The J.o.y. of Heavenly Citizenship

Dear friend in Christ,

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from His Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!

Think of that my dear friend, it is a new day of grace in which we are so blessed to live in the favor of God through Jesus Christ, who has loved us and given himself for us.

As we continue with Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians, we remember from last week as a result of coming to faith in Jesus Christ, he began to live in eternal life through knowing God and Jesus Christ. (John 17:3), (Phil 3.10-11) As a result of being reborn, He began to live an entirely new existence, which was that now he boldly preached the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ instead of persecuting Him in his followers.

Last week we heard of how his great desire was to attain the resurrection of the dead, (Phil 3:11) and so he pressed on toward that goal, as he now lived out who Christ had called him to be. (Phil 3:14) As was said last week, he looked through the “windshield” and not the “rear view mirror” which he explained in verses 12-13.  Paul was grasped by grace and now he began to preach the message of grace to a graceless world. He did not look backward but forward in how he could make an eternal difference in the lives of his dear fellow human beings.

This week we will consider Philippians 3:15-21. May the Lord grant unto us the meaning of His Word into our minds and hearts by the illumination of His Spirit. Amen.

 

Philippians 3:15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.

 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

After speaking of how he came to know Christ according to the Scriptures, he now encourages his people to walk in maturity in the essentials, namely that through faith in Christ one is a new creation. He calls them to stand fast in the essentials, and to be charitable in the non essentials. Here he is talking about that which occurs within the heart and mind of a person through faith before going on to speak of the evidence (love) of that which has occurred within one’s mind and heart. Stand fast in your knowledge that through faith in Christ we have eternal life.

 

 17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

He now calls upon us to be an imitator, a copy cat. In other places he qualifies his request by telling them that in actuality, they are following God and Christ. Left unsaid, is that if he is not following Christ, don’t imitate him.

KJV 1 Corinthians 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

KJV Ephesians 5:1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

Now that we are followers of Christ, we no longer live for ourselves, but for the sake of others. How are we leading so that those who are watching us will be drawn to Christ? Are we living for ourselves, or are we conducting our lives in a way that those watching and those being influenced by our example will be led away from Christ? 

 

It has been said the children are like wet cement, in that when they are young they are soft and pliable, believe that which they are told and hear and eventually firm up in their ideas and convictions as they grow up.  We need to consider our ways……..

 

He now reveals his deep love for the souls of all people, by giving a warning, weeping as he does. He has been so deeply affected, no we could better say infected with the heart of Christ, that he weeps as he warns them of the danger of those who would rob them of earthly joy and eternal joy.  The joy robbers are back again, by bringing a gospel that is a false gospel, and who are living according to their fleshly existence, which means that they do not believe God in His Word. Their end is destruction.

 

3:18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.

 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

 

The Scripture records Jesus as weeping twice.  Why did Jesus weep?

 

John 11:32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.

 34 And he said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see."

 35 Jesus wept.

 36 So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"

 37 But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?"

 38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.

 

Was it because He saw the pain and misery that sin and death brought into the world?

 

Luke 19:37 As he was drawing near- already on the way down the Mount of Olives- the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen,

 38 saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples."

 40 He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out."

 41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,

 42 saying, "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side

 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation."

 

Here Jesus wept because they did not receive Him as the Prince of Peace and that judgment was coming to them.

 

 

 

Paul demonstrates of his Christ indwelt heart as he says goodbye to a congregation he had cared for a number of years.

 

Acts 2:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;

 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.

 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

 

He closes our text today by pointing us to that which is to come, to that which is not seen by our earthly eye, by our external eye, but only by the eye of faith.

 

Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

 

 

Let us not forget, that “The best is yet to come……” Perhaps these last two verses will be best explained by the following…….

How many of us remember the times in our youth when we would ask our parents as we traveled on a long road trip, "Are we there yet? How many more miles?"  A common question from us when we were in the beginning years of our lives and at which point we had not come to understand that there is a lot of waiting on life's highway. 

 

Our God has set the longing for eternity with Him into our hearts and has given us a foretaste through the Holy Spirit of that which He has prepared for us on the new heaven and on the new earth. We are as foreigners in this strange land which we are passing through, for we are looking for that city whose builder and maker is God. The sureness of our successful arrival to our final homeland has been guaranteed through the sealing of the Holy Spirit upon us. But sometimes we forget that which the Lord has won for us, that which He has placed into our hearts and minds and that which has only been described in earthly terms.  May the following story refresh our hearts and minds as we wait for that glorious day....

 

A man and his wife had spent over 50 years in the mission field in a foreign country, and had become somewhat crippled as they ended their many years of serving the Lord. As they left the field, and as they began their journey on the ship to come back to the United States of America to spend their final years in their native land, it just so happened that the president of the United States was traveling back home to the US on the same boat, as he returned with his entourage from a hunting expedition.

 

As the ship approached the New York Harbor, great crowds could be seen from afar as they excitedly awaited to welcome home their president. As can be expected, there was much noise and activity as the ship tied up at the dock, as the president and his supporters walked down the gangplank, into the crowd and into waiting vehicles of transportation. Soon everyone was off of the ship and and shortly thereafter the streets were deserted.

 

At this point, the missionaries began to hobble down the gangplank and as they did the elderly man voiced his frustration."There is not one person here to meet us, we who have been doing the Lord's work for all these years! How fair is that there is no one to meet us when we come home, but there are thousands that came to meet the president when he comes home? It is so unfair!!!!"  His wife listened, but said not a word.

 

So that night after they had settled down in the place that they were staying, again he began to voice his frustration about the lack of reception at their homecoming. His wife kindly told him that perhaps he should take it up with the Lord and see what He says about it.  So the man retired to his prayer closet, and began to pour out his heart to the Lord in a respectful but yet direct way about how unfair it was that no one welcomed them home. Soon the man became quiet, began to listen to the Lord and then he began to feel his heart softening as he listened to what the Lord had so say to him. He returned to his wife with a joyful and restful countenance, which to his wife was very surprising.  Naturally she asked him, Wow, what did the Lord have to say to you?

 

The elderly crippled missionary spoke in a joyful, but humble and quiet voice:  He said, "You are not home yet..........."

 

Faith is not only believing God in His Word, but it is also resisting all those things in life that are brought forth as reality and as truth. Let us remember, that God is only known as revealed through His Son from the Holy Scriptures through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. He is faithful……

 

 

And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.  2 Thessalonians 3:5

Waiting with you for Him,

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

 

The J.o.y. of knowing Jesus 2

Dear friend,

 

May the grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

What is the greatest exchange that you have ever heard of? How about this one, where someone took away all our bad and gave unto us all their good? That is what occurred when Jesus Christ became sin for us, He who knew no sin, so that we might be made righteous with God. Martin Luther called this action of God's grace the Great Exchange.

 

As we continue hearing the Apostle Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, share the letter he wrote to the Philippian congregation, we are reviewing of his experience of the Great Exchange. That which he thought was on the plus side, he came to see that it was on the minus side. In this 3rd chapter of Philippians he gives his testimony concerning his spiritual journey which resulted in Jesus Christ finding him As a result,  he One he formerly had persecuted he now began to preach and proclaim Him.  He not only counted the former things for loss, he had counted and continued to count ALL things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ.

 

 

Philippians 3:8 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,

 

What did Paul mean when he says, "to win Christ?" If we understand his former way of thinking that he considered himself having favor with God through his Jewish background, upbringing and service, it would mean that he thought he was winning favor with God by his own actions. It can be confusing to us when we are comparing merit with gift and the same terminology is used for both. Paul certainly was not speaking of his merit gaining Christ's favor, a fact of utmost importance which he clarifies in the next verse by saying "to be found in Him."

 

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:

 

Here he clarifies what he is speaking about as he contrasts being justified by the law (by doing) vs justified by the merit of Christ (by receiving), which is  applied to him/to us by faith.

 

 

 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.

 

What is Paul referring to here when he says "that I may know Him and so on? The first scripture verse we heard read today was from John 17:3 which is as follows:

 

KJV John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

 

To know Christ is to have eternal life. Not to know of Him, or about Him, but to know Him. What does it mean to know Him? Well, let us consider an earthly example of what it means to know of somebody vs to know somebody. We all know a lot of people, but by far the vast majority of our friends we know only of them but do not really know them. Do we know them from what others say about them or do we know them from sharing of life together with them? What do they think of us, what do they want for us and so on?

 

Is to know Christ to know, to believe and to trust in that which He out of love has accomplished for us? Paul said in another place concerning knowing...

 

KJV 2 Timothy 1:12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

 

 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.

 

As a result of being connected to Christ's merits through faith, Paul now knew Christ, and of how He had been  delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.(Romans 4:25) He understood and received the grace of God in Christ.

 

By faith he also recognized that in this relationship with Christ he would be drawn closer to Him through suffering in Him and for Him, as he continued to walk by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit's presence in him.  He saw by faith that one day he would be raised up by Christ at the last day.

 

John 6: 39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

 

 

 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(upward) high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Paul exudes confidence which resulted from him "knowing" Christ through the revelation of the Holy Spirit of the will and purposes of God for him. He may have thought that he was sounding a little uppity with his hearers, so now he softens his approach to them, saying something like this: 'It is not as if I have already arrived, for I have not, as I am still in the maturing process.

 

 

Faith has given me all the knowledge of Christ that I have need of, but because the old nature still lives in me, I am subject to looking back, or even inward. I want nothing more than to grasp that which Christ grasped me for, and even though I am still incomplete in this knowledge, I know that I am looking through the windshield instead of into the rear view mirror.

 

Here is some real application for us all. How much joy and peace are we robbed of when we look back and say things like, "I should have, I could have, Why didn't , How could I have been so blind? and so on? While it is true that Apostle Paul did look back, he did only to remember from which he had been before, but he did not go back in order repunish himself for his past sins. Another had taken the punishment for them, namely Christ. That is the Christ Paul know and the One we must know.

 

 

 

 

Apostle Peter is another one who could have beat himself up for his past, but in reading his epistles it is difficult to find where he did so. Instead, he magnified the grace of God in his past, present and future life. There is a lesson for us in these two men in how they understood, experienced and proclaimed the grace of God in Christ. How did Peter come to know Christ?

 

 

 

Luke 23:32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.

 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

 34 And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

 

 

 

 Luke 22:59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, "Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean."

 60 But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are talking about." And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.

 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, "Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times."

 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

 

By what he wrote as the last verse of his 2nd letter, we can be fairly certain that he knew Jesus as His Saviour and Lord.

 

KJV 2 Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

May our gracious Lord bless His Word into our hearts and minds today so that we by faith may say as my dear mother did as she drew near her departure from this life: Eternity will not be long enough to praise my Saviour for saving me.”

All glory and honor to God through Jesus Christ now and always, Amen!

Pastor Orval

J.o.y. of Knowing Jesus

                                                                   J.o.y.  Jesus, others, you.   

 

Dear friend,

May the amazing grace of God be received unto us a fresh  today, in that we will realize that it is a new day of God’s mercy and grace towards us through His Son Jesus Christ!  May yours and my minds and hearts be like sponges which take in and absorb the love that our God and our Father lavishes on us anew today,  and as a result we experience and rejoice in the knowledge that God loves us very deeply.

Last Sunday we heard about the mutual relationships that existed between Apostle Paul and his two co laborers Timothy and Ephaphroditus who ministered to him in prison and for him to the congregation at Philippi. We heard of how Paul not only ministered to others but of how he needed the ministry of his two beloved brothers, who were available to him, who were sensitive to the needs of the people and who were dependable. Available, Sensitive, Dependable.   May we recognize that those three characteristics are a formula to maintaining, exercising and deepening any relationship between people.

Paul, having J.o.y. in his beloved people as well as J.o.y. in ministering amongst them again reminds them to rejoice in the Lord, and it seems that he repeating himself. Why not, for he is a joyful minister of the Lord who lives in joy and wants all to live in the same joy. May we be reminded of what joy is?

 

Joy is a reality that is ours through the knowledge and experience that God has reconciled us to Himself through the cross, by His gracious gift we trust in that reality, and even if circumstances change in our lives, our relationship with Him now and forever cannot be shaken.

 

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of our lives, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.

 

Christian joy is confident, it is shared and it is increasing.

 

Let us listen again of the joy of Apostle Paul…..

 

1:4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy

1:18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

1:26 That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again

2:2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

2: 17 Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.

  18 For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.

2:28 I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.

 

 

 

As we move to the next focus of Apostle Paul (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) he again exhorts them to live in joy, calling to them as brothers (and sisters) to rejoice in the Lord, and  goes onto tell them that they should be careful of the joy robbers who are in their midst. A joy robber would be anyone who tries to add something to the teaching that salvation is by grace through faith, and man contributes nothing. Let us listen to what he says.

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.

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

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

 

He tells them that he is repeating what he has already told them, for the reason that it is all important to keep emphasizing and placing before his hearers of the basic essential parts of the Christian faith. He speaks to the subject of circumcision, which in the Old Testament was a mark that all the male members of the Hebrew people were to be marked with on their 8th day of life. 

 

The New Testament clarifies and contrasts the shadows and temporary ministrations of the Old Testament, for in the Old Testament people came to the physical temple to come into God’s Presence.

 

John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

 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.

 

Paul continues on to warn his people about the robbers of joy.

 

Philippians 3:4 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.

 

Paul then goes on to describe what it means to have confidence in the flesh, by pointing to his former life of  devoted and impeccable service to God and he does this by saying it like this: “Let me tell you how it worked for me in my former days when my eyes were blind to what God had done for me through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Let me tell you how I found my identity in God’s chosen people, not in Jesus Christ. (An Israelite), I was of the tribe of Benjamin, and I was a Hebrew of Hebrews.

 

 

As a result of being brought up in this environment, I became a Pharisee in step with the law, I became a persecutor of the followers of Jesus Christ who had been killed and was never heard from again, and I was blameless in the keeping of all the God required us to keep in order to maintain our standing before Him.

 

But I was mistaken, for what I thought was right and acceptable before God in order to please Him, I found it to be of no value. This all happened because Jesus Christ met me, for He pursued me and stopped me in my tracks, and my whole life changed from being a persecutor to being persecuted. Let me give you a little background of some events that I witnessed while I was still walking in darkness, but yet confident that I was doing the Lord’s work.

 

There was one of the followers named Stephen of this  dead Jesus who was answering questions for the leaders of the synagogue and after he had challenged them in their belief system, they did not like what he had to say to them concerning the resurrected Jesus, Acts 7:54-8:1a  (I changed it up a bit to make it appear that Saul/Paul was speaking in the first person)

 

54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

 55 But Stephen, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

 56 And I heard this Stephan say, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God”.

 57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,

 58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at my feet.

 59 And they stoned Stephen, who I heard call unto God  and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

KJV Acts 8:1 And I was in agreement what was done to kill this follower of Jesus.  .

 

 

KJV Acts 9:1 And I continued on, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, and I went unto the high priest,

 2 And I asked of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, I might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

 3 And as I journeyed, I came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

 4 And I fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

 5 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the goads, it is hard for you to resist my calling upon your life.

 6 And I trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

Everything changed from that day on, before I was blind, but now I began to see. I now knew that my identity was in Jesus Christ, and that the forgiveness that He poured out into me and upon me was by grace, it was a gift. As a result of this great change, the freedom and joy that I now experience, I began to preach the resurrected Jesus Christ instead of seeking to imprison or even to join in the killing of His followers.  I was able to see that persecuting of his followers was persecuting Jesus Himself……..

 

 

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:

 

 

As I close this writing, there is a lot to think about in relation to our own testimony. Through the years it has been interesting to hear of how people were brought from darkness to light. What is your experience of coming from darkness to light? Some have come gradually and cannot remember a specific occurrence like the Apostle Paul went through, while others remember very well of how they lived in what they thought was the light, but when the True Light came to them, they realized that they were in darkness and then came to the True Light in their brokenness.

 

 

In two weeks we are going to move to verses 10-11( I will not be preaching here next Sunday) which consist of few words, but have immense meaning to one who has come to see that salvation is a gift by grace through faith. For Paul states of three desires that rose up in him as a result of his encounter with Jesus, when he heard the Voice speak into his very own heard and mind.

 

Out of his transformation came the desire “to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, to share in His sufferings, and to be like Him in His death.”  There will be much to hear from the Spirit concerning those three desires of one who has been changed living in external trappings of religion to the internal experience of becoming a worshipper of God in spirit and in truth.

 

 

May the Lord bless our meditations in His Word through the workings of the Holy Spirit who continually speaks to us and show us Christ in His death and resurrection.

In Christ,

Pastor Orval Wirkkala