Friday, June 12, 2015, 7:58 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Return to Me.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Philippians 1:12-30 (ESV). Advancing the Gospel (vv. 12-14) I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. When we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ, several things can happen. For one, it should strengthen us in our faith, and it should produce within us perseverance and even greater determination to continue speaking out for the name of Jesus, which thus serves to advance the gospel. Another thing that can happen is that, through our own persecution, and the strengthening of our own faith and resolve, we may help to encourage other believers to be even bolder and more determined (deliberate) in speaking boldly in the name of Jesus, which then would also serve toward the advancement of the gospel. And, as the gospel advances, more people will come to faith in Jesus Christ, and then they will take the name of Jesus to others, so that also serves to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ. We never know, when we share the gospel, the far reaching effects of our obedience, because when we tell someone about Jesus, he or she may then tell someone else, who may in turn tell someone else, etc. “Come and See” (Based off John 1:35-51): Fruitful Labor (vv. 18b-26) Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. Yet, not everyone who preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ does so for the right motives, even if what they are preaching is the truth (see vv. 15-18a). Some do so out of envy of other ministers of the gospel, hoping to gain a following for themselves. Paul declared, though, that even if their motives were wrong, he rejoiced because Christ was being preached, meaning that these preachers were, at least, preaching what was true. Even though Paul’s “competition” meant harm to him, he was confident in his Lord that it would all turn out for his good. Either the gospel would gain ground, and thus the charges against him would be dropped, and he would no longer be in chains, or its advance would only serve to incite his captors more and thus they may send him on his way to be with his Lord, which is one way this could be interpreted. Or, it could be that, by his “competition” helping to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, that it only helped to solidify the truth of the gospel, and thus served as Paul’s defense that what he was preaching was, indeed, true. Yet, Paul was not looking to make a name for himself or to build some earthly kingdom where he would have a large following of people. His goal and his purpose were to obey his Lord in preaching the gospel of Christ so that people could be saved. For him, to continue to live on this earth was for the glory of Christ, no matter what happened, and if he should die for the sake of the name of Jesus Christ, and for the sake of the gospel, he gained heaven, i.e. he went to be with his Lord, and thus he was relieved of all his suffering. To him, it was a win-win situation. He couldn’t lose either way. So, if his competitors were hoping they could unsettle him by their attempts to stir up trouble for him in his imprisonment, they were in for a big surprise. No matter what happened, Paul was determined to see it as something good, so their efforts would turn out to be ineffective in the way they had hoped. Paul’s attitude was that, if he was to go on living in the body, it would mean fruitful labor for him, but if he died, he would go be with his Lord, and he was torn between the two. He wasn’t worried by what his opposition was trying to do. And, we should not ever worry, either, when we are opposed or when we are threatened or challenged, because we have to know that God’s purposes will prevail, and that our God has it all worked out for our good, and for the advancement of the gospel. We just have to trust the Lord, rest in him, pray for wisdom and discernment, ask for his guidance and direction, and then follow him wherever he leads us. If we are opposed, we pray for wisdom to know how to respond. If we are threatened, we place our lives in God’s capable hands, and we trust him to work it all out according to what he had planned for our lives from before the creation of the world. Paul finally reached the conclusion that it was more necessary for the church that he remain in the body, at least for a while anyway. Why? He was convinced that he must continue with them on the earth for their progress and joy in the faith, in order that their joy in Christ would overflow. After all, is that not why we are here? We should all be looking forward to our Lord’s return, and we should live as though he could return at any time, but it is also possible for us to get so discouraged over our trials that all we want to do is to go be with Jesus, and we can forget that God placed us here for a purpose. Not only are we to be sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ so that people can be saved, but we all have a part in the body of Christ for the mutual encouragement, strengthening, nurturing and edification of one another. We are here to help each other grow in our faith until we all reach maturity in Christ. So, we are necessary, i.e. it is necessary that, as long as God has us on this earth, that we continue on this earth for other believers’ progress and joy in their faith in Jesus. Worthy of the Gospel (vv. 27-30) Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. I see so many people today, though, who claim to know Christ, showing little to no concern for the spiritual growth and maturity of their fellow believers. I see sin largely being ignored, and so many Christians focused on just making each other “feel good” and on having a good time, i.e. on having fun and on being entertained. I even see some Christians applauding one another’s sin and being proud of them for things for which they should be ashamed. And, this breaks my heart. And, I see them as acting not much different from the sinful world around them, for they partake in many of the same “delicacies.” Yet, God did not put us here on the earth just to save us from our sins so we could go to heaven when we die, though many live like that is all there is to it. He didn’t save us from our sins so that we could just entertain ourselves or be entertained by others’ sins. He did not create the church so we could get together and have fun and so we could make each other “feel good” about ourselves. He died so we would die to sin and live to righteousness. He died so we would no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. When we believe in Jesus, we die to sin, we are born anew of the Spirit of God, and we now live for Christ – to walk in his ways, and to live holy lives, pleasing to him. And, our concern should be for one another, as Paul’s was for the church, that we all conduct our lives in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, what does that mean? Well, if we understand the gospel to be nothing more than escape from hell and our ticket into heaven, that doesn’t give us much to go on. But, if we understand the gospel to mean that Jesus died so we would die to sin and live to righteousness, and that he died so we would live for him, and no longer for ourselves, then we have something to go on. If we understand that our salvation means death to sin, and that death to sin means we no longer conduct our lives according to our sinful flesh, but now according to the Spirit, then we now have the knowledge and understanding of what it means to conduct our lives in a manner worthy of the gospel. We are not saved just so we can go to heaven when we die. We are saved so that sin would be put to death in our lives, and so we would live for righteousness. Our lives are no longer our own. We were bought with a price. Therefore, we should honor God with our lives. And, when we do walk in the Spirit, and no longer according to the flesh, we should expect that we will be rejected and persecuted, even by those who call themselves Christians. Yet, we should not be frightened in any way by those who oppose us. We, as followers of Christ, should stand shoulder-to-shoulder in defense of the gospel of Jesus Christ, believing that God will work out all things according to his plans and his purposes. Yet, if presently, anyone should not be living their lives in a manner worthy of the gospel, this serves as a call to turn from sin, to submit to Jesus Christ, and to walk in his ways from this day on. Return to Me / An Original Work / September 5, 2013 Based off Jeremiah 31; Cf. Rev. 2-3 I have loved you with an eternal love, Which I give to you, in my faithfulness. Keep your voice from weeping, And your eyes from tearing. You will be rewarded With much fruitfulness. There is hope for you that My family Will return to Me; live in victory! Though I discipline in My love for you, My heart longs for you that you walk in truth. Turn your thoughts to your Lord. Choose to walk in His ways. Turn from your sins daily. Follow Jesus Christ. Oh, how long will you wander in your sin? Give your hearts to Me; be restored within. I will satisfy ev’ry weary soul Who repents of sin; is renewed within. Behold, days are coming; It will surely happen; Though I discipline them, They will thrive again. I will be their One and their Only God. They shall walk in white; be in Me, made right.