Whatever Things are True

October 9, 2016 in Apologetics, Bible - NT - Philippians, Bible - NT - Romans, Bible - OT - Psalms, Meditations, Politics, Sanctification, Sexuality
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
In Philippians 1, Paul prays that we “may approve the things that are excellent” (1:9b). In order to do so, we must be able to identify these excellent things and, in our text, Paul catalogues some of them. He calls us to meditate on these things – to give them our attention, mull them over, and let them shape our attitude and actions.
So let us meditate on whatever things are true. “Truth is an attribute of God. As such the term speaks of His integrity, His trustworthiness, His faithfulness” (Holmes, 827). As the psalmist declares in Psalm 89:14, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face.” The Triune God is the true and living God, not a mere idol, not a figment of the imagination, not a pipe dream.
Because God is true, the world which He has created reflects His nature and, therefore, it has a distinct and definite nature. Our calling as human beings, is to understand the way God has made us and the world and to conform ourselves to this reality. We are to live truly not falsely – to live in accord with the way the universe really is. This implies, of course, that the world has a fixed nature, reflecting God’s own nature. This fixed reality characterizes empirical observations, intellectual and mathematical principles, and moral obligations. Boys are boys; girls are girls; animals are animals; gravity is real; 1+1 does in fact equal 2; multiplying the length times the width of a rectangle tells you its area; if all men are mortal and Socrates is a man, then it follows necessarily that Socrates is mortal; murder, adultery, and theft are grievous crimes; love suffers long and is kind.
All these statements are true, and Paul calls us to meditate deeply on these things. He summons us to rejoice in the regularity of the world that God has made. We are to rejoice in empirical truths, intellectual truths, and moral truths. And we are to rejoice in these truths wherever and by whomever they are discovered. All truth is God’s truth and we are called to meditate upon it; indeed, to rejoice in it.
However, when we are in rebellion against God, we don’t like to acknowledge the truth. Paul declares in Romans 1:25 that in rebelling against God, we “exchange the truth of God for a lie.” Having given ourselves over to this first-order lie, we find ourselves tempted to lie in other areas. We try to hide from the truth – for truth points us inevitably to the Truth Giver. As Jesus declares, “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth come to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (Jn 3:20-21).
This is why our culture has increasingly embraced the folly of relativism – whatever is true for you is true for you and whatever is true for me is true for me. There is no such thing as absolute truth – except, of course, for the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth. So we have begun calling evil good and good evil; justifying to ourselves our sexual licentiousness, our slaughter of the unborn, our greed, our loss of a moral compass. We have set ourselves up as the standard of truth. The result? We can no longer tell the difference between male and female; we have announced that men are able to wed one another; we have declared that a woman can be trapped in a male body; soon we shall claim that pigs fly.

But all this is folly, all this is falsehood, all this is lies and deceit and a sham. And Paul calls us to see it as such and to meditate instead on whatever things are true. So have you? Are you meditating deeply on what is true, are you being transformed by the renewing of your mind, or are you being conformed to this world by meditating on falsehood and filth? Reminded of our call to meditate on whatever things are true, let us confess that we often embrace what is false. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Meditate on These Things

October 3, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Bible - NT - Romans, Meditations, Truth, Word of God
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
As we begin to preach through the book of Philippians, I decided to begin a simultaneous series of exhortations from Paul’s words here in the fourth chapter of that book. Paul is keenly aware that believers are ever susceptible to false ideas, doubts, sinful attitudes, and Satanic lies. Even as our tastebuds can, over time, become accustomed to foods that at first offend our palate, so our souls can become accustomed to filth that at first violate our conscience. Consequently, Paul commands us to meditate on those things that will build us up in the faith and empower us to excel still more in the service of Christ.
In Philippians 1, Paul prays that the Philippians “may approve the things that are excellent” (1:9b). Clearly if they are to “approve the things that are excellent”, then they must acquaint themselves with what qualifies as excellence. They must develop a taste for what is truly worthwhile. So Paul gives them a list here in Philippians 4 and urges them and, by implication, us to meditate on these things.
Before we consider the specific things, however, let us first consider Paul’s call to meditateupon them. He commands us, meditate on these things – in other words, give them your attention, mull them over, and let them shape your attitude and actions. Paul’s summons reminds us that meditation takes considerable time and effort. In the Scriptures to meditate is to consider deeply, to turn over in the mind, to reflect carefully. It engages the mind, the heart, the imagination, the emotions. While eastern religions like Buddhism liken meditation to emptying the mind, purging one’s passions, the Scriptures liken it to filling the mind or perhaps cleansing the mind of deficient ideas, thoughts, and assumptions, and shaping one’s passions.
So Paul exhorts us in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Paul wants us as Christians to be distinct, to have our character transformed into that of the Lord Jesus Christ so that in any situation we can discern what God would have us do. He wants us to be able to prove, to test, to approve the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. This will only happen if we do not permit ourselves to be conformed to this world but instead find ourselves transformed by the grace of God. So how does God go about transforming us? By renewing our minds. And how are our minds renewed? By meditation on whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy.
So what of you? Have you been filling your heart and mind with what is excellent so that you can approve what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God? Have you been meditating on these things, turning them over, mulling on them, glorying in them? What are you permitting to shape your thoughts? Are you regularly singing the psalms and chewing on them? Are you regularly reading the Word, memorizing it, and meditating upon it? Are the things of God filling your soul? Or have you instead been meditating on evil things? Turning the sin of another over and over in your head? Anxiously worrying about the future? Assiduously feeding your doubts and fears? Becoming consumed with your social media feed? Conforming your thoughts to Hollywood’s view of the world?

Paul exhorts us to meditate on excellent things that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Reminded of our frequent failure to do so, let us confess our tendency to be conformed to this world. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Called to Contentment

August 15, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Meditations, Thankfulness
Philippians 4:10-13 (NKJV)
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
On several occasions I have shared the ancient Roman proverb, “Who is it that has the most? Is it not he who desires the least?”
What Paul and this short proverb are endeavoring to communicate is that our contentment and happiness are directly proportionate to our expectations. We imagine that we need more, deserve more, are entitled to more and so we are not content with what we already have. We set our expectations so high that they are never met and so we are never content. And our discontent reveals itself in a lack of thankfulness to others and to God. For thankfulness is an expression of contentment—an expression that the expectations we have set have been fulfilled or even exceeded.
These expectations come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Sometimes they focus on our circumstances – if I only had more money; a nicer car; a newer phone; a bigger house; a larger budget. Sometimes they focus on our relationships. We can set unreasonable expectations upon our spouses, our employers and employees, our children, our friends—and so we never thank them for the meal on the table, for the folded towels in the closet, for the daily labor at the office, for the opportunity to work, for the work performed, or for the frequent sacrifices made on our behalf. “It’s his or her job to do all those things,” we say to ourselves, and so we never express thankfulness—never look at others with a twinkle in our eye and a full heart and say, “Thank you.” Our expectations are set so high that no one could ever possibly meet them. We demand of others what we would never demand of ourselves. Consequently, no circumstances however favorable could conspire to make us content.

But this was not Paul’s situation. He tells us that he had learned the secret of being content. What is that secret? Paul came to understand that what is most important in life is not our circumstances but the God who has given these circumstances to us. Let us ask ourselves, when tempted to be discontent and unthankful – Is God sovereign? Is God in control of every event in our lives both good and bad? Has God orchestrated our circumstances as He sees fit? Has God promised in Christ to sustain me in the midst of every circumstance? Clearly the answers to these questions are, “Yes!” And since this is the case, and since the God we serve is the same God of love who has revealed Himself in Christ, ought we not to trust Him? To rest in His good providence and be overflowing with gratitude? As Paul says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” True contentment comes not by having high expecations of our circumstances but by trusting the goodness of our Heavenly Father who has given them to us and promises to sustain us in them.

Reminded of our failure to trust the Lord in any and every circumstance and our failure to be thankful, let us kneel and confess our sins in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thankful to Preach

August 7, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Thankfulness, Word of God, Worship
Philippians 1:3–4 (NKJV)
3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy,
As I return to the ministry of the Word today, I wanted to thank you for the time that you have afforded me year by year to sit as one of you and listen to the preaching of the Word. As a congregation, we are blessed to live within such close proximity to several sister churches from whom we can draw an array of qualified and talented men to preach the Word to us. And the opportunity you give me to sit and to listen and to meditate on the Word helps remind me why we’re doing what we’re doing. I hope also that it reminds all of you that what we’re doing is far larger than any one of us, including me. It is important to emphasize regularly that this is not “my” church but Jesus’ Church and our church. We are the body composed of many members, each serving an important role.
So during my time sitting and listening to the Word, it has been a joy to observe the work of God’s Spirit in our midst. I have witnessed the way in which folks have stepped forward and served in various roles. I have witnessed your mutual love, affection, interaction, encouragement, exhortation, and comfort. The intensity of your joy and delight in one another is almost palpable – and so, like Paul, I just sit back and “thank God upon every remembrance of you.”And the reason that I thank God is because the joy and enthusiasm and energy and love and hunger to learn and grow that are present in the congregation are gifts from Him. His Spirit is at work. So since He has given us these things, it is fitting that we give thanks.
And this is one of several reasons I take July out of the pulpit – it is all too easy for us to begin taking one another for granted, getting into a rut, and failing to let joy and thankfulness characterize our interaction with and attitude toward one another. We can become bitter and resentful or we can simply become disinterested. We begin to look upon worship as routine, fail to give the attention to the Word that it deserves, overlook the needs of others, and take for granted their acts of kindness. Taking time off helps shake things up and remind me to be thankful.
So what about you? Are you thankful? Thankful for your brothers and sisters here at Trinity Church? Thankful for the opportunity to gather week by week and worship the Lord? Thankful for friends and family gathered around the throne of grace? Thankful for the preaching of the Word? Thankful to have your sin exposed, your idols broken, and your compromises crushed? Paul was thankful and we have much for which to be thankful as well.

But as we come into the presence of the Lord, I think that we must confess that often we fail to be thankful as we ought. We often take His gifts for granted, ignore them altogether, or even view them as curses and not blessings. So as we enter into the Lord’s presence, let us kneel and confess our ingratitude.

Without Grumbling and Disputing

October 14, 2013 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Covenantal Living, Meditations, Thankfulness
Philippians 2:14–16 (NKJV)
14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
This week the students in the homeschool cooperative are memorizing Philippians 2:14 and the verse has proved so convicting for me in the past week that I thought I would share the blessing. As we move into our new facility, there will be numerous occasions for us to implement the command which Paul gives us – to do all things without complaining and disputing. So I thought it would be good to consider Paul’s admonition.
First, let us understand what Paul commands. He commands us to do all things  without complaining and disputing. Note that Paul gives us no exceptions. All things – whether we’re laboring at home or at school or at church or at work or wherever, we are to do all these things without complaining and disputing. In other words, we are to do the things we’re asked to do without complaining about the work or arguing with the one who has given us the work.
Second, let us note the difficulty of what Paul commands. We live in a fallen world, a world in which we continue to experience sickness, decay, disappointment, fear, and frustration. We live in a world in which parents, elders, employers, and magistrates make what seem to us, and what sometimes are, unreasonable demands. Yet Paul commands us to do all things without complaining and disputing. Does this not seem impossible?
Third, note the rationale for Paul’s command: that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. As we learn to do all things without complaining and disputing, we are learning to imitate our Lord Jesus Christ – he who was and is perfect man, blameless and harmless. And as we imitate Him, we will be the light of the world, the instruments whom the Lord will use to bring others to know Him and to worship Him in the world.
So as we move into the new building, God is providing us with an opportunity to shine as lights in the world. As we move into this building and receive it with thanksgiving, rejoicing even in the things we aren’t excited about, we’ll show the world what it is like to serve our Heavenly Father. The new building is not as beautiful nor as large and accommodating as this facility – shall we give thanks? The new building still needs some work, there are things we haven’t been able to afford yet – shall we give thanks? Many of you haven’t seen the new building since some changes have been made – you might be tempted to ask, “Why’d they do that? Change that? Spend money on that?” – shall you instead give thanks? This is our calling and our privilege as children of God. To manifest our trust in God by being thankful.

That which applies to this new building, applies to every area of our life. And the difficulty of Paul’s command reminds us how often in ourselves we fall short and how much we need the grace and forgiveness of God. So reminded of this, let us confess our sin to the Lord, seek his forgiveness, and ask him for grace to do all things without complaining and disputing. Let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord.

Forgiveness is a Gift

October 21, 2010 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Justification, Meditations

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.”
Philippians 3:7-9

Humans are goal driven, hope driven creatures. Apart from some inherent belief that the future has some meaning, some purpose, our lives reduce to despair. The text today gives us a glimpse of the hope that Paul had for the future.

His hunger and thirst was to be found, in the last day, standing before God not in his own righteousness but only in the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. He counted all his labors rubbish – all the works of righteousness, all the prayers, all the kindnesses – he counted them all rubbish that he might gain Christ and be found in Him. He sold all that he had in order that he might buy the Pearl of Great Price.

Note that Paul’s hunger has both a negative and a positive dimension. On the negative side, when Paul appears before the judgment seat of God, he does not want to arrive there in his own strength or on the basis of his own performance. He does not want to appear before God and have God weigh his good and bad deeds. For were he to be weighed in the balance on the basis of his own deeds of righteousness, he knows that even like Belthashazzar he would be found wanting. He knew that were he to come before the throne of God on his own, he would perish. All our righteous acts are like filthy rags in the presence of the Lord.

But note that Paul did have hope, did have ambition. His hope, his burning desire, was to appear before the judgment seat on the last day, clothed not in his own righteousness but rather clothed in the righteousness of Christ. He wanted to come into the presence of God and say to His Sovereign Lord, “Lord, I know that I have failed to do all that which I ought to have done. I know that I have done that which I ought not. But receive me, O Lord, not for what I have done but for that which Your Son has done for me. I have trusted Him, believed Him, had faith in Him that He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. So receive me for Christ’s sake.”

Paul’s goal throughout his life was to avoid the folly of coming to rely upon his own righteousness, his own deeds. His goal was to rely wholly and completely on the righteousness of Christ. So even when Paul began striving, laboring, pressing ahead for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus; even when he had it as his ambition to glorify God through Jesus Christ, He was doing this in faith – knowing that none of his striving, none of his laboring, none of his pressing ahead or ambition to glorify the Lord could ever earn forgiveness with God. Forgiveness was and ever would be a gift – and Paul’s ambition, Paul’s goal for his life, was never to forget that.

So what of us? Have we remembered that forgiveness is a gift, a free gift of God offered through Christ? Have we lived in the freedom and joy that this produces? There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! Or have we instead begun to act as though our acceptance with God is conditional on our own performance, our own righteousness? Having begun by faith, are we striving, like the Galatians, to be completed by works? Then let us confess our folly to our Lord, asking Him to forgive us for despising the sacrifice of Christ and imagining that we could somehow earn His favor. Let us kneel and confess our sins to the Lord.

Who Has the Most?

October 21, 2010 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Meditations, Thankfulness

“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:10-13

While I was out of the pulpit Bob delivered a couple of exhortations on contentment. Today I would like to follow up on that theme and make a couple observations from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. There is an ancient Roman proverb that I have mentioned in our assembly before. It states, “Who is it that has the most? Is it not he who desires the least?”

What Paul and this short proverb are endeavoring to communicate to us is that our contentment and happiness are directly proportionate to our expectations. We imagine that we need more, deserve more, are entitled to more and so we are not content with what we already possess. We set our expectations so high that they are never met and so we are never content. And our discontent reveals itself in a lack of thankfulness to others and to God. For thankfulness is an expression of contentment—an expression that the expectations we have set have been fulfilled and even exceeded.

These expectations come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Sometimes, as in the text before us, they are monetary in nature. Paul had learned, he tells us, to be content both with prosperity and with poverty, both with being filled and going hungry, of having abundance and suffering need. As a result, he was able to give thanks regardless of his circumstances.

But our expectations can also be non-monetary. We can set unreasonable expectations upon our spouses, our employers and employees, our children, our friends—and so we never thank them for the meal on the table, for the folded towels in the closet, for the daily labor at the office, for the opportunity to work, for the work performed, or for the frequent sacrifices made on our behalf. “It’s his or her job to do all those things,” we say to ourselves, and so we never express thankfulness—never look at others with a twinkle in our eye and a full heart and say, “Thank you.” Our expectations are set so high that no one—including ourselves—could ever possibly meet them. We demand of others what we would never demand of ourselves. Consequently, no circumstances however favorable could conspire to make us happy.

But this was not Paul’s situation. He tells us that he had learned the secret of being content. What is that secret? Paul came to understand that what is most important in life is not our circumstances but the God who has given these circumstances to us. Let us ask ourselves, when tempted to be discontent and unthankful, “Is God sovereign? Is God in control of every event in our lives both good and bad? Has God orchestrated every moment of our past lives as He sees fit?” If the answer to these questions is “yes” – and it is – then should we not trust Him? Should we not rest in His good providence and be overflowing with gratitude? As Paul says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” True contentment comes not by having high expecations of our circumstances but by trusting in the goodness of our Heavenly Father who has given our circumstances to us.

So let me take a moment to express my gratitude for you as a congregation. The time that you gave me away to travel through Oregon down to the Redwood Forest was delightful. The time to read, to think, to pray – to be released from the need to develop a new sermon each week – this time was refreshing. So thank you. Thank you as well for your love for the Lord, your love for His Word, your desire to grow and to prosper, your willingness to listen to the Word of God preached even when I preach too long. Thank you – you are a blessing.

Yet how often am I tempted, how often are we tempted, rather than giving thanks for one another, rather than being content, to grumble and complain about what God has put in front of us. Reminded of our failure to trust the Lord in any and every circumstance and our failure to be thankful, let us kneel and confess our sins in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, seeking the forgiveness of our Heavenly Father.

Contentment and Happiness

August 17, 2009 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Meditations

Philippians 4:10-13 (NKJV)
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

There is an ancient Roman proverb that states, “Who is it that has the most? Is it not he who desires the least?”

What Paul and this short proverb are endeavoring to communicate to us is that our contentment and happiness are directly proportionate to our expectations. We imagine that we need more, deserve more, are entitled to more and so we are not content with what we already possess. We set our expectations so high that they are never met and so we are never content. And our discontent reveals itself in a lack of thankfulness to others and to God. For thankfulness is an expression of contentment—an expression that the expectations we have set have been fulfilled and even exceeded.

These expectations come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Sometimes, as in the text before us in Philippians, they are monetary expectations. Paul had learned, he tells us, to be content both with prosperity and with poverty, both with being filled and going hungry, of having abundance and suffering need. As a result, he was able to give thanks regardless of his circumstances.

But our expectations can also be non-monetary. We can set unreasonable expectations upon our spouses, our employers and employees, our children, our friends—and so we never thank them for the meal on the table, for the folded towels in the closet, for the daily labor at the office, for the opportunity to work, for the work performed, or for the frequent sacrifices made on our behalf. It’s his or her job to do all those things, we say to ourselves, and so we never express thankfulness—never look at others with a twinkle in our eye and a full heart and say, “Thank you.” Our expectations are set so high that no one could ever possibly meet them. No circumstances, however favorable, could transpire to make us happy.

But this was not Paul’s situation. He tells us that he had learned the secret of being content. What is that secret? Paul came to understand that what is most important in life is not our circumstances but the God who has given these circumstances to us. Let us ask ourselves, when tempted to be discontent and unthankful – Is God sovereign? Is God in control of every event in our lives both good and bad? Has God orchestrated every moment of our past lives as He sees fit? Clearly the answers to these questions are, “Yes!” And since this is the case, what is our calling? Is it not to trust Him? To rest in His good providence and be overflowing with gratitude? As Paul says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” True contentment comes not by having high expecations of our circumstances but by trusting the goodness of our Heavenly Father.

Reminded of our failure to trust the Lord in any and every circumstance and our failure to be thankful, let us kneel and confess our sins in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.