THE SPILLING OUT LIFE: [Growing in God's Likeness] Henry Drummond wrote, “A few, raw unspiritual men were admitted to the inner circle of “Jesus” friendship. The change began at once. Day by day we can almost see the first disciples grow… Occasionally, they do a thing or say a thing that they could not have done or said had they not been living there. Slowly the spell of His life deepens…their manner softens, their words become more gentle, their conduct more unselfish.
“They do not know how it is, but they are different men. One day they find themselves like their Master, going about and doing good. They were not told to do, it came to them to do it. But the people who watch them know well how to account for it, ‘THEY HAVE BEEN,’ they whisper, ‘WITH JESUS.’”
The mission of this church is: “Leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Every thing we do, every dollar we spent, and every ounce of human effort is filtered through that mission statement.
Why? Because it is very important that we experience growth in our relationship with Christ. If we are not growing we will become static and stale in our Christian life and there is nothing worse than a stale Christfollower.
We are continuing in our series today from the book of Philippians and we are reading and studying Philippians 1:9-11:
I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” Philippians 1:9-11
What I have just read is a continuation of Paul’s introductory remarks. In verses 3-11 of this letter, he writes in one flowing paragraph and frames his words in prayerful language.
In verse 3, he says, “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. And in verse 4; “Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy.”
Now he continues with the words found in verses 9-11 which state several areas of specific prayers that he is praying for them. I have chosen to think of these things as “Things that matter most.”
Paul is praying that there will be four very big measurable evidences of growth in their Christfollowing going on at the same time. From just these three verses a pattern emerges that describes the biblically based life of an authentic follower of Jesus Christ.
1. An Overflowing Love
Paul’s opening words in this prayer are amazing. In fact they are stunning:
“I pray that your love will overflow more and more. . .”
They are stunning because the word love in this prayer has no object. He is not praying that their love for God will overflow or their love for each other. He is praying that they will have an overflowing love that just is.
It is a love that describes and defines them. It is a love that overflows up to God and overflows out to others.
Paul is basing this concept on the two tablets of the Old Testament Covenant. (Ten Commandments) The first four command a love for God, and the second six command a love for others. It is a vertical love first up to God and a horizontal love out to others.
Paul was praying for that they would experience a love that wouldn’t wane or quit. He also added another component to this overflowing love.
Let’s just be honest for a few moments. How is your love for God today?
Can you honestly say that you are more in love with God this morning or afternoon than you ever have been?
Have you been pulled away from loving God by the things of this world and relationships that are not healthy?
Have you become too busy to develop your love for God?
Do you spend time with God on a daily basis?
Do you acknowledge Him in all areas of your life?
Is there anybody in here that you have a broken relationship with?
Is there anybody in this church or in your community that you have been less than Christ-like with?
Is your love for people in general still intact or have you become jaded, cynical and disconnected from others?
We are called to have an overflowing love.
"Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." - Matthew 24:12-13 On the night of March 29, 1848, Niagara Falls completely and mysteriously stopped flowing. The estimated 500,000 gallons of water that customarily rushed over the falls stalled to a trickle. James Francis Macklem, a village justice of the peace in the Niagara area, wrote that he had witnessed the subsidence of the waters and the phenomenon of the Niagara running dry "caused great excitement in the neighborhood at the time." To some, the mystery of this sudden "turning off" of the river seemed to be an ominous portent, and nightfall found most of the churches packed with people praying or talking in frightened voices about the end of the world. Fear grew into the proportions of panic. The cause of this unusual event began along the shores of Lake Erie near Buffalo. For several days, the wind had been blowing to the east over Lake Erie, driving much of its ice flow down river. Then the winds suddenly shifted to the west, driving the lake water west and causing the lake’s ice to break up and dam the river. The Niagara River ceased to flow for almost 30 hours until the ice shifted and the dam broke up. When we become cold towards Christ and not let the Holy Spirit flow through our lives it can become disastrous. Has your love for Christ grown cold? Today in prayer, confess any sin to Christ and remember the love you had for Him when you first became a Christian. Walk with Him and do not let your love grow cold.
2. An Ongoing growth in knowledge and understanding
“. . .and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding”
Technically this should read knowledge and discernment.
The postmodern world has been sentimental about love since the sixties. In the sixties we heard things like, “All you need is love.” Today we have all heard the phrase, “love is blind.” The first saying seems to suggest that all you need is to love others and everything will be okay. The second phrase suggest that blissful ignorance is the way to go.
Paul would take issue with those philosophies. You need love but you need more than love.
Frank Sheed wrote: “A virtuous man may be ignorance, but ignorance is not a virtue. It would be a strange God Who could be loved better by being known less. Love of God is not the same things as knowledge of God; love of God is immeasurably more important than knowledge of God; but if a man loves God knowing a little bit about Him, he or she should love God more from knowing more about Him; for every new thing known about God is a new reason for loving Him.”
The more we know God the more reason we will have to love Him.
“I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.” Eph. 1:16c-17
“So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.” Colossians 1:9-10
“And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.” Philemon 6
Please learn this today: The more you are in the Word of God the more your knowledge of God and Christ will increase, and the more your love will overflow.
One of the greatest test of the success of a bible study is simply this: Do the participants love God and others more. Some people get into just loving a bible study and never translate what they are hearing into their lives. We are to be more than just hearers of the word of God; we are to be doers.
Paul was praying for them to have knowledge and discernment. There are occasions where God will gift someone with a spirit of discernment for a season or a moment of time. Of course there are people running around in churches who claim to have this gift 24/7 and if you let them they will be happy to tell you what is wrong with your life or what you should do next. It is a very abused gift by some people.
That is not what Paul is praying for. He is praying that they will have common sense!
Do you know how rare common sense is? Do you know how many of us could use a lot of common sense as we try to lead our families? Do you know who many of us could us common sense as we make financial decisions?
It starts with an overflowing love and increases as we gain knowledge about God and continues and translates into the ability to gain common sense and discernment about how to best live our lives.
A story… It was autumn, and the Indians on the remote reservation asked their new Chief if the winter was going to be cold or mild. Since he was an Indian Chief in a modern society, he had never been taught the old secrets. When he looked at the sky, he couldn’t tell what the weather was going to be. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he replied to his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of the village should collect firewood to be prepared. Also, being a practical leader, after several days he got an idea. He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service and asked, "Is the coming winter going to be cold?" "It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold indeed," the meteorologist at the weather service responded. So the Chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more wood in order to be prepared. A week later, he called the National Weather Service again. "Is it going to be a very cold winter?" "Yes," the man at National Weather Service again replied, "it’s definitely going to be a very cold winter." The Chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of wood they could find. Two weeks later, he called the National Weather Service again. "Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?" "Absolutely," the man replied. "It’s going to be one of the coldest winters ever." "How can you be so sure?" the Chief asked. The weatherman replied, "The Indians are collecting wood like crazy."
3. An Observing of a pure and blameless life till Christ returns!
There is yet another result of truly following Christ. Paul writes these words:
“For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.”
The idea put forth here is that we examine or test every area of our life to determine what is excellent or best. You could call it grading or assessment. For two years in high school I worked for a commercial orchard. During peach and apple season people would stand all day watching thousands of pieces of fruit go by on a conveyor belt and they would pick out the ones that wouldn’t make the grade. They were either too small or too large or they had blemishes on them.
It is that same idea that Paul is praying for here. He is praying that the church at Philippi would have the ability to know what is best for their spiritual lives.
Markus Bockmuehl describes this as “the Spirit-bred ability to discern that which God has already marked off as essential or superlative’ regarding life in Christ.” R. Kent Hughes says that “This ability includes not only distinguishing right from wrong but also the best from second best.”
Life for everyone but especially Christ followers is a series of choices. What we choose everyday will determine the course of our lives.
We are called to examine each opportunity and make choices that enable us to live pure and blameless lives. I don’t understand it nor do I support it but we have embraced a brand of Christianity that is so far below the biblical standard of living that I really fear for many people today.
I am not sure if it is a theological issue or just a selfish manifestation of; “I want to go to heaven but I want to live my life however I choose day to day. It is all about me.”
Paul prayed that they would understand what really matters, so that they may live pure and blameless lives UNTIL the day of Christ return.
It is possible right here and right now on this earth to live a surrendered life that will only do the things that are right and righteous. It is a matter of choice and we all have the ability if we want to exercise it with the help of the Holy Spirit to clean up our lives.
I am talking habits, addictions, inherited behavior, and changing the things we love to be the things that God loves.
He doesn’t love filthiness or sin. God doesn’t love self destructive behavior or things that barter for your time and talents and that take you away from being His presence on this earth.
Chuck Colson says it well, "Holiness is the everyday business of every Christian. It evidences itself in the decisions we make and the things we do, hour by hour, day by day." [Loving God p. 131]
Eugene Peterson in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction writes, “It is not difficult in our world to get a person interested in the message of the Gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest. Millions of people in our culture make decisions for Christ, but there is a dreadful attrition rate. Many claim to have been born again, but the evidence for mature Christian discipleship is slim. In our kind of culture anything, even news about God, can be sold if it is packaged freshly; but when it loses its novelty, it goes on the garbage heap. There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier Christians called holiness.”
In 1961 A.W. Tozer was given the opportunity to speak to a group of ministers on a subject of his choice. Not surprisingly he chose to speak to them about the holiness of God. During that talk he said the following words: “I believe we ought to have again the old biblical concept of God which makes God awful and makes men lie face down and cry, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty. That would do more for the church than everything or anything else.”
Let us seek God with all our hearts and let us turn from any wicked ways that we have come to embrace and think is normal. Lord deliver us from evil and sin that hangs on to destroy our testimony and effectiveness in your Kingdom.
4. An Orchard full of fruit
Paul is praying here that they would be filled with the fruit of godly deeds.
“May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.”
A tree that bears fruit is alive! A tree that is filled with fruit is brings praise and honor to the gardener.
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit.” John 15:8
What are the fruits of the Spirit? What are these character references that should grow naturally in our lives?
Today there is no way to tackle the subject of the Fruit of the Spirit but be ware that we are to bear this kind of fruit in our daily lives.
These are the things that make us more like Christ. These are the things that set us apart from those around us who do not know Christ.