Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,
“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 – 6:10)
One of my teachers said that the early translation of the scriptures was done as circuit riders were ministering around the countryside. Every time the horse hit a bump it caused a chapter break. That is why sometimes there are chapter breaks in the midst of the writer’s thought. (…joking…)
Actually, with Paul, all chapter breaks are in the midst of his stream of conscious thought.
This passage in Second Corinthians begins with the affirmation that believers are new creations. It introduces the concept that all believers are ministers. Paul continues, pointing out that Christ works alongside us. He prepares us for the hardships of the work. Paul lists the characteristics of the minister of Christ, and then concludes with the glories of the ministry.
Has God come into your life? Has he disrupted your worldly ideas and plans, and inserted His own as replacements? If so, you are a new creature. You have been born again to a lively hope in the resurrection to eternal life.
You have been separated from the world and its ungodly desires. Unhappily, that does not mean you can’t go back. Like a washed pig that immediately wallows in the mire, all believers can return to fleshly, worldly and satanic pleasures.
One of the many benefits of salvation is that our selves are renewed. In actuality, we are new creatures. All that was before is obsolescent. It is passing away and as a new creation in Christ, the fullness of what that means will become manifest in due time.
Paul throughout his letter points out that B.C., before Christ, we were enemies of God. Because He is Sovereign, our lives of worldliness were in rebellion to His sovereignty. We were at war with God.
For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace: because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be: and they that are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:6-8)
But God was in Christ reconciling the world (and us) to Him. Jesus is our bridge between man and God and between man and man.
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life; and not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:8-11)
Christ is our reconcil-er. The initiative is His, not ours. He took on our sins, cancelling our debt to Almighty God. Jesus reconciled us to the Father.
In so doing, Jesus, promotes us from needing to be reconciled to being reconcil-ers. We are sent forth into the world to testify to the truth that all, women, men and children are at war with God, but “that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses…” What a glorious message and what a privilege is ours.
Paul says the message of reconciliation is “committed” to us. In Greek it is τιθημι (tith-ay-mee) = “to place, make, ordain, purpose”. Thus God has placed the ministry of reconciliation in believers’ hands. He has made us responsible for being the reconciling force in a fragmenting society. We are responsible to bring people to God and to bring them together in unity.
When a new President takes office, he appoints a new staff, including Ambassadors to all the nations in diplomatic relationship with America. The role of an ambassador is to speak the policies of the nation and the President. He is a functionary of the nation and the administration. He or she may take the heat in a controversy, but the Ambassador never acts on his or her own.
We are ambassadors on behalf of Christ. We are not given the title to hang on a vanity wall as a bragging right. We are Ambassadors to go about our King’s business. We proclaim the message He gives us. We “rightly divide the Word of God”. We do not exceed our charge by our Lord. We do not go into the world to see the sights, but we go under direction to communicate the message delivered to us by our God.
We speak for God, but God must ratify what we say. His message is an earnest plea to cease their resistance to God’s will and to surrender to His authority.
We are Ambassadors for God seeking peace with the worldly.
But contrary to worldly ambassadors we are not alone. Paul says of himself in his concern for the Corinthians,
“working together with him we entreat also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” (2 Corinthians 6:1)
For us that message is a two-edged sword.
We are “Working together” – Christ Jesus shares His work with us. He is in our hearts and at our elbow with guiding words as we minister in His name.
One part of the message is for us. We must not have received the marvelous gifts in vain., i.e. gifts of salvation, of cleansing from sin, of being clothed in Christ’s righteousness and of eternal life in the Presence of our loving Father.
Far too many Christians take salvation for granted and live as if it is a retirement plan. We don’t mess with it until we die. Then we cash in our retirement policy and collect eternal life in blessedness. In the meantime, we live according to the dictates of our own hearts – “God doesn’t mess with me and I try not to sin against Him.” That is receiving the grace of God in vain.
God’s purpose in our salvation is two-fold. The first purpose is to benefit us. The second purpose: we are saved and called to minister to others and to benefit the world.
While Christianity has been around for 2 millennia, and while God is not bound by time, our lives are short. We are bound to time. All we get in this life is “three score and ten and if by manner of strength, four score.” For us and all humans, “time’s a-wasten”! Paul warns us,
“… behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)
There was a story that went around when I was at the University of Washington: A visionary student came on campus. He had his life all planed. He was going to become his class leader. Achieve the student body presidency. Clerk for local judge, be elected to Congress, then elected as a senator serve several terms and run for and be elected President of the United States. He was intelligent, good looking, charismatic, had a pleasing voice. Once in the office of the President, he would change the nation and as a result change the world. His life was going exactly as he planned and then he stepped off a curb, and was run over by a beer truck.
Our time is not in our hands. God tells us to redeem the time. We do not know how long we have to tell God’s truths to others. We do not know how long the other person has to hear God’s truths. “Now is the acceptable time!” “Now is the day of salvation!”
Next, Paul instructed the Corinthians, and us, in how to behave as believers, as ambassadors, as ministers of the gospel.
Giving no occasion of stumbling in anything – We must conform our lives to Christ.
And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)
We must demonstrate to the world, what a Christian life is. Paul lays out the proper results of the believer’s life.
… for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; (Ephesians 4:12-14)
To reflect Christ to the world, we must emulate Him, so that when others look at us, they see Christ shining through. Our attempts to conform to Jesus give us a personal advantage. We are built up in the faith, so many of the worldly concerns are sloughed off. We know the reality of our faith and become comfortable in its doctrines, so that we are not dissuaded or confused by others’ erroneous ideas of Christianity. We can stand firm in Christ when assailed for our “old fashioned ideas” or “politically incorrect views of life”.
Let me step aside: it is never too late to learn the basics. It is never too late to grow in understanding God. It is never too late to be reminded of what our lives in Christ should be. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to teach us all things and bring to our remembrance all that Jesus taught us. So now “is the acceptable time” to show yourself…
“approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
The first characteristic Paul calls for, as a minister of Christ, is Patience. It is a Fruit of the Spirit, i.e. it develops naturally from being rooted in Christ.
Paul calls for pureness, i.e. moral uprightness, conforming to the standards of life that God has established. Obeying to the best of our abilities, recognizing when we sin. Then when we do, we confess and receive God’s and other people’s forgiveness.
He calls for long suffering, meaning suffering for your faith without changing in your belief. Paul entreats kindness, treating others with brotherly or sisterly affection, being sensitive to their needs and providing what is within your capability. He challenges us to live in the Holy Spirit, who convinces the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. He calls us to love simply, honestly and open-handedly.
From his own life the Apostle knew that the life Christ calls us to is no easy life. It is not for wimps. There will be severe testings. But for each of these God has glorious compensation.
The world will
The Holy Spirit is in this place. He is residing in each of you. His is the Spirit of Truth. He will guide you into all truth. He has gifts, manifestations of the Holy Spirit to give to you. He causes the Fruit of the Spirit to develop in your lives. He is your guide along the path of Jesus. He is your Counselor when you are perplexed and don’t know what to do.
There is not a one of us believers who has to be doubtful, or un-directed or without godly work to do. God has made all the provisions for you to minister in His name. He will not leave you hanging out on your own, but will provide everything you need to serve Him and to minister to other people.
God loves people. He is not willing for any to perish, but to come to the knowledge of Jesus the Christ. He has you as His ambassador to the world. He has given you the message of life to the people in the world. Jesus will accompany you every step of the way.
Therefore, be on the lookout for appointments. Sometimes you will get a question that will be an opportunity you can drive a truck through. Sometimes in the midst of a crisis, you will be able to fill a void with words of hope. Sometimes a long-term relationship will mature into an opportunity to say words in season that will become a turning point.
Never forget you are ministers of reconciliation to the worldly people. You are ambassadors to the alienated. You are God’s people placed where you are for such a time as this!
Our Lord and our God. You have touched the heart of each one of us. You have removed the stony heart and transplanted a heart of flesh. Give us in addition a desire to serve You each day. Give us a voice of courage to proclaim the bad news to the unbelieving and the good news to believers that are cast down.
You, Father have adopted as your children and made us to be joint heirs with Christ. Give us confidence that we have the resources of Almighty God available to us, as we need them. Give us the boldness to step out into untraveled lands and claim it as Yours. Give us the heart to make friends with the friendless, to help the helpless and to throw a Jesus life Savior to the drowning.
Father, again we give our lives to you to be Yours for eternity.
To the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit.
God grant “that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory, unto all patience and long-suffering with joy; giving thanks unto the Father, who made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light;” (Colossians 1:9-12)
“Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord! Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.” (Psalm 98)
The Pastor had been encouraging the congregation to let loose and shout their praises to God. After the service Aunt Deborah approached the Pastor with a frown.
“Pastor! Why are you encouraging the people to shout and sing so loudly? Do you think God is deaf?” she said disapprovingly.
“No,” he answered, “and I don’t think he is nervous, either.”
David Wilkerson, the author of The Cross and the Switchblade, had a suburban Pentecostal church. They loved the Lord. David’s father was a retired old time Pentecostal preacher. He was visiting, so David asked his father to preach. During the service his father noticed the subdued nature of the worship, because they did not want to offend the neighbors.
When the elder Wilkerson got up to preach, he stood beside the pulpit and took off his muddy shoes. He plunked them down on the pulpit. There was a gasp from the congregation.
He said, “This is not holy! It is a place for proclaiming God holy word, but this is material and temporal. It will get old and need to be replaced.
“You have fallen into complacency, since you moved into the suburbs. God called you to proclaim your love for Him and to worship Him exuberantly. Now we’re going to have a Jericho March, singing in triumph at the Lord’s victory in each of our hearts.
“You on both sides open all the windows, all the way. We’re going to notify the neighbors we are here and we are proud to declare God’s glory!”
Now let’s look at what the Psalmist and God are telling us.
Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. (Psalm 98:1)
Psalms 96 also tells is to sing, to create a new song,
“Oh sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name; Tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Psalms 96:1-3)
Marvelous works – these are not superior, natural things. They are miraculous, supernatural entrances of יהוה into the affairs of men.
“His right hand, and his holy arm, hath wrought salvation” – this indicates God has rolled up His sleeve to get us salvation – a real effort of love. It required a two-fold sacrifice;
Contrast the little effort God took to create all the stellar lights.
“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;” (Psalm 8:3)
Creation itself was mere finger play.
The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. (Psalm 98:2)
God displayed His acts of salvation publicly for all the world to see, to note and to believe. Paul declared before King Agrippa
“That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:23)
“For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.” (Acts 26:26)
“The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:10)
“And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.” (Exodus 3:20)
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen he salvation of our God. (Psalm 98:3)
God has openly revealed His love for His Chosen People. He has made no secret of the way to participate in salvation.
“Shew thy marvelous loving-kindness, O thou that saves by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them.” (Psalm 17:7)
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! (Psalm 98:4)
“Make a joyful noise” this is a command to express your love for God exuberantly is declared seven times:
Joyful–there are two Hebrew words used in these Psalms. In 66:1; 81:1; 95:1&2; and 100:1 they use רָנַן (raw-nan), which means to “emit a strident sound, shout aloud for joy, be greatly joyful, sing aloud for joy”. Psalms 98:4 & 6 use עׇלַז (aw-laz), which means “jump for joy, exult”.
Three Hebrew words are used for “noise”. Psalms 66:1; 81:1 שׇׁאוֹן (shaw-one) = from a root meaning “to rush”, thus “roar as a rushing sound) tumultuous’. Psalms 95:1 קוֹל (kole) = “call aloud, sing, thundering voice, yell”. Psalms 98:4& 6; 100:1 פׇּצַח (paw-tsakh) = “break out in joyful sound, break forth in joy, make a loud noise”.
Putting these words together multiplies their force. The Psalmists used different word combinations; nevertheless, the meanings of all are the same. When we worship יהוה, if we love Him, we should cast self-consciousness aside and shout for joy at the top of our lungs, we should sing His praises exuberantly.
Since the worship in the Temple involved not only music and singing, but also dancing. We must use our bodies to worship, jumping for joy, whirling in delight and any other appropriate movements that express our joy in worshiping our God.
When we worship with un-self-conscious exuberance, we glorify God and proclaim His majesty. Conversely when we are self-conscious, we are wrapped up in self and what people think of us. We are not freely worshiping God in spirit and in truth. A half-truth is a lie.
5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! (Psalm 98:5)
Music out of full hearts blesses God. He takes pleasure in exuberant, and Loud praise.
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord! (Psalm 98:6)
יהוה is King of kings. We honor Him with boisterous fanfares and with loud cheers and shouted praise. He is not nervous when we boisterously and exuberantly sing at the top of our voices and shout for joy at His Presence.
When Queen Elizabeth goes out in state the people line the streets and cheer wildly, “Long Live the Queen!” A marching band accompanying her plays loudly, “God Save the Queen”, which is the same melody as our National Anthem.
We, in extolling the majesty of Almighty God, El Shaddai, should be as exuberant, or more so.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! (Psalm 98:7)
This is not “respectful” and quiet, but resounding, even crashing praise! This is not disrespectful, but honoring the greatness of God! Consider what the sound will be when the voices of all the believers, billions of voices, are joined together in praise of their most loved God. That is what will occur around God’s throne, when we will all be standing in His Presence.
After these things I saw, and behold, a great multitude, which no man could number, out of every nation and of all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, arrayed in white robes, and palms in their hands; and they cry with a great voice, saying, Salvation unto our God who sits on the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels were standing round about the throne, and about the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell before the throne on their faces, and worshiped God, saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. (The Revelation 7:9-12)
8 Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together. (Psalm 98:8)
Everything in the world praises their Creator.
9 before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity. (Psalm 98:9)
When Christ comes again, he will come in glory. His purpose will be to bring everything to the culmination. He will judge impartially and righteously. All people throughout history will stand before Jesus, the perfectly righteous Judge. Each person will get their just deserts.
He will act with equity, but He will not be vindictive. Those who have believed, Jesus will own and acknowledge His blood covering their sins and His righteousness clothing them. He will embrace them and welcome them into His Presence. Those who have not believed, He will see their sin and see their nakedness. He will not acknowledge them, instead He will disown them and cast them out of His Presence.
After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,
“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”
And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!”
And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.”
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” (The Revelation 19:1-9)
Do you think the rejoicing in Heaven with all the Cherubim, Seraphim, Archangels, Angels, the patriarchs and the teeming billions of the redeemed in the Church Triumphant is going to be subdued? “Whew, I’m glad that’s over. Now we can rest in peace -z-z-z-z-z-z…” Of course not! The myriad of voices will be raised in glorious praise at the top of their voices. Hallelujah! Praise God! Praise the Father! Praise the Son! Praise the Holy Spirit! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! If the Earth, Sun, Moon and stars had not been rolled up, the resounding praise would have shaken them out of their orbits.
All this is to say exuberance in worship is a blessing to God. Never be inhibited in demonstrating your love for your Father, Your Savior, your Guide, Counselor and Truth Teacher!
Sing your praise! Shout your Praise! Declare your praise! But do not suppress your praise. You are addressing El Shaddai! You are praising Almighty God, Creator of all that exists, who is worthy of all your praise.
You are magnificent, Almighty Father. We worship you with all our hearts, souls, minds and spirits.
Free us from anything that binds us. Any infirmities of our flesh. Any reticence or inhibitions of soul. Free us to be exuberant in our worship and praise.
Let our voices rouse the neighborhood. Draw them in to see what the commotion is.
Fill your mind with Scriptures; your mouth with prayers, and your hands with helps for those around you in need. When you do, you crowd out the negative thoughts.
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:1-9)
When I was in seminary, the class that teaches how to preach was called Homiletics. The Professor gave us a Scripture, and we each had to write and deliver a 15-minute sermon. Upon completion the student sat down. The class then critiqued his writing and his delivery. Next the Professor gave his critique. For our first sermon, Dr. Cook gave us Philippians 4:6-7 as the text.
As I opened to Paul’s letter to the Philippians and read the passage, I realized Ruth and I had lived it! Just months before I entered seminary, while our family was on vacation, one evening when Ruth and I were praying, the Holy Spirit told us that we were going to be involved in a ministry together. God gave us no idea what.
The day I went back to work after vacation, the boss called me into his office, “Ted, you are at liberty to seek other employment.” Our company was closing the Seattle office, but no one in the office was to be retained. I loved that job. The rug was pulled out from under me, but much to my surprise, nothing moved.
I went right home to tell Ruth. She was in the kitchen doing the dishes. “What are you doing home?”
I was smiling when I told her I had lost my job, so she didn’t believe me at first. When I convinced her it was true, she dried her hands, we went into the living room, and knelt down to pray. We affirmed our trust in Jesus, and then laid out all our financial needs. Just as verse 6 says,
… but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And He gave us that peace. It was not an attitude that was normal.
First the shock of painful reality. Then the grief at loss. Then the frantic preparation and search for another job. Tense days and worried sleeping (sort of) nights.
No! We knew that Jesus had something for us. We had peace that surpassed human understanding. I didn’t even look for another job. I was offered the same job with another company – same pay, benefits, company car, but I couldn’t take it. I had to call him back and say that I would not take the job, because Jesus had something else for us.
On my last day of work, I went into our denominational office here in Seattle to ask after a job as a camp counselor or old folks home host couple, any kind of lay person job with the church. Our Conference Minister asked me if I would consider the ministry, going to seminary. I told him no, but he pointed out a seminary that had a ministry to men who had been in business and then decided to pursue the ministry. When he said that the average student was 30 years-old and had a wife and two children, it described me to a T. I took the information and sent for their catalog. When the catalog came it was clear that it was a liberal, unbelieving seminary. That was a downer, but God made it clear that was where we were to go!
God put it all together! That was July 31st. We obtained tenants for our home, stored furniture, packed up and left just 5 weeks later. Just after Labor Day, we were on the road east 3,500 miles to Bangor, Maine.
My sermon in that class was a testimony sermon, emphasizing our trust in God and His provision for us. When it came time for the Professor’s critique, he asked, “Mr. Bradshaw, When you finish Seminary, do you think you will still believe as you do now?”
I was a bit nonplussed at the question, but God gave me the answer, “Well Dr., Cook, if I don’t, I will be wrong!”
Essentially, what I am saying to you is that God’s word is true. It is something you can found your life and decisions on. You can trust Jesus to be faithful to His Word.
There is a lot more I could tell you, but now let’s dig into this scripture to see what the Holy Spirit has for us.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)
“Always” is an operative word. Paul’s standard is to rejoice in good times and in bad times; in sickness and in health; when rich and when poor. Paul and Silas were in a Philippian jail, their backs bruised, torn and bleeding, feet in stocks. He and Silas had to sit up all night, because the floor was too filthy to lay back on. They spent the night singing and praising God.
Rejoicing is a stance of life. Regardless of what occurs in your life, you can rejoice. Consider this: Jesus went through agony in the preparation for crucifixion, with beating, flogging, humiliation, and then crucifixion is an excruciating way to die. Should believers rejoice in Jesus’ horrific death?
Yes, it is not only appropriate to rejoice, it would be an affront to God if we were to lament.
Paul, who experienced many agonies for Jesus instructed us strongly – he repeated it “Rejoice and again I say “Rejoice!”
What agonies? It was in A.D. 53, Paul and Silas were beaten bloody and thrown into a Philippian prison and spent the night singing praises to Jesus. I suspect many of the Philippian believers, would remember that night, particularly Lydia; and the Jailor, specifically. He and his family accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior that night, because of Paul’s rejoicing in that terrible situation. In A.D. 60, Paul wrote a 2nd letter to the Corinthians citing…
Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as one beside himself) I more; in labors more abundantly, in prisons more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day have I been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of rivers, in perils of robbers, in perils from my countrymen, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).
This letter to the Philippians was written when Paul was in a Roman prison awaiting adjudication that would most likely (and did 2 years later) result in execution.
Paul had every reason to live in regret, lament, anxiety. All that was nothing to Him. Instead he wrote and underlined, “Rejoice!”
Life for many of us is uncomfortable, to say the least. And yet, those who are triumphant over the afflictions of this life are able to rejoice in the knowledge that Christ has overcome the world and all its sufferings.
“Do not be anxious about anything” – What! Are you crazy, Paul? Life without anxiety? You’ve got to be kidding, Paul! You must be talking to the dead. They’re the only ones without anxiety. Right?
Wrong! That is absolutely the way for Christian believers to live! Without anxiety! When we live in Christ, we are confident that…
“all things work together for good to those who are called according to His (God’s) purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Anxiety is a sign that a person is not depending upon Jesus. Paul is calling, and I am calling for a radical surrender of your life to Jesus.
Job had that attitude,
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him:” (Job 13:15)
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Babylon had that attitude,
“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18)
Jesus had that attitude,
“He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)
When we realize that we
“… are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)
… then there is nothing anyone or anything can do to harm us. We belong to God and nothing can change that! No more anxiety!
“but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” – Our appeal is to God. Everything is in His hands. Actually, that is true whether we recognize it or not. God is Sovereign. He is in control. It is foolish to wrest control from Him. When, however, we surrender to that truth, and live according to His will, we will readily bring everything to Him in prayer. We will appeal to our loving Father for all our needs and let Him sort out our desires.
Then in appropriate politeness we thank him for His provision. Thanking in advance is an act of faith. We are saying to our Father that he is faithful to provide for us and we rely upon Him to do so.
“let your requests be made known to God.” – I liken this to tossing everything up to God and knowing that what is according to His plan for me, He will return. The rest I will right-off as unworthy human desires.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – This is where the anxiety is eliminated. Jesus’ gift of peace is that unworldly peace that when everyone around you has logical reasons to panic, you can be a spreader of peace. Everyone who sees your equanimity, your calm, your composure, your self-control, and your poise, will be drawn into your sphere of influence and experience your God-given peace, too.
Paul adds a final touch to his teaching on rejoicing anxiety-free. He encourages us to transform our thinking from the difficulties, hardships and evils of this life, instead fill our minds with upbuilding thoughts.
Nature abhors a vacuum. So, if your mind is not busy, it will dwell on the lowest common denominator – gossip, criticism, judgmental-ism and the like. Instead contemplate:
Fill your mind with Scriptures; your mouth with prayers, and your hands with helps for those around you in need. When you do, you crowd out the negative thoughts.
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” – Look to Paul for the example to follow in living for Christ:
“I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” – This is a bold statement.
Paul was confident in Christ. He knew Who Jesus was – Son of God, very God, Himself – Almighty! Paul believed not only in Christ, but he believed Christ! Paul believed there was a transfer of authority to all believers, when Jesus said,
“And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:” (Matthew 28:18-19)
That giving of authority included Paul, and it included us!
“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” – There are two points to make about this verse.
My brothers and sisters, you–each one of you–are precious in the sight of your Lord Jesus Christ.
You women are Princesses, each one of you, daughters of God Almighty the Creator of the cosmos. Do you believe that Your Father loves you? Therefore, you not only have His protection throughout life, but you have no reason to be anxious about any need in your life. So, rejoice always, and again I say rejoice!
You men are Princes of The King of Kings and the Lord of lords, the Sovereign of the universe. You have no excuse for anxiety about your future. It is secure in Christ. He knows your needs before you do. He has already made provision for you; therefore, rejoice now and for evermore, and again I say rejoice!
Now repeat with me:
I rejoice in You, my Lord Jesus. I rejoice in Your provision for me! Hallelujah!
Thank You, my Father. I rejoice that You have adopted me as Your child.
I love you My God, Holy Spirit. I rejoice that You have taught me about Jesus.
I rejoice in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
We are Yours, our God and King. We have given our lives to You. Now, my Lord reveal to us what peace You have for each one in the congregation. Reveal how You are taking the anxiety out of each one’s heart. Reveal the goodness that You are placing in that empty place, filling our minds with the good, the true, the beautiful, the worthy and with joy. Yes, Father give each one of us joy unspeakable and full of glory! To the honor of our Savior, Jesus. Amen
… grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)