rebellion!) with God. Now this rebellion continues until we surrender in faith to Christ Jesus as our king (prompted and led by the Holy Spirit to do so). Yet, should rebellion persist, the Apostle assures the reader that it will end in destruction, as it must. Imagine for a moment that a man has decided to do battle with an entire army on his own. To be sure Hollywood or the video game industry could craft a story of victory, but in reality it would be a fiction that would perpetuate the very lie the Apostle warns of here. The man would lose the battle and that would be that. Now, expand the mental exercise to a man doing battle not with a large group of other men, but with the omnipotent Creator of all things. Not even Hollywood could craft a convincing story of victory for the man, at least not without weakening the Divine to be a pathetic version of the God revealed in Holy Scripture.
No, rebellion against the Triune God ends necessarily in destruction of the rebel. The only question is if that destruction will come in the final judgment and lead to damnation (eternal destruction) or if it will come in faith and a new man will arise in place of the old (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).
So how is the life of eternal destruction recognized? The Apostle gives three warning signs. First, the belly is god. When personal desires and appetites trump the Word of God, the life of destruction is being lived. All of life, all of one's purpose, all of one's desires are God's to create, form and direct. When the belly, the seat of appetite and passion (to be led by the passions is dangerous from a biblical perspective--here is a sample, but not an exhaustive list of New Testament warnings: Ephesians 2:3, Colossians 3:5, 2 Timothy 2:22; 3:6; 4:3, James 4:1-3, 1 Peter 1:14; 2:11; 4:2-3) is god, destruction will follow as constant consumption is needed. When what is desired drives the man, he will be focused on the self to the detriment of God and others. Such a man cannot and will not fulfill the command of God to love Him and to love the neighbor (Mark 12:29-31).
The second warning sign is to glory in shame. While the Gospel is a call to leave behind the idea of earthly honor and shame, it is also a call to find honorable what God calls honorable and to despise what God calls shameful. The life led by the passions will glory in having its desire, whatever that may be, met. Over and again, sexual immorality is listed as a warning when connected to the passions (as in Romans 1:27 or 1 Thessalonians 4:5) and one that would bring dishonor to the life supposedly dedicated in faith to Christ. To glory in shame is not merely falling to temptation and engaging in sin. No, this is a celebration of sin (sexual immorality or otherwise) and such celebrations are a sign of the rebellion.
The final warning is a mind set on earthly things. In contrast to this, the Apostle will call the Philippians to set their mind on higher things (Philippians 4:8, but also Colossians 3:2). When earthly matters occupy all of one's time and no time is given for justice, honor, purity and love (as defined by God, not man) then the life of destruction is at hand.
So what is to be done? If you are living the live of destruction, trust Jesus, surrender to him in faith and repent. Heed the warning of the Apostle and run to Jesus in faith.

News for You:

  • Holy Week services are as follows:
    • Maundy Thursday (4/13): A service of confession and communion at CPC 7 p.m.
    • Good Friday (4/14): Community worship service at Cornerstone at 7 p.m.
    • Resurrection Sunday (4/16): A service of celebration at CPC 10 a.m
  • Our next Small Group session is coming soon. We will be engaging 6-week study, convening at the end of April, on Hearing God's Word from the Gospel Project. Please plan to join a group!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


Devotion: Philippians 3:17

The Apostle Paul makes the bold invitation to the Philippians to imitate him. The invitation to imitate him as he imitates Christ is a frequent idea in Paul's letter (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1, Ephesians 5:1, 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2:12, 2 Thessalonians 3:7; 3:9, as well as the non-Pauline Hebrews 6:12; 13:7 and 3 John 11).
"Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us." -Philippians 3:17 (ESV)
The Apostle's call to the Philippians is not an invitation to mimic or play-act a life of faith. Rather, the Apostle is putting his own life (at the time, in prison for the Gospel of Jesus Christ) up as an example of faithful obedience. The invitation, then, is not to 'fake it,' but rather to express your faith in this particular way (namely, enduring suffering for the sake of the Gospel). The imitation of the Apostle must be proceeded by the call and confession of faith in Christ Jesus.
Even further, the Apostle lifts up any who continue in this unbroken chain of faithful obedience as those who should be watched, observed and imitated. The Apostle is not concerned with his own fame or glory, but rather with the faith of the Philippians being rightly expressed in their lives. The same is true of the Church today as we seek to disciple believers as they grow and mature in their faith in Christ
Are you looking to the example of other believers and are you being an example to others? The Apostle's invitation is not merely mimic him, but also to serve as an example to others.

News for You:

  • Holy Week services are as follows:
    • Maundy Thursday (4/13): A service of confession and communion at CPC 7 p.m.
    • Good Friday (4/14): Community worship service at Cornerstone at 7 p.m.
    • Resurrection Sunday (4/16): A service of celebration at CPC 10 a.m
  • Our next Small Group session is coming soon. We will be engaging 6-week study, convening at the end of April, on Hearing God's Word from the Gospel Project. Please plan to join a group!