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).

STUFF Happens In Life, So What’s Next?

I’m sure that many of you reading this already know that “stuff” happens in our lives.  You also understand those difficult things, unimaginable things, seem to come out of nowhere.

Now I’ve heard over the years people’s interesting answers to the “Why’s”, the “What for’s”.  And you know, there’s some really bad information floating around in the halls of religion to why stuff happens.  Here are but a few answers I’ve noticed and embraced by so-called “TV preachers and preacherettes”.

They say things like the reason things (STUFF) is happening to you right now is your fault, you don’t have enough FAITH or you have some SIN of unbelief in your life.  Their cure for your problem usually comes from some “power of positive thinking” message or “name it and claim it” sermon.  Most of this has no legitimate place in the church.

I can give you many examples and biblical reasons why stuff happens, even to “good people.”  And this brings me to illustrate my point using the life of the Apostle Paul and his own words–

We are the sum of all our experiences both good and bad!

Paul’s Recognition that Stuff Happens In Life…prior to becoming a ‘born again’ believer begins in Acts 26.

There have been many important events in history and obviously, the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ are at the top of the list but beyond that, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus ranks with the most important and influential events ever!

He describes his conversion to Christianity in Acts 26:12-18 in his defense before King Agrippa.

Paul’s life after his commission –

Paul describes many of the things (the “stuff”) that happened to him after his commission in his 2nd Letter to the church at Corinth:

2 Corinthians 11:21-28 (NIV)

[21] To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!  Whatever anyone else dares to boast about–I am speaking as a fool–I also dare to boast about.  [22] Are they speaking Hebrews?  So am I.  Are they Israelites?  So am I.  [23] Are they servants of Christ?  (I am out of my mind to talk like this) I am more.  I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  [24] Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  [25] Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked.  I spent a night and a day in the open sea.  [26] I have been constantly on the move.  I have been in danger from rivers, in danger of bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false believers.  [27] I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep.  I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food.  I have been cold and naked.  [28]  who is weak, and I do not feel weak?  Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

PHILIPPIANS is one of Paul’s Prison Letters…

And in VERSE 13, he speaks of his “chains”:  

Philippians 1:13 (NIV)

“As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.”

According to what most scholars believe, Paul was under house arrest in Rome.  He would later finish his “race” when he was re-arrested and imprisoned in the Maritime jail.  Church history generally looks to Paul’s martyrdom outside the city of Rome at the hands of his Roman captors and it’s from this second imprisonment we have the 2nd letter to Timothy, considered Paul’s “last will and testament” (2 Timothy 4:6-18).

Paul’s Realization When STUFF Happens – 

Most of us want to view the STUFF of life through a microscope whereas Paul looked at life through a telescope!  He envisioned things that had happened to him as a teaching moment.

Contemporary wisdom would say that what had happened to Paul was a BAD THING…BAD STUFF! And that’s true, it was.

But Paul saw everything through the lens of the providential arrangement of God–GOD’S PROVIDENCE–GOD’S IN CONTROL!  

The English Standard Version translates verse 12 in this way:

Philippians 1:12 (ESV)

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”

Paul declares that his “…CHAINS in Christ…” revealed to the Imperial Guard and everyone else in the palace that he was imprisoned for Christ’s sake.

The news spread from guard to guard, to the families of the guards, and then to the front doorsteps of Caesar’s household.

This very sight had to give great comfort and joy to the brethren at Phillipi.

Second, Paul ended the Philippians letter by saying,

Philippians 4:22 (AMP) – “All the saints (God’s consecrated ones here) wish to be remembered to you, especially those of Caesar’s household.”

It’s important to understand rightly the phrase Paul uses here.  That’s what Word Detectives do!

“Caesar’s household” doesn’t mean Caesar’s kiss in kin.  

Caesar’s household was the regular phrase for what we would call the Imperial Civil Service; it had members all over the known world.  The palace officials, the secretaries, the people who were in charge of the Imperial revenues, those who were responsible for the day-to-day administration of the EMPIRE, all these were known as “Caesar’s household”.  [See Footnote [1] ].

Look at what Paul says next in VERSE 14:

He says that most of the “…brethren…” were emboldened by his chains and they preached the Word without fear.

This is important and a great lesson for believers today.

When we SHARE our faith it serves to give encouragement to those around us.

And Paul’s Response When STUFF Happens… (Philippians 1:18-19) –

“Happiness depends on happenings, but JOY depends on Jesus!”

The overwhelming THEME of Philippians is JOY.

16 times Paul uses the word JOY or REJOICE.

He’s THANKFUL in the midst of his STUFF…

#1.  Christ is proclaimed.

Paul acknowledges that some preach Christ because they’re jealous and quarrelsome, but others do so from genuine goodwill.  They do so from love and because they know that God has given me, Paul, the work of defending the GOSPEL.

The others don’t proclaim Christ sincerely but instead, from a spirit of selfish ambition; they think that they will make more trouble for me while I’m in prison.

IT DOESN’T MATTER!

I’m happy about it–just so long as Christ is preached in every way possible, right or wrong.  And I will continue to be happy!

#2.  Christ is honored – Philippians 1:20-21 (NKJ)

Many who are reading this, or know of someone who is struggling with some STUFF that has happened or happening in life have questions but no answers to the circumstances faced.

Maybe I can give you a few things that might help you and others understand the “stuff” that happens.

FIRST, and this is important, you’ll never understand what’s going on without a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

NOTHING WILL MAKE SENSE APART FROM THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.

Proverbs 3:1-6 (NIV)

[1] My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart,  [2] for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.  [3] Let love and faithfulness never leave you, bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  [4] Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.  [5] Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  [6] In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Ask Him to help you see LIFE the way He does.  I know that’s hard but that’s where TRUST comes in to play.

Remember what He said…

Isaiah 55:8-9 (AMP)

[8] For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.  [9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.

James 1:5 (NIV)

[5] If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

James 3:17 (NIV)

[17] But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

God Will Make A Way in a Tragedy…

In other words, as we depend on the Lord in difficult circumstances–in the STUFF that can surround us at times, when we persevere in doing what’s right even when it’s hard.

Several years ago, Don Moen was awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call.  His mother-in-law called to tell him that a tragic car accident involving his wife’s sister and her husband, and their four small boys on a road trip when the tragedy occurred.  The oldest, who was eight, was killed instantly.  The others in the car were seriously injured.

As Don and his wife grieved and poured out their hearts to the Lord, Don felt helpless at communicating hope and grace to his wife’s sister and brother-in-law.

Don recalls how God helped him through the tragedy:

“It was as if the Lord gave me these words”

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Media:  YouTube Video – Don Moen, God Will Make A Way, 1990; Integrity’s Hosanna Music/ASCAP.

Photos:  Google Image Search, subject to copyright.

Footnote [i]:  William Barclay, The Letters to The Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); other versions used are noted in the text.

 

The Christian Life as “Power Walkers” and So Much More!

POWER WALKERS

The Using of “Mixed Metaphors”–

The picture above is a group of people getting ready to walk for a cause: Breast Cancer Walk.  This is of importance to me in particular since my wife went through surgery and radiation treatment for breast cancer over two years ago.  We both were forced to ‘walk through it.’

A mixed metaphor, in case you have no reference point, combines two or more images that don’t seem to make sense.  Some examples:

“You’ve buttered your bread…now lie in it.”

“Clearly we’ve opened a Pandora’s box…of worms.”

“Burning the midnight oil…at both ends.”

“Marching to the beat…of a dead horse.”

“Robbing Peter…to pay the piper.”

The apostle Paul mixes several metaphors in Colossians 2:6-7:

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,  having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude”  (NASB).

Many commentaries that I have read during the writing of this blog believe the theme of the entire book, is a “hinge point” of Colossians.

On The FAITH Side…

The Colossians had received Christ JESUS as Lord and Savior and they had been taught the faith.

And On the PRACTICE Side…

They needed to continue to live in Him, built up in Him; becoming strengthened in their faith, overflowing with thankfulness in their everyday and sometimes hectic lives.  Boy, can we relate to the Colossians or what?

PAUL USES 6 -WORD PICTURES OF CHRISTIAN SPIRITUAL PROGRESS:

“For though I am away from you in body, yet I am with you in spirit, delighted at the sight of your [standing shoulder to shoulder in such] orderly array and the firmness and the solid front and steadfastness of your faith in Christ [that leaning of the entire human personality on Him in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness]”  (Colossians 2:5 AMP).

Raising the Standard

The First Word Picture–The Soldier (verse 5):

The first picture is a review  “…to see how orderly you are and how firm your FAITH in Christ is“, as part of God’s Army–solidly united against the enemy–standing shoulder to shoulder.  All the while as we practice discipline, we strive to obey our Commander and Chief.  We’re not to battle against each other, but to do battle with each other–raising the banner or flag in serving side-by-side!

The Second Word Picture–The Power Walker (verse 6):

POWER WALKERS

The Christian Life Must Be Lived Out!

How do we do that?  We must go from our heads, to our hands, and then to our feet!  When Paul says, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him.” Paul is reminding his readers, since they received JESUS by faith, so too they must WALK BY FAITH in His power.  That is the only way to make spiritual progress.

Moving with a purpose–

The verb continue; “to continue to live in Him” indicates a “continuous action”, moving in power.  Remembering the day of your salvation must be a present reality in your lives.  Our conduct must be consistent with His lordship and our worship should affect our walk; our practice must conform to our character, our principles, our INTEGRITY [see the Word Detective’s Archives: the post regarding INTEGRITY].

The Third Word Picture – The Tree (verse 7):

Our Roots Are Planted In Him

In this agricultural metaphor, just as a tree is “rooted”, we are to be grounded in the soil of God’s Word.  I like to call my Bible, 66 bags of “word seed” instead of 66 books of the Bible.

The tense of the Greek word means, “once and for all, having being rooted.”  Those who have truly received Christ Jesus are rooted in Him.  A tree puts down deep roots to find nutrition and to provide stability in the growing.

Likewise, we must go deep with Christ to find the fuel that we need to flourish during the storms of life.  This image most likely comes from the beautiful picture displayed in Jeremiah 17:8:

“For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters

that spreads out its roots by the river;

and it shall not see and fear when heat comes;

but its leaf shall be green.

It shall not be anxious and full of care in the year of drought,

nor shall it cease yielding fruit.”

When we are rooted in a relationship with JESUS, we will have everything that we need for life and for godliness.  2 Peter 1:3declares,

“For His divine power has bestowed upon us ALL things that

[are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the

[full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us

by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue).”

Just as a tree cannot thrive without any roots, we too cannot grow if we have not been grounded in “His glory and excellence.”

The Fourth Word Picture – The Building (verse 7):

Starting with a FOUNDATION

Paul now moves into a construction image to show us that our foundation is built on JESUS; where we must continue to add-on, so that we’re “being continually built up in Him.”

Ephesians 2:20 says, “You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself the chief Cornerstone.”

At our conversion, the construction process begins with a foundation first.  Then raised up and anchored with a cornerstone, helping align the whole structure in tying it together.

CORNERSTONE

 In the same way, as the chief cornerstone, JESUS holds everything together while providing alignment to our lives.

The CHURCH you’re attending right now wouldn’t be of much use with just a foundation in place.  A foundation is only the beginning of better things to come–the base is laid in order to build a strong building.

God doesn’t want us to STOP at conversion. Instead, He desires for us to construct our lives as in…  1 Corinthians 3:12:  “gold, silver, and precious stones” instead of using things that don’t last such as “wood, hay and straw.”   This is in order to be strong, building with solid materials.

Again, the tense of the verb [“continually”] indicates that the building keeps on going.  The Christian Life is not meant to be a one or two-story house, but rather a skyscraper that keeps going up and up!

The Fifth Word Picture – The Student (verse 7):

GRAD STUDENTS

The next METAPHOR in place:  “increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught”.  We are to be students in God’s Grad School so our FAITH can be strengthened and established.

We are to be STUDENTS in God’s Graduate School–

When I mean STUDENTS in God’s Grad School, I don’t mean spending years in a Christian preschool.  Hebrews 6:1-3 in The Message Bible brings word picture into focus:

“So come on, lets leave preschool fingerprinting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art.  Grow up in Christ.  The basic foundational truths are in place…But there is so much more.  Let’s get on with it!”

We are Disciples of Christ–

As STUDENTS, it becomes our responsibility to learn and know the Word of God if we are going grow in our FAITH.  Being disciples of Christ, we are to be always learning and putting ourselves in an environment of study and being strengthened on a regular basis.

It is important for every believer to plug into a small group whether at church or in a neighborhood.  However, you don’t want to just be a church with “small groups”… but a church that is made up of small groups.

The Sixth Word Picture – A River (verse 7):

An Overflowing River

The idea here is based on verse 7“abounding and overflowing with thanksgiving.”  Receiving instruction in biblical truth should produce inner JOY.  The more we understand grace, the more gratitude we will have.  JOY from Thanksgiving shouldn’t be experienced just on the Legal Holiday.  It should be continual!

Kent Hughes writes, “A thankless spirit betrays a life which is no longer focusing on the greatness of Christ.”  If you don’t feel like being thankful today, it is probably because you’ve taken your eyes off of JESUS and putting them on your problems instead.

A Christian LIVING IT OUT!

The two verses in Colossians 2, verses 6-7 challenges us to…

1.  GROW downward–being “rooted.”

2.  GROW upward–being “built up”.

3.  GROW inward–being “strengthened in the faith.”

4.  GROW outward–as we “overflow with thankfulness.”

As Paul mixes up his metaphors, he also changes his verb tenses in order to show what happened to us and what we are responsible for.  In the list of 6 Word Pictures, I was able to find only two active verbs:

1.  To live continuously in Him.

2.  To be continuously thankful to Him.

Our task is to live surrendered to His preeminence, His supremacy; and to abound in giving thanks to what God has done for us in Christ.

So in Christ JESUS, have a JOYFUL THANKSGIVING THIS YEAR and in each and every day!