Monthly Archives: June 2019

What is the meaning of life?

Peninsula Community Church 

June 9, 2019

Philippians 1:21-26 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

To live is Christ, to die is gain. What a powerful statement! What a statement of resolve! Someone has said that we cannot truly live until we are ready to die. What I love here is that Paul is honest in his appraisal of the situation. He is honest when he says that he would rather be with Christ in heaven but he knows there is a plan for his life here on earth. There is a tearing and pulling in his heart. He is battling being ushered into the ultimate life with Christ in heaven and living life in abundance here on earth. What he is saying is that no matter what happens He wins. He wins in this life because his life is in Christ and that means everything. If he dies, so what, because to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). You see Paul wins either way. 

It is this understanding of life that allows Paul to be secure in knowing the meaning of life for him and his purpose in life. The fact is throughout history mankind has been searching for meaning in life. They want to know that their life will count for something. They want to know that when they die they have made a difference. The question of course is what does that means to each individual and how is that played out for each person. 

We just celebrated D-Day, the invasion at Normandy. The men who stormed the beaches at Normandy served their country well. They were willing to give their life because they knew it meant freedom and overcoming the force of Hitler’s army. They knew they had to take the embankments ahead of them. They had to overcome the machine gun nests. They knew they had to make a difference. Their life had meaning and all of society owes them a debt of gratitude. 

To fully understand Paul’s attitude, we must look at the historical perspective in the day that he writes this passage. Of note this was not written by Paul in the palace or by the lake where he was fishing. This was written from prison. It was written in A. D. 61 when Paul was in the Roman prison awaiting trial before Caesar. He had been arrested as an insurrectionist against the Roman Empire. He faced the real possibility of losing his life for his faith in Jesus Christ. He knew that Caesar had the power of life and death and that he would use that power without hesitation. That is the circumstance that Paul is writing this message to the Church at Philippi. 

It is also noteworthy that this was not always Paul’s mindset. When we are first introduced to Paul, in the book of Acts, he was not a follower of Christ. He was totally the opposite. He was an enemy of the Christian community and was a passionate follower of Caesar and the Roman government. At the hands of Paul many died a horrible death. It was Paul that stood on the sidelines as Stephen, the passionate deacon of the early church, was stoned to death (Acts 8). 

But God had a plan for Paul’s life. God saw something in Paul that was needed for the kingdom of God. It was God who had created Paul with this innate ability to lead and an innate passion to serve wholeheartedly. To capture Paul’s heart, Paul had a miraculous encounter with Christ. It was so miraculous that Paul was knocked to the ground and was blinded by the glory of God that was revealed in that moment.

You see this story is really a tale of two men. Both men were fully dedicated to the cause they supported. Prior to his conversion to Christ, Saul was passionately committed to killing and eradicating Christians from Roman society. When Stephen was stoned, Scripture states that those who did the stoning took their garments and laid them at the feet of Saul. This is significant for two reasons. In part, they had to remove their outer garments in order to stone Stephen, but they also recognized Saul was their leader. He was the one who ordered the stoning of Stephen. 

This same man, who had been an enemy of God, was now a friend of God. He understood the power of transformation more than anyone else in his day. He understood the power of a changed life. He was transformed from being a murderer to being a healer. He was transformed from being a purveyor of death to being a minister of grace, life, and salvation. He was moved from honoring and serving Caesar, the god of Rome, to honoring and serving the God of the universe and all of creation. He was a changed man.

 

Paul was transformed in his thinking and in his understanding of what was important. He knew his focus was now on serving the living God. That is what gave his life meaning. Two times he alludes to the primary purpose of serving Christ and that is to bring glory to Christ. As believers we are to glorify His name. Listen to Paul’s own words. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 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. Did you catch that? Paul’s desire was that whether he lived or he died he wanted to honor Christ and His sacrifice for him. 

We see this again in verse 25-26. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. Paul wanted to glorify Christ but He wanted others to glorify Christ by the way he lived and the witness of how he handled the stressors in his life. In other words, he wanted to glorify Christ in order to motivate others to glorify Christ. That is where our life really begins to have meaning. Our life has its greatest meaning when we live, act, and speak in a way that brings glory to Christ.

So let us bring this home in order to understand how to apply this into our life so that our life has maximum meaning and purpose. Here is the deal, our life has the most meaning when we are glorifying Christ in our life and when we are encouraging others to glorify Christ. When we are pointing people to Christ, we are then living with meaning and purpose. 

So, the question for us today is how is my life glorifying Christ? Do I glorify Him on my job? Do I glorify God in how I handle my finances? Do I glorify God in how I give to support the ministry of God? Do I glorify God in my private time, when no one else sees what I do? Do I glorify God in how I deal with my children regardless of how old they are? Do I glorify God in my community? Do I glorify God in the way I treat my wife? All we do must glorify God and lead others to glorify Him and not the opposite. 

Paul knew that what he did here in this life would affect his future. You see we cannot live meaningless lives here and expect to live through eternity with joy. Paul understood a principle that we need to understand. How we live now affects how we will live for eternity. Imagine this cord in my hand is eternity. Imagine this cord is so long that it circles the globe a number of times. (Francis Chan illustration) That is a great distance, but when compared to eternity it would be just the beginning. 

This red area that I have marked here represents the timeline of your existence. It is only an inch or two on this long cord. For that reason we have but a small imprint on the scope of eternity. That is why what we do here is so important. Paul knew that, and he knew that he had committed himself to live for Christ and that no matter what happened the rest of his life in eternity would be okey. His greatest desire was to reach others for Christ and to model how to glorify Christ. 

You see there is a lot that I do today because of my past, but I am learning to do more because of my future. It means fulfilling the call to honor God in all I do. When we see Jesus we will receive reward or will we regret the things we did. How did I use my time? How did I use my finances? Too many today want to live for themselves and do no worry about eternal issues. They believe that they can live any way they want to and that will be okey. But one day, they will have to give an account of what they have done. This short space of time called our lives changes everything. 

The choice is to glorify self or glorify God. To glorify yourself is to receive your reward now and not in eternity. We see actions being taken today to satisfy oneself and to make a name for oneself. These things will be burned up in the end of time but what is done for God will last forever. What we do on this red line makes all of the difference. So how is your red line? Are you more focused on your self or on what is ahead. Is your focus on the past and its failures or do you focus on what is to come in your life and the glory that is to come? So, how will you live your red line.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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He will Finish what He Started 

Peninsula Community Church 

June 2, 2019

Philippians 1:3-11 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Over the next couple of weeks we will take a look at the Book of Philippians to understand the power of joy in our life. To accomplish this we will choose key verses in the book as a means to discover the power of joy. For today, we will look at one of the great facts about God. What God begins, He will complete. In understanding this truth, we gain a greater view of the character of God. In so doing, we grow closer to Him and we learn to trust Him more. 

I am always amazed at the promises that are made by people that are not kept. Many people promise the world, but they do not keep their promises. Sometimes they have good intentions, but life gets in the way. How many times do we hear stories of contractors who promise the world, but fail to produce to the level of their promise? When this occurs, we can feel deceived and disenfranchised by these empty promises. 

But let me let you in on a secret. There are those in the world that break their promises, but God does not operate that way. Paul knew that and he wanted the church at Philippi to know that He that began a good work in you will complete it! Here is the deal, God does not start something and then leave us hanging. God does not make promises only to break them. God does not forget His promises nor does He allow the cares of life to get in the way of the promises He made. God keeps His word. In this, we have the security we need to endure whatever might come our way and it opens the door for us to experience overwhelming joy no matter the circumstances we face. 

Paul in his letter to the church at Philippi speaks a lot about the power of joy in one’s life and the source of that joy. Paul is saying that this principle gives us hope and brings us peace as we navigate the issues of our life. Paul was confident that God finishes what He starts. I was reminded this week that God did not bring the nation of Israel halfway through the wilderness and leave them there. He brought them through the wilderness to the promise land. The sad part is this journey took longer than it should have. They complained and argued with God all the way through the process. They denied God and followed other gods, even when God was blessing and providing for them. This blows me away that they would have been so insensitive to what God was doing. It is so sad that their journey should have taken 40 days not 40 years. Their lack of faith and their disobedience caused their entrance into the promised land to be delayed. But it did not deter God from fulfilling His purpose for them. He finishes what He starts.

It is important to know that our decisions have consequences. While our decisions may delay God’s promises, it does not stop God from fulfilling His promises. In fact, it was through the delay that the Children of Israel learned much about God’s character and much more about themselves. It was through the wilderness journey that their hearts were revealed so God could bring healing and hope to every heart. It was through the journey that God prepared them to fight the battles that were yet to come. It was through this journey that God was able to take the Egypt out of their heart to prepare them to be the powerful army that would take the land promised to them. Yes, they had a long delay, but God finished what He started.

In our passage, Paul uses some powerful words to express this principle. Paul emphatically states “I am sure of this.” “I am confident.” The Greek word used here for confident is PEITHO. It means to come to a settled persuasion concerning some truth or fact so as to be persuaded or convinced. The word suggests that a conclusion has been reached on reasonable grounds. The apostle’s observation of what God had done among the Philippians and his reflections on the ways of God, led him to form this judgment. Paul was entirely convinced of this truth. He had no doubt. The bottom line is that Paul was convinced that God would complete the work He started in the hearts of the church of Philippi on the day of their salvation. 

The perfect tense of the verb indicates that Paul had come to this settled persuasion, but he remained confident of God’s desire and ability to continue the transforming work in the lives of the Philippian believers. He had no doubt about their salvation or their security. It is noteworthy that Paul’s confidence did not rest on the Philippians themselves, but on God, who would preserve them and enable them to reach the goal set by God. 

God is at work in His people. He is changing the thought patterns and the preferences of our sinful nature, so that we love what He loves. He is retooling our brain. He is reconstructing the broken places of our lives with infinitely greater skill than the world’s foremost micro-surgeon.  He is not going to give up on us and the process He started. This promise is nothing more than the New Covenant promise of Ezekiel 36:26-27note. ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you, I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes.’”

The basis of Paul’s confidence was in the fact that it was begun by God. He knew and held God’s promises with high esteem. He knew that God’s promise would be permanent. Had it been the agency of man, he would not have such a conviction.

So how do we apply this practically in our life? First, note where the work takes place. It is in you and not among you or on you. Paul is reminding us here that the real work He is doing is in us. He is in the transformation business and He will not give up on transforming us from the inside out.

Second, we can be assured that He will not get tired or get weary in this work. I love the words of Isaiah in Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. Here is an amazing truth that bears our attention. God does not grow weary in His work. He does not give up. 

The reason God does not give up or weary is that He sees something in us that we do not see in ourselves. Someone witnessed Michelangelo chipping away with his chisel at a huge shapeless piece of rock. The man asked the sculptor what he was doing. Michelangelo replied “I am releasing the angel imprisoned in this marble.” So it is with us. He is working to release and construct us into His special being. He sees who we are before we know who we are.

Third, through the work of Christ we are counted as perfect in Christ but one day we will be presented as perfect. In that day, there will be no sin, shame, anger, guilt, fear, or disappointment. There will be nothing broken about you in that day. This promise means that God is working stuff out in us right now. He will not give up and He will complete the transformation that He was begun. At the point of salvation we are new creations and He is working that out in us for our benefit and for His glory. 

Fourth, God wants you to know that the failures of your life do not stop the perfecting process He started. The sin that you committed and have asked His forgiveness for does not stop the process. Paul’s joy in and hope for the Philippians was not only about completion on the last day, but about progress today, as well. Do not lose heart. Do not give up. We think we have blown it and we have failed, but God uses that to teach us, strength us, and move us to a better place. Remember Israel? 

Jesus did something pretty amazing. He gave us the cross and the empty tomb to remind us that He does not give up on us. Today we celebrate communion. The communion elements also remind us that He never leaves us nor forsakes us. He does not give up on us. He completes what He starts.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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