August 20, 2013

Ways To Please God IV: Amazing Joy and Immeasurable Peace

New York South Street Arrival c.1885
John Stobart
Rejoice in All Circumstances

Philippians 3:1 ~ Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! 
Philippians 4:4 ~ Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

There is no joy in death and that is exactly what we are condemned to if we remain unrepentant and unsaved. If we are in the Lord Jesus Christ and saved we have every reason to be joyous. We will have eternal life and death and suffering of the physical body will only be temporary. Circumstances can rob us of joy temporary in this life but Paul is speaking about spiritual things. He will later inform the reader that our citizenship is in heaven not here on earth. To realize this as believers and to look past our suffering requires us to take the long view and realize the sufferings of this life are only temporary. In other words, when we suffer we need to work backwards from the end goal in glory with Jesus and this requires that we see the path backwards from the end having overcome the suffering and work our way back to where we are in our sufferings. In this way we establish for ourselves a righteous anchor point on the far shore in eternity or somewhere outside our current suffering. When we are anchored in Christ there will be no tempest that will be able to shake loose our mooring in the harbor of eternal life with Him. This should cause us amazing joy and immeasurable peace.

We need to not get “wrapped-up” in the here and now. The things of this world are the tangible things anyway…the things that have the highest probability of becoming idols. We should not envy those with materialistic wealth or worldly things as it only acts as spiritual ballast. The “things” themselves are not what is sinful but rather the value instilled in them by people. We know that all which  is created was created good or very good by God. It therefore can only be man that can cause these inanimate objects to become sinful. Sin requires a premeditated volitional act (or lack of) and only sentient beings can perform or not perform these sins as they are acts of consciousness. That narrows the field to humans and spiritual beings/demons.

Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25 ~ “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

We need to seriously sit back and evaluate what we hold dear in this life. What produces pure joy and what produces temporary joy? Are we joyous because of what we “have” materialistically or do we value that which is of more value to the Kingdom of God that is spiritual and holy? Do we do things to prosper us in this life or for the life to come? Do we store up treasure in Heaven or store up rubbish here where moth and rust destroy? What timescale are we thinking on? Do we subscribe to doing only good things in this life when good does nothing or do we do things that are righteous and through Christ that propel the Kingdom forward?

Isaiah and Paul borrowing from Isaiah said it best: Apart from Christ everything else is just waste and garbage.

Philippians 3:7-8 ~ But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

Isaiah 64:6 “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Everything he had done or accumulated to himself was nothing more than rubbish. The word Paul uses here for rubbish is σκύβαλα/skybala or literally: Scraps thrown to the dogs or the excrement of animals (skat or literally: crap based in the context of the passage). We must remember that dogs were not pets in Paul’s time, they were vicious scavengers that wandered the streets and vicinity looking for food. Paul is essentially saying that whatever he had once consider of value was now essentially of no value whatsoever…it was literally crap in today's vernacular. We must think the same because we deal with the surpassing value of the same God that Paul spoke of. Our God, His righteousness and salvation are priceless and to be sought at all costs. Because we know that this is what is of real value, then the sufferings of this life pale by comparison. If suffering and death is trivialized because of this…we should rejoice! This pleases God that we would overcome the pull-down, beatings and persecution of this world only to be joyous taking the long view of our salvation…just like Jesus did in His obedience to the Father…even to the point of Crucifixion (Philippians 2:5-11).

Let the Peace of God Rule in Your Life

Colossians 3:15 ~ …let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Paul is asking believers something here. We can know that the peace of Christ is in us if we are in His will because those in the Church will be of one Spirit, the Holy Spirit. To lose this inner peace is to not obey God. The word βραβευέτω/brabeueto or "to rule" is better understood to “preside” or act as an umpire. In the Greek games which Paul references occasionally, there was an official who was there to officiate and issue prizes to the participants. They would judge to see who was qualified and who was not. Those not fit for the competition would be disqualified. Therefore the peace of God is the umpire or official in our hearts and in the church. It is the peace (wholeness) from Christ that He uses to assure or confirm to a believer that they are living in His preferred-will for them. Are you qualified or have you disqualified yourself?

It is this very peace that acts as the balancer and spiritual mediator and moderator in our churches.

The passage will then go on to say that believers should let, the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

We should recognize Him in us if we manifest these characteristics and desire to do them continually. When we do not have this peace we need to understand that we are not in God’s will and the obvious fallout is that we will not be at peace or we will be spiritually unsettled of spiritually discontent. This discontent is a warning system to tell us we are drifting outside the will of God into apostasy and disobedience. Where there is peace there will be praise to God. Where there is spiritual restlessness we will see that the system of the world has infested us.

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