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Not Merely Religion

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Philippians 2: 1-18

Matt 5:13 reads as follows:  “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.  

At a meeting some young people were discussing this text, “Ye are the salt of the earth.” As many of you have done, I’m sure, they pondered what Jesus actually meant by these words. One suggestion after another was made as to the meaning of “salt”.

“Salt imparts flavor,” said one.

“Salt preserves from decay,” another suggested.

I am sure you would agree that these two explanations seem valid.

But then a girl mentions another effect of salt: “Salt creates thirst,” she said……How effective are you in creating a THIRST for Christ? What inside you draws a person to want to know about Christ?

In effect I am enquiring into how healthy is your Christian walk before the Lord, because if you do not radiate the love you have for Christ by your conduct before the world, by how you live, what you do, by your speech, by your relationships, the stuff you watch on TV, the internet….if you don’t show the love you have for Christ in these practical things, what does it say about the value Christ has for you?

Turn with me to Philippians 2, we are going to read from verse 1-18. Paul was addressing the Church in Philippi because of some members in the Church viewed themselves above others; more important than others and were displaying a un-Christ like attitude.

Philippians 2:1-18

·         Their Sin: I would point you to the sin of the Philippians: look at 2:2-3: make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

By mentioning these things, Paul obviously was implying that they were in fact behaving the opposite to his exhortation to them. At the core of their outwardly visible sin, was the fact that Christ was not their first love. Their focus in life was not in honoring Him, but was on themselves! You can sum up their visible sin in one word: “WORLDLINESS”.

They were guilty of putting the world before Christ: 1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world

Worldly pride caused some of them to consider themselves better than others. Where worldliness is present, the Spirit of God is resisted and the fruits of the Spirit are not displayed: can you see that there were an obvious lack of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in the Philippians? They displayed the fruits of the word: selfish ambition, dissention, being loveless, being vain and conceited, sinful pride and selfishness.

You might even be tempted to look at them and wonder if they were really Christians at all, wouldn’t you? But just look at Paul’s greeting to them and it is clear that they were in fact believers: Paul addressed his letter to the Saints in Christ in Philippi. They were believers! And it is in realizing this that the warning for us becomes clear: If the believers of Philippi, having been trained by Paul himself, could become worldly, then the same must be true for us as well! How easy is it for us to fall into a pattern of sin and not even recognize it? How worldly are YOU? Where is your focus? Are you living your lives primarily to honor Christ the way it should?

If you’re not….

What is the solution? If the Spirit of God is speaking to you today, what can you do to rectify the situation? How can you change your life to be Christ Centered?

You see, being a Christian does not necessarily lead to good behavior; otherwise corrections like these in Philippians would not have been in the Bible!! When we come to faith we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and are reborn as new men, but our newborn spirit is still trapped in this fleshly body which in effect wars against our spirit. Just read Romans 7 “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do”. We do not automatically start behaving in a way worthy of the Gospel.

How do I change my behavior?

1.       Look at Paul’s prayer for the Philippians in ch1: 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

A changed behavior goes hand in hand with an increase in your love for Christ! But notice that this is not a merely emotional love. This love grows by an increase in knowledge. As you learn by Scripture the character and nature of God, His works, His love, His mercy and grace, you get better insight and understanding into what God’s will is, as well as come to a better understanding of your own depravity and are better able to discern what is best on one hand, or what needs to be avoided. Because you understand Him better and know Him better, and frankly come to know yourself better, your love for Him increases more and more and you want to honor Him by your conduct! You then begin to live more and more a Christ centered life! So step one: Increase your knowledge!

2.      Scripture tells us that we have to train ourselves to be godly in our behavior (1 Tim 4:7). Obviously implied in this, is that if we don’t train ourselves, we will be worldly with the same worldly behavior patterns as the Philippians! My friend: godliness is cultivated: you train yourself. The Greek word for training is γυμνάζω  (gumnazoe) from which we get “Gymnast”. It conveys strenuous exercise.  Purposeful ,  single-minded commitment to change your behaviour from worldly to godly!  The Greek use of the word also indicates a continuous effort in training yourself to be godly! Again: Left to itself, your mind will be worldly, because that is the effect your sinful flesh has on you! If we do not exercise ourselves to godliness we will gravitate back to that same worldly state of mind the Philippians had when Paul had to reprimand them.

 Oh yes, being saved, the desire to honour God will be there: you will still try to be obedient in most things, but it would be a cold obedience. It will be based on a guilty conscience and not flow from your love for Christ! The 1st love will be gone and you will be practising religion rather than have that relationship God desires!

What does this training involve? Again it has to do with knowledge:  Based on your knowledge of God’s will, you may ask yourselves questions like:

ü  what does Scripture say about the issue you are dealing with?

ü  How will your choice glorify God?

ü  Will this bring harm to someone?

ü  Will my actions cause someone’s faith  to suffer?

ü   It might not be sin, but is it good for me?

ü  Can I help someone?

 

You must train yourself to consistently apply your knowledge as you are faced with issues day by day. It is not cold-hearted legalism; it is God honouring, Christ centred love that bears the fruit of obedience!

3.      Paul did not only reprimand the Philippians but used himself as a pattern for the Philippians to emulate: go back to 1:20: I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.

The example of Paul is the only way we can live a Christ honoring life: To live is Christ! To have the mindset of Paul is not reserved for some super Christian like an Apostle. It is the mind set on worshipping your Lord as the SOLE focus of your life. To live is Christ! Everything else is secondary to this focus: your relationships, your leisure time, your work are primarily aimed at honoring Him by the way you engage in them. Any other mindset is worldly and lead to worldliness in our behavior. All we do , as Christ centered people is aimed to glorify God.

4.      Have the right perspective: Ch 2: When Jesus, being equal with the Father in glory, was incarnated as a man, what did He do? As a HUMAN BEING He took on the position of a “servant”. He humbled himself because He was in human form! The Greek word for “servant” is actually the word “Doulos”, meaning “SLAVE”!

If the Holy Son of God found it necessary to be a slave, imagine what we ought to be! My people: We are in a relationship with the awesome, majestic, holy God of heaven and earth! A consuming Fire! What place for pride is there before Him? We are nothing; no, we are less than nothing before a holy God. That is why, v 12, we have live out our salvation before God with fear and trembling because He is LORD, the Awesome Holy God working in and through us! Like slaves are obedient to their Master, we must with single-minded purpose OBEY the guidance of God, training ourselves to be godly because of our FEAR for God, our REFERENCE for God!

When we know what we must do, we must it without complaining or arguing and do what we are told! Oftentimes it will be against what we want, or what society want, or is popular, or lead to suffering or ridicule but as slaves are without question obedient to their masters, we must be obedient to the God that bought us with a price, and that without grumbling against Him, without complaint in subjection to the sovereignty of our Master.

                     if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

     14     For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

Now again: this is not cold, heartless legalism, but an attitude that flows from our love for Christ and the knowledge what He the Holy God did for us!

            Now you might say: “come on Ryk, this is impossible!” Is it? God does not expect of you to be able to do this in your own ability! Remember that you were dead, like a corpse in you sin before you were saved: did God expect of you then to revive yourself to live? If He gave you life, would He not with it give you the ability to worships Him from a true heart?

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

Saints: just do it: Put Christ in the Centre of your live. Because of what He has done for you, it is the only reasonable thing you can do in return!

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