Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Gospel in an Instant and Over Time

I'm continuing to look at the book of Philippians.  Please read chapter 3 along with me.

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.  And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.  Only let us live up to what we have already attained." Philippians 3:12-16

When we read the writings of Paul we must be sure to know what he's talking about, otherwise we get confused and miss the point.  When you read this passage it is easy to read it as if Paul was saying that we earn salvation.  However, if you read Paul very long you'll see that that is preposterous.  Paul very often said that he had no confidence in the flesh, that salvation is not of works so that no one can boast... Paul is very clear in teaching that we don't earn salvation and couldn't earn salvation if we tried.

I think when we read the writings of the Apostle Paul we see a three step process of salvation.  I know what you're thinking.  "Isn't salvation instant?  What about the thief on the cross?"  Salvation is instant and a process.  Let me explain what I mean:

1) Justification = instant.
Justification is being declared innocent.  This is where God looks at us and sees only the righteousness of Christ in which we are clothed.  At the moment of salvation you are justified just like the thief on the cross and millions of others throughout history.  You can not earn justification, it is a gift of God purchased by Christ on the cross.

2) Sanctification = a process.
This is the stage I'm currently in.  I've been justified but believe me I continue to sin.  This is the stage Paul is talking in the passage above.  Paul is pushing forward into Christ for sanctification.  Sanctification is the process by which we become more like Christ here in this life.

Is sanctification a work?  Yes and no.  Sanctification takes work and sacrifice.  In order to be sanctified we must forget our old life and the way we once lived and strain toward our new goal.  We must, unlike Lot's wife, not look back lovingly on our old, doomed life.  Sanctification may take disciples like prayer, Scripture reading, meditation on Scripture, fasting, giving, etc.  Don't be fooled into thinking Christ will sanctify you while you continue in your old life.

But sanctification is a gift of God.  Christ sanctifies us.  Look at what Paul says, "... let us live up to what we have already attained."  I believe that Christ will sanctify me and that is why I work.  If it were up to me and my "goodness" I would give up because I don't stand a chance.  Christ will sanctify me through trials, through the reading of His Word, through men and women I can look up to, He will sanctify me in a variety of ways but leave no doubt that while I press on toward a goal it is a goal that has been already reached for me by Jesus.

3) Glorification = instant.
The moment I die I will be glorified.  There is no Purgatory and there is no sin or sinners in heaven.  When I breath my last breath I will reach a glory I  could never reach on my own.  I will be more like Jesus than you could ever imagine because I will see Him face-to-face.  I will be not only declared sinless, I will be sinless.  I look forward to receiving this gift!

This is Thanksgiving week so we are reminded to be thankful.  Be thankful that you have been justified by the blood of the Lamb.  Thank God that you are being sanctified by a God that loves you as you are but loves you too much to leave you in the sorry state you're in now.  And thank God that in an instant He will glorify you when you die or when He returns.  Thank God for His Gospel in your life today.

Monday, November 17, 2014

3 Ways to Lust for Jesus

The title of this is weird, I know.  I'm going through a study on Philippians by Pastor Matt Chandler and this is a term he used.  Today I want to talk about lust for Jesus.  I'll be using Philippians 3:1-11 and Psalm 63 as my source verses.  Please read them. (Disclaimer: anything too brilliant may have been stolen from Matt Chandler)

Have you ever been madly in love?  More accurately, have you ever been infatuated with someone?  I mean you had to have them, had to be with them, had to hear their voice?  Have you done the "No, you hang up" thing?  Have you ever had the seemingly uncontrollable lust to be with someone and know them in all sense of the word?

Paul and David were like that with Christ.  Both of these men had, to steal some lines from Chandler and the Bible, a holy discontentment, a yearning for, a groaning for, a lustful pursuit for God.  Why don't I?  Why don't you?  Why are we so content with scraps of God when there is infinitely more to be had?  Why don't we have an uncontrollable lust for more?

David puts in this way:

"O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you." Psalm 63:1, 3

Paul said that all his works were worthless compared with knowing Jesus.  Look at this yearning Paul had:

"... I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ."  Philippians 3:8

Paul wrote that he wanted Jesus and valued Jesus more than anything.  He said everything in comparison to Jesus was rubbish.  Rubbish is a poor translation because the translators didn't want to write the real word.  Paul really says he considering everything shit in comparison.  He had a value for Christ that I don't have.  I don't treat the things in my life as crap compared to Christ.  I fit Christ into my schedule around the crap... Paul would find that sad.

So, how can we be more uncontrollably in love with God?  I'll offer my own piece of advice as well as what Matt Chandler suggested.  The first is a Matt Ray original and the second two are Matt Chandler originals.

1) Explore who God is.
God is infinite and that means that there is infinitely more to know about Him so this pursuit will never end.  That being said, I don't believe that you'll fall uncontrollably in love with Him until you know a little more of the beauty of who He is.  Do studies of who God is, not what He requires of you, but just a character study.  If you want help I suggest reading The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer and Knowing God by J. I. Packer for starts.  These helped me immensely.

2) Ask: What stirs my affections for Jesus?
My wife would say, "What romances my heart for Jesus?"  Find things that stir your heart toward God.  Some examples: the whiteness of snow, creation and being in it, orchestral music, deep theology books, milkshakes with friends, etc.  Do whatever it is that points your heart toward heaven.

3) Ask: What robs my affections for Jesus?
What keeps your mind from thoughts of God?  This can be TV, sports, Facebook, thoughts of work while you're at home, worry about the future, etc.  Whatever it is that points your thoughts back on to yourself or on to nothingness needs to be ended or controlled.  These things don't have to be inherently bad, they just need to be bad for you.

Be lustfully in love with Jesus.  I know the phrase sounds strange, but I think it works.  We should be in an uncontrollable pursuit of more of God.  Hold high the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus today.

Monday, November 10, 2014


This week I want to write about pride because I wrote about humility last week.  The basis of what I write comes from Philippians 2:3-11 and Mary's Magnificat in Luke chapter 1, please read those passages.  If anything seems overly brilliant it may have been inadvertently or partially stolen from a message Pastor Matt Chandler gave on this passage.

In Philippians 2:3-11 the Apostle Paul implores his readers to not be proud or conceited but to be humble in the same way Jesus was humble on earth.  Last week I wrote about what humility is and this week I thought the obvious question is, "What is pride?"

In Mary's Magnificat in Luke chapter 1 it says this in the King James Version:

"He hath shewed strength with His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts."  Luke 1:51

I used the King James Version because I like the phrase "in the imagination of their hearts" and because Matt Chandler's analysis of that phrase opened my eyes to what pride really is.  The NIV says, "in their inmost thoughts" but imagination, I think, better gets at the reality of what pride is.

Humility is rooted in reality.  Pride is rooted in fantasy.

In my last post I used this C. S. Lewis quote: "Humility isn't thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less."  Humility is not mustering up a falsely negative idea of who you are.  If you are a good singer, humility is not thinking you can't carry a tune.  If you are a good accountant, humility is not thinking that you aren't good at your job.  Humility is rooted in reality.  Humility is seeing, honestly seeing, where you stand in juxtaposition to the Almighty God.  Humility is seeing, honestly and accurately seeing, that the world does not revolve around you.

Pride is only maintainable with a rabid imagination.  Pride says, "I can call the shots in my life as good or better than you God"  Or, "The world does revolve around me, people should be serving and pleasing me."  Pride thinks that it can control what happens around them.  That is a fantasy.  You can have all your ducks in order and watch in horror as cancer or a tornado or an economic downturn comes crashing into your plans.  Pride is believing a fantasy.

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" Proverbs 9:10

We can't know anything until we understand where we stand in contrast to God.  If we don't fear God we will continue to live in a fantasy... the fantasy of pride.  Friends, Satan is called the Father of Lies because he loves to tell us lies.  Pride was his first sin and pride is at the root of so much of the sin in our lives.  Quit believing the lie; quit living in the fantasy.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves."  Philippians 2:3

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus... taking the very nature of a servant..."  Philippians 2:5, 7

So, be like Jesus.  Don't ask how others can serve you; ask "How can I serve others?"  Wal-Mart employees have it written on their vests; Christians should have it tattooed on their hearts, "How can I serve you?"

Live in the reality of humility and reject the fantasy of pride.  Ask God, "How can I serve you?"  Ask God, "How can I serve others today?"

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


I'm getting back to the book of Philippians this week.  Today I'll look at Philippians 2:1-4

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."  Philippians 2:3-4

In this passage the Apostle Paul gives two negative commands and two positive commands.  We'll look at the negative commands first:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition.  This means that we, as Christians, must not be motivated by our own status or prestige.  Many times when we're considering doing something we wonder how this will advance us personally or how this will give us the upper hand.  Paul tells us not to do that.

Do nothing out of vain conceit.  This is hard for me, because I enjoy it when someone notices me doing something well.  It is okay to give and receive recognition, but recognition should not be our motivation for action.  Ask, "Would I still do this if no one noticed?"  If you can say "yes", then your heart is likely in the right place.

Now, on to the positive commands:

In humility consider others better than yourself.  This is hard and I think this requires us looking at what humility really is.  To do that I'll quote the immensely quotable C.S. Lewis from his novel "The Screwtape Letters":

"...humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools.  And since what they are trying to believe may, in some cases, be manifest nonsense, they cannot succeed in believing it."

"The Enemy (God in this book) wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour's talents... or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall.  He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognise all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things."

I believe Lewis' ideas on humility to be correct.  In Philippians Paul asks us to be humble like Jesus.  Jesus never thought of Himself as less than holy and less than King.  Rather, Jesus, knowing He was God and King, chose to think of others and of God the Father.  So much of sin is us thinking about ourselves first and foremost.  God wishes that we think first of Him and then the people He created.  Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.  We must think about God and others more.

Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  We, as Christians, must take care of ourself AND others.  We cannot run ourselves to death in the interests of others and therefore end our usefulness; but we cannot be so full of ourselves that we never look after the interests of others.  Think of it like this: When a plane is going down you are instructed to put your own oxygen mask on before you put your child's mask on.  Why? Because if you don't have oxygen you won't be able to help your child.  Following directions is not selfish.  But if you put on your own oxygen mask and then refuse to help anyone else with theirs you are selfish and probably coupable.

Practice true humility.  "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" today.