Philippians 3:10

10 My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death

This is a hard verse because it starts off “pleasant” with the idea of knowing the power of His resurrection and then moves into the “unpleasant” notion of having fellowship with His sufferings and being conformed to His death. The problem is we think in terms of pleasant and unpleasant but Paul does not separate the ideas mentioned. Instead, Paul put these things together and says they are his goal. Fellowship with Christ’s sufferings and conformity to His death are not bad things because they mean we are becoming more like Him which is not to say we are becoming divine but becoming selfless and understanding that sin has been defeated and we are alive to it no longer (reckoning ourselves dead to sin but alive to God (Romans 6:11)). We have to remember that Paul says the idea to become more like Christ and to know Him more which he launched in chapter 2 verses 5-11. It cannot be helped that the more we know Jesus the more we want to be like Him.

Just a thought,

Mike

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When your best isn’t good enough

 

I think that everyone should know how to use a concordance with a dictionary (herein just called a concordance) whether you own one or use one on the internet. I own a Strong’s but I typically use BlueLetterBible.com because I am too lazy to move the eight feet where my copy is. I believe that one of the most valuable tools you can have in your arsenal when studying the Bible is a concordance. Knowing how and when to use a concordance is so helpful that I am willing to say you are cheating yourself by not using one. I know that is a bold statement but it’s my website.

I do not recommend using a concordance all the time because you don’t always need to look up the definition of a word. However, we must always remember the Bible was not written in English and those translating it did the best they could. The Bible was written in Greek and Hebrew (more or less) so sometimes a word has a stronger meaning than was applied when translated to English. That does not necessarily mean the English translation you are using is wrong but it does not capture the full weight of the word.

Such is the case with Philippians 3:8 where Paul says “I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth.” To make sure we capture the context Paul is talking about all the things that he used to count as good to him and made him something special. He was a circumcised on the eighth day meaning his parents kept the law, he was a Hebrew of Hebrews meaning his line was pure, he was a Pharisee meaning he was righteous by their standards, and so on. By first century Jewish standards Paul had it going on and he could tell you about it. Paul now says that because he follows Christ he considered those things loss and filth. Paul is saying that he now knows what is right and true and that is righteousness comes by faith in Christ alone. This is a bold statement in and of itself and we might look at that at some point, but right now I want to take a closer look at how Paul views his former status in view of this revelation of justification by faith alone.

Paul calls the old things filth. The Greek word is skybalon and it usually translated filth, rubbish, trash, dung, or some variation thereof. These are all pretty good but when we look at the literal definition of skybalon it means; any refuse, as the excrement of animals, offscourings, rubbish, dregs. Just let that sink in for a minute. When compared to what we receive by faith in Christ what we “accomplished” or bring to the table on our own is like “the excrement of animals.” I cannot even think of a way to compare that to anything. That is the comparison you use when trying to contrast two things. I have animal excrements and Jesus has glory, righteousness, and power. Do you see the madness that is involved in thinking you can earn His love? What could you possibly offer to Him? You have nothing to offer Him. What could you bribe Him with? We come to Him and want to flaunt our animal excrement thinking He will pat us on the head and say “good job.” Are we insane?

Paul is even being more gentle than Isaiah was. Click here and read what the word ‘iddah means in Isaiah 64:6. This is what your “righteous” acts are compared to. How can we think that we can make God pleased with us when are best is ‘iddah or skybalon? If that is what are best is what is our worst? We do not get to God because we are good enough, and we do not stay in God because we are good enough. We have Christ and are in Him because He is good enough. He is more than enough. Jesus came to us when we sinners. He did not wait for you to get cleaned up because if He was going to wait for that He would still be waiting. God came down to us because He is love and love moves.

We have to shake off this idea that we can earn God’s love or blessings. He blesses because He wants to, He loves because He wants to, and He called you because He wants to. He does not need you but He chooses you. He says that one the drunk I want them. I want the prostitute, I want the liar, I want the crack head, I want the cheater, I want the adulter, I want the one thinks they are useless, I want the weak one, I want the slow one, I want my children. He does not wait for you to get good enough because you can’t be. He just wants you.

When we walk with Jesus for a while we start to think that we need to earn our keep. That somehow the love that saved us is not enough to sustain us but that is a lie. Yes as a child you have responsibilities, but those responsibilities do not make you a child they are yours because you are a child of God. Jesus says that we should be yoked to Him and that His burden is light. That means we are tied to Him and He will teach us how to do the work and that He will carry the weight. We just have to walk with Him in the same love that He gave to us, to begin with. So walk with Him and find peace.

Jesus promises to never leave you nor abandon you but that promise is conditional one one thing; that you accept Him and place your faith in Him. So put down your filth and all those things that you think make you a “good person” and trust in the One who has the goods.

Just a thought,

Mike

Bible Study Method

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I get questions from time to time on how to study the Bible. There are a variety of methods and techniques that one could use, but one of my favorites is the example below. I enjoy this method because it can be used as devotional and study. I have a few points first and then the example from Philippians 2:10-18 after that.

Points to Consider:

First, pray. This is the first step because it is the Holy Spirit who will bring the Word to life. If you skip this step then go back to it. Actually, it is not the first step it is the continual step. As you read and study keep praying. One of my most prayed prayers is “Lord help.”

Read a section continual section of Scripture. It does not have to be an entire book or chapter (although that is awesome)  but it should be a large enough section of Scripture that you can see how a section of verses tie together. I always suggest for those starting out that you take a verse that challenges you and then add 5 or so verses on both sides. This way you get a better idea of the context.

Next is if you do not have a Bible commentary on that book, a whole Bible commentary, or a Bible with study notes then use a website like Bible.org or alternatively you can Google a verse and look for commentaries on that verse. You do not need to agree with every commentary you read nor should you but it is a good idea to see what the different interpretations of a verse are. If you can check multiple translations as well.

Lastly, use the cross-references in your Bible. If you are reading your Bible and a verse has a little letter or number with another book/chapter/verse then look that up in your Bible. I have learned a lot just using that.

Now just grab a pen and paper or your keyboard and write down the verse and what you observe through your reading, praying and studying. Don’t worry about being profound or deep or even amazing just study the Bible. The goal is to grow closer to God personally. If you get something worth sharing then share but that should not be the goal. Most of what I write stays between me and God. Actually what is below is from my own personal time but for your sake, I share so you have an example.

10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow— of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth

Jesus’s rule is over all of heaven and earth. He is Lord over all He created.

11  and every tongue should confess that Jesus  Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Today not everyone confesses Jesus as Lord, but there will come a day when Jesus returns that everyone will say that Jesus is Lord. To confess Jesus as Lord gives the Father glory. When as a human father I hear someone brag on my kids I am not only pleased but I am honored because someone else loves what is closest to my heart.

12 So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

Working our your salvation does not mean to earn your salvation because Paul expressly says in other places like Romans 8:3 that we cannot earn salvation. Instead what we are working out is our place in Christ (Colossians 3:3), the effects of our salvation (Romans 6:8-11; Galatians 2:20), and our new nature (Colossians 3:12).

13  For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.

God called us (John 15:16) and has prepared works for us to do.  He has placed the desire in us to do good according to Jeremiah 31:31-34.

14  Do everything without grumbling and arguing,

God is not opposed to you bringing your frustrations to Him. In fact, He tells us to cast our cares on Him because He cares (1 Peter 5:7), but grumbling is different. Grumbling is what children do when they are asked to do something and instead of just doing it they complain. Grumbling is what the people did in the desert. Grumbling says after crossing the red sea “this is hard let’s go back.”

15 so that you may be blameless and pure children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.

By not complaining you show how you are different and that you belong to God. If everyone around you complains about everything and you just keep moving and trusting God you show you are different. Having faith that His ways are right makes you stand out.

16 Hold firmly to the message of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing.

In a world that has shifting and ever changing ideas and loyalties, we are called to hold firm to the words of life.

17  But even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.

Trials come. There should be no question about that. Hard times are inevitable and we need to expect that. Sometimes hard times come because we make foolish choices, sometimes hard times come because other people make bad choices, and sometimes it is just because we live in a fallen and sinful world. Jesus said that He has overcome the world (John 16:33) and we should never forget that. Yes, hard times come in this world but Jesus has overcome the world.

18 In the same way you should also be glad and rejoice with me.

The hardest thing to do when faced with difficulty is to rejoice. When we are being pressed like grapes for our faith how do we rejoice? Where do we find the strength to rejoice in the midst of suffering? We find it in Christ. Jesus has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He is our ever-present help in time of need (Psalm 46:1).

 

Just a thought,

Mike

I don’t want it that bad

 

43704_1717_8807This is the truck I want. Oh, I want this truck. Every time I drive by it I look at it. I think about it and how cool I would look in it. I think about how people would be like “oh yeah that’s Mike’s truck.” Oh, I want this truck, but what I do not want is the payment so I don’t have the truck, and unless someone watching is loaded and wants to buy it for me I will not have this truck. I want this truck but I don’t want it bad enough to buy it. That is what I want to talk about today…how bad do you want it.

There are three men in Luke 9:57-62 that wanted to follow Jesus. At least they said they wanted to follow Jesus but apparently did not want to follow Him bad enough to actually follow through with it. Let’s take a quick look.

The first man said he would follow Jesus wherever He went. This guy said he was ready for anything. He was ready to go, so Jesus said: “I sleep on the ground and use rocks for pillows.” The basic idea Jesus was trying to get through to him was that if he wanted to follow Him then that as ok but he could not be in for anything other than the privilege of following Him. In return, the man who was down for anything said: “I’m out.” Apparently, he did not like camping and wanted the finer things.

The second one Jesus actually called. This man said, “first let me bury my father.” Jesus’ replied, “let the dead bury their dead.” Now this sounds harsh but this man’s father was not dead. We can figure that out because if his father was dead and needed burying then he would have been home burying his father. Instead, he was hanging out to see what Jesus was doing. He did not want to follow Jesus enough to actually follow Him. Instead, I think he just wanted to be close enough so that if things went well he could get in on it.

The third man said, “I’ll follow you, Jesus.” This man was ready to step up where the others failed, but before Jesus could respond this man said: “but first I need to go home.” He was saying “Jesus I’ll follow you, but I need to go home and get permission from my family.” He was more concerned with what his family thought about his choice than what it actually meant to follow Jesus.

These three men said they wanted to follow Jesus but in reality, they did not want to actually do it. They wanted to be known as followers because Jesus was a big deal and they wanted in on the fame. They wanted the glory but not the work. Jesus says that we can follow Him but we need to give up everything.

If we want to know what it means to follow Christ as Lord and not just have Him as Savior then we need to look at Abraham and the Disciples. Abraham left everything to follow God’s direction. God told Abraham to leave his home and his family and Abraham left for a land he did not know simply because God said go. We have to remember that at this time they worshiped a few different gods and these gods were regional so one god might be strong here but over there he was not. Yet Abraham believed this God was strong enough to break boundaries. This was a tremendous act of faith on his part.  

The Disciples when Jesus called them left all sorts of things. Some left ministries they were involved in, some left business ventures, and some left jobs all because Jesus said follow me. Think about that. What if while you were sitting in your cubicle Jesus said follow me and you knew He meant quit right now, would you? Would you just tell your boss “Jesus said I need to quit.” What if you ran a small business and the same thing happened. Would you just hand someone the keys and say “Jesus said I need to go.” What if you were serving in a successful ministry and Jesus said: “time to go.” I am not saying He will do that but He could…

We have to ask ourselves whether we are questioning the faith, new to the faith, or long time Christians “If Jesus says go will I go?” It is not a question that we should take lightly either because our relationship with Him hinges on how we answer. That is not to say if you’ve said no in the past that you’re out of luck but if He asks again will you say “yes Lord.” You and only you can answer the question of how bad do you want it.

Just a thought,

Mike