Monthly Archives: July 2019

Is It Possible to Live in Peace?

Peninsula Community Church

July 28, 2019

Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

One of the deeper questions of life is the question of how one can achieve a life of peace? How does one reach the place where they can live in peace? That is the cry of most hearts. In this passage, Paul defines peace by saying that God’s peace passes all understanding. This is a peace that is there when everything around you is falling apart and the world is filled with torment and difficulty. It is a peace that is achieved not by what we do, but whose we are and who we trust. 

It is noteworthy that the dictionary defines peace as follows. Peace is the freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility. It is a mental calm; serenity. It is a state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended. It is the freedom from dispute or dissension between individuals or groups.

It is noteworthy that Scripture suggests there will be no peace in this life. There will always be something that will cause upheaval and turmoil in our life. The kind of peace most people want is just an illusion. It is a fantasy. In Matthew 10:34 and Luke 12:51 we find that Jesus stated that he had not come to bring peace but a sword and division. You see the Jews of Jesus’ day wanted the war and struggle with the Roman government to end. They wanted the factions within their own community to be united, but Jesus reminded them that He did not come to bring peace. Instead of peace, Jesus’ ministry would in fact create more division and more fighting. I believe that today we are in a battle that is not democratic or republican, but it is a battle for the standard that Christ has set for us individually and as a nation. It is a moral battle.

While Scripture gives us the bad news about tribulation in this world and the lack of peace here, Scripture also allows us to see where real peace comes from. Jesus in John 14:27 made this statement. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. The world considers peace as the cessation of war and disputes but this peace is much more than the cessation of war or dispute. It is the internal peace that comes from deep within one’s soul and within one’s spirit. It is a peace that comes from a deep relationship with the living Christ. 

In John 16:33 we are reminded of Jesus’ words. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. The world focused on the outward cessation of tribulation but Jesus focused on the internal cessation of tribulation, so that inwardly we are at peace. That is why in Romans 8:6 Paul without hesitation states For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. That is why Isaiah proclaimed. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you (Isaiah 26:3).

It is from this perspective and understanding of peace that Paul writes the words of Philippians. He begins this passage with the command that we are to rejoice in the Lord always. Wow, what a statement because there are a lot of things in my life that I do not want to rejoice over. In fact, more often than not I have an opposite response but if I am dependent on Christ for all things and if my mind, my soul, and my spirit is at rest in Him, then I can be comforted with the peace Paul defines. He says it is a peace that passes all understanding. It is a peace that baffles the mind. It is a peace that passes all human capacity to understand. Out of this rejoicing everything flows and is ignited by faith. 

As he continues in this passage we find that Paul states that we are not to be anxious about anything because anxiousness takes our peace away. It is anxiousness that deprives us of our ability to rest in Christ. Anxiousness is a deterrent to our peace and to our ability to be all that He desires of us. When we are anxious, our peace is robbed and our hearts are filled with concern about the future and what is to come. The wording here tells us to stop worrying. Give it up.

The cure for worry is prayer and a spiritual focus on Christ. We are all prone to worry, but the principle applied here is that prayer and worry are mutually exclusive. Prayer and worry do not go hand in hand. To cure anxiousness we pray. The truth is worry will destroy prayer, and prayer will destroy anxiety. In other words, worship and prayer is a divine deliverance from the power of worry. One result of coming to the living God in prayer is that worry shrinks and dies at the feet of Jesus. That is why Paul reaffirms that in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 

In this Paul gives us an antidote to worry. First, Paul states that we are to pray. Pray! Now that is an amazing idea. Let me ask you, do you take your problems to the Lord immediately or is it a last resort or last ditch effort to secure God’s blessing? How often do we take things to Him after they have become problems? How many times do we take things to God after we have already become overwhelmed or controlled by anxiousness? That is why Jesus commands us to make prayer a priority in our life by seeking the Kingdom of God first. In so doing, all of the things we need will be added to our lives. 

Second, we are go to the Lord with our supplications, e. g. our needs and our concerns. The word “supplication” means to ask humbly and earnestly of the Lord. It means to request of God answers to prayer. It means that we carry to the Lord what He alone can handle and take care of. This is an echo of Paul’s writings in Ephesus 6:18. We catch Paul mid breath when he says that we should be praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

This is also a reminder of Peter’s words. We are to release everything to Him because He cares for us and He knows us intimately. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7). Listen to the Psalmists. Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved (Psalm 55:22).

Thirdly, we are to do so with thanksgiving in our heart. Thanksgiving and gratefulness must be the corner stone and bed rock of all we do. A thankful heart is a grateful heart. A thankful heart is one that recognizes that God is the only one that can provide and care for us. A thankful heart is a humble heart. When you think about it, it is amazing that Peter, of all people, would write these words. The tempestuous and quick tongued disciple is writing about humility but the reality is that he more than anyone else understood this dynamic. He had learned the lesson of humility big time. He did so through the multiple mistakes he made and problems he faced.

It is here that we come to the conclusion of this passage. As we pray, as we bring our needs to God, and as we begin to express our thankfulness, we find that God’s peace comes sweeping into our hearts and minds because we have the heart of God. That is why Paul could say And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. The result of praying, of bringing our concerns to Him, and living with a grateful heart is that we will obtain a peace that passes all understanding. The opposite of worry is peace and the opposite of peace is worry. The peace that Paul presents here surpasses or exceeds our ability to understand peace. That is why the world around us can be falling apart and we can still be at peace in God. We can rest in who He is. 

And finally, the result of praying is that God will guard our hearts and our minds. The word guard is a word that means to put up a garrison. The literal translation of the word is that He will keep our minds and hearts as a well-garrisoned stronghold. What does that mean? Our thoughts are protected. When we are focused on God, our minds will be like a well garrisoned stronghold that will not allow any thought that is not of God to enter and find residence. It also means that the heart, the seat of the emotions, will be protected. 

This is not a magic pill or a magic formula. The idea is that we continue to press into God through prayer. We continue until we are at peace. We continue until worry is dispelled. We become like the man who had unexpected company and did not have bread to feed his visitors which was a huge necessity of that day. To not give his guest bread would have been a great travesty and a social disgrace. He knew his neighbor had bread and he began to knock on the door until he answered and the man gave him what he needed.

Listen to the story out of Luke 11. And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves,  for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:5-13)!

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Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Are You a Distracted Christian?

Peninsula Community Church 

July 21, 2019

Philippians 3:12-16 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. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

The question before us today is “Are you a distracted Christian?” As an athlete, Paul knew the importance of staying focused and keeping his eye on the prize. He knew that he had to stay the course or he would be distracted and would not finish the race as he would have wanted. Specifically, Paul states that the one thing he does is not focus on what is behind but he is straining, he is focused, on what is ahead. 

The term distracted in the original Greek means “to be overly occupied about a thing; to be drawn away.” Distraction is therefore the act of shifting our attention from something of greater importance to something of lesser importance. The fundamental and most dangerous problem with distraction is when we are being distracted away from God. It is here that we most often sacrifice the best for the good.

The fact is we are a distracted people. We are a busy people. If we are honest we all seem to have a bit of ADD at times. One big distraction in our life is the electronic devices we have and the 24 hour news cycle. In terms of electronic devices rather than talk, we text; we email. While these devices can be used for great purposes they can also become a distraction. The following is a few statistics that are very amazing in terms of cells phones and driving. Using a cell phone while driving caused an estimated 1.5 million car accidents in the United States in 2018 according to the National Safety Council. The United States Department of Transportation reported that cell phone use while driving kills 3,000 to 6,000 people every year. Texting while driving is a contributing cause in 25% of all car accidents which results in almost 400,000 physical injuries. Texting while driving causes 5 times as many accidents as drunk driving does. A single text results in an average distraction of 5 seconds, during which time a car going 55 mph will travel the length of a football field.

There is a second illustration that is common to all of us who drive. When you get into your car to drive you will find positioned in the center of the windshield a rear view mirror. This is an important tool to be used. If you notice the rear view mirror is a lot smaller than the windshield. The reason is that we are to spend more time looking through the windshield than thorough the mirror. If we spend too much time looking into the rear view mirror we will fail to pay attention to what is ahead. That can have a perverse effect on our lives. When I worked for Grumman, I remember on one occasion I was driving to work when I thought I saw a car on fire. I turned away for not more than 2 or 3 seconds to see what was going on. When I turned around I ran into the back of the car in front of me that had also turned to look to see if the car was on fire. Distracted driving is dangerous but being a distracted Christian is also dangerous.

As we turn to our passage, we find that Paul begins with the idea that he has not perfected this process. He still has a long way to go, but he is making head way. We find that Paul gives us three solutions or helps against distractions. He starts with the observation that we are to forget what is behind. This is critical because we can be distracted by our past and we all have a past. Paul states that we are to forget what is behind and press on to what is ahead of us. As we grow as passionate followers of Christ, it is important that we learn the lesson that Paul is teaching us. We do not forget the past, but we must never allow the past to define who we are. We learn from the past, but the past should not be the thing that guides most of our thinking. 

Now granted there are important lessons we learn from our past. For example, from past experiences we gain wisdom. We learn lessons of the heart and mind so that we do not make the same mistake(s) again. From the past, we learn how to navigate the future and navigate the pitfalls of life. The problem, however, is if we stay in the past we will miss future lessons and run the risk that we will be jammed up by the obstacles we face. 

With that said, the problem, too often, is that we are looking through the rear view mirror at what is behind us. We look back at the pain we have experienced. We look back at the words that have been spoken. We look back at the divorce and/or destruction caused by an abusive husband or wife. We look back at fathers who were not fathers at all. They conceived us, but they were not dads. We look back to see where our children have rebelled and have tested every boundary set for them. We look back and see the hurts from those closest to us. We look back at the jobs lost and the failures we have experienced. We look back and remember what we do not have rather than what we do have.

The problem with these issues is that they can become a distraction and in so doing they prevent us moving on with life and what we have been called to do and be. Once again, we do not forget the things of the past as a memory, but we do not allow them to dictate who we will be in the present. We can look back to learn the lessons but to stay focused on the past is a dangerous proposition. It causes us to hit bumps in the road and experience struggles that are unnecessary.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible, and I have many, is the story of Joseph. He had every reason to look in the rear view mirror of his life, but he did not. He could have succumbed to the rejection of his brothers when they sold him into slavery. He could have been persuaded by the false accusations made by Pharaoh’s wife and the original ME TOO movement. He could have been effected by the forgotten promises that were made to him. But Joseph did not become distracted by his past, but rather he focused on the premise and the promise that whatever he went through, the Lord was there and God had a better plan. 

Secondly, Paul also challenges us to strain toward the goal. While this is an athletic term we understand that distractions are all around us. Life itself can be a distraction. Health, jobs, people, and the busyness of our lives can serve as a distraction. In the process there are sacrifices that are made. Family relationships, job performance, friendships, and more are impacted by the distractions in our life. 

I love this quote that I found when I was preparing for this message. Jon Bloom a staff writer for Desiring God wrote We’re becoming conditioned to distraction, and it’s harming our ability to listen and think carefully, to be still, to pray, and to meditate. Which means it is a spiritual danger, an evil from which we need God’s deliverance! The fact is we are conditioned to distractions and we need help. That is why Paul calls us to strain towards the goal. The illustration here is one that an athlete that leans forward to be the first to cross the finish line. We must be intentional in clearing out the distractions and problems we face. 

Thirdly, we find that Paul tells us to press forward. Do not settle and do become complacent. The prize we are looking forward to is receiving the crown of righteousness that has been promised to all believers. That is our reward. It is the crown we will receive, but we will not keep the crown as we will cast it at His feet in the end. While this is true we must be careful about being so distracted that we cannot live in the present. 

So as we close let me give you a couple of action items that will help you to be less distracted. First, you will only grow if you keep looking forward. You cannot say, “I want it like it was before.” Growth means that you change some things. For Christians, it may be some habits. Do you have habits that lend itself to a distracted life? Change is not a bad thing and is often necessary to move into the future. In fact, change can be necessary as a part of God’s plan. 

Second, you will only win the race when you look to Jesus. You can focus on many things, but Jesus must be at the forefront of all that we do. Winning the race means that you work in conjunction with Jesus. He is your coach. He is your cheerleader. He will help you win the race. But you have to keep looking to Him and not to anyone else, or anything else. Jesus needs to be your source. To more forward, you have to be praying, reading His word, and listening to Jesus.

Third, you have to be convinced that the future is brighter than the past. You have to take all of your negative thoughts and submit them to Christ. Christians need to think into the future because God is about the future. God does not stay in the past, neither should you.

Fourth, you have to know that God still loves you right where you are. He does not want you to stay right where you are. God loves us enough that He wants us to grow and mature. God wants to help you with your future. Why? Because He wants you to reach the goal which is eternal life with Him in heaven. You cannot get there by looking back to your past here on earth. There is nothing that will separate you from the love of God in Jesus Christ, not even your past. There is much more ahead of you in God’s love than behind you.

So keep looking forward. God has big plans for you as a Christian, as a father, as a mother, as a student, as a couple, as a church. God has big plans for you. Keep your head up and keep looking forward.

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Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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What’s It Worth?

Peninsula Community Church 

July 14, 2019 

Philippians 3:1-7 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

As we begin this study today let me ask you a couple of questions. In answering these questions you will in essence take a spiritual inventory of your life. How you answer these questions will determine your focus and will perhaps give you some suggestions as to where you need to adapt your life to God’s principles. So, where is your confidence this morning? Is in the possessions you have? Is it in the talents you have been given? Is it in the mental capacity you have to make decisions and solve problems? Is it in your religious activity? Or, is your confidence fully in Christ no matter what comes? I think if we honestly evaluate these questions we will have a sense of where we are spiritually. I trust you agree with the later but the truth is we often give confidence too often to the former things. By the way this is personal evaluation and not an evaluation we are to us against others. With that said let me get into the meat of this passage. 

Paul begins with the familiar command to “rejoice in the lord.” There are more than 20 verses that use this phraseology and specifically command us to rejoice in the Lord. Paul does not beat around the bush but he gets right to the point. To rejoice speaks of our focus and what we have set our hearts on. If we focus on circumstances there is not always as much to celebrate and rejoice over, but when our focus is on the King of Heaven we have much to rejoice about. Notice that Paul states that we are rejoice IN THE LORD. We do not rejoice in our circumstances. We do not rejoice in our health. We do not rejoice in our finances. We do not rejoice in our successes. However, we do and should rejoice in the Lord, no matter what. 

Secondly, we find that Paul gives us a comparison between those who have a different focus and spiritual mentality and those who are passionate followers of Christ. These marginal Christians focus more on the acts they perform than the condition of their heart. The result is they are driven to do things that force others to believe their doctrinal positions even when those beliefs are not Biblical or godly. These folks in particular had focused their spiritual attention on the rite of circumcision. They overemphasized circumcision and under emphasized salvation through Christ. Their entire spiritual experience was wrapped up in the rite of circumcision. In other words, some people take great joy in their moral and physical achievements. They feel so secure in these things they are just like the Pharisee who thanked God he was not like other men because he fasted twice a week and he tithed regularly (Luke 18:12).

Paul did not soften his qualification of such people. He warns the Church at Philippi that they are like dogs. In Paul’s day this was a very harsh word for people. It was a very derogatory word. He continues to warn them about evildoers and those who mutilate the flesh. They had taken a God given connection to the covenant and used it to manipulate and destroy others. They loved to enact the letter of the law, but they missed the spirit of the law. For them the measure of one’s spirituality was circumcision and the outward expression of faith rather than the change of heart that comes through true salvation. That was a problem in Paul’s day and it continues to be a problem today. We can easily focus on religious acts that are good, but in so doing we can minimize our relationship with Christ. Remember, Christ himself dealt with having a right perspective in prayer, giving, fasting, our works, our worship, and more. 

As Paul does so often in his writings while he presents one side of the equation, he then presents a second side to the issue. Paul retorts with For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. Notice here that he does not deny the rite of circumcision but he confirms while we are a people of the circumcision, we are more than that. We worship by the Spirit of God, we glory in Christ, and not the outward expressions of our faith. 

This is a reminder of Jesus’ words to the woman at the well as they discussed to whom worship is due and how that should be worked out. In John 4:21-24 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Our worship and our acts of service must be focused in the spirit and truth rather than false self worship and manmade rules. 

Paul then makes this incredible statement. He says that he does not put any confidence in the flesh. What he was saying is that while he held to the rite of circumcision, he did not put his confidence in that particular spiritual act. He did not have a confidence in his flesh because he knew that his flesh was not an accurate measurement of his spiritually. Therefore, Paul’s confidence was not in the flesh, but in his relationship with Jesus Christ. 

In business one of the important documents that gives a measure of the health of a company or business is a profit and loss statement. This document gives a snapshot of the company’s finances. In this passage, Paul is in essence giving us a P&L statement for his life in Christ. On one side of the report is his family heritage, his education, and his religious resume. On the other side of the report is his relationship with Christ. As Paul reviews all of this, he comes to the conclusion that his goal and passion was to find his joy in his relationship with Christ. That was what was most valuable and necessary for him.

Indirectly, the question he answered was this. What if everything you counted as important was suddenly taken away from you? What if all of your family, friends, job, and all income sources were destroyed and done away with. If we compared these losses with what life has to offer, we would be men and women most miserable. But as passionate followers of Christ we must view this loss in comparison to the gains we have in Christ, realizing that everything in the world without Christ is nothing. While some things are a loss, when compared to our gains in Christ there is no loss at all. 

In essence, this speaks to our value system. We can hold onto the world with one hand and in so doing we lose Jesus and we lose more than we bargain for. If we do not have Jesus we have nothing because one day all of this will disappear, will be burned up, and will fade away. But what you have done for Christ and your relationship with Christ will last for eternity and that is what matters most. It is noteworthy that Paul does not discredit any of these things but he calls for us to put these things into their proper perspective and order. It is Christ first and everything else will follow (Matthew 6:31-34). Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

That is why Christ told his disciples not to return and bury their dead once He had called them. Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:18-22).

Jesus was not being insensitive to their need, but He knew that it would be so easy for them to get distracted by the cares of life and concerns over burying their family that they would miss the opportunity to follow Him. In those days, the son was obligated to be with the father and take care of the business until the father passed away and the son received his inheritance. If this is true, then the problem was more about the son getting his inheritance than obeying the command of God to follow Him. In many ways, their intentions were right, but their priorities were wrong. 

As we close, what does all of this mean practically? Let me give four things. First, it means that whenever I am called upon to choose between anything in this world and Christ, I choose Christ. Second, it means that I will deal with the things of this world in ways that draw me nearer to Christ so that I gain more of Christ and enjoy more of Him. Third, it means that I will always deal with the things of this world in ways that show that they are not my treasure, but rather show that Christ is my treasure. Fourth, it means that if I lose any or all the things this world can offer, I will not lose my joy or my treasure or my life, because Christ is all.

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Whine or Shine 

Peninsula Community Church 

July 7, 2019

Philippians 2:12-16 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, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

This week we have been celebrating our independence as a nation. It has been a week of food, fireworks, and remembering the cost paid for our freedom. The great paradox of history is that there are times that we must go to war in order to achieve peace and freedom. That seems so strange but it is a fact of life. Today, we will look at one of the great paradoxes of Scripture; God’s Sovereignty and man’s freewill.

In theological circles there are two extreme views of Sovereignty and freewill. There are those who believe that God is in absolute control (and we know that theologically He is) but there is presumed to be no responsibility on our part. We just sit back let God do it all. After all, He does not need our response nor does He need our assistance. On the other side of the coin, there are those who believe that it is up to us and us alone. They presuppose that God only responds to us as we work and we work hard by keeping all of the rules and laws which most have been man made and not God ordained. To them, salvation is entirely a work of the human spirit and soul. 

As only Paul can do, he provides a balance to the paradox of these belief systems. In so doing, he assists us in our understanding of what can be a complex issue. I do not want to over simplify this, but Paul presents us with an answer that underscores that we need to do our part and simultaneously God will do His part. The fact is He is at work in us. He is always working, but we must step up and put into action what we believe and what we know to do. We do our part and God empowers us, not as a response to what we do, but because He is working in us. Regardless of what we do, He is always at work. That is what we call grace. In this passage, there is the merging together of man’s free-will and God’s sovereignty. 

For the next few moments let us dig into this passage. It is here that Paul informs us of the seriousness of doing our part. He commands us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. This is a serious process and one that requires us to be invested in the process. This aspect of working out our own salvation is not a deterrent, but rather it points us to the necessity and the seriousness of working out our salvation. The words used here for fear and trembling add major importance to the process of working through this. The idea of fear, as used here, gives us the perspective that we must work out our salvation out of reverence to and with reverence of God. We want to honor God, therefore, we act and respond with reverence to who He is, to His character, and to His sovereignty. Trembling, on the other hand, gives us the awareness we need to have of our own weakness and propensity for sin. In other words, left to our own devices we will mess this up. Without Him we are miserable failures, but with Him we are successful warriors in Christ. 

It is here that Paul flips the coin so we see the other side of the theological paradox. While we do our part, God is at work doing His part. While we are working out our salvation, He is working in us. He does not fling us into existence and then expect us to make it on our own. He works with us, which means He helps us to navigate through an understanding of our salvation. God does this in order to bring about His will and purpose in our life. Once again the goal is for God to be glorified through us and in us. He wants us to succeed. He does not leave us fatherless or without the assistance we need to achieve the righteousness of Christ. He is at work in us. 

Notice that Paul states that we are to work out own salvation. It is a personal journey. We cannot ride the coat tails of others. We cannot blame others if we are not growing in Christ. It is our responsibility. The act of taking responsibility is one of the dynamics that is missing in our world today. We blame others. We make bad choices and push the responsibility of those choices off on someone else. We refuse to take responsibility for our actions. It is here that Paul provides us with insight into how we should live this out. These are not inclusive of everything we need to do but he gives us five action points to consider.

The first action point is to do all things without grumbling or disputing.  One of the ways Paul suggests we work out our salvation is to avoid grumbling and arguing. We are to glorify God in all we do but when we complain and argue we do not glorify God. Throughout Philippians and many of his other writings, Paul suggests we are to give thanks and we are to rejoice in every situation. This is juxtaposed to being a complainer. What Paul is saying is that grumbling and complaining does not suit us as passionate followers of Christ. So, let me ask you, are you a glass half full, or you glass half empty kind of person? Do you immediately look at the reasons why something cannot be done, or do you see the possibilities ahead even if it is difficult or hard? Are you more negative or more positive in regard to life’s circumstances? Do you complain more than you give thanks and you rejoice?

Remember the story of the children of Israel. They grumbled and complained. No matter what God did for them they complained. They argued with God. They looked back more than they looked forward to the promise. They grumbled about the food. They grumbled about the leadership. They grumbled about the living conditions. They grumbled about God. But God was still at work. In spite of their complaining, God led them to the promise land, but it took them longer and the price was much greater than it needed to be.

The second action item is to be blameless and innocent. The fact is we do not always toe the line. We often fall short, but the key is that we must be bold enough to admit when we are wrong and that we need help. God is not looking for perfection, but He is looking for those who are willing to make things right. Listen to Ephesians 4:28-32. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. These are powerful words that help define the life of a passionate follower of Christ.

The third action item is to be without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation. Notice that we are to be without blemish in the context of a crooked and twisted generation. There is no doubt that our nation is crooked and twisted in many ways today. There are many who have an immoral and depraved look at life. For many upside down is right side up, and right side up is upside down. We are certainly living in a time where people are not speaking the truth and are couching things within their own terms and in their own way. 

We are also living in a twisted and perverse generation where sin abounds and sin has become an acceptable way of life in our culture. Who would have thought we would be living in a time where people are allowed to choose their sexual identity rather than one assigned by God the father. Who would have thought we would be discussing the abortion a child even after it is born. Who would have thought we would be discussing assisted suicide in our lifetime. There is so much happening sinfully and morally but we do not have to live that way. In fact, Paul gives us an admonishment that we must not live that way but rather we need to be without blemish. I am convinced if Christians around America and the world would work out their salvation with fear and trembling, life in America would be different and the tide of liberalism would be turned.

The fourth action item is to shine as a light. Paul reminds us that we are lights in a dark world. We do not to become the light, we are the light. Because we have Christ in us, we are the light, because He is the light. We are the light in a dark world. If we allow Christ to shine through us we will see the darkness dispelled. In Mathew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Did you catch what Jesus was saying. In essence, He was saying let Christ be revealed so that your good works are seen and God is glorified. Remember this as well, if your light is shining you do not have to tell anyone. They will know it. 

Finally, the fifth action item is to hold fast to the word of life. This is the clincher in the process of working out our salvation. We must hold fast to the word of life. The phrase to hold fast means to hold your position and to hold your gaze. In other words, you must have a conviction about the truth of God’s unchanging and adulterated Word. You must be able to defend that truth. You must hold your gaze and focus on what is important. In order words, do not be distracted. Do not be deterred from being a student of God’s Word. 

During the Civil War the story is told of Joshua Chamberlain and the men of the 20th Maine. They were already beaten down by the war. They were a bedraggled group of men who had picked up stragglers from other companies who had been decimated by the war. Chamberlain was assigned to cover the far left flank of the union army at Gettysburg. His orders were to keep the Confederates from moving in and taking the high ground. He was ordered to hold that ground, and He and his men did so against all odds of success. That is the idea portrayed here by the words hold onto the word of Life with everything we have. It is a matter of life and death for us spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. Hold to the word because in the word is life and power.

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Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Marks and Motive of Selfless Living! 

Peninsula Community Church

June 30, 2019 

Philippians 2:1-4 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 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.

What if I told you that there is a way to have deep joy in your life? This question is a critical one because there are so many who want to have joy but they do not know how to obtain it. In this passage, there is a principle for Christian life that bears our consideration. In living out the truths of this principle, we find that we will have greater joy and fulfillment in Christ and in our life as a whole. As we unpack this passage, we find that Paul details and outlines what our motivation in life ought to be. It is noteworthy that Paul accomplishes this as he does so often. He contrasts two ways of responding to life by giving us two negatives and then one positive. He then points us to One who is the greatest example of how to live this out.

As we dig into this passage, we find that Paul challenges the church in Philippi to complete Paul’s joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, and living in unity. In other words, Paul is saying that my joy will be complete when I see that you are getting along. This is not easily fulfilled because we battle with the sin nature that calls us to grab credit and puff ourselves up. We are motivated to get what is coming to us. Rather than love and unity, there is a sinful push to be honored and praised for what we do. We work in competition with one another, rather than in the unity the Bible calls us to. 

I was reminded that while we are called to have the same mind, same love, and unity; God has created us so differently and with different gifts and talents. This is a wonderful thing, but the reality is that we often circle our wagons around what makes us different, rather than what makes us who we are as a body of Christ. Too often, we are offended that our opinion is not received or we are taken back that someone has an opinion that is contrary to ours. We would rather gossip and argue than walk in healing and in forgiveness. 

You may not realize it but that is why we have it in the Covenant Member’s Agreement that as members of PCC we will seek unity. We promise we will not gossip about one another. We will seek to resolve our differences. Our Covenant calls us to protect the unity of the church. We do so by placing a higher value on seeing our church succeed in Christ than on seeing any of our personal preferences instituted. We will resolve any interpersonal problems in a loving and Biblical manner. We will submit to the leaders God places over us. We will wholeheartedly subscribe to the purpose, vision, and doctrinal statements of PCC. Finally, we will refuse to engage in gossip and evil reporting. That is the essence of Paul’s words here. We seek oneness and wholeness and not division and competitiveness. We are one body and we want to support that in any way we can.

As we return to this passage, we find that Paul states that we should Do nothing with selfish ambition or conceit. This is not a new teaching but is actually an echo of the words recorded by Matthew in Matthew 6 and Matthew 20. Matthew was struck by Jesus’ words. To summarize we see that the world works one way but not us. We understand that we will be rewarded for the things we do. We will either be rewarded here on earth, or we will be rewarded in heaven. Jesus, in essence, gives you a choice in how you will be rewarded. You can be rewarded now through the praise of men, or you can store your rewards in heaven. It is noted that our rewards here are short lived because we will always have to prove ourselves. We are always have to do more because we never do enough or feel satisfied enough. The eternal rewards, however, are not destroyed by rust, moths or other decaying means (Matthew 6:19-20). They last for an eternity. 

It is noteworthy that on several occasions Jesus alluded to a powerful understanding of this motivation. They do this, but not you! Notice that when it came to prayer, people would pray great grand prayers to make them look more spiritual than others (Matthew 6:3). There were those who made sure that everyone knew that they had given to the church and how much they had given (Matthew 6:7). They would fast and walk around in such a way that everyone knew they were fasting so others would know how spiritually pious they were (Matthew 6:17). They would lord their leadership over others and would let everyone know who was in charge and who the boss was (Matthew 20:25-28). Jesus’ response was to say this is how they lived their lives, but not you, because that is not the way a passionate follower of Christ functions. They are in competition. We serve one another. We give and pray in secret. We fast so that no one suspects that we are fasting and what is done in secret will be rewarded in the open. 

You see when we exhibit the characteristic of self ambition we are prone to self exaltation. Have you ever been around someone who boasts about themselves all of the time? Even if someone wanted to praise them they do no give the opportunity for that to happen. They praise themselves and lift themselves up so that others are sure to know what they have done. They do not give anyone else the chance to do that. They want the credit and are quick to let everyone else know how great they are. They are opposed to the Scriptural mandate to let others praise you (Proverbs 27:2). 

Secondly, Paul states that we are not to do anything with conceit. Conceit is defined as a false estimation of one’s self. In essence, people can begin to believe their own press and love it. In preparing for this I came across an interesting statistic. Did you know that 93 million selfies are posted on some media source every day around the world? That is amazing to me. It has also been shared that deaths from taking selfies are 5 times great than being killed by a shark. 

Consider this simple test in terms of being conceited. This test is between you and God. When you walk into a room does your attitude and body language communicate “Here I am.” “I have arrived.” “I am so glad you get to see me.” Or, do you communicate “man, there you are.” “It is so good to see you.” “I am so glad you are here.” Do not forget that it was selfish ambition and conceit that caused satan to be kicked out of heaven (Isaiah 14:10-17; Revelation 12:7) and it will cause is to fail and fall short as well.

While Paul gives us two negatives he also offers a counterpoint to selfish ambition and conceit. We are to walk in humility. How do we do that? We do so by counting others better and more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:4). We find ways to bless others and lift them up rather than looking to build ourselves up. We look for the good and not the bad or the wrong in others. So, how much time do you spend looking to find things to criticize about others, so that we puff ourselves up and make ourselves look better?

Humility is a big and powerful thing! Listen to James words. But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Did you catch that? God will actually oppose those who walk in pride and self proclamation. The opposite is true as well. He gives grace to the humble. So let me ask you which side of the equation do you want to be on. I do not know about you but I want to be on the grace side and not the opposition side, because you cannot win when God is opposed to you.

As we start to bring this to a close let me give you two illustrations of humility. The first is my time in Mobile. I heard a story this week that only a hand full of people knew about. In fact, no one in the family knew about this event until they were meeting with the funeral director to prepare for my dad’s funeral. Several years ago a young mom and dad had a child that died as an infant. They did not have money to buy a burial plot, so my dad gave up one of his five plots so this family could have a place to bury their child. There was no fanfare. There was so self proclamation. He just did it and no one knew about it. The fact, however, is that Jesus knew, and today my dad has received his reward for that hidden gesture of grace and hope to a hurting and grieving family.

Paul supplies us with a second illustration by showing us one of the greatest examples of living in humility. Listen to Paul’s words. Rather than walking in selfish ambition and conceit, 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, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).

Did you catch what Paul said? Paul challenges us to have the same mind as Christ. What Paul is saying is that we need to walk in the humility that is modeled by Christ. Notice what Jesus did. He did not try to usurp authority. He humbled himself by leaving the confines of heaven to come to earth. He lay aside His Deity which means that He did not function as God here on earth, but as man. In so doing, He was tempted in every way we were but without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He was obedient.  He was obedient to the cross which was one of the most humiliating and shameful deaths of any available at that time. In the end God exalted Him. 

So here is the take away for us. We can walk in conceit and selfish ambition or we can walk in humility. One gives us an instant reward, or so we think. The other gives us an eternal reward and models the way Christ lived and modeled life for us. God will exalt you in due season (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6). God did that for Christ but He will also do that for us. When we live humbly and we do not walk in selfish ambition or in conceit we will do more for the kingdom and not less. We will be a greater witness for Christ nor less. We will honor Christ with our life and our message. 

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Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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