Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"Your Walk Talks Louder Than Your Talk Talks

As someone once said, “Your walk talks and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.” How true that is. Before people will believe your words, they will believe your actions. If your actions are consistent with what you claim to believe, they confirm the truth of it. But if your actions contradict what you claim to believe, they will always believe your actions and laugh at your words.

That’s Biblical, you know. It says in 2nd Corinthians 3:2–3:
You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.
Right living is crucial to our witness. This is probably why it is so difficult – why Satan does everything in his power to trip up our lives. But simply living in the flesh, we will struggle with our walk. It really is too easy to drift away from the right Christian path. Unfortunately, living as a Christian is like trying to swim upstream against the current. Our human nature is always trying to pull us back. If we stop swimming, we lose all the ground we gained. The current pulls us back away from right living and back into sin. So it takes constant effort.

But, falling away doesn’t usually happen instantly. Falling back into sin is a gradual thing. As John MacArthur says,
“Falling into sin usually happens in stages. First a believer merely tolerates something he knows is sinful, perhaps criticizing it but taking no strong stand against it. Next, he accommodates it, a little at a time, each time becoming less concerned about its wickedness, until it ceases to become an issue. Next he attempts to legitimize it, by making excuses for it, embracing it as part of a normal lifestyle.”
Do you find yourself on that slide?

Alexander pope expressed it this way in An Essay on Man:
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
Live your life right. Right living is critical. The World is watching. And for the Philippians, so was Paul. Paul was really concerned for their conduct, as I am for yours.

Philippians 1:27 continues:
. . . so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel
Notice that Paul expects their conduct to be right whether he is there with them or whether he stays away. What we do shouldn’t be dependent on other people. We shouldn’t be pulled into sin by peer pressure – we shouldn’t let it drag us down. But we shouldn’t need other believers to have to hang on to us and keep us out of mischief either. We have a free will, and we need to exercise it for good, not evil. We need to take responsibility for our own conduct and make sure it is right.

Paul longed to hear this good news about them: “that [they] stand fast in one spirit.” He wanted to hear that the people in the Philippian church had kept their conduct right. That’s what we want to hear about you too.

In Philippians 1:27, where it says, “Stand fast,” it means to steadfastly hold ones ground. That sounds like Stonewall Jackson, doesn’t it? He was the General who always stood his ground regardless of the danger or the opposition arrayed against him. The single Greek word “stand fast” translates was used of a soldier who holds his position at all cost. We need to hold onto right conduct no matter what - at all personal costs. We must never be willing to compromise on right living.

That’s what Paul longed to hear about them. That’s what any pastor longs to hear about the congregations he leads – that they “stand fast” morally.

But, Paul also threw in the phrase – “in one spirit, with one mind.” This is obviously talking about our unity. Unity in a church is critical to a church. But right conduct leads to unity, if we are all pursuing it.

Paul will address this more in Chapter 2, but as a preview, look at verses 1-2.
Philippians 2:1-2
Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Nothing destroys the testimony of a church any quicker than for a church to tear itself apart with conflict. A church split will set a church back at least ten years as people refuse to forgive and hold onto grudges. So many churches are like a pack of dogs constantly snapping and growling at one another over a scrap of meat. They are like the warning Paul gave the Galatians in Galatians 5:15, “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!”

And the community watches – the world watches – your family watches. If we don’t love each other enough to get along, how can we love them, they think? And our testimony is again destroyed.

But, the best way to keep that unity, as you can see from verse 27, is “striving together for the faith of the Gospel.” This is talking about team work - bout joining arm and arm to accomplish the goals of Christ. Too many congregations strive against each other. They are constantly undermining each other with negative comments and criticism. They are politicking and choosing up sides. That is all of Satan.

But we are to strive together for the faith of the Gospel

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Who Will Listen to the Witness of a Hypoccrite?

How you live is important. The Holy Spirit teaches us through Paul’s inspired words to make sure our conduct is worthy of the Gospel. Philippians 1:27 says,
“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
It is significant that Paul places this command in the context of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Preaching the Gospel, remember, was Paul’s passion. It was his call, It was his ministry.

But it’s also supposed to be ours. We are all supposed to share our faith and witness to the Gospel, aren’t we? Paul’s passion should be our passion. I really shouldn’t have to prove this from the Bible should I? Isn’t this something that you already know?

Jesus told us in Acts 1:8:
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; an you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end (or to the uttermost part) of the earth.”
My town of Orrington, Maine, of course, is at the end of the earth. So my congregation is included. We are expected to be witnesses to Christ here in Orrington. But wherever you live is pretty close to the end of the earth too, at least compared to Jerusalem.

But the effect of your witness is tied directly to your conduct. I mean, for people to believe your witness, you have to not only believe it yourself, but you have to live it. If not, well, there is a word for those who don’t. That word is “hypocrite.” It’s claiming to believe one thing, but living as though you don’t. And if you don’t live it as though you believe it, how can you ever expect those whom you witness to to believe it? You can’t! Because the Gospel is intended to not just save us, but to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ.

What will the world think if it hasn’t done that in you? What will that do to your witness? Certainly, anyone who believes the Gospel will, more and more, have a conduct that emulates Christ. That is what makes our message believable.

John MacArthur writes:
“The world can hardly be expected to embrace a faith whose proponents so little emulate its standards of holiness and fail to manifest the transforming power of Christ.”
As John MacArthur also writes:
“The church’s greatest testimony before the world is spiritual integrity. When Christians live below the standards of Biblical morality and reverence for their Lord, they compromise the full Biblical truth concerning the character, plan and will of God. By so doing, they seriously weaken the credibility of the Gospel.”
How true that is. I know that most Christians probably never rob a bank or rape or kill anyone, and most Christian men don’t look at porn, or drink and drive and sit in bars. But what does the world think if we constantly argue with one another? Or gossip about one another? Or act like we can’t stand each other? Especially since Jesus established love as the test of our faith in John 13:35, which says, “By this.” By what? The previous verse, John 13:34, which says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

Love is the test. Therefore, John 13:35 can say, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

And what if we live constantly worrying about everything as if Jesus can’t be trusted to control things, or He doesn’t know best what to allow in our lives. Or what if we make our priorities all about acquiring the things of this world, and we become greedy, or power mad, or lazy? You pick the area of your life that would be appropriate as an example that fits you. But if we live that way, what happens to our testimony?

The moral is: We need to live out our faith in every area because the world is watching. And unfortunately, they judge your Jesus by your conduct. To not live a consistent Christian life will destroy your testimony

On the other hand, there is no greater testimony to the truth of your witness than a consistent lifestyle - one that shows you firmly believe what you preach - that you believe it so much you live it out.

As Warren Wiersbe says,
“The most important weapon against the enemy is not a stirring sermon or a powerful book; it is the consistent life of a believer.”
There is an anonymous poem that goes like this:
“You are writing a gospel a chapter each day,
By the deeds that you do, and the words that you say.
Men read what you write, whether faithful or true;
Just what is the Gospel according to you?”