December 28, 2008

Pre-New Years, 09

Philippians 3:12-15

We are in the book of Philippians, and we will get to chapter 3 some time.

However, I have passed up very few New Years without using this passage. I am using the passage a little apart from its context. The context is Paul leaving behind all of his "zealous good" works, replacing them with complete dependance on Christ's righteousness. He has put them behind him so that he might obtain the mind of Christ.

But this passage can also apply to leaving the past sins, failures and messes behind so we can press on to be like Christ.

To me, it seems to fit with a New Year – that is, a new beginning, and for us, a new beginning in Christ daily. But we are reminded on New Years that time has passed; we cannot go back and change anything, and our concern now is what we can do in the new year. Resolutions??

I would suppose that I use this passage more than any other passage of Scripture. I use this passage almost every year at the end of the old year or at the start of the new one, and I use this passage at every opportunity. Really, it is probably one of my "life verses," seeing as how I must put errors, sins, and failures behind me so often.

This is a verse I had to memorize to bring my mind under control, to keep it from dwelling on past failures. If it were not for the promise contained in this passage, I would have quit the ministry long ago as a result of the supper messes that I make of things.

To me, this passage holds one of the keys to the Christian life, the power of God to enable the Child of God to leave his past failures and sins behind, no matter how bad they may be. I had to memorize this verse some years ago, and flee to it regularly. In fact, I have lost count of the number of times I have had to flee to this verse.

Many times it is easer for others to forgive and forget the sins we committed against them than it is for us to forgive and forget ourselves. Others forget the messes we make faster than we do. Those things live in our memory forever, many times burned in like it happened yesterday.

I should also mention that this includes more than the sins which were embarrassing to us. All of us want to forget those things, because they hurt to remember them. This also includes those things that we found enjoyable, yet were sin -- lust of the flesh. Sin is not without its pleasures and the enemy of our souls will come to us and remind us of those pleasurable moments of sin. This verse also includes putting those behind us.

But this is one of the glorious things about Christianity. The forgiveness of God and the power of God to go on with what He would have for us to do.

This passage is placed in the word of God for a reason. Every one needs it regularly and should have it memorized from using it so much. It would go along with 1 John ch. 1 and Proverbs 28:13, 14. It is far to good to overlook at the end of a year, or at the start of a new year.

This passage holds the key to a good conscience toward God

Hebrews 9:9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Hebrews 10:22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
Hebrews 13:18 Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.

This passage gives me hope that no matter how bad of a mess I make out of things, I can start over again in the eyes of the Lord. And if this gives us power to start over again with the Lord, how much more should it give this same hope one toward another. Once that situation which stands between us and that person is resolved, this gives us a new start.

I hope that I can share a little of that hope with you today.

Paul was an excellent example. He was a murderer before his salvation, yet the power of the Spirit of God as found in this verse gave him the supernatural ability to place the foolishness and sin behind him and press on for the sake of the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

Now some brief points about Ph. 3:12-14.

First, the Christian will remain imperfect as long as he is on this earth. Not until we see Christ, will we be like Him.

We know ourselves well enough to know that our heart and life are not in conformity to Christ Jesus. Others may think we are holy, but we and the Lord know the truth.

Second, the call of every Child of God is a call to the holiness of God as established in Christ Jesus.

In v. 12, Paul tells us that he has not attained the perfection of Christ Jesus to which all of God's people are called. Then in v. 14, he tells us that he is still pressing on to this perfection. Then v. 15 he points out that in any area where we are short of our calling in Christ - calling to perfection - even this will the Spirit of God show unto us if we want to see it.

The key is, if we want to see it. I have met few people who really want to see the truth about themselves, either from God or from other believers.

Every time we read Scripture, we should read it with the understanding that we are sinners, and that we are not where we should be in Christ. Then as we ready and study, it should be with the prayer that if in anything we are contrary to the mind of Christ as revealed in God's word, he will show us, and give the grace to make the change.

Ephesians 1:1-6 clearly tells us that our calling in Christ Jesus is that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.

Then in 1 Peter 1:15, 16, we are told that our calling is to be holy even as our Father in heaven is holy.

Obviously, we daily fall short of our calling. Paul, here at the end of his life, having written almost all if not all of his letters and after starting a great many churches, he himself says that he has not obtained this perfection. (As we read his letters, it sure appears that he has.)

In Romans 7:18-24, we are told that the flesh, or fallen nature resists our every effort to love God, love his law and to do his word.

Then v. 25 tells us that the strong desire to obey the law of God which comes from the new birth, coupled with the failure to fulfill this desire, can result in a person desiring to give up in their efforts to be like Christ, or even in doubting his salvation. (Remember, if there is no strong desire to obtain to the goal set before us, the likeness of Christ, then we are NOT His.)

The picture here would be of a person rowing upstream. He starts remember how hard he worked in the past, maybe with no success, and it isn't long before he is drifting downstream daydreaming. It doesn't take much slackness on the oars at all to lose what was gained.

As we look back over this past year, let us ask ourselves:

* Are we more of what the Lord would have us to be?
* Do we look more like a Christian?
* Do we talk more like a Christian?
* Do we sound more like a Christian?
* Is our relationship with others more Christlike than this time last year?
* Did we make a mess of our lives, and or a mess of our Christian testimony?

Now let's just look at some things at random.


Psalms 15:1 A Psalm of David. LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? 4 In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-6 is more in detail.

Did we keep our vows to the Lord last year. You say, "But that was only to a man that I gave my word." Our action toward man is our action toward God.

2. Malachi 3:8-12 did we give to the Lord what was His last year?

3. Romans 13:8 who did we end up in debt to in 90.

4. 2 Timothy 2:24, 25 how about our patience and meekness?

5. 1 John 3:14-18, 4:11 what did our actions and words say to our brothers and sisters in Christ? Did they show love, the same kind of love that Christ had for us?

6. 2 Timothy 2:4 did we get so tangled up in the affairs of this world that we were unable to serve the Lord as we should have?

7. 2 Timothy 2:15 here in the same chapter, what happened to our study of the word of God last year? Did we start out with high hopes and expectations and fall by the wayside?

In addition, we have Luke 18:1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Did this last year find us more faithful or less faithful in this personal walk with the Lord.

How can professed Christians feel that they do not need time alone with the Lord to survive? Self-confidence and pride will rule if given any chance at all.

8. 1 Timothy 6:5. What was your goal last year? Was it to get gain or was it godliness?

9. Ephesians 6:1-9 covers the doctrine of authority from every angle.

There is a wicked idea in the world that says that because the employer is not paying me as much as I think that I am worth, then I do not owe him as hard of work as if I was getting paid more.

That is an ungodly idea. If one agrees to work for a person for .25 cents an hour, he owes him as hard of work as though he agreed to work for $25 an hour. Why? V. 6 we are not working to please that employer but we are working to please the Lord at all times.

Then the employer! Does he treat the employee right? Is he honest and above board with him?

How did the children treat their parents last year?

Did the fathers treat the children right?

10. 1 Peter 1:7. Each of us had our faith tried in 08. How did the trial turn out? The trial could have even been in the area of prosperity. The Lord may have prospered. Was the Lord's honored in that prosperity?

Or maybe the trial was lack. How did the trial turn out?

How about our testimony before the world? Did we hold up last year, or fall back?

Note 1 Peter 1:9. Others watch how we handle the trials that come our way, and will be influenced accordingly. Were they influenced for Christ in 08 by our consistency to our profession of Christ.

How many opportunites did we miss by inconsistency?

11. Hebrews 12:15. At the end of 2008, are we taking bitterness with us into 2009? God forbid that you should do such an evil thing. Bitterness will destroy us from the inside out.

"But you do not know how wrong they did me." If bitterness is not dealt with, the day will come when we will not be able to deal with it, v. 17.

Regardless of the reason we might use to hold on to bitterness, it will destroy us and our family.

12. Colossians 3:13 fits in here also. We cannot take unforgiveness nor hard feelings toward another into the new year without causing great problems within ourselves and with our God.

How about the inter-family relationships? How did the husbands or wives treat one another last year. What went on behind closed doors that should not have? How about the tempers, the fights, the words? How many hurt feelings are still left hanging around that need to be made right?

How many wives say that they want to reach their husbands yet the refuse to live according to 1 Peter 3:1-6.

How many husbands say that they love their wives yet refuse to complement them, tell and show love to them, and dwell with them as instructed in 1 Peter 3:7.

Neither live according to 3:8, 9 and then wonder why their prayers are not answered when they pray for our lost loved ones.

13. Hebrews 10:25, were we more faithful to the assembly of Believes than we were in 07?

14. How about anger?

Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

Was our spirit more under the control of the Holy Spirit that it was in 07?

In Exodus 20:10, anger cost Moses the promised land.

15. How about compromise?

1 Corinthians 15:34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.

Compromise will cost the salvation of souls.

There are many more things here that we could mention, but the Holy Spirit has brought to your mind the areas that just did not add up in 08. So let me give the answer.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

However, Matthew 18:15ff., tells us that we must make our failures and sins right with others before we can find peace with God and with our own mind.

Did we lose our temper?
Did we deceive someone?
Did we fail in our Christian testimony?

Philippians 3:15, Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

We must be willing, and even ask the Lord to show us what we need to make right from this past year. And then claim the grace that is needed to make those things right. Otherwise, we will not be able to leave it behind, and under the blood of Christ.

But the very worse thing we could do is take this into the new year with us. Here is a chance as well as a motive to start over again and again and again.

Proverbs 28:13, 14 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.

Obviously, we all want to prosper this next year. The Lord tells us how to prosper.

One of the Bibles I have worn out has many dates marked in it. I marked dates beside promises claimed, and beside verses that pointed out sins. In that Bible, I have 12 dates written beside Proverbs 28:13, 14 alone. Some of the dates even have the sin with them.

C. What kind of mess did we make in 08?

Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Let us confess our failuers, claim Philippians 3:12-14, leave the past behind us, and press on toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.