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


LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Philippians 1:22-26 22  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24  But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26  so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

Choices. We all have them. We all make them. Every day. Probably every minute of every day. Life boils down to choices. Choices boil down to motives. Motives always originate in the heart. The heart always determines our choices.

Jesus confirms this when He says, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” We think we are making choices that make us look good, when those choices are really motivated by a heart that seeks value, affirmation, or personal reward. The heart must be transformed by the grace of God for the choices of life to be joyfully made.

Paul models that for us in today’s Scripture passage. He is faced with a choice. He is in prison, and is contemplating not being able to carry on His ministry. He is considering the value of staying alive and continuing to work for the Lord, or dying and going to be with the Lord Jesus forever.

Here are three principles from how we see Paul evaluate his options.

  1. He is so convinced of God’s purpose for His life that the ONLY options he considers are those that flow from God’s purpose. He considers everything about life on this earth to be an aspect of doing the Lord’s will. He does not need a list of a third or fourth or fifth option. He knows that joy can only be fully experienced when we live in the will of God and eliminate all other options.
  2. Both of Paul’s options are so right that it’s painful for him to make a choice. Paul made sure that every choice he made fit into one of these two categories: God’s will for life on earth, or God’s eternal reward waiting for him in glory. When we learn, like he did, to limit our earthly choices to these two categories, we will begin to experience consistent joy. There is no third category labeled “Personal”. If you have such a category, it is probably your joy-sucker.
  3. The choice to center his life on God’s will resulted in Paul being focused on what was best for others, not himself. Even though the choice to remain here on earth was less desirable than the option of being in glory with Jesus, he didn’t make the choice based on personal benefit. The option to stay in the flesh was considered ONLY for the benefit that would bring others. Their progress and joy in the faith was his motivation.

We often get hard-pressed between choices, but probably for the wrong reasons. We are weary from making choices between blue or red, big or small, cheap or expensive, and worst of all, between spiritual or personal. Paul reminds us to acknowledge that all choices fall into the spiritual or personal category, and that the key to joy in life is to make that fundamental choice.

Choose to eliminate all self-serving options. Choose to consider only those things that serve the purpose of Christ. Then, as Paul demonstrates, even the pain of making those choices will result in joy, because it becomes a win-win decision.

Pastor John

Never Separated from Christ

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Philippians 1:18-21  Yes, and I will rejoice, 19  for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20  as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Recently I achieved what could be considered a milestone by some, and a millstone by others. I passed into my 66th year of life. I celebrated by walking and running a mile on the treadmill in under 12 minutes. Then I lifted some weights. I am preparing to play in a three-on-three basketball tournament on Sunday with my two sons, who have enough confidence in me that they invited me to be on their team. Either that or the just needed someone to look good on the bench.

My wonderful wife is a great encouragement to me as we talk about our desire to stay around as long as possible to enjoy our family. I know I’m not in charge of the length of days of my life, but I can do my best to make every day count with a vision for the future. I want to stay in Christ’s service so long as I can.

Nevertheless, the reality of old age and eventual death has started to sink in as we reach this stage of our lives. Yet, in the midst of that, I have discovered an ever-increasing sense of joy in my relationship with my wife. The joy of our present relationship far outweighs the possibility of future realities.

Our present relationship with Christ should bring us even greater joy, because He is our future reality. Death has no sting for those who are in Christ Jesus. The fear of separation from whom and what we love is removed because death does not separate us from God, but rather completes our union with Him. We can be living today in the future reality of intimacy with Christ.

According to Paul in today’s Scripture reading, God has provided us with four things that cause us to rejoice in the present when faced with the reality of death. Here they are:

  1. The prayer support of fellow believers. Endurance is tough when we stand alone, but it is enhanced when we are supported by a band of brothers and sisters who care. Praying for one another produces solidarity by bringing all of us into unity in the heart and mind of God. When the singular purpose of God is understood through prayer, people are encouraged and strengthened to unite in accomplishing that goal.
  2. The power of the presence of the Holy Spirit. The indwelling presence of Jesus in the Person of the Holy Spirit gives us constant help and hope. The joy of the present relationship far outweighs any of the possible outcomes of the hardship.
  3. The promises of God. Paul says, “…what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage…” He had total confidence in the promises of God, using terms like “will turn out”, “I eagerly expect”, and “will have sufficient courage.” He never doubted the power of God to fulfill His promises in his life. Knowing that God was at work and would not fail gave him great joy despite the severest persecutions.
  4. The plan of God. “Christ will be exalted in my body.” That was Paul’s understanding of the plan of God for his life, and it is God’s plan for us as well. We will find reason to rejoice when we accept God’s plan, and allow Him to use our lives for His glory, whether by life or by death.

Separation is never easy. It is not easy for me to think about being separated from my children if God would call them to another place to serve Him. It may be hard for you to open up your heart to where God might call you to better serve him in some other capacity so that the Kingdom can grow. It is far easier to maintain the status quo than it is to be uprooted. But we must trust the sovereignty of God who knows these three things to be true:

  • you will grow to greater maturity by obeying;
  • you will influence others in a way God wants when you go;
  • and you will be replaced by someone whom God has prepared to do the same.

Don’t be so comfortable where you are and so afraid of separation that the glory of God ceases to be your motivation for living. Be bold and be strong, for the Lord your God is with you.

Pastor John

Knowledge is a Joy-Sucker

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, March 19, 2018

Philippians 1:15-18 15  Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16  The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17  The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18  What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

When I think from a human perspective about what Paul wrote here, I conclude that he crossed the line of common sense and spiritual purity. Let me explain.

Last week we talked about Paul’s ability to find the good in every situation, no matter how much suffering it was causing him. But I cannot relate to what he says today. His ability to find good in the false pretense of preaching the Gospel is not a part of my nature. It is my natural tendency to correct those who misrepresent the Gospel. Whether they teach direct lies, or misinterpretations, or teach with wrong motives, I somehow feel qualified and authorized to point out their error and if possible to correct them. And as I observe what is happening in Christian culture today, I am not alone in this.

I see a direct connection between the lack of joy in our lives and the abundance of criticism we have towards those who believe differently than we do. Let me be clear – the context of this passage is not Paul’s acceptance of a false Gospel. He is not declaring his joy with false teachers. However, he is clearly rejoicing that the true Gospel is being taught, even when the teacher has impure and even shameful motives.

My heart is truly breaking over the state of the American church. The things I am about to share are hard for me to say, but I must share my heart. Christians are dividing the Body of Christ over prideful pursuits of theological knowledge. We believe that our superior knowledge separates us from others in the Body of Christ who do not have the same knowledge. We move from church to church, and many times the motive for such a move is pride in what is being taught, rather than a humble, loving response to the Holy Spirit’s placement of us where He wants us to serve Jesus. We then proceed to recruit others to follow us. We are dividing the Body of Christ.

Paul warned about this in I Corinthians 8, when he wrote, “Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.”

We have elevated theological knowledge to a position of higher priority than loving God and sharing the love of Christ.

Compare the current state of the church to what Paul declares in Philippians 1:15-18. When the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being preached, Paul rejoiced, regardless of the motive of the preacher. If Jesus Christ is being proclaimed as Savior, we are to rejoice. If the cross of Christ is being declared as the only means of salvation from sin, then we are to rejoice. If the resurrection of Christ is declared as the way Jesus secured our eternal life, then we are to rejoice.

My friends, we are guilty of not doing this.  Knowledge has puffed us up. Pride in what we believe has replaced love for those who do not yet believe. Pride in our preferences has divided us from others in the eternal Body of Christ. All of this has destroyed our joy in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today, we fall on our knees before the Savior, and confess our sin, and rejoice that whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed.

Pastor John