EVEN

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, March 30, 2018

Philippians 2:5-8 5  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

After spending the last few days digging into the truth of spiritual unity in the church, the Apostle Paul now shows us the supreme example of these truths applied to a person’s life. He points us directly to Jesus and His SACRIFICE. It is appropriate that we come to this subject today, on this year’s Good Friday.

Please draw your attention to verse 8.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Now focus your eyes on one word – even.

There is no doubt in my mind that I would put my life at risk to save my wife. I would do it for my children. I would do it for my grandchildren. I would like to believe I would do it for you, too.

But our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ went far beyond what I am willing to do. He put His life at risk for His enemies. He voluntarily sacrificed His life for those who hated Him, mocked Him, and abused Him.

Yet even in that, we have not discovered the meaning of the word even. If all we understand is that Jesus obeyed the will of the Father and died for sinners, we have sufficient faith for salvation if we identify as a sinner and receive His forgiveness. But Paul says there is more than just obedience to the point of death, there is obedience even to death of a cross.

It was not sufficient for Jesus to die for sinners: He had to die as a sinner. He not only died for His enemies, He literally became His own enemy and died. He had to, for our sake. Our salvation depends upon the Father declaring Jesus guilty and deserving of death. Read Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:21.

For our sake he[God] made him[Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

This is the story of Good Friday. This is the meaning of sacrifice. We see Jesus, the perfect Son of God, becoming obedient to the Father to die not just for us, but as one of us. He was, by death on a cross, publicly declared to be merely human. He was judged guilty of sin. He was condemned as nothing more than a mortal deserving of death. Yet His unjustified condemnation was God’s purpose to save those who are justifiably condemned – you and I. His sacrifice as one of us makes possible our exaltation as one of His children.

I believe most of us, if not all of us, would be willing to sacrifice our life for the sake of those who love us. But I am equally convinced that we also put limitations on how much risk we will endure for the sake of those who hate us.

On this day of commemorating the death of Jesus on the cross, remember the word even. Jesus died for even His enemies. He died even as the enemy of God. He died even for me.

Pastor John

Time To Play

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, March 29,2018

Philippians 2:3-5  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  

Several years ago, I coached boys basketball for the local Christian high school. During the first three weeks of practice I was constantly urged by the team members to let them scrimmage. They wanted to play the game all the time, but I knew they had so much to learn. I didn’t give in very often at first, because I knew that what they needed most was instruction. They needed to practice the fundamentals and walk through the offensive and defensive sets to become so familiar with them that when they did get into the game, it would be their nature to perform according to the coach’s design.

So far this week we have been walking through the Coach’s design for unity, and today it’s time to get into the game. We have the head knowledge of what God expects from His church in regards to unity, but now it’s time to make it happen.

In Philippians 2:1-2 Paul described the Coach’s game plan for spiritual unity in the church. Now in verses 3-5, Paul becomes the play-by-play announcer describing the game action. He notices five specific plays that have been designed by the Coach and are being run by the members of the team:

  1. They surrender their personal ambitions for the sake of the team. Do nothing out of selfish ambition. Not one of the team members is ever seen begging for the ball and demanding to take the shot. And we certainly never see any team member choosing plays not designed and approved by the Coach.
  2. They sacrifice personal recognition for the sake of the team. Do nothing out of…vain conceit. When a play works and a basket is made, there is no special attention drawn to the one who scored. In fact, the one who scored usually gives recognition to the one who made the perfect pass or screen to set them up to score.
  3. They stipulate the significance of other team members. In humility count others more significant than yourselves. Every team member, no matter what their skill level, understands that they cannot be a one-person team. Every member of the team is significant and is encouraged to do their best.
  4. They support the individual styles of other team members. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Some of them dribble and shoot right-handed, and others use their left hand. Some of them are better built and equipped to play near the basket, and others are more speedy and able to cover more territory away from the basket. Each team member is strategically positioned by the Coach to best utilize his individual skills and talents.
  5. They shape their attitudes to honor and reflect their Coach. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. The Coach volunteered all His time and energy to bring out the best in the team, so the members of the team do the same. He gave up everything that He had to make it possible for us to experience what we could never have without Him. Team members do the same as servants of one another.

Practice is over. It’s game time. Put on your uniforms that identify you as a member of Christ’s team, and come together in unity to run the Coach’s plays. When we do, victory is guaranteed.

Pastor John

Unity Depends On ME

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Philippians 2:2 …complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

The story is told of two men riding a tandem bicycle up a steep hill. After much effort, they finally made it to the top of the hill. The front rider said, “That was a tough ride.” To which the second rider replied, “Sure was, and if I hadn’t kept the brake on we might have slipped backwards.”

There seems to have been a serious problem of disunity on this bicycle team. Their struggle illustrates a problem that also exists with Christ’s church today – they did not agree on the goal. One thought the goal was to reach the top of the hill; one thought the goal was to keep from going backwards.

This section of Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi deals with the subject of Christian unity. Yesterday we answered the question, “What motivates unity?”  Today we dive into the second of three questions we posed on Monday, “What does a person look like who is striving for unity in the church?”

There are four spiritual characteristics that must be true of an individual’s life for unity to happen in a larger group of people. Paul lays them out for us in Philippians 2:2.

  1. They share genuine like-mindedness with other believers. “…of the same mind…” A word of warning is very necessary at this first point – being like-minded does not mean agreement on theology or lifestyle choices. Do not let legalism be validated by a misunderstanding of what like-minded means. So many churches have disunity because they seek to force compliance with a particular set of beliefs or a code of conduct. That’s not Paul’s intention. What is really meant by like-minded is that we seek a genuine understanding of the nature and character of God and let His Spirit dictate belief and behavior. Like-minded people focus on “things that are above, not on earthly things.” (Col. 3:1-2) When the individual people in a church all focus their minds on knowing God, then the Spirit of God brings unity.
  2. They seek to love others equally. “…having the same love…” There is no place for favoritism in the body of Christ. Love is not rationed out based on our perceptions of status or worth. There is no place for racism in the heart and mind of a person motivated to unity by the nature of Jesus Christ. In Romans, Paul says, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.”  And in Galatians he says, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Unity requires equality of love.
  3. They submit to others. “…being in full accord…” John MacArthur defines this phrase as: …to live in selfless harmony with fellow believers. By definition, it excludes personal ambition, selfishness, hatred, envy, jealously, and the countless other evils that are the fruit of self-love. Unity requires the sacrifice of self on the altar of serving others. A church that is filled with people who have servant hearts is a unified church.
  4. They strive toward a singular purpose. “…of one mind…” This phrase means, “to speak motivationally about the shared understanding of God.” In other words, as a result of knowing God we know God’s purpose, and we encourage one another to focus all of our energy into accomplishing that purpose.

Paul’s description of the spiritual priorities of united people forms a complete circle. In seeking to know God we share a genuine like-mindedness that expresses itself in unconditional love and acts of service to one another as we encourage one another to fulfill the purpose of God that is constantly being revealed through a deeper understanding of God. This is the life cycle of a healthy church.

But as we all know and have experienced, that circle can be broken. Disunity does happen. Are we willing to look at ourselves as the possible cause? We must! What part of the circle of unity needs attention in your life right now so unity in your church can be achieved and maintained?

Pastor John

 

Basic Needs Met

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Philippians 2:1  So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,

 People who have the responsibility to put together a unified team of individuals that can accomplish a common objective have probably the toughest job in the entire world. Whether they are coaches, executives, or office managers, the challenge is the same – to eliminate the focus on differences and create unity so the goal can be achieved. Successful leaders know how to motivate people to be a part of a bigger picture, rather than just the snapshots of their own experience.

The Apostle Paul understood human nature. He knew that every human being has the same four basic needs. If these four longings of every heart could be satisfied, then people would have a common foundation upon which to build a united organization. Paul also understood that these four needs could only be truly met in a relationship with the Creator who designed them. That is why the church of Jesus Christ is to be the living example of unity for the rest of the world.

What are these basic needs we share? Look at Philippians 2:1 and you will see them all:

  1. Acceptance
  2. Love
  3. Intimacy
  4. Caring and giving

Unity in the body of Christ is possible because everyone in it has had the same four needs met completely by Jesus Christ. We know what it means to be absolutely accepted for who we are because Christ totally accepted us when we repented of our sin and received His forgiveness. He accepted us to the infinite degree that we are eternally united with Him.

We know the comfort that comes from being unconditionally loved, because even when we do sin, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

We know the joy of intimate fellowship, because our lives have become the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit of God. He searches the deepest and most intimate parts of our hearts, exposing them to the grace of God, and leaving us at peace. That’s true intimacy.

Finally, we know the fullness of life that can only be experienced through giving because we have been transformed by the nature of Jesus Himself. We have been given hearts of tenderness and compassion so that we might give of ourselves in service to others. It is in caring and giving that the fullness of the heart of God is experienced.

Before Paul takes up the subject of what unity looks like in a church, he first makes sure that each individual in the church has had all four of these basic human needs met by Jesus Christ. Church conflict and disunity can be eliminated if each individual in the church becomes the person described in Philippians 2:1. When we grasp that glorious reality, we will then understand that every other person who has been saved is identical to us. We will be motivated to unity because in Christ we have all had the same needs met and we have all been made equal.

Dear God, thank you that in Christ I have been accepted, that I am loved unconditionally, that I can be totally transparent with you and be at peace, and that I have been given a heart of caring so that I might serve others. I also thank you that my brothers and sisters in Christ are experiencing the same joy, and that we can be united because in Jesus Christ we are one. Amen!

Pastor John

Christ’s Oneness

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, March 26, 2018

Philippians 2:1-5 1  So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

When I was a sophomore in college my best friend and I decided that we would start a gospel team. We wanted to go out and do music ministry in churches. We signed up with the Campus Ministries office and began recruiting our musicians. Soon we had a piano player and 4 vocalists. All five of us were from different church backgrounds, yet we all had a desire to serve God in music and preaching. We selected a bunch of music to perform, but as we started practicing we realized we needed a name for our group. We wanted something unique, yet we wanted it to define who we were and the purpose of our ministry. We talked about our various backgrounds and we discussed the variety of churches in which we would perform. We decided that above all else we wanted our group to model unity in Christ, and our music and teaching to help the body of Christ become one – so we named our group “Christ’s Oneness.”

That name doesn’t market easily on posters and in church bulletins. It’s even a little hard to say. Maybe that’s why we never got very popular and never got to record an album or an 8-track tape (Yes, that’s how old we are.) But when we got questions about our name (and we got lots of them), we shared about the joy of spiritual unity that occurs between people when their focus is on Jesus Christ as Lord.

As we continue our study of the book of Philippians, we come to a chapter that describes the characteristics of spiritual unity. In this second chapter Paul clearly delineates what the activities and attitudes of the people should be based on their partnership with Christ in the gospel. Within the context of these admonitions, Paul gives us one of the most wonderful statements on the deity of Christ in verses 5-11. Jesus is the role model for all of us in living a joyful life of unity as servants of one another. But we will take those verses up in the days ahead. First, we need to look closely at verses 1 through 5, as they challenge us to consider our actions and attitudes in relationship to other people within the church.

From those verses we need to ask ourselves four very important questions:

  1. What is the basis for spiritual unity?
  2. What motivates spiritual unity?
  3. What does unity look like when it happens?
  4. How do we live in unity with others in our everyday experience?

To answer the first question, would you please consider these statements from Jesus Christ Himself in John chapter 17? Jesus is praying for the disciples and for all of us, knowing that while we are in the world we are to be the living examples of His truth and love. Of all the things he could have asked for to fulfill God’s glory, this was His priority – (I have added the emphasis)

11I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one… I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

 If you are like me when I read devotionals, my goal is to get to the end. We become so goal oriented that we skip over the lessons the Lord wants to teach us. So go back and read that passage of Scripture again – slowly and prayerfully. Look for application points to your life. Then ask yourself these two questions:

  1. “Am I living as an answer to Christ’s prayer?”
  2. “Am I a part of Christ’s Oneness?”

Reflect on this, and you will discover there is great joy in the unity we can have with ALL those who believe in Jesus Christ.

Pastor John

Behave Yourself

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, March 23, 2018

Philippians 1:27-30 So that… I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

 When I was a young boy, I remember sitting in the back seat of the car with my brothers as we would accompany our parents to the home of someone from our church. My dad would be going there in an official capacity as a pastor, and we were along because the whole family had been invited for dinner. I specifically remember the little speech we would get along the way. It included a simple admonition to behave, along with the traditional “sit still and be quiet,” and “use your manners.”

I knew what it meant to behave myself in a way that would honor my parents because I had been taught the specifics at home. I didn’t always do it (you can ask me about the time at Miss Stevens’ house), nor did I always think the expectations on me were fair. But I knew what I should be doing to conduct myself in a manner worthy of being a pastor’s son.

Paul makes sure the people in the church at Philippi know what it means to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ by telling them the conduct code. Here are the four rules of Christ-like conduct Paul gives us in this passage:

  1. Stand in one spirit firmly – Don’t let disharmony occur within the church. Keep focused on God’s purpose and plan, not your preferences. Bear with one another’s faults and failures. Encourage one another. Love and forgive one another just as Christ loved and forgave us.
  2. Share the workload fervently – Paul says, “striving side by side.” Become as one person doing the work of God. Let each member of the body of Christ do its work so that the whole body grows together to efficiently and powerfully accomplish God’s purpose.
  3. Strive for the faith fearlessly – Don’t let any opposition stop you from carrying out the ministry God has given you, both individually and as a church.
  4. Suffer for Christ faithfully – God has granted us the privilege of complete understanding of our union with Christ through our suffering like Christ. Don’t run from suffering, but embrace Christ in your suffering.

There you have it – the four fundamentals of conduct worthy of Jesus Christ. Study them. Memorize them. Be changed by them. When you wake up every morning and hear your heavenly Father say, “Behave yourself,” you’ll know exactly what that means and how to do it.

Pastor John

Conduct Becoming to Christ

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Philippians 1:27-28 27  Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28  and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.

When I was a teenager I began to be very concerned with the way I looked. (I know what you are thinking – I had a lot to be concerned about.) I took notice of what other people were wearing and the current styles of haircuts, and I wanted to look my best. One day, when I was a sophomore in high school, I was wearing a royal blue shirt, and one of the cheerleaders from the 2,600-student school I attended said to me, “You look really good in blue. It brings out your beautiful eyes.” I think I wore blue every day from then on.

In the good old days of my youth, there was a term used to describe clothing that looked good on someone. I remember my dad using this term once when describing a new dress my mom was wearing. He said, “That dress is very becoming on you.” What he meant was that the style, color, and fit of the dress brought out the best in mom, just like the blue shirt brought out the best in my eyes.

We have all taken notice of things like that for ourselves and for others. We still wear certain types of clothing and certain colors because we know they are very becoming on us.

That is the same word that the Apostle Paul uses when he says, “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” In fact, the King James Version of the Bible uses the word “becoming”. Paul wants us to understand that our conduct is to be chosen in the same way we choose our clothing – make sure it is becoming.

But our conduct is chosen for a different purpose than our clothing. We choose our clothes to bring out the best in us. We choose our conduct to bring out the best of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At least we should. Just as our clothing is a representation of who we believe we are, so our conduct is a representation of who we believe Jesus to be.

Check out these other uses of the word “worthy” by Paul:

Colossians 1:10  …so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

1 Thessalonians 2:12 …we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

Ephesians 4:1  I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,

The big question we all must ask and answer for ourselves is this: “Is my conduct becoming to Jesus?” In other words, when people observe my behavior, do they see the best of Jesus in me?

Here’s a thought: why not ask them. We ask them how our clothing looks on us, and we seem to trust their opinion. Let’s ask them how our conduct looks on us, so that whatever happens in life, whether good or bad, our conduct is always becoming to Christ.

Pastor John