Philippians on Friday: Was it Worth It?

Philippians on Friday: Was it Worth It?

Philippians 2:16: “Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.”

We can see at the end of verse 16, a very transparent apostle. He wants to know that his ministry to the Philippians has not been in vain.

philippiansPaul is not naïve about his situation. He knows he may never be released from prison or that any day could be his last. He can sense in his spirit that the end of his earthly race is approaching.

He’s reflecting on his life and ministry.  He’s thinking about the impact he’s made. It’s as though he’s telling the Philippians:

I will have great joy if I know that all my investment in you has paid off.  I will rejoice if I can be confident that you will continue to the end.

What Paul meant in this verse when he said, “Holding forth the Word of Life” has sparked some disagreement.  “Holding forth” can mean two different things in the Greek language:

  1. To Show Forth or Display
  2. To Hold Fast

Whichever thought Paul had in mind, the message to the Philippians was the same.  Paul just wants to know that his labor was not in vain.  As his time on earth winds down, he wants to know that the Philippians will continue on, either by continuing to show forth the Gospel message or by holding fast to the Gospel message and their faith in Christ.

Paul will have great joy if he knows that all his travels to Philippi and his teaching, prayers and impartation were not in vain.  He wants to feel assured that all his sacrifice was worth it. If the Philippians don’t hold out until the end, Paul’s work would seem in vain.

I don’t want any of those who’ve poured into my life to ever feel like their sacrifice wasn’t worth it.

The Apostle Paul was the spiritual father of the Philippians – he had established the church in Philippi.  But he was concerned about more than just their beginning.  He was concerned about the long term.  He was not just focused on conversion but on discipleship.  His joy would come from them continuing.  He would feel satisfied that his efforts were worth it if they would remain steadfast in the faith.

Will Others Say It Was Worth It?

 Think of all the spiritual leaders who have invested in us:

  • Parents
  • Pastors
  • Sunday school teachers
  • Youth pastors
  • Older saints in the church

We are what we are today in Christ because of those who have poured into our lives.  I’m sure our spiritual mentors will, like Paul, find great joy and satisfaction in knowing that we will continue on with Christ until the end.  I want those who’ve invested in us to feel like their sacrifice was worth it!

PhilippiansLet us “hold forth” the Word of Life by continuing to do the Lord’s work and not wavering in letting the light of the Gospel shine through us.  May we “hold fast” to the Word of Life by remaining steadfast in the faith and being determined to finish the course.  Many people have invested in us and sacrificed greatly to help us get to where we are now.  How sad if we were to throw in the towel and stop short of the finish line.  I don’t want any of those who’ve poured into my life to ever feel like their sacrifice wasn’t worth it.

Paul said in Hebrews 12:1:

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses….let us run with patience the race that is set before us…”

There is a great number of people who are watching us.  Those who’ve poured into our lives are witnesses of the spiritual race that we are running.  Let us endure faithfully to the finish line, and bring great joy to those who have invested into our lives.  I want that great cloud of witnesses to say, “It was worth it!”

~Matthew Ball

Legalism, Standards, Rules and Other Dirty Words

I had a conversation recently with a person who accused our church of being “legalistic.” This person felt our church was steeped in legalism because we have expectations of those who lead in our congregation.  I think the exact statement was, “You’re legalistic because you have rules that those in leadership must follow.”

Legalism

Before I point out what I believe are the errors in this person’s assessment, let me first properly define legalism.  Legalism is the notion that a mere human could attain a holy standing before God through his or her own righteousness, good works, or adhering to a set of laws or commandments.  It stems from the Old Testament idea that a person could achieve rightness in the sight of God by strictly adhering to the Law.

LegalismOf course anyone who knows his or her Bible understands that if following the Law made one righteous, then we would not have needed the New Testament, it’s Cross or it’s Christ!  The whole reason Jesus came was because no man could ever measure up.  Only Christ measured up.  And our only hope of standing justified before a Holy God is to trust in Christ’s righteousness, not ours.  Our own righteousness is not enough – not by a long shot.  When we are born again of water and Spirit, we put on Christ’s righteousness.  We are made holy because of what He did, not because of what we have done.

We are certainly not legalistic:

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness.  I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.  On Christ the solid rock I stand – all other ground is sinking sand.

So why do some fire off accusations of legalism like a shaky-handed gunslinger?  legalismFirst of all, it’s ignorance of the true meaning of legalism.  Some have wrongly branded anyone who teaches holy living as being legalistic.

Standards

I make no apologies for teaching Biblical standards of conduct and lifestyle (which should be embraced by all those who are children of God).  But such teaching is not legalism.  I don’t for a moment think those standards are what make me holy.  If I could be holy by what I do or don’t do, then the cross was for naught.  Only Christ’s Righteousness can make me holy!

I do my best to live a Godly and holy lifestyle as a reflection of my salvation not to earn it. I strive to adhere to Bible standards of conduct, not to be saved, but because I am saved.  I live the way I do because my priority is pleasing God, not this world.  I follow after a holy lifestyle because what God’s Word teaches about Christian living is for my own protection and benefit.  This is not legalism.

I remind myself daily, that I’m saved by grace:

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men…(Titus 2:11)

But I also remind myself of the rest of that passage from Paul to Titus – what grace teaches:

“…Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world…” Titus 2:11-12

legalismIf we equate standards of Christian lifestyle with legalism, we would need to throw out most all the epistles.  The majority of the writings of the apostles to the church deal with how Christians should live their lives once saved.

I wouldn’t dare call Paul a legalist.  How could I?  He, of all men, understood the failure of the Old Testament to make men righteous.  Yet Paul taught standards of Christian lifestyle that ran the gamut from modesty in attire to appropriate conversation to sexual purity.  So anyone who believes those who teach Biblical standards of lifestyle and conduct are legalists simply don’t understand the Scripture or what legalism means.

Self-Righteousness

Unfortunately, the approach of some who teach standards of Christian lifestyle has produced a culture in some circles of “self-righteousness.”  Again, self-righteousness goes against the very essence of the New Testament.  Such ugly attitudes should have no place in the Body of Christ.  Regardless of what I embrace as my Christian lifestyle, I should never look down my nose at others or think that I’m more righteous or holy than they, simply because I do this or don’t do that.  Such an attitude is the antithesis of true Christianity. We have our hands full working out our own salvation and trying to get our own flesh crucified daily on the altar.  We sure don’t have time to worry about everyone else’s journey to spiritual maturity!

Rules

The accusation of being legalistic was leveled because I, “have rules for legalismthose in leadership.”  If having expectations of those who are in leadership is legalistic, then all the apostles where legalists.  They pulled no punches when it came to setting the bar high for those who desired to lead in the local congregation.  Just look at the long list of qualifications of bishops and deacons set forth by Paul.  It’s only common sense that if a person is going to be a spiritual leader, we expect them to be spiritually-minded, Godly people.  How will leaders testify to others of the transforming power of Jesus Christ if there are not signs of such spiritual transformation in their own lives?

I won’t apologize for having clear expectations of those who lead our congregation into the Presence or Word of God.  This is serious business!  There is nothing more sacred and holy than the Spirit of God and the Word of God.  Those who lead the congregation in these areas must be committed to Godly living, purity, spirituality and dedication.

The irony of such unfounded accusations is that those making them have rules in their own congregations for their leaders.  I would imagine even the most liberal church would find it unacceptable if their worship leader came onto the platform on Sunday in a thong or string-bikini!  Would that be ok?  If you say no, then, you too, have rules.  I would hope that even in the most liberal church, a man wouldn’t be permitted to feed the flock of God on Sunday if he was sleeping around with a different woman every night.  If you answer, “No, we wouldn’t allow that in our church!” then you, too, have rules.  And if having any rules makes you a legalist then every church is legalistic.

Everyone draws a line somewhere and that, in itself, isn’t legalism. Usually someone cries “legalism” when there is a difference in where you draw the line. We all have expectations and rules for those in leadership. What we expect of leaders in our congregation may be more conservative than your expectations, but the truth is we all have them. And that doesn’t make us legalistic.

legalism

Judgementalism

What usually follows the “legalism” accusation is a reference to being judgmental. But again, the inconsistencies of those making such claims are obvious. Why is expecting a leader to dress modestly judgmental, but expecting a leader to refrain from adultery not judgmental? The truth is we all have standards. We may just differ in how high we set the bar. But setting a bar in itself, is not being judgmental or legalistic.

Of course it’s imperative that where we set that bar be based upon eternal Biblical principles. What we expect of those in leadership in our local congregation and what we teach in our church about the Christian lifestyle is based on explicit Biblical commands or common-sense applications of Biblical principles. There may be differences of opinion from church to church on how to rightly apply Biblical principles to present day life. But just because I may define modesty in a more conservative way than you, doesn’t make me a legalist any more than your liberal definition of modesty makes you a legalist. If preaching standards is legalism then we’re all legalists, because we all have standards of some varying degree. If having expectations of our leaders makes us judgmental, then we’re all judgmental.  We all have expectations of those involved in spiritual leadership.

If preaching standards equates legalism then we’re all legalists, because we all have standards of some varying degree.

The hypocrisy of those crying “judgmental” is that you condemning me for teaching Bible standards is judgmental! I could justifiably say, “Why are you being so judgmental? Why are judging me because I expect our leaders to live a certain way?” It’s like those promoting a LGBT agenda calling me intolerant because I believe in the Bible’s definition of marriage. Aren’t those crying “Foul” being intolerant? They are being intolerant of my different viewpoint! Some think they can define  “intolerance” as having any other viewpoint than their own.

“Holy living,” “standards,” and “expectations for leaders,” are not bad words! Establishing Bible standards of living for those in leadership and teaching Biblical concepts of holy living is not legalism nor does it mean a church or pastor is judgmental or intolerant. It likely means that pastor or church is doing their best to lead that congregation into a life-style pleasing to God and one that stands as a testimony to a lost world of God’s power to make us new creatures!

~Matthew Ball

Too Blessed to Not Multiply

Genesis 1:28 – 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply…(KJV)

The first thing God did after creating Adam and Eve was bless them. He made them in His own image then He blessed them. He blessed what He created.

blessedI’m grateful for the blessings of God upon our lives! After God makes us new creatures in Christ, He blesses us. He doesn’t only save us (which is an immeasurable blessing in itself) He then blesses us. He blesses us with peace and joy. He blesses our lives with mercies that are new each morning. (Lamentations 3:23) He blesses us with health, strength, guidance and wisdom. He enriches our lives daily with benefits:

Psalms 68:19: 19 Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loadeth us with benefits, Even the God of our salvation. Selah.

God blessed Adam and Eve and then said, “be fruitful and multiply.” The natural result of God’s blessings should be fruitfulness and multiplication. It wouldn’t be right to gorge myself on God’s blessings and not pour them out to others. God blessed us to be a blessing.

God blessed us to be a blessing.

Multiplication should follow receiving God’s blessings. How can I be a beneficiary of His gracious salvation yet never share the redemption message with others? Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)

I aspire to be fruitful in God’s Kingdom today. I want to share the blessings of God today with others. I want to multiply. Like Andrew found Peter, I want to find some searching soul today and say come, “I have found the Christ” (John 1:41)

~Matthew Ball

Philippians on Friday: Hold On!

Thanks for joining us today for our Friday devotion from Philippians!  Today we’re looking at chapter two and verse sixteen:

Philippians 2:16 – Holding forth the word of life…(KJV)

Hold on! Hold fast! Don’t let go! Paul is encouraging the Philippians to cling firmly to the Word of Life. Sometimes in the Christian journey you’ve got to tie a knot in the rope and just hold on.

There is certainly a measure of tenacity and resolve required to be a Christian. There are times when you must determine that you will hold on, in spite of trouble and opposition.

PhilippiansHold to the Word of Life. Hold fast to the promises of God’s Word. Hold fast to the truths that have proven over and over to be a solid foundation. Hold fast to the tenants of your faith that have brought you thus far. Hold fast to what has often been a lamp and light to your feet and path. Hold fast to the Scriptures that have brought you comfort and strength in your long and lonely nights. Hold fast to the Word of Life. The Word has never failed you and it never will.

To make it to the end, you must possess an unwavering determination to hold fast to the things of God.

Paul is brutally honest with the Philippians. He doesn’t conceal the fact that they must hold fast to the Word of Life. He does not hide the truth in the fine print on the bottom of the last page! He’s honest and straightforward. His choice of words in this verse proclaims a clear message – we will all face things as a Christian that require a determination to hold fast.

Hold forth – ἐπέχω (epechō): verb: “To hold firmly to. To hold fast”

The Philippians were new in their faith. Paul was not. He knew from experience that many things in life attempt to wrestle away our faith and confidence in God.   Think about the other times Paul encouraged the church to “hold fast.”

Hebrews 10:23 (KJV) – 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

1 Timothy 6:12 (KJV) – 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

Galatians 6:9 (KJV) – And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

It was at the end of his earthly journey when Paul wrote these celebrated words to Timothy:

 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: (2 Timothy 4:7) 

Paul reached the finished line because he had kept the faith.  There were many Philippiansthings that could have wrestled his faith away – but Paul held fast.  There were many enemies – both human and demonic – that tried to rob Paul of his confidence in God.  But Paul fought a good fight.  Paul’s closing message to Timothy was not unlike his message to the Philippians in verse 16: To make it to the end, you must possess an unwavering determination to hold fast to the things of God.

Life’s troubles and trials will try to rob us of our peace and joy. The world will try to undermine our faith in God. There will be people who will try to discourage our spiritual ambition. The enemy will always point out our faults and failures and try bring condemnation upon us.

Determine today that you will not let anyone or anything pry away your faith in God and His Word. Hold fast to the Word of Life!

~Matthew Ball