Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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Keep your eye on the prize! 5/20/2012
In this meditation we are going to look at the change that came into the life of the Apostle Paul, as he encountered the resurrected Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. Prior to this time he was known as Saul and he at that time was persecuting the true believers of Jesus Christ. He was steeped in the religion that he had been born into and into which he had been trained and nurtured into, believing that he was pleasing God.

This portion of Scripture today shows us the difference between religion (offering our work in order to be saved) and Christianity. (apprehending/unnderstanding in/believing that which God has done in Christ). Saul understood religion real well, as we will see in our text. He was second to none as far as what man had to offer, but he came to see that it was all worthless concerning merit toward salvation.

As we consider the change in Paul's life through this text before us today, let us think of our own lives so that we may be able to compare Paul's experience with our own experience. Not that we use Paul's experience as a model that must be followed to the T and therefore making it a requirement that all have the same experience, but rather that we may focus on the pninciples of things he experienced as he went from religion to Christianity. It is a privilege for us to have so much of Paul's own testimony concerning his experiences which relate to his conversion, not only in the book of Acts, but also from the epistle (Philippians) before us today as well as in some of the other epistles which he wrote. There is sufficient material written about Paul and his life before he was converted to give us a good idea of what kind of reputation he must have had before the people in that day. And, of course, there is far far more written about things he did and said in his new life in Christ which consisted of his being united to Christ by faith. We learn much about the heart of God through the life of Paul as we read of his actions and listen to the words that he speaks in his many writings in the New Testament.
For they are the words of Jesus Christ as spoken through the mouth of the Apostle Paul

Paul was a product of that which he was born into and consequently did that which he was expected to do and be. He was carefully trained into a system of belief that did not worship God in a relationship of spirit and of truth. It was a man made system which did not understand the heart of God towards sinners. Therefore, there was no understanding of that which Jesus was doing and saying in the kingdom that He brought to the earth. For it was a kingdom of grace and truth, one which endeavors to serve the other rather than to have dominion over the other. Paul's peers did not understand Jesus, were jealous of Him, hated Him and therefore they in the end killed Him. This is the type of religion that Paul was raised in.

As we compare religion with Christianity, we could also say that Christianity is relationship. We recognize that to have a relationship there must be at least two people and that to have a relationship with another person in a real and intimate manner requires that we not only spend time together with them but that we also share more than superficial things between one another. We realize that the closest of all relationships is the one between husband and wife and is one that when experienced and lived in according to the plan of God is designed to bring deep intimacy through sharing of one another's lives. True relationships require grace, truth and time. Grace, truth and time. There must be acceptance and affirmation of each other, there must be honesty and truth and thirdly, there must be time allowed for dealing with differences that often exist.

Life is about relationships. Christianity is about relationship. Without knowing about as well as experiencing the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have no relationship with Jesus. We have only a relationship that is based upon external practices, traditions and customs. In other words, we have not yet come to know and experience what true relationship is.

The text is found in Philippians 3:1-14 and is found in the spiritual love letter that Paul wrote to the church at Philippi while he was in prison around the year 60 a.d. It is a letter that does not address any direct problems at the church, but gives affirmation, encouragement, direction and warning. Through this letter the heart of Jesus comes forth clearly through Paul and in chapter three Paul opens up his heart and life for the world to see, both what he was before he came into relationship with Jesus and after He had an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. I am not sure of how many years it was after his encounter with the resurrected Jesus, but it was quite a few.

The Text: Philippians 3:1-14

KJV Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.(safeguard)

He begins with a word of exhortation, that they would rejoice in the Lord. Paul is showing us here that it is good to repeat what has been said before, for in doing so it shows of the importance of hearing those things over and over again so that we would be reminded of and grounded in truth. We must beware of the novelty of having something new at the expense of growing bored with the same old story of the Bible. We need the Spirit of God to bring freshness to that which is true and certain.

2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.

These people were demanding that in order to be a true Christian one had to be circumsized. Paul had consistently taught that this teaching was contrary to the plan of God, for it is written in the books of Romans:

KJV Romans 3:19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
KJV Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

KJV Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

This is crucial for our church in our generation as the battle for the gospel is being fought.
There is always the temptation for our flesh to add to that which God has done for us in Christ. We want to say and to preach: "Yes, it is by grace through faith, but... but... but. There is nothing that can be added to what God has done in Christ, for if we add anything to it, we are falled from grace. (Galatians 5:4)

3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

Paul lists three attributes of what a relationship with God through Jesus looks like.
1. We worship God in the spirit,
2. We rejoice in Christ Jesus
3. We have no confidence in the flesh

KJV John 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

KJV Romans 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
KJV Romans 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

When we ask someone what a Christian is, most people will say, I repented years ago, I belong to this church, I give so much to the church, I sing in the choir, I teach Sunday School, and so on. These are all good and godly things, but in and of themselves, they are not worship. For our whole life is worship and the things that we do are expressions of that which is in our heart. We are to put no confidence or trust in the things that we do in order to attain some kind of favor before God.

Paul now shows of how he formerly trusted in heritage and his efforts before he came to experience Christ.
The first four were his by inheritance, but the last three were by his effort.

4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Now his change in perspective came, for this is where he had the encounter with Jesus. (Acts 9:1-22) But we also must refer to Acts 7:58-8:1 which tells of Saul being present at the stoning of the faithful witness Stephen of Jesus Christ for preaching the gospel. Would Saul, after consenting to and after being at the stoning of Stephen, have laid awake all night with the scenes going through his mind of the radical behavior of this witness of Jesus? Would there in Saul's soul be seeds of doubt beginning to sprout which would cause him to question of the truth of his own behavior toward the followers of the resurrected Jesus? We can only speculate on this as we think of how the revelation of Jesus Christ has come to us in our lives. For some the revelation of the love of Jesus for their soul has come suddenly and then has grown over the years as they spend time with Him. With others, it has been a revelation almost from the crib, as they have been nurtured by their mothers and their fathers who demonstrate the gospel through their care for their child. We are as the child in that we cannot add anything to our care, but we can only receive the care. God brings the gospel to us and we receive it.

But for some of those who have been raised and taught in religion, the conversion to Christianity has been somewhat akin to Apostle Paul's journey, in that there have been points along the way that have begin to jar the foundation of our religion. The situations as well as the people with whom we have had encounters with have caused us to rethink our traditions, our behaviors, our practices and our beliefs. And so it is with us, Jesus is always pursuing us into relationship with Him. Not secondhand, but direct from the revelation of Himself through the Word via the Holy Spirit.

Now Paul writes of how he sees things according to how God sees them, according to His Word.

7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

This speaks of justification which is by faith.

When we are united in Him, we are saved.
People of Southeast Indies in their pidgin english say like this as they testify of their position with God because of trusting Jesus for their salvation: It goes like this:
They look at the Bible and at their life:
God He say: I'm all wrong.
God He say: I can't fix it.
God He say: Here's my Son.
I say, I trust in Christ.
God He say, I'm all right.

Here we now see a heart that is yearning for a deeper and closer connection with the one who saved him.

10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

Becoming a Christian is like a coffee shop which changes it owners. You see that it is all broken down, it is run down, but one day you notice that there are some changes and renovations in the shop. Somewhere there was a transaction in an office, ownership changed and the outward changes begin to appear. Likewise, in our lives changes become visible outwardly when we enter into relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. A new owner is evident in our life.

Paul wants to encourage those who may be feeling not up to par in their Christianity by being transparent with the Philippians as to the reality that he also is a work in progress in knowing Christ.

12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul was sought by Jesus, was humbled by Jesus and was saved by Jesus. Only two things are needful to be saved: To realize that we are a sinner and that Christ is a great Savior. Those two revelations will always cause one to ask for mercy and pardon from God through Christ.

He now clarifies his confidence by saying that he is yet in process on the journey. This is important in Christian leadership in that we may give the impression that we are far ahead of those we desire to nurture and teach and therefore bring them discouragement because of their lack of ability to understand spiritual truths. Let us here remember that all who are in a position of effecting others are leaders and therefore, very few would not be considered leaders. It seems as if Paul in these verses, writing in the singular, is emphasizing the importance of leadership in providing the example in being transparent with one's struggles to understand all things, but yet pressing forward in that which one does understand. Let us remember that we only know in part and only prophecy in part. We go forward on the foundation of which we have been placed upon and are being built upon, the person of Christ Jesus in a relationship of spirit and of truth. Not a religion, not even a doctrine, but we move forward in the building and nurturing of the relationship with our dearest One. We are united unto Him and our immaturity in understandings of scriptural truths does not separate any of us, for we are One. With Him and with each other. We are thankful that others bear with our small understanding of a lot of things, knowing that they will be patient and long suffering with us as we like Paul continue to press onward toward the goal before us: The Prize fo the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus!!

Let us press on.

We are so often discouraged that we do not need to be told to press off, but that we need to be encouraged to press on because we are called for eternity, we are kept for eternity, therefore we press onward for the prize of eternity, Christ Jesus.

Sometimes the prize is so dim in view, that we are not even certain that we are running in the right direction. But He who called us has already set aside the prize will keep us to the end. So let us press onward to this upward calling in Chist Jesus.

In my struggle to grapple with the text and its meaning for us today, I shared with my wife of what the text was about and when I asked her what to do, she said, Press On

It is a sign of spiritual immaturity to think of ourselves of that which we are not. Spiritual maturity is marked by consistency and moderation, not inconsistency and extremes.

Let us press on toward the mark of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus!

Paul "saw" the goal for himself, for us and for them.
KJV 2 Timothy 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

KJV 1 Thessalonians 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

.KJV 1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
KJV 1 Corinthians 2:10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

As did Peter for his hearers.
KJV 1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

Let us press on......keeping our eye on the prize

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you today and always.

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 19 May 2012 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Overcomers by Faith 4/10/2012

As we come to the last chapter of the first epistle of John, we again see a familiar pattern: Faith and love. The Apostle Paul in numerous places in his writings spoke of the triad of faith, hope and love and in the 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians writing that of the three of these, he writes that love is the greatest. (1 Corinthians 13:13) Let us note that faith is placed first before love since faith is expressed through love and since love cannot be understood unless one have received the love of God as demonstrated in His sending of His Son to the cross

In this final chapter there are two divisions, from verses 1-12 and from 13-21. We could outline the first 12 verses under this description: The Power, Testimony and Substance of Faith and the last portion could be described as a Concluding Summary.

KJV 1 John 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

All separations that humans have created through the years are addressed in the words: "Whosoever." Faith unites whosoever to the finished work of Jesus Christ, a union from which flows the same substance of love that God loves Christ with. Faith is the substance by which we remain in Him and through which we are overcomers. In the previous chapter we recall that through love all fear was cast out and that we could be open and bold even in the day of judgment or accusation. Here John returns to the subject of faith, reinforcing the truth that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. We repeat again what seems to be an overriding theme of this epistle: God is life, God is light and God is love. One must start with God, come to the light through the Light and abiding in the Light by faith, the love of God is shed abroad into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.

6 This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

Now John gives explanation of verse 1, by writing that Jesus Christ was born of the flesh as evidenced by that which was recorded in his Gospel. The following verses from John describe some of the historical happening of the events of the crucifixion of Jesus the Christ.

John 19:33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:
34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.

We see the threefold witness from heaven which agree with the earthly witness. Those who were teaching that Christ did not come into the flesh are certainly addressed in this part, but there are also other truths that are seen here of which we will not discuss at this time.

9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.
10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.
11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

We are called to believe the testimony of God about His only Son. John compares the witness of men to the witness of God, saying that even if we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater. This could be compared to one being in a courtroom where evidence is presented by witnesses and upon one's acknowledging of the truth, conduct oneself accordingly in light of the facts of truth. This is a much greater testimony that is given here, for it concerns eternal life. In verses 6-8, God Himself states the facts and calls upon us to believe them. Through faith then, we then have this witness within ourselves. If we do not believe God's testimony, we call God a liar!. This would occur if we refuse to believe that record that God gave of His Son.

John goes on to say, for the record, God has given to us eternal life and this life is in his Son. He that has the Son has life, and he that has not the Son has not life.

Now he concludes this letter...
13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.
18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.
19 And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.
20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

In conclusion of this letter, John summarizes the entire book with some concluding encouragement and instruction.
He tells them that through faith comes knowledge of salvation, and through this knowledge, confidence to approach God is given. And asking according to his will, we are assured that he hears us, and knowing that he hears us, we know that we have that which we asked him for. By this we may believe that he will give us all those things that we ask for that are in accordance with his will and purpose in our lives. May we believe this and ask for those things that are needed by us.

At the very least, verse 16 points to the importance of praying on behalf of others, but yet is somewhat of a mystery as to what it really means, so it will not be commented upon it further.

Being born of God, we are counted as righteous through faith, through faith we are kept/guarded by the power of God (1 Peter 1:5) and through the protection of God, we are shielded from the evil one. Returning to the beginning of this chapter, we are reminded that we are overcomers of the world through faith, for we believe that Jesus is the Son of God. He is our victory, for we are more than conquerors through Him who has loved us. (Romans 8:38)

And we know, and we know......The last part of this highlights knowledge. He has written a personal letter from the heart of God, and he again includes himself as a partaker of this knowledge of salvation which is through the person and work of Jesus Christ. He writes of the blessedness of knowing that we are of God, for it is only by grace that one is not yet in the place of wickedness as the world is. He says, We know that the Son of God is come, for we have been given this knowledge from God through the Holy Spirit to the end that we may know him that is true. Having this knowledge means that we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This Jesus Christ is the true God, and eternal life.

Lastly he leaves a warning, being well aware of the offerings of false prophets and of the propensity of humankind to fall victim to false gods, he writes: "Little children, keep yourselves from idols."

How do we keep from idols? How do we recognize idolatry in our selves? Maybe an illustration will give us the answer. When the FBI is training their agents whose job it will be to keep counterfeiters out of the money business, they spend the most of their time teaching the agents what the real money looks like. The reason they do that is so that as they come upon other bills that have been counterfeited it will be relatively easy to spot that which has been falsely made.

In the same way, we are called upon to know the true God, through the person of Jesus Christ, through the Word and through His Spirit. In chapter two of this letter, we heard that we have an unction/anointing of the Holy One by which we know truth and are able to discern truth from error. But we were not left with any vagueness so that we would simply depend upon our discerning abilities, but we were given a couple of teachings which went along with unction/anointing that we were given. One was that it was not possible to come to God without coming through the Son and the other was that one must confess that Jesus Christ was born in the flesh. (2:22-23) (4:2-3)

May we continue to abide in Him and He in us through His Word and Spirit.

In Christ's love,

Pastor Orval

Posted on 10 May 2012 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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Keep your eye on the prize! 5/20/2012
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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