Choose Your Color

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Philippians 2:12  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,

Some Christians are like chameleons – they change their color. They may do it as a defense to camouflage themselves from an enemy, or they may do it to fit into a particular environment. Whatever the reason, they just don’t seem to be able to express themselves consistently.

Here are a couple of interesting facts about chameleons, and from them we can make a spiritual application.

  • The name “chameleon” means “earth lion” and is derived from the Greek words “chamai” (on the ground, on the earth) and “leon” (lion). Christians who change their behavior and appearance to fit in to their environment are living under the influence of Satan, the “earth lion.” They may not realize it, but their attempts to fit in to their environment are destroying their spiritual vitality. Because they fear being seen as Christians in an unGodly world, they have become earth lion’s themselves, changing their appearance and their behavior to fit whatever crowd they are in. They do not conduct themselves in a consistently God-honoring way. As a result, they do not stand firm and contend for the gospel, but instead are frightened of the people that oppose Christianity.
  • Many people think that the chameleon’s ability to change its body color is purely an adaptation to its surroundings. Although the surroundings play a significant part in determining what appearance will be put on, the motivation for changing appearance is not based on the environment, but rather is an expression of the physical and physiological condition of the lizard. The skin color is changed under influence of mood, light, and temperature. How true this is of Christians as well. We allow our physical status to determine our level of joy, and we allow our emotional state to dictate our external behavior and appearance. We make the choice to let the earth’s environment overwhelm the spiritual experience and we live as earth lions rather than children of the Lion of Judah.
  • One more interesting fact – the skin color of a chameleon also plays an important part in communication and rivalry fights. I have seen the faces of far too many Christians change in an instant from composed natural tones into hot-heated red when they are confronted by someone of a different opinion. I have stood in embarrassment beside Christians as they change their color to tell off-color stories because they want to be noticed or to fit in. I have been such a chameleon myself. We all have become earth lions at times because we were ashamed to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul challenged the Philippian people to not be chameleons, but to consistently obey God no matter what their surroundings or their group of influence. God did not save us from the earth lion and then leave us powerless against his influence. No, He saved us and made us more than conquerors over the earth lion through Jesus Christ, who is heaven’s Lion. If you’re going to change your colors, why not wear the Savior’s? Submit yourselves to God, and resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

Choose a color, and then stick with it.

Pastor John

 

Learn to Love

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Philippians 2:12-13   Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Is there anything more fulfilling in this life than to know that we are loved? When God created Adam He said, “It is not good for man to be alone,” so He created Eve, and they experienced love. Love has been the objective of human existence since the beginning. It has been the subject of countless books and countless more musical lyrics. “Love makes the world go ‘round” was the theme of the 60’s, from Motown records to the Bell Telephone Hour television specials. We’ve been told to not sit under the apple tree unless it’s with the one you love. Everyone is looking for love, and most are looking in all the wrong places.

Paul addresses the people in the church at Philippi as his dear friends. Paul said, “My beloved.” They were more than his friends – they were dearly loved. They had reached a point of intimacy that involved the sharing of their lives. Here’s how Paul described the relationship he had with the people in the church when he wrote a letter to his dearly loved friends in Thessalonica:

We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. 1 Thessalonians 2:8

That’s the kind of love we are all looking for – someone who is delighted to share their life with us. We want to be pampered and romanced. We want to feel special and valued. We desire to be the delight of someone. But we must be careful not to let the pursuit of love become self-centered. Notice what Paul tells the people at Ephesus about how to experience true love:

1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2

Paul makes it incredibly clear that true love can only be experienced in this sequence: first, God loves us by giving us Jesus. Second, we love God for giving us Jesus. Third, we love others as Jesus loved us. If we get any of that out of order, we will mess up the pursuit of love.

Are you looking for love? Become a person who loves. Not sure you can? Then let God love you. When you begin to experience the sacrificial love of Jesus for undeserving people, then you will be able to do the same.

Pastor John

Permanent Joy

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, April 9, 2018

Philippians 2:9 – 11 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

In case you have forgotten, the overall purpose for my writing these devotionals on the book of Philippians is that we might discover the reality of abiding joy, even when the circumstances of life are producing the opposite response. Today I want to be brief, and simply relate to you the words of two songs that God used to bring joy to my heart during a dark time of my life.

During the days leading up to the death of my mother, I spent a lot of time in God’s Word seeking strength and comfort. I found it in the second chapter of Philippians. I prayed to be made nothing, and to have the nature of a servant. I humbled myself to the divine will and purpose of God, sacrificing the temporary on the altar of the permanent. I am at peace that God guides every step, and even when those steps take us through the valley of the shadow of death, we have nothing to fear (Psalm 23). Even when the situations and sufferings of life seem to indicate that God has forsaken us, “Yet He is still enthroned as the Holy One!” (Psalm 22) And one day, maybe today, I will see Jesus face to face and I will behold Him in all of His glory.

I want to give you the words to two songs today and trust that they will touch you as they have touched me. During that dark time in my life, I listened to them over and over again, and they brought great joy to my heart.

 

Before The Throne OF God Above

Before the throne of God above

I have a strong and perfect plea

A great High Priest whose Name is Love

Who ever lives and pleads for me

My name is graven on His hands

My name is written on His heart

I know that while in heaven He stands

No tongue can bid me thence depart.

 

When Satan tempts me to despair

And tells me of the guilt within

Upward I look and see Him there

Who made an end to all my sin

Because the sinless Savior died

My sinful soul is counted free

For God the just is satisfied

To look on Him and pardon me.

 

Behold Him there the risen Lamb

My perfect spotless righteousness

The great unchangeable I AM

The king of glory and of grace

One with Himself I cannot die

My soul is purchased by His blood

My life is hid with Christ on high

With Christ my Savior and my God.

  

We Shall Behold Him

The sky shall unfold preparing His entrance
The stars shall applaud Him
with thunders of praise
The sweet light in His eyes shall,
shall enhance those awaiting
And we shall behold Him, then face to face

The angels will sound the shouts of His coming
The sleeping shall rise
from their slumbering place
And those who remain
shall be changed in a moment
We shall behold Him, our Savior and Lord

We shall behold Him, We shall behold Him
Face to face
in all of His glory
we shall behold Him, we shall behold Him
face to face, our Savior and Lord.

 

Mom, you showed me the way to find permanent joy. Thank you!

Pastor John

 

Humility Produces Obedience

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, April 6, 2018

Philippians 2:8 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

John 10:14, 17 – 18 14“I am the good shepherd…and I lay down my life for the sheep.  17The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.  18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Hebrews 12:2 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 In case you’ve gotten into the habit of skipping the Scripture passages and jumping right to the devotional, go back and read the verses above. I’ll wait……………………

I wanted you to be able to see something very significant. Follow along with me.

To accomplish the Divine plan for the restoration of man’s fellowship with the Father, Jesus became nothing. He emptied Himself of the glory of His deity, and took on the nature of a servant. He was made in human form and took on the physical appearance of a man to embody the servant nature. He lived the complete human experience, except He never sinned. He laughed and cried. He was hungry and ate food. He experienced pain and suffering. He felt every emotion we have felt. Yet His responses to those emotions always honored the Father. He was found in appearance to be human in every way.

But one thing was different about Him. It doesn’t have to be different, but it is. Jesus was on a journey to joy (Heb. 12:2) just as you and I are; yet there was one significantly different characteristic of His journey that we seem to have trouble with – He totally obeyed His Father in heaven. Any and every command given to Him by the Father was completely obeyed. Jesus admits in John 10:17-18 that He had the authority to respond to the command any way that He wanted to, but He chose to use His authority to obey. What motivated such obedience that He would choose to suffer and die horrendously for His sheep? What is necessary for us to become that obedient?

The key is in Philippians 2:8, where we see that Jesus “humbled Himself.” He had already chosen to empty Himself of the glory of His deity, and now He chose to empty Himself of the glory of humanity. This is imperative for us to both understand and to do.

Jesus could endure the cross and scorn its shame because He had emptied Himself of any need for human gratification. He was totally fixated on the fulfillment of God’s purpose. He modeled this to us during His temptation in the wilderness when He resisted every attempt by Satan to convince Him to accept worldly fulfillment and satisfaction. He succeeded at resisting because He had already emptied Himself of any desire to let His humanity govern His emotions and decisions. He had instead chosen to be governed by the Divine plan of God and the joy that would be His when it was accomplished. He wanted no glory as a man: He wanted only the glory of His Father.

Obedience results from humility. Disobedience is the pursuit of self. Our disobedience of the Father’s will is the cause for our lack of joy. Just as Jesus had the authority to choose to obey or not to obey, so God has not removed our right to choose. Jesus chose obedience because He had humbled Himself to God’s outcome. We choose disobedience because we want our outcomes. We must go back to the point of becoming nothing and humble ourselves. We must empty ourselves of all need for human glory and become obedient to the Divine will and purpose of God at all cost. Temptation will not deter us. Suffering will only strengthen our resolve. Death will no longer be a sting but will be our victory.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus and the joy that is set before us when we will see Him face to face in all His glory. Let us run the race He has marked out for us with perseverance and power. And when the world shames us for our stand for Jesus, we will scorn it as meaningless compared to the glory we will experience in Christ’s presence someday.

Our battle cry is victory!

Our battle plan is obedience.

Our motivation is humility.

Lay down your life and allow Christ to take it up!

Pastor John

 

A Servant’s Nature

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Philippians 2:7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Matthew 20:26 – 28 Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In 1988 I watched the nature of a man begin to be transformed. He went from being a self-centered alcoholic to a self-sacrificing servant of others. He was deeply impacted by the grace and love of Jesus Christ because he saw another man being a humble servant towards him. He watched as this servant of God shoveled cow manure out of the calf pens in his barn for several hours without complaint. He watched as this man who reflected God’s heart for sinners gave up his time to accomplish any chores he was assigned. Then one day, having earned the right to be heard, the farmer listened as the man answered his questions about faith and salvation. It took several years for the transformation to become truly evident after the moment of salvation, because there was a lot of sinful manure that needed to be shoveled from his life. But today, that man serves the Lord in a local church and has the nature of a servant that was modeled to him.

As you read Philippians 2, verses 6 and 7, you discover the word “nature” used twice – once to describe Christ’s equality with God, and once to describe the transformed character he took on as a human. It is very important for us to understand the extent of this transformation. Jesus did not simply learn the activities of a servant; He became a servant from the inside out. Every miniscule part of His being took on the nature of a servant. Every activity in which he was involved was motivated by the heart and mind of a servant. He did not have to debate with Himself over choices between serving self and serving others: His nature was to serve others. He did not get frustrated with the constant demands of people and the extreme exertion of energy it took to meet their needs. He was fulfilled by serving them because the activity matched His nature. He was not a “fish out of water” forcing Himself to serve people: He was in His natural element as He served because it was His nature to do so.

This both fascinates me and challenges me. I am fascinated by seeking to understand the depth of Christ’s love that He would surrender to such a transformation of His nature. I am also challenged by the significance it has for my life and yours. Jesus said in Matthew 20:26-28 that He is to be our model of serving. We are to be the servant of others “just as” Jesus was the servant of others. That means far more than just learning to do servant acts – it means experiencing the same transformation of our nature that Jesus experienced. We are to accept the very nature of Servant Jesus as our own.

When we come to Christ for salvation we become nothing and we accept from Him everything. We do not ask Him to improve what we already have, but rather we put to death everything that belonged to the old nature and we accept the new nature of Christ. It is a nature of love that manifests itself in serving others.

Do not think that this will be easy. It will be a daily struggle.  Jesus knew this. He had fought off the attacks of Satan when He was tempted in the wilderness, but when He got to the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion He was still fighting the temptation to serve self and not others. He even warned us that this would be a daily discipline when He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Becoming, by  nature, a servant of others, can and must be done. We must become the visible expressions of the love of God for sinners by serving them, and we do that because it is now our nature to do so. Christ lives in us, not to fill in the holes in our old nature, but to transform our old nature into His. When the world sees true and transparent servanthood in our lives, they will listen to the Good News and accept it for themselves.

It’s time to take on the nature of a servant.

Pastor John

Become Nothing

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Philippians 2:6-8 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.

 The creative power of God amazes me. He started with nothing and made everything. He didn’t take a little of something and make it better; He started with nothing but His word. The splendor of a starlit night was non-existent in any form, and then at the command of the voice of God it instantaneously appeared in its completed form.

We claim to be creative because we can take raw material and turn it into something beautiful and useful. That may be imaginative, inventive, and resourceful, but it is not creative. We have redefined the term to fit human capabilities. God alone is creative, and what He has formed from nothing fills me with awe. God’s work is most awesome and most appreciated when it begins with nothing.

In the first official act of Jesus coming to earth as the Savior of the world, He emptied Himself and made Himself nothing. For God to completely glorify Christ, Jesus had to be nothing. It is in the total humiliation of the Son that the Father could work to exalt Him.

As the model servant for all of us, we must begin where Jesus began. But that is not a popular place to begin. So much of the teaching we hear from self-help gurus and self-centered preachers focuses on finding the value of self and building on it. We have been trained by a Godless society to reject any self-degradation, because self has become our god.

But Jesus modeled something completely different – He denied self by accepting the nothingness of self, and He asked God to create something of value.

In one of the most incredible prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament, Psalm 22 speaks of the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus quotes this Psalm while on the cross to add validity to its prophetic truth. Jesus calls Himself a worm, and not a man. He makes Himself nothing in comparison to God. He considers anything and everything about His humanity to be worthless, and completely surrenders to the creative power of God to give Him a life of value.

Psalms 22:6-8 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. 7All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 8“He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”

King David understood the truth of the nothingness of self when he wrote this confession to God after committing adultery with Bathsheba –

Psalms 51:1 – 10 1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.  Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place…10Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Emphasis mine)

When we come to God for salvation by faith, He does not start with something we have to offer Him; He starts with nothing. We do not come to Jesus for salvation by offering Him our best and asking Him to improve the rest. We become as worms before Him, recognizing that we are only capable of processing dirt.

The hymn writer Isaac Watts understood the theology correctly when in 1707 he wrote the song At The Cross.

Alas! And did my Savior bleed?

And did my Sovereign die?

Would He devote that sacred head

For such a worm as I?

In recent years the words of his song have been changed so that the last line now reads – For sinners such as I. Hopefully the theology won’t change with the words. We cannot define sinners as good people who do bad things. From God’s perspective, sinners are nothing and have nothing that God can use. When we admit that truth to ourselves and to Him, His creative power is released and makes something from nothing, and what He creates is good!

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

Jesus is our model – He became nothing so God could make Him something. We need to do the same.

Pastor John

Don’t Be Content

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Philippians 2:5-6  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped…      

When I was young, and to a certain extent it has carried over to the present, I was very discontent. I was always looking for something a little better. If I had a car, I wanted a nicer car, and especially a faster car. My dad saw it in me, and was constantly reprimanding me for it. I can still hear him saying, “Be content.”

I know that material discontent is wrong and does not demonstrate the level of confidence in Christ that should be evident. Discontent also flowed over into a performance discontent in my life. I remember especially being discontent with my golf game, which drove me to learn more, practice more, and score better. Even today, when I do anything of a competitive nature, I want to excel, and I will do just about anything to better myself.

The problem with discontent is that it generally stems from a personal value deficiency. We seek to excel in performance or in possessions because we are trying to prove ourselves to others and earn their approval. Joy will replace discontent when we realize that our value doesn’t come from our performance or our possessions, but from what Jesus Christ performed in us when He saved us and qualified us to be God’s son.

So why am I still driven to improve? Why does it seem to some people that I am discontent? It’s because now I want my life to be one of excellence as an honor to God, not to earn something from God. As a response to His work in my life, I am willing to forget everything that had meaning in the past and press on toward a higher goal – the goal of knowing Jesus Christ fully and expressing the righteousness of God faithfully.

Look at the example of Jesus in today’s Scripture. He is, in very nature, God.  He is equal to Him in every way, yet He did not remain content with His status until He had accomplished God’s purpose.

It is easy for us to believe that we have arrived at a level of spiritual maturity and comfort so that no further advancement is necessary. The older we get the more this becomes a problem. We get comfortable at our current level of understanding and activity. We get conflicted when we think change is coming, wondering if we’ll be able to learn and adjust. We want the security of our memories of how things worked in the past. We want to be content.

Of course, in regard to material possessions we must be content. Look at what Paul says in Philippians 4:11 – 13.

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

But in regards to our spiritual status we must never be content. In Philippians 3:12 – 14 Paul says,

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

So don’t be content with where you are spiritually and with what you are doing in ministry. Don’t look back with pride on your accomplishments and bask in the past successes and recognition. God still has more for you to learn and to do. Press on!

Pastor John