Dealing With ‘SEESAW’ Christianity

SCRIPTURE STUDY: Philippians 2:12-18

Before we open our Bibles in the study, let me first give you definitions of the word SEESAW:

One of the most difficult things in life is to maintain and to keep all things where they are all supposed to be at all times.  It’s called BALANCE.

I remember going to elementary school way back when and riding a teeter-totter with my best friend and trying to keep all our feet off the ground in perfect balance.  It took a lot of our focus, many times finding ourselves up in the air or flat on the ground.

BALANCE IS CRITICAL IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

What has guided and given me direction and purpose in life are the words found in Luke 2:52.  This Bible verse follows the story when Jesus was lost or separated from Mary and Joseph for three days in the big city of Jerusalem.  When they finally located him, Jesus was in the Temple sitting among some of the greatest teachers of the day, asking questions.  And they were asking him questions as well.  And the Scripture says that the teachers were amazed by his understanding.  After all, he was only 12 years of age at the time.  The Bible is silent for about the next 18 years of his life.  We don’t know exactly what happened during those years but we do have this one verse as a summary of those years and it simply says…

...JESUS increased with wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.

So what we know is that life should be filled with BALANCE:

  • He grew in wisdom…Intellectually.
  • He grew in stature…Physically.
  • He grew in favor with God…Spiritually.
  • He grew in favor with man…Socially.

And if we want to live as Jesus did, we need to learn to do the same.  Because, they all matter and when our life is in BALANCE, we’re happier.  And when we’re out of BALANCE, we’re miserable.  Balance is one of the most difficult things in life to maintain.

So the apostle Paul reminds us of three areas where we must maintain balance:

Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV)

[12]  Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  [13] for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

To understand what Paul is saying here we need to understand what he’s NOT saying.  This phrase “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is greatly misunderstood.  He’s not telling us that we have to work to be saved.  It was Paul who wrote to the church in Ephesus and said…

We cannot be SAVED by works.  In fact, Paul says it is NOT by works.

So to understand what Paul is saying here, you must bear in mind that he is writing to the CHURCH, to believers, so his words have nothing to do with how to come to Christ.  These people already knew Jesus!

So this phrase “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is referring to how we live out our faith.

According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, “work out” in the Greek N.T. means “to work to full completion.”  It refers to working in a mine or in a field where you’re constantly digging and cultivating until that mine or garden reaches its full potential.

So here’s a question all of us must stop and ask ourselves at various places in life:  Am I reaching for my full potential in life or am I just settling for average?  What is my level of obedience to Christ Jesus?

Once we acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, that becomes our PURPOSE in life to OBEY Him in absolutely everything.

When we get sick and go to the doctor he diagnoses our condition and tells us what we need to do.  He hands us a small slip of paper where he’s written the correct prescription on.  We then take that slip of paper to the pharmacist who fills the prescription and gives us the medication.  Now up to that point, everything has been done for us.  A diagnosis…A prescription…We have received the medication.  Now it’s our responsibility to do something and here it is–follow the doctor’s orders.  Work out the process and if we do, we will recover.

This is also true on a spiritual level.

And here should be our goal.  Paul tells us in verse 13 that God works in us to fulfill His good purpose.  And he describes that PURPOSE as being good.

Whether we know it or not, God wants us to find happiness and contentment not only in the next life eternal but also in this one.  You see there won’t be anything to work out in the next life–it will all be taken care of, but in this one there is.  There are things to be worked out.

Someone has said there are three types of people in the world…

  • Those who make things happen
  • Those who sit and watch things happen
  • Those who wonder what’s happening

God wants us to be in the first group.

God is at work in us to do His good purpose.  This is a balance of power and purpose.  He pours His power into us, we do the things that bring Him pleasure.

Now Paul wants us to see something here.

  • It is His pleasure (not ours)
  • It is His will (not ours)
  • It is His glory (not ours)

This is what makes our lives meaningful.

But there’s a potential conflict right there since most of us prefer to have things go our way.  It’s our attitude.

So Paul tells us the second area where we need BALANCE.

There must be a balance of attitude and action.

To accomplish what Paul is saying here, he gives us a negative and a positive.  Because this is how we get BALANCE.

On the negative side here, Paul says to all of us–you need to watch your attitude.  There are two things Paul mentions here that shows our bad attitude:

  1. Are you a grumbler?  Boy, I’ve been here too many times in my life.  Grumbling is not usually loud.  Its low tone, negative complaining, whining, and one thing it will do for you is that it will steal your JOY!  And unfortunately, it just comes naturally for some of us.  We try to resist but we just pass it around,  Grumblers can find something wrong with everything at once and when they find it…that’s what they focus on.

BOUGAINVILLEA – 

 

I was born and raised in Southern California where the sun shines most of the year–a Mediterranean climate.  Certain plant species especially do well there and my parents loved colorful plants around their home.  We lived high above the street level, so mom and dad decided to plant Bougainvillea on the hillside to cover it with beautiful flowers.  It took several years to blanket the front of their home, but oh, how I remember the beauty that hillside was in full bloom.  Now each year you would find mom and dad crawling over the Bougainvillea to prune them and make them tidy.  The unfortunate undertaking was always a loud outburst by my dad while standing in the middle of the flora–“I hate these thorns!  Let’s pull them all out!”  All dad saw was the THORNS.  He couldn’t enjoy the flower.  The reason is perspective.  It’s an attitude.

Paul said that you and I as believers need to prove to be different by our actions.

He said to prove that you are a blameless and innocent child of God and in the midst of a very dark world, you and I are told to bring LIGHT to the situation.  We should brighten up the place.

Remember that little song we used to sing with our parents and then taught ut to our kids?  “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”  But we are not just “little lights” to the world.

Paul refers to us as stars…

These are no small stars!  The smallest star in our universe is basically the size of the planet Saturn,  The word here means luminous.  Luminaries are surrounded by darkness and that’s why they stand out.

Jesus told us, let your light shine so the people can see your good works and through that glory will be given to God the Father.  [Matthew 5:16 – ESV]

There’s no need to shout, stomp your feet, or scream.  No need for drama.

  • JUST SHINE!

The negative Paul gives us here–don’t grumble.  The positive–just shine!

Get your attitudes and actions in BALANCE.

Then Paul describes a third area we need to balance: There must be a BALANCE at being serious and being joyful.  (verses 17-18)

Reading these two verses gave me an amazing word picture worth looking closely at.  Paul says we are “being poured out as a drink offering.”  Unbelievers had a practice in that day before and after every meal to take 2 cups of wine–would pour one out on the ground before every meal, then eat–then pour another one out after every meal in honor of the god they worshipped.  The PURPOSE was to gain the favor of the gods.

Paul is speaking of the possibility of being poured out as a drink offering.  This has a very serious connotation here.  He’s saying, I may never get out of the situation alive.  Remember he is in prison and facing execution at any moment.  But even if I don’t make it out…it will be worth it!

If you have ever faced the possibility of your own death–it makes you think really serious thoughts.  Paul was imagining that he might be living his final days, the single most serious thought a person can have and yet he was still able to REJOICE.  He refused to FOCUS on the dark side.  He refused to let even the possibility of his immediate death and steal his JOY.

Then he says to us–you need to REJOICE in the same way.

Paul’s words have encouraged me every day after reading his thoughts through in study.  To find something during my last days; finding something to be continually happy about, something to laugh about, to take a day off from writing, to take a walk around the block with my dog, to watch a movie, to work out in the garden, to do something that can take you away from all the seriousness of life.  Give yourself permission to enjoy each and every day.

Karl Wallenda, of the Flying Wallendas, perhaps the greatest group of tight wire walkers in the world, had the amazing ability to keep his focus; to concentrate and keep his balance.  But one night in Puerto Rico, he fell to his death while up on the wire.  Later his wife said that for as long as she had known him he always focused walking the tight rope, but on that given night for some reason, he kept focussing on the possibility of falling.

Often the difference in our success and failure is losing one’s balance and looking in the wrong direction.  The Scripture tells us to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Solomon says, don’t look to the left or right, just keep your eyes on the heavenly Father (Proverbs 4:25-27).

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CREDITS:

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

The Interlinear Bible

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); English Standard Version (ESV); New King James Version (NKJV).

Becoming SATISFIED In Christ Alone!

SCRIPTURE READING:

1 John 2:15-17 [Amplified Bible]:

[15] Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world.  If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.

[16] For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification] and the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] and the pride of life [assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things]–these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself].

[17] And the world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the list) of it; but he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever.

Pfsssssssst

Bible scholars have concluded that the content, style, and vocabulary  seem to warrant the conclusion that the three letters of John, the apostle, including the Gospel of John, were addressed to the same readers–Christian believers, and John’s message is timeless!

The Timeless Message–

The “timeless message” given, is one of contrast.  A COMPARISON of love for the world versus the love of our Father, that is, GOD.  As surely as we cannot SERVE both GOD and MAMMON– (*See footnote [i] )– neither can we LOVE both the world and GOD.

Every Person Is Tempted (James 1:14):

We ALL BATTLE with trials and temptations on a daily basis; with the things and people who influence us for wrong reasons and the wrong purpose.

The World–

Sometimes like a “magnet”,  the world tries to pull us in the wrong direction.

GOD calls His children [Christians] to live “in” this world but not be “of” this world.

A difficult balance…

ME:  “Should go tonight and show up; help out at my church’s Soup Kitchen and serve.  BUT…I’ll miss out on the Football Game on television during the LOVE FEAST down the road.”

WE:  Go to church, spend time with GOD and friends, yet there’s a FORCE trying to pull us away from the fellowship of believers.

It’s sort of like when I was back in school and didn’t want to get out of bed.  “Mom, I feel kind of ‘sick”.  My mom would ask me suspiciously, “What do you mean…’kind of sick’?”  She knew that I wanted to stay home and do what I wanted to do–watch TV, anything but go to school.  She would then inform me, “If you’re sick Mel, then you have to stay in bed ALL day!”  That stopped my plans in their tracks: “Mom, I think I’m feeling a bit better and will go to school after all.”

The Seemingly “Grey Areas”…

So many times we find ourselves tolerating certain things, but it feels good…we think it probably won’t hurt anybody…nobody will find out.

And then all of a sudden, we wake up one day and ask ourselves, “How in the world did I get here?”  Or, “What did I just do?”

IDENTIFYING 3 TYPES OF TEMPTATIONS:

1 John 2:15-17  (N.L.T.):

[15] Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.

[16] For the world offers on a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions.  These are not from the Father, but are from this world.

[17] And this world is fading away…

What else does the Bible have to say about the world we’re living in today?

“Little children, you are of God [you belong to Him] and have [already] defeated and overcome them [the agents of the antichrist], because He Who lives in you is greater (mightier) than he who is in the world”  (1 John 4:4 AMP).

“We know [positively] that we are of God, and the whole world [around us] is under the power of the evil one”  (1 John 5:19 AMP).

(Jesus talking) – “If the world hates you, know that it hated Me before it hated you.  If you belonged to the world, the world would treat you with affection and would love you as its own.  But because you are not of the world [no longer one with it], but I have chosen (selected) you out of the world, the world hates (detests) you”  (John 15:18-19 AMP).

“…Do you not know that being the worlds friend is being God’s enemy?  So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God”  (James 4:4).

The WORLD will always fool you and never fully satisfy you!

The New Living Translation calls it a “CRAVING” in verse 16.

3 -Types of Temptations:

stock-photo-road-sign-metaphor-with-craving-ahead-470902091.  CRAVING FOR PLEASURES…or, “The Lust of the Flesh.”

I’m sure you know what it is to “crave” for something: chocolate, creamed-filled donuts, sour pickles (pregnancy?), liquor, a ‘smoke’, etc.

In any dictionary that you look up the definition, “crav-ing” – A powerful desire for something! Synonyms: longing, yearning, desire, want, wish, hankering, hunger, thirst, appetite, greed, lust, ache, need, urge.

“ENOUGH…I get it!”  But let’s take the definition a little further to make a point:

Merriam-Webster:  “an intense, urgent, or abnormal desire or longing.”

I think you’ve probably got the idea of what John is referring to in the above Scripture.

In Creflo Dollar’s Book, Winning in Troubled Times (Chapter 19), he mentions “Lust is the driving impulse behind addictive behaviors; trying to break habits formed through will-power fall prey to the same temptations over and over again.”

LUST HAS ONE PURPOSE, AND ONE PURPOSE ONLY…

 LUST OF THE FLESH has one purpose–to move us out of the will of God of our lives.  It will destroy marriages and relationships.

DESIRE in and of itself is NOT BAD…

GOD gave us natural, healthy DESIRES…desire for food and water, desire to be unconditionally loved and accepted.  But when the “craving” enters the picture….it leads to death.

“Seed Time and Harvest…”

“But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions).    Then the evil desire, when it is conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings for death”  (James 1:14-15).

A CRAVING for everything we see (NLT) or Lust of the Eyes (Amplified)–

“Temptation to Have” – I see it and I want it.  I have to have it now!  Ever been in this state of mind?

Materialism – “Live for the acquisition of things”:

He with the most toys wins…what?  Debt?  Stress?

Examples:  Having the latest I-Phone (5-s; the 6 will be out in Sept. 2014)….Latest Model – Car…Houses – upgrades, newer model, keep up with the Jones…Latest Styles – clothes or shoes – “Impulse Buying”  (Ex: I can go to Van Wingerden Garden Center in Birch Bay, Washington…it’s like the angels are singing…).

PRIDE in our achievements and possessions (NLT) or Pride of Life (Amplified)–

“Temptation to Be” – I want to be worshipped.  I want to be envied.  I want to be “noticed”.

Climbing the “company ladder” – just for the “title” of President, CEO.

The MOTIVATION is wrong–want to get to the top–for the wrong reason.

STATUS can become an “IDOL”, and damage our relationship with GOD.

TEMPTATION BEGAN AT THE BEGINNING OF TIME:

** Adam and Eve **

FRUIT that was pleasing to the eye.

** Jesus **

“And the tempter came and said to Him, If You are God’s Son, command these stones to be made [loves of] bread”  (Matt. 4:3 AMP).

JESUS faced temptation (Lust of Flesh).

“Again, the devil took Him up on a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory (the splendor, magnificence, preeminence, and excellence) of them.    And he said to Him,  These things, all taken together, I will give You, if You will prostrate Yourself before me and do homage and worship me”  (Matt. 4:8-9).

Satan showed JESUS the kingdoms (Lust of the Eyes).

Pride of Life – kneel down and worship me …

“And the world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever”  (1 John 2:17 AMP).

So how can we CONQUER this?  How can we please God?

That’s what we really want to do as BELIEVERS IN JESUS CHRIST!  To be Satisfied in Christ Alone!

Living “In Christ Alone”:

Keith and Kristyn Getty wrote a favorite hymn of mine a few years back. [www.gettymusic.com/hymns-inchristalone.aspx/.} 

In Christ alone my hope is found,

He is my light, my strength, my song; this Cornerstone,

this SOLID GROUND,

from through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace,

when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!

My Comforter, my All in All,

here in the love of Christ I stand.

Conquering Our Cravings, Our Temptations, Our Lusts in Life–

HOW CAN WE PLEASE GOD?

Hopefully, as believers in JESUS, pleasing Him should be our only desire.  Participating in God’s work in our lives is a beginning; to agree with God is our true identity found only in Him…not to place ourselves on the railroad tracks of “temptation.”  We’ll get hit by the train comng through every time!

In Creflo Dollar’s book, Winning In Troubled Times, he entitles the chapter “Declaring War On Lust”:  “The sin you fail to deal with will eventually end up dealing with you.”

When our CRAVINGS, “lustful desires“, are continually acted upon with no repentance or attempts to curb the behavior…a person can easily get into what is called “LASCIVIOUSNESS”: “having no self-control of the works of the flesh.”

Our OBEDIENCE To What We Sense Around Us…

What GOD is calling us to do in the world, should come out of a TRUST that God is our only source of life!  As we struggle, and we all do struggle; we are in the world and not of the world…especially in the “grey areas” that arise (society morality, movies, doctrine, relationships).

We can place our HOPE in God; to finish His work in us; to lovingly continue to show us the emptiness of all other “sources” available in life.  To learn to be SUFFICIENT in Christ alone.

Those thoughts reminded me of a quote by C.S. Lewis you may have read or heard before:

“When he said, ‘Be perfect.’  He meant it!  He meant that we must go in for the full treatment.  It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder–in fact, it is impossible.  It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird; it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining in an egg.  We are like eggs at present.  And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary decent egg.  We must be hatched or go bad…”  [Mere Christianity, bk4, Chs. 8, 9.]

I hope that I have given you an understanding of what GOD is able to give you in this world.  The HOPE and RENEWED TRUST in being Sufficient In Christ Alone– and not be satisfied in what the world is offering.

“Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world.  If anyone loves the world, love of the Father is not in him”  (1 John 2:15).

 

 

FOOTNOTE:

[i]  MAMMON – New Testament – Riches or material wealth:  Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:9, 11, 13.