Our God Directs His People (Philippians 1:1-2) Part 1
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Our God Directs His People
Philippians 1:1 to 2–part 1
Verse 1:1a, “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Christ Jesus”
The simple truths of life are the best–and the truths discovered by children are even better. Recently, an educator collected all his favorite principles taught to him by his young students. What were they? Here are my personal favorites . . .
* No matter how hard you try, you can’t baptize cats
* Never ask your 3-year-old brother to hold a tomato
* You can’t trust dogs to watch your food
* Never hold a Dustbuster and a cat at the same time
* Puppies still have bad breath, even after eating a Tic Tac
* When your mom is mad at your dad, don’t let her brush your hair!
* AND . . . you can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk
For the Christian, the simplest truths about God are also the most encouraging–and this morning, as we introduce our study of the book of Philippians, God is going to remind us He is in control. He has a plan for your life. God is directing your life–all of it. You may be appalled at our government, your family, your difficult circumstances, the problems you’re facing, the evil in the world, or the breakdown of your house, car, appliances or your body–but repeatedly God reminds us He is in control!
Open to the book of Philippians (after the four gospels, Acts, Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians there are four books in a row–Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. G-E-P-C, or Gentiles Eat Pork Chops or General Electric Power Company). Through this awesome letter you’re going to experience the peaks of spiritual euphoria and the valleys of deep despair–yet no matter what is going on, you will be able to rejoice.
Whether you’re experiencing the exclamation points of weddings or the question marks of funerals, this book will show you how to remain unified with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Plus how to rise above persecution, stay focused on our purpose in life, experience joy and contentment in any circumstance while passionately pursuing Christ. Philippians is about unity, joy, and life in Christ.
The church of Philippi is a lot like FBC. They were not experiencing a huge doctrinal crisis or severe problems (like the Galatians). They were doing pretty well. So Paul doesn’t write them as if he was a parent writing a prodigal, but Philippians is a letter to that delightful child who has always obeyed. And although not perfect, they were at least walking toward Christ.
So often in our lives, the squeaky wheel gets all the grease. I’ll get twenty compliments, but I will focus on the one criticism. Philippians reminds us to encourage those doing well too. As we look at the very first phrase of the very first verse today, God is going to remind us He is directing your life.
Now be honest–are you ever tempted to feel overwhelmed? Sure, we all are. Right now there is TC-year-2 for men, and TC-year-1 for women who disciple women, meeting with men, ministering to hurting pastors, twenty books to read and 47 papers to write for my Doctor of Ministry. Jean’s dad is in serious health, and Jean’s mom starts chemo for lung cancer–neither are born again. Constant vigilance about our spiritual health as a church, and continually fighting for the twenty hours needed to feed you every week. I too can be tempted to be overwhelmed–yet what brings me the most encouragement? The sovereignty of God sustains me and comforts me.
Psalm 135:6 affirms, “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.” No place is hidden from His control. And no matter what’s happening right now in your life, God is in charge. What about those unjust, evil things–you mean like your family turning against you? Then you can say with Joseph to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”
As a true Christian, God has been directing your life, currently is directing your life, and will be directing your life all the way into eternity—every single detail. And when we cooperate with Him, we experience joy. Yet when we resist Him, we forfeit His many blessings. Look at verses 1 and 2 of Philippians 1, and allow God to encourage your heart and challenge your soul.
Philippians 1:1 to 2 says, “Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” If you look carefully at his two-verse intro, you’ll discover hints to the primary concerns of this letter. Instead of doing a classic intro sermon, I want to jump right into the text and use the first phrase as our intro. As we look at the first phrase in-depth, you’ll find that . . .
#1 God has PLANNED your life Verse 1a
Philippians begins with, “Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus.” Typical letters today begin with, “Dear Recipient,” but typical 1st century letters began with the name of the sender, name of the recipient and a brief salutation.
The sender’s name is Paul, the great apostle and church planter, and his companion Timothy. Now why the Gentile name, Paul, and not the Jewish name, Saul? Because the world Paul writes to is politically held together by Rome, and culturally dominated by Greece. Plus Paul is uniquely called by God to preach the Gospel to Gentiles. So Paul’s Roman name is better than the Jewish Saul.
And Paul lists his own name first, since he is the author of this letter to the Philippians. We know this because of the repetition in Philippians of “I” and “my”, and not “we” and “our”. Plus, as Paul describes Timothy, he does so with “his” and “him”. This is Paul’s letter to this beloved church–he says things like, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you”–Paul is the author.
His Greek name, Paul, means “little”. His Hebrew name, Saul, means “to pray”. History tells us Paul was little in stature, but a big prayer warrior. But from the very first day of his conversion, God had planned the life of this short, most likely balding apostle. Turn to Acts 26–when Paul shared his testimony to King Agrippa, he reiterates how God revealed His plan for Paul’s life.
Verse 14, “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who art Thou, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But arise, and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; 17 delivering you from the Jewish people [here is God’s plan for Paul] and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’”
God took this killer of Christians and turned Him into a planter of Christian churches. He took a Pharisee of works and transformed him into an apostle of grace. And at the end of his life, Paul could say he had finished the course, he had fulfilled God’s plan.
Turn back to Acts 16, but remember Philippians 1:1. “Paul and Timothy”–to his own name Paul adds Timothy, which Paul does in five other New Testament letters. Timothy is a key player in the Early Church. Timothy knew the Philippians intimately, as he helped bring the Gospel to them with Paul in Acts 16, visiting them twice after that in Acts 19 and 20, and is about to return to see them again described in Philippians 2. Timothy is probably with Paul when he writes this letter, and might have been the one who physically wrote the letter as Paul dictated it.
The Greek name Timothy means “one who honors God,” and in Acts 16:1 to 3 we read about God’s plan for Timothy’s life. “And he came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, 2 and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.”
Now back in Philippians, this true son in the faith was taken from obscurity and became a partner to the greatest Christian man of his day. In chapter 2, as Timothy was preparing to visit Philippi a fourth time, Paul exposes his heart about Timothy. Listen to Paul’s affection for Timothy in Philippians 2:19 to 22. “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20 For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know of his proven worth that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.”
Paul had sincere appreciation for his disciple. But you also see Paul and Timothy were not their own. They were not in control, they were not directing their own lives. Every step of the way, God was in charge–every single move. They didn’t always know what God’s plan was, but they sought to obey God’s Word in all things. They knew God’s will because God’s will is found through God’s Word, the Bible. And as you follow the Bible, you will fulfill God’s will.
God’s specific plan for them and for you is revealed moment by moment—how? As you follow His Word and seek to glorify God in all things. We often forget that no matter who you are today, God has a specific plan for your life too. Ephesians 2:10 tells us your good works for Christ are already planned, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
You’re not saved to wait for the next bus to Heaven–you were created, then redeemed, to live out good works which God pre-designed just for you, for His glory. Christian, you have to be encouraged by this. God is the one who saved you, will sustain you, and will someday complete what He started. His children will live out “God’s planned good deeds. Paul says in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” God will finish what He started in your life.
Listen, Christian–you can run from God’s plan, like the prophet Jonah. But God will still accomplish His will through you. When you run or fight Him, you just miss all the joy. But cooperate with God’s sovereign will and He promises great blessing, called an abundant life. Plus you’ll enjoy the comfort of knowing you’re walking in His will.
But beware–you can never enjoy God’s plan for your life unless you are currently living according to God’s Word. You’ll not enjoy God’s plan for your life unless you seek to live by and follow the Word of God. Own it, my friends–listen carefully.
1 Couples who want to know if God wants them to get married while they’re having premarital sex can’t know if their marriage is actually God’s will. You can’t know God’s will unless you’re walking by God’s Word–living in His will.
2 Families, you can’t discern God’s will about the future for your children, if you’re not pursuing Christ first, nor following God’s Word–seeking to be obedient to Christ in all things.
3 Singles–you can’t know about your schooling unless your heart is pursuing God’s Word in undistracted devotion to Christ.
You can’t know God’s will for your life in the future if you’re not living by God’s will in His Word right now. Live the Word, dependent upon the Spirit, confessing known sin, while serving your gift in the church and sharing the Gospel in the world. As you do, God will reveal His will for you.
God had a plan for Paul and Timothy, and we can see how that plan became obvious in the Scripture. And God has a plan for your life, and you will see it unfold as you live by the Scripture in every way, every day. But we know God is also in charge because . . .
#2 God RESCUES whoever He chooses Acts 16
Picture it–twenty centuries ago, at the end of the book of Acts, Paul is arrested, now in Rome, and writes this letter to a church that began very uniquely. Turn to Acts 16. God overruled Paul’s plan to take the Gospel to Asia Minor, and through a very pointed, hard-to-misunderstand vision in Acts 16:9, a Macedonian man appeared to him and said, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
So Paul responded by saying, “Crete is pleasant this time of year. I can work on my tan.” No, he had a Coliseum annual pass to use. No . . . his team immediately set sail, then walked the main Roman road to get to Philippi. God decided the Gospel was to be proclaimed in Europe, and almost all of us in this room are the result of that decision.
Why Philippi? Named after the father of Alexander the Great, the city was the site of a great Roman battle, resulting in it becoming a Roman colony with many veteran soldiers settling there. As a colony, they had Roman law, the rights of Roman citizens, tax breaks, and Greek and Latin as their main languages. As a result of so many former soldiers making Philippi their home, the population was well-connected into the military structure of Rome, which is probably why Paul tells them in Philippians 1:12 and 13, “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard [Caesar’s personal guard–the CIA of their day] and to everyone else.” (The Philippians probably knew some of the guard.)
In the first century, to be a citizen of Rome, like those who lived in Philippi, was a big deal, causing Paul to remind them in Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” So with its military connection, and being a Roman province, Philippi became the chief city in its entire region, which is why Paul chose to go to this city and establish the very first church in all of Europe. And who did God choose to be the founding members of this great church? Acts 16 tells us . . .
First Lydia Verses 14 to 15
The missionary team stayed only a few days in Philippi, but their visit was really eventful. Paul made a habit of going to the synagogue first to preach the good news to the Jews first. It seems in Philippi there were not enough Jewish men to start a synagogue–tradition required ten heads of households in order to begin a synagogue. But there were some devout Jewish women who met outside the city at a place of prayer–so Paul preached the Gospel to them.
Are any of you struggling with God’s sovereignty in salvation? If you’re wondering how God choosing me before the foundation of the world, then calling me in this life harmonizes with my responsibility to respond to the Gospel–pay attention and own this passage. Acts 16:14 to 15 tells us this. “And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.’ And she prevailed upon us.”
Notice verse 14–Paul taught, “the Lord opened her heart.” Lydia listened and responded to God’s sovereign choice and call–that’s exactly what happened to you and me. Someone told us the truth about Christ and the Lord Himself chose to open our hearts to respond. So the Lord began the Philippian church with a rich influential merchant–most likely a widow in the person of Lydia, and potentially many in her house. And along with her, the church possibly also included . . .
Second A demon-possessed slave girl Verses 16 to 21
The enemy was ready for Paul, and there was immediate Satanic opposition to the potential of a new church. The enemy immediately began to harass the church planting team with a demon-possessed, fortune-telling slave girl. Verses 16 and 17, “And it happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a certain slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortunetelling. 17 Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, ‘These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.’”
Paul, not wanting even agreeable testimony from such an evil source, through his unique apostolic authority cast the demon out of her. Now we don’t know exactly what happened to this gal, but we do know when God delivers, He often saves. So most likely, this previously demonically-controlled slave gal was internally set free by Christ, and could have been a part of this brand new Philippian church. But this leads to the next member of the Philippian church . . .
Third The city jailer Verses 22 to 34
Paul’s action enraged the girl’s masters, who could no longer sell her services as a fortune-teller. So these cruel masters dragged Paul and Silas before the city magistrates and inflamed the civic pride of the Philippians, by claiming the two preachers were a threat to Roman customs. As a result, the church planters were beaten and imprisoned.
Verses 23 and 24, “And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; 24 and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison, and fastened their feet in the stocks.” Watch these guys–they’re trouble, messing with our idols.
Ever feel beaten or imprisoned–what should you do about it? Have a pity party, complain, eat, go shopping–right? Wrong! Do what Paul and Silas did–sing praises to God. When you remember God is directing your life, even unjust beatings and imprisonment have a joyful purpose. Verses 25 and 26, “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; 26 and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened.”
Next the jailer woke up and decided to kill himself, since he would be killed anyway if any of the prisoners escaped. But Paul cried out for him to not take his life–none of them had escaped. So the jailer, trembling with fear (verse 30 to 32) “brought them out, he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ 31 And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.’ 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.”
And look at the evidence–the “fruit” of his true conversion. Verse 33 to 34, “And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34 And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.”
So this new church is made up of a wealthy merchant and her household, a lowly jailer and his household, and possibly a slave gal–all meeting, most likely, at Lydia’s house. If you’re born again, it is because the Lord opened your heart to believe. You may have been rich and influential like Lydia, a crusty guy like the jailer, really messed up like the slave girl, or a part of a household like Lydia’s place. Regardless, it was God who chose you, then called you in time, saving you against your will.
You say, “No way, Chris–I wanted Christ.” That may be true–but it is only because God gave you a new heart that wanted Christ first, then gave you the faith to depend on Christ, and the repentance to turn away from sin toward Christ. Dead people don’t respond. You were dead in sin–not mostly dead.
Look at your outline–this is what Paul means in Romans 9 when speaking of salvation. He says in verse 16, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” And in Ephesians 1:4, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”
Turn to Philippians 2. God has been directing your life before you were even born. You say, “What about now, as a Christian? Is God so sovereign–am I supposed to let go and let God? Or, ‘God helps those who help themselves’? Or 53% God, 47% me?” No. Now that I’m saved, who does the work to live the Christian life? Is it God or me? Answer—yes! Look at what Philippians 2:12 to 13 says.
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; [work at it, not earn it, but prove that Christ is in you–so it’s me, right? No] 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” God is at work, but you work out your salvation. Then it’s totally up to God and me alone to do His works?
Not at all. God called Lydia, the jailer and their households to be a part of a church–a church that did great works. The Philippian church supported Paul in all His church planting efforts. As a result of their incredible sacrificial giving, Paul said to them in Philippians 4:16 and 17, “For even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. 17 Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.” Serve Christ together. The Philippians will be rewarded for their great sacrifices in giving to the missionary work of Paul.
The reason God chose you and planned your life was not merely to do solo, individual works for Christ (that’s American thinking). But He chose you and me to be a part of a church body that would do great works for Christ together. This is one reason I love FBC, because I want to be a part of the great works we’re involved in now and we’ll be doing together in coming years–to plant more churches, train more leaders, reach out to more young parents, teach more healthy doctrine, evangelize more non-believers and make-believers, to rescue unborn infants, and to keep on preaching the author’s intended meaning of God’s Word.
As we stay unified in purpose, dependent on His Word, God will use us exceedingly and abundantly, and I want to be a part of what you are doing and we are doing together. But how can we best cooperate?
#3 God uses the HUMBLE
Turn back again to Philippians 1:1, “Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus.” Paul and Timothy call themselves bondservants. You probably didn’t notice, but this is a change from Paul’s normal greeting. And since every word in the Bible is inspired, we have to ask ourselves why? Normally Paul would also call himself an apostle, but I believe because of his intimate relationship with the Philippians he omits his title and calls Timothy and himself bondslaves.
Used 29 times in the New Testament, doulos, bondslave is a term every first century reader was familiar with. But it is best translated not bondslave, nor servant, but “slave”. Verse 1a, Paul and Timothy have been bought with an incredible price. They are now owned by a new Master, on whom they are completely dependent, and to whom they owe undivided allegiance. They’ve been rescued from slavery to a murderous, hateful master to a gracious, loving Master. They’ve been delivered from the penalty and power of sin, and are now free to please and obey Jesus Christ. They’ve been snatched from a life of selfishness now and torment later, to an abundant life now and eternal life later.
The English word slave makes us think of involuntary service, forced subjugation and harsh treatment. But Paul and Timothy serve their Master with gladness of heart, a newness of spirit, and in the enjoyment of perfect freedom. In Christ, we’re in a bondage of love, like I am to Jean. I am not free to do what I want–marry another, leave my home. But I am now free to love my precious bride. What did slave mean to the first century church? A slave was . . .
1 One bound to another, like Christians are bound to Christ
2 One whose will is swallowed up in the will of another
Those of you who’ve had military duty understand the sense of what Paul means by bondslave. In the military, you no longer function according to your will. Your will says, “Sleep till 9,” but Sargent Sadist tells you, “You’re getting up at 4:30 am.” Your will says, “Eat prime rib,” but Cook Hurl-a-lot says, “You’re eating chipped beef on toast.” Your will says, “Relax by the pool,” but Corporal Cruel says, “You’re going on a 10-mile march with full packs.” By joining the military, your will is no longer your own–you follow the will of your superior. That’s a slave. Paul is a slave of Jesus Christ. He has no rights of his own. He’s told where to go (even to prison) and what to do by his Master. Thankfully, his Master is awesome!
Turn to Philippians 2:3. Why did Paul use the term slave, and skip his title of authority–apostle of Jesus Christ? Answer–to model humility and concern for others. He will soon urge the Philippians in chapter 2 verse 3, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.” And before Paul exhorts them to humility in chapter 2, the wise apostle will model it here in verse 1.
Think about it. Though Paul is God’s apostle with the authority of Christ to do miracles and write Scripture, and even though Timothy is God’s chosen co-worker with Paul–Paul refuses to mention his high qualifications, because he’s seeking to encourage humility from the Philippians, because they desperately need it in their church. They’re battling disunity, complaining and selfishness–all manifestations of pride.
So Paul prefers to emphasize his common role as a slave of Christ in order to motivate them to stop complaining. Philippians 2:14, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” He doesn’t use his title apostle, in order to motivate some powerful people of influence to get along with each other, like the two women in Philippians 4:2 and 3—turn with me there. “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. 3 Indeed, true comrade, I ask you also to help these women.”
The Philippians had a unity problem–they were starting to bite each other, complain against each other, and a few people of influence were dividing up against each other. And if God was going to continue to use this church, then they’d have to show humility. They’d have to die to their will and follow Christ’s will in order to get along with each other. They’d have to act like slaves of Christ.
True unity comes as we seek to follow the will of our Master. As we follow Him, we will find ourselves headed in the same direction with each other together. The only way to solve your marriage problems, Christian, is to forget your will and follow Christ in His Word as His slave. As two follow His Word as slaves, you’ll live in harmony. But try to fix your marriage in the flesh, blame the other, try human tricks, or ignore the problem–you’ll remain in conflict. And the only way to get along with that teenager or that crazy Christian is for you to surrender your will to Christ’s will as His slave. This requires you be looking at only one person.
#4 God intends for us to FOCUS on His Son
Notice how Paul wraps up this first phrase in 1:1—“Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus.” By saying “of Christ Jesus,” Paul accomplishes two things.
1 Paul directs the focus of this letter away from himself and Timothy, and shines the light on Christ saying, “We’re not important, Christ is.” This is Christ’s letter to the Philippian church–and to FBC. And this is Christ speaking to you, Christian, right now.
2 A slave of Christ also points to his heavenly Master, not his current political master, Rome. Paul is chained like a slave to a Roman guard in a private home, awaiting trial from the ruler of that world, Caesar. But Paul is not a slave of Caesar or Rome. Paul is a slave of the Creator of the world and the sovereign King over everyone.
The true Master of Paul is the Master of all–the King of all kings, the Lord Jesus Christ. Literally, Paul is saying they are slaves who belong to Christ. Paul doesn’t use an article in the Greek, so he is saying they’re slaves by nature, belonging to Christ, referring to Christ’s position as Messiah, the anointed one, and Jesus–meaning Jehovah saves, referring to Christ’s deity and substitutionary death for you and me.
Paul says he’s a slave who belongs to all of who Christ is and all that Christ has done. At the get go, Paul is saying to live is Christ. Life is Christ–every part of my life and your life is for Christ. Peter walking on the water–when he looked at Christ he stood above the storm. But when he looked at the waves, he sank in the water. For you to enjoy an abundant life in the midst of the storm, you’ve got to focus all on Christ.
You ask, “Chris, how can I stop looking at people and circumstances horizontally, and start looking at Christ vertically? The principle is simple, but the practice is difficult. Immerse yourself in God’s Word daily, remain intimate with the Lord through daily prayer, connect yourself with believers in a community group or ministry, and be faithful to attend weekly worship services every week. Those are four means of grace to experience God’s grace–you need to commit to those expressions of His grace.
So verse 1, “Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus”–God is directing your life. He has a plan for you to fulfill. He made you and saved you, and if you depend upon Him and focus on Him in humility, you will experience joy inexpressible and abundant blessing. Think about what this single phrase means.
First God can rescue ANYONE from their sins
A rich widow, a cruel jailer, a messed up slave girl were all saved. Each of them were forgiven by God. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, or what you were, God can forgive your sins. As you turn to Christ you can be saved. No one is beyond hope, but remember no one can become a slave of Christ until he fully realizes by nature he or she is a slave to sin. Cry out for mercy today, surrender your will, abandon your desires and dreams, forsake your sin, and follow Christ alone, believing God became a man, died on the cross for your sins and rose from the dead on the third day. Trust Him as the only way anyone can ever be right with God now and go to Heaven later. Turn to Christ right now.
Second Thank God for His Sovereign GRACE
I love the way Luke describes Lydia’s conversion in Acts 16:14, “And a certain woman named Lydia, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” That happened to every genuine Christian in this room. The Lord opened your dead, sinful heart and gave you the faith to respond to the Gospel. Christ did that for me-–I was lost, blind and hellbound, then suddenly forgiven. Have you thanked Him for His sovereign grace? I don’t deserve His love and mercy, and neither do you. This week make certain you thank Him for choosing you.
Third Seek to FULFILL God’s plan for your life
Philippians 1:6, God will “complete what He started” in your life. And Philippians 2:13, God is at work to accomplish His will in your life, yet you and I are still to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Meaning–don’t take the Christian life casually. If you watch more TV, movies or video games than you minister, read more blogs than the Bible, go on more weekends away or sluggard Sundays than you go to church, talk more about sports than the Word or God Himself—then you’re not fulfilling God’s plan for your life, and you won’t ever know God’s perfect will for your life. Today, stop that Christ-distracting behavior, that neutral behavior, and those sinful choices, and start filling your life with commitments which will move you towards God’s perfect plan for your life.
Fourth Practice living in daily DEPENDENCE
Listen–a healthy commitment is one that moves you away from autonomy and moves you toward dependence upon Christ. Have you made healthy commitments? Sure they busy you and cost you–but they are good for you if they make you dependent on Christ. Not easy, not convenient, not comfortable, but they make you dependent–that’s good!
And whenever you announce plans like, “I’ll see you tomorrow,” or “I’m going to get married someday,” or “I hope to get a cool bike for my birthday,” say “If the Lord wills”–acknowledging He is in control of all. Like Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:19, “I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills.” Or James 4:15, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.’”
Then, when you have a big decision to make, search the Word for specific answers, pray fervently asking God to lead you, and ask several Godly people for wise counsel. Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Why? So that in all things we become more like Christ. Let’s pray.
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