J.o.y. Jesus, others, you.
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.
Pastor Orval Wirkkala