Bible Study

This is a copy of the Sunday School Lessons presented to an adult class each Sunday.

Location: Spartanburg, South Carolina, United States

Retired, Lobbyist in Washington,DC - Management - BS Chemistry and various continuing education courses

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bible Study - Thrive (6) - Giving With Joy - Philippians 4:10-20 - February 26, 2017

Bible Study – Thrive (6) – Giving With Joy – February 26, 2017

This is our sixth and final lesson in our series entitled “Thrive: Living in Real Joy.”

Our focus scripture is Philippians 4:10-20.

Join GOD in HIS work of giving for the benefit of others.

Giving with joy comes from the natural outflow of our relationship with GOD through faith in JESUS. When giving is part of our new nature in CHRIST, it is natural. It is as important as breathing is to our natural bodies, food, water, etc. Let’s explore!

Let’s read Philippians 4:10-14:

Appreciation of Support

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last you have renewed your care for me. You were, in fact, concerned about me, but lacked the opportunity [to show it].

Caring for others in their time of need reflects the true relationship of the giver to the LORD. The fact that the Christians in Philippi had reached out to Paul in his time of need brought joy to Paul because it revealed their continued walk with JESUS.

11 I don't say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.

Paul set the record straight that GOD was taking care of him because Paul had learned to be content with what he had. Paul expands on this in our next verse.

12 I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret [of being content]-whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.

Paul’s trust in the LORD gave him confidence that GOD would take care of him whether he had little or abundance.  Paul had learned that when he focused upon his relationship with JESUS and the care of GOD to meet all of his needs, he was content.

What is being content?

We considered “happiness” earlier in our study. Happiness depends upon our circumstances, whereas “joy” comes from within and does not depend upon our circumstances. “Contentment” falls into the same category as “joy.” Contentment does not increase or decrease with our material sufficiency. Do the more physical things we have bring us more contentment? NO! In fact, the more we have often brings more problems.

A Christian’s contentment is found in his or her relationship with JESUS and when Christians come to that realization it is part of their Spiritual growth and maturing process. When such a realization is achieved through living, it becomes a natural part of us as Christians. It then flows naturally from the realized assurance of the complete care of the LORD JESUS in our lives in all situations. Christians can rest and abide in JESUS with confidence. It does not mean that we can avoid our part in circumstances but to do our part as revealed by the Holy Spirit and leave the rest to our LORD.

In Paul’s time, there was a philosophy created by Zeno called stoicism. The stoics were to endure whatever life sent their way. They were to suffer through it. The idea was no pain no gain.

The Apostle Paul had learned that GOD was with him in all situations and in all situations bringing about the best solution possible as recorded in Romans 8:26-30:

26 In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings.

27 And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit's mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. [GOD is in all things. Things do not control Christians but GOD is in all things bringing about the best solution.]

29 For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.

30 And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.

When we have done what we can and we must trust GOD to fill in the gaps. Our limitations become HIS opportunity to reveal to us that we fully trust HIM to meet our needs as we obediently serve HIM.  

13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Since Paul was focused on his relationship with JESUS and his dependence upon HIM, Paul could say with complete confidence, “I am able to do all things through HIM who strengthens me.”

Paul drew his strength from his relationship and experience with JESUS and not from what physical things or the circumstances he faced. Paul was GOD’S man chosen to obediently serve HIM and that was his focus. He did not focus upon material things. GOD met Paul’s needs from HIS vast resources, which were sufficient and complete to meet all needs.

Paul’s secret is “CHRIST is sufficient.” Paul did not focus upon circumstances but on the sufficiency of CHRIST, Who sits at the right hand of GOD.

14 Still, you did well by sharing with me in my hardship.

Paul quickly adds, in essence, “Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate you reaching out to me in my time of hardship and it was much needed, appreciated and used to the glory of GOD. GOD used you to meet my needs, which reveals your walk with JESUS.”

As stated in a previous lesson, Tony Merida the founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC wrote our series entitled “Thrive: Living in Real Joy.” On pages 150 and 151, he had three headings:
Contentment doesn’t depend on our circumstances (vv. 11-12)
2.    Contentment is learned (vv. 11-12)
3.    Contentment flows from our union with CHRIST and reliance on HIM. (v. 13) “Paul now gives us “the secret of being content. It flows from our union and communion with the Savior.” --- “CHRIST is enough. Paul wasn’t preoccupied with his situation; he was preoccupied with JESUS. When you focus on JESUS, you can be content.”

Let’s read Philippians 4:15-18:

15 And you, Philippians, know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you alone.

Paul praised the Christians in Philippi for their early and continued support of him as he obediently served the LORD JESUS. This support for him came from the prompting of the Holy Spirit and as such they were partners with him in ministry and obedient to GOD. It is as if they were going along with Paul to these other places spreading the Gospel.

16 For even in Thessalonica you sent [gifts] for my need several times.

17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that is increasing to your account.

Paul made it clear that he greatly appreciated the gifts they sent to him but his greatest joy came from the fact that they were being obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. They were in partnership with GOD and that relationship would transcend the bounds of earth and be applied to their treasure being held in heaven. Their faithful support of Paul was a reflection of their Spiritual growth and maturity. The Christians in Philippi were co-labors with Paul.

This is an awesome thought. We could attempt to play the system by giving to get or we could focus upon building the right relationship with JESUS and let giving be a natural outflow from our relationship with GOD through CHRIST. 

Giving is all about our hearts and our true relationship with JESUS. You cannot fake truth. Giving is one thing but being a partner is another. Partnering is getting involved. Partnering is more than being a contributor. What is the difference between being a contributor and a partner? It is like the old story of the pig and the chicken providing food for a breakfast. The chicken stated it would provide the eggs and that the pig should provide the ham and bacon. The pig promptly responded to the chicken. “For you to provide the eggs are a contribution but for me to provide the ham and bacon is a sacrifice.”

Paul wrote of the generosity of the churches in Macedonia, which included Philippi as recorded in 2 Corinthians Chapters 8-9.

18 But I have received everything in full, and I have an abundance. I am fully supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you provided-a fragrant offering, a welcome sacrifice, pleasing to God.

Paul underscores the fact that GOD has met his needs but the gift they sent by Epaphroditus (e-paf-ro-di-tus) was the finishing touch that completely supplied all Paul’s needs. What they sent was a reflection of careful thought, planning and prayer. They were not just doing something out of obligation but what they did came from their hearts filled with the love of JESUS and their love for Paul.

As a result, what they sent was a sacrificial gift to Paul which honored GOD. Paul received their gift as:
-         A fragrant offering
-         A welcome sacrifice
-         Pleasing to GOD

Their gift reflected their love for the LORD JESUS and what HE did for them, which, in turn, they saw reflected in Paul. In being obedient, they honored our LORD JESUS, it benefited Paul and, in turn, such obedience will be credited to their Spiritual growth upon earth and to their Spiritual treasure in heaven.

Let’s read Philippians 4:19-20:

19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

20 Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Apostle Paul was closing his letter to the Christians in Philippi with a blessing of confidence based upon what Paul had learned during his walk with JESUS over the years. The GOD Whom Paul served through faith in JESUS will not abandon them but HE will supply all their needs according to HIS riches in Glory in CHRIST JESUS.

Their obedience reflected their faith in JESUS and a genuine relationship with GOD. They were not only in partnership with GOD but they were in partnership with Paul. Where Paul ministered, they ministered and GOD was glorified to those who were lost in sin and faced eternal death. But faith in JESUS redeems all who will place their faith in JESUS and because of them supporting Paul, they were ministering with Paul.

When we give to our church, we are partnering with all the church does in obedience to GOD’S leadership through the Holy Spirit. When we support missionaries, various programs or individuals, as led by the Holy Spirit, we become part of those efforts.

The Apostle Paul stated in verse 19 “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” He stated “needs” and not wants or desires. We do not give to receive. If we do, it is for the wrong reasons and should be confessed. GOD’S desire is for us to do what we do from the natural flow coming from our relationship with HIM. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:7:

7 Each person should do as he has decided in his heart-not out of regret or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Or as recorded in the King James Version:

7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly*, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
*refers to Strong’s reference number.

Give as led by and prompted by the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we are building trust upon the foundation of our faith in JESUS. It is a partnership which began at the instant of salvation. There will be ups and downs, which is part of the firming of our foundation based upon truth and not notions.

Let giving flow from our natural relationship with JESUS. When we do, we will experience the joy of giving. Blessings!!!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Bible Study - Thrive (5) - Practicing Joy - Philippians 4:4-9 - February 19, 2015

Bible Study – Thrive (5) – Practicing Joy – February 19, 2015

This is lesson five (5) in our series entitled “Thrive: Living in Real Joy.”

Our focus scripture is Philippians 4:4-9.

When I focus on CHRIST, joy and peace flood my life.

Let your relationship with JESUS produce joy naturally in your life. When Christians are in right relationship with GOD through faith in JESUS, it results in a knowing of the presence of GOD in our lives. Such a relationship is built upon truth. False notions are torn down and replaced by truth. As this takes place, the joy of such revelations brings unspeakable joy to our lives. It is part of the Spiritual growth and maturity process known as sanctification.
It is also difficult to describe in human words. It is like trying to describe the beauty of a flower and the fragrance it releases. It is very personal.

Let’s explore!

Let’s read Philippians 3:20-21 and 4:1-3 for background and lead-in:
Philippians 3:20-21:

20 but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

21 He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.

The finish line in the race of life is to be resurrected and receive our new resurrected Glorified body, just like JESUS’ Glorified body for eternity. This race begins by placing our faith in JESUS The CHRIST, which is salvation. Then yielding to The Holy Spirit and trusting The Holy Spirit to help us build the right relationship with GOD. As this relationship is perfected through the circumstances of life, it produces a natural outflow of joy which is based upon that relationship. Natural joy is based upon trust which has come about by walking in step with JESUS with full confidence that GOD is actively in step with us and the circumstances of our lives.

Life is a life of trust in the LORD based upon experiencing the trustworthiness of GOD through all circumstances. GOD has always been there for us and we have discerned the value and purpose of the things we have experienced in life. These things are building blocks which are used to lay a firm foundation upon which to build the right relationship with GOD through faith in JESUS.

Philippians 4:1-3:

1 So then, in this way, my dearly loved brothers, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord, dear friends.

When Christians consider the reward that awaits them, Paul urged them stay in the race and reach the finish line. Why? Aren’t Christians saved and will go to heaven? Yes. So why finish the race? The victors crown awaits them. 

Christians are not to give up because the rewards continue and in fact could intensify the longer we obediently serve our LORD. Why? It is because the more Christians mature in CHRIST; the more effective they are in reaching out to others.

2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree in the Lord.

These are two ladies needed to come together in unity. Fellow Christians were to help broker agreement.

3 Yes, I also ask you, true partner, to help these women who have contended for the gospel at my side, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers whose names are in the book of life.

Paul knew these ladies to be true Christians. He appealed to fellow Christians to come along the side of these ladies to help them restore their relationship with each other and The Lord. Make a commitment to get this done – partner with each other.

Live a Life of Joy and Graciousness
Let’s read Philippians 4:4-5:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Some people confuse joy with happiness. Happiness is circumstantial whereas joy does not depend upon circumstances.  One of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit is joy. Rejoice was translated from the Greek word “chairo” and means “to enjoy a state of gladness, happiness, well-being.” How often is a Christian to rejoice in the LORD? Always! To show the importance of “rejoicing”, Paul repeated the statement “I will say it again, rejoice!”

Such rejoicing was more than mouthing the words but rejoicing naturally based upon their knowledge of their solid relationship which comes from knowing JESUS and trusting HIM in all matters.

Rejoicing was not just unique to Paul but to all Christians. The phrase “in the LORD” is interesting. The word “in” can also be interpreted as “because of.” Because of a Christian’s relationship with GOD through faith in JESUS, HE is the reason Christians can rejoice regardless of circumstances. “Always” means at “all times.” Rejoicing in the Lord always does not depend upon circumstances but upon relationship and trust. A second thought is that the return of The Lord is always immanent. No one knows when HE will return to take us to Heaven. We are always in the present as GOD is in the present.

Paul wrote “I say” which comes from the experience of walking with the LORD and experiencing HIS complete care and sovereignty. Consider Paul and Silas being placed in jail in Philippi as we read in Acts 16:22-25:

22 Then the mob joined in the attack against them, and the chief magistrates stripped off their clothes and ordered them to be beaten with rods.

23 After they had inflicted many blows on them, they threw them in jail, ordering the jailer to keep them securely guarded.

24 Receiving such an order, he put them into the inner prison and secured their feet in the stocks.

A Midnight Deliverance

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

What a witness were Paul and Silas to those in jail with them. Certainly their circumstances were not the source of their joy but the presence of the LORD and their complete confidence in HIM was their source of joy.

Do you know that joy? Is it possible for you to know that joy?

Let’s read Philippians 4:5:

5 Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.

“Graciousness” encompasses “gentle”, “patient”, “gentle spirit“.

“Be known” means to be made “evident.” Don’t hide who you are in CHRIST because “The LORD” surrounds you and holds you accountable to HIM as a Christian. Trust is the hallmark of having the right and natural relationship with CHRIST.

Do you recall the event when Peter saw JESUS walking on water coming toward the boat the disciples were in? It is recorded in Matthew 14:24-33:

24 But the boat was already over a mile from land, battered by the waves, because the wind was against them.

25 Around three in the morning, He came toward them walking on the sea.

26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. "It's a ghost!" they said, and cried out in fear.

27 Immediately Jesus spoke to them. "Have courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

28 "Lord, if it's You," Peter answered Him, "command me to come to You on the water."

29 "Come!" He said. And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus.

30 But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid. And beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me!"

31 Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?"

32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

33 Then those in the boat worshiped Him and said, "Truly You are the Son of God!"

Notice when Peter took his eyes off JESUS he began to sink. Trust in the midst of life’s storms is important in building the right relationship with JESUS. Only HE can bring calm to us. Each step of trust builds upon each other to form a solid foundation.

Let’s read Philippians 4:6-7:

6 Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Is there a healthy and an unhealthy worry? Can Christians be concerned without worrying? What is the difference between anxiety and worry?

Paul was not saying to go through life with a slap-dash, nonchalant attitude but to put the issues of life into proper perspective.  

“A certain degree of worry or concern is good if it motivates us to do what we can but trust GOD to intervene where needed.” We can be concerned with the immediate but the things we focus on in the future morphs into worry, which often never materialize.   

The writer of our series “Thrive: Living in Real Joy” is Tony Merida founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC. Our LORD has spoken through him in a mighty way especially in the verses we will consider in this part of today’s study. (Bible Studies for Life, Winter 2016-17, Personal Study Guide, LifeWay, Nashville, TN, pages 145- 146.)

In Proverbs 12:25 Solomon wrote of “anxiety”:

25 Anxiety in a man's heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up.

“Anxiety includes imagining the future in a terrible way and then panicking about it.” Satan uses our imagination to build the worst possible scenarios in our minds. His objective is to discourage, defeat and turn our eyes and thoughts from JESUS and HIS sufficiency to our helplessness.  

“Negative anxiety can immobilize us and squeeze the joy out of us. This type of crushing anxiety happens when we believe lies.”

The Philippians faced daily threats, as we do. So what is the cure for worry? It is prayer. How does prayer help us move from worry to trust?

Let’s ponder Philippians 4:7
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

When the “peace of GOD” is manifested in our lives it surpasses every human thought. The “peace of GOD stands as a sentry 24/7 guarding our minds.” That is why Christians must dwell upon GOD and HIS care for us as Christians.

Our daughter, when she was young, made a poster for me that I placed in my closet. It was 1 Peter 5:7:

7 casting all your care upon Him, because He cares about you.

When Christians realize that GOD cares for them, they can cast their cares upon HIM. To cast is to release it from our hands to HIM.

I have heard Christians say, “I do not want to bother GOD with my concerns.” What! Why not? GOD loves you and knows you even to the hairs on your head. If HE has time to count your hairs HE must have time to listen to your concerns. When you release your cares and concerns into HIS hands, it frees you to rejoice in HIM.

It is then that you experience “Verse 7 - And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Let’s read Philippians 4:8-9:

8 Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable-if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise-dwell on these things.

9 Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

The thought life of Christians is vital. Satan appeals to our flesh. GOD appeals to our minds and hearts. HE appeals to the very core of Christians, which is the “eyes of their heart.” The scripture reveals in Romans 12:1-2:

A Living Sacrifice

1 Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.

2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

When we accept CHRIST as our Savior, the Holy Spirit immediately begins to reshape our thinking by renewing our minds.

The Apostle Paul was giving the Christians in Philippi some of the things they could ponder and dwell upon in their minds in verses 8 and 9:
·       True, not false 
·       Honorable, not dishonorable
·       Just, not unfair
·       Pure, not obscene
·       Lovely, not unlovely
·       Commendable, not wrong
·       Morally excellent, not corrupt
·       Praiseworthy, not shameful

Our focal scripture closes with verse 9:

9 Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Put into action what you have learned, received, heard and seen in Paul.
Are we, as Christians, willing to tell fellow Christians to watch us because our lives are examples of GOD’S peace? When being a Christian comes naturally by allowing the Holy Spirit to be manifested through our lives, the joy and peace of our relationship with CHRIST will be apparent.

7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


Thursday, February 09, 2017

Bible Study - Thrive (4) - Growing with Joy - Philippians 3:12-21 - February 12, 2017

Bible Study – Thrive (4) – Growing with Joy – February 12, 2017

This lesson four (4) in our series entitled “Thrive: Living in Real Joy.”

Our focus scripture is Philippians 3:12-21.

Day by day, I can become more and more like JESUS.

We live in a time when most of us want something now! Many who are parents of young children are ready for them to grow up. As the parents of four children and grandparents of ten grandchildren we have found that they all grow up too fast. But we rejoice in the growth and development of each one.

I recall as a child, I wanted to grow up to be an adult. I wanted the freedom of being an adult but not realizing that with freedom comes responsibility. 

Growing physically and chronologically does not equate to maturity. It is the same in our Spiritual lives. Just because we have been a Christian for many years does not equate to Spiritual maturity. But getting to know JESUS as our very best friend comes as we study GOD’S Word to learn of HIM. But we must apply what we learn by obediently following and serving HIM. This is the beginning process for establishing the right relationship toward building Spiritual maturity.

Growing physically and mentally takes time and so does growing, developing and maturing Spiritually. Salvation is step one in this process toward Spiritual maturity.

There is a process which takes place within each of us to grow both physically and Spiritually. For us to grow physically we, of course, must be born physically and for us to grow Spiritually, we must be born Spiritually. Just as the divine Sperm of GOD activated the human egg of the Virgin Mary which resulted in JESUS, the divine Sperm of GOD unites with our human spirit when we place our faith in JESUS. This miracle takes place when we ask JESUS to forgive us for our sins and ask HIM to come into our lives. Thus, Spiritual conception or what is referred to as rebirth or being born-again takes place in an instant. Once this Spiritual conception takes place it can never be reversed or undone. When Spiritual rebirth takes place our human spirit changes from spirit to Spirit and we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit Who confirms our being the Son or Daughter of GOD. The Holy Spirit is GOD’S way of assuring each of us that we are born into HIS family.

By faith in JESUS, those born-again are Spiritually born into GOD’S family to become GOD’S Sons or Daughters. Once a person is born into the family of GOD he or she becomes a citizen of Heaven and that will never change. Just as once you were conceived physically your parents are your parents for eternity.

This is a powerful lesson. My prayer is for all who read it to encounter JESUS and GOD as they have never before. Let’s explore!

The Apostle Paul covered a number of subjects between our last week’s study and this week’s study such as:

Philippians 2:12, 2:13-16, 17-18, 19, 24, 25-30, 3:1-2, 8, and 10. This leads us to this week’s study.

Let’s read Philippians 3:12-14:  Reaching Forward to God's Goal

12 Not that I have already reached [the goal] or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.

What was the goal? What is the measure of being fully mature Spiritually? What energized Paul naturally to become more like JESUS as he lived each day in obedience to GOD?

The Apostle Paul recognized and acknowledged that he was still in the race toward the goal of obedient living according to GOD’S plan for him. What key phrase did Paul write that is vital for all Christians?

Paul knew the goal of perfection as expressed in the life of JESUS because JESUS was totally committed to doing the will of HIS Father GOD. Paul knew that goal was a reality because it was based upon truth as we read “because Paul also had been taken hold of by CHRIST JESUS!” Paul had been taken hold of by CHRIST. Paul was still yielding to CHRIST Who was in him. He realized that he was still in the flesh and subject to the things the flesh entices us to do. This battle would continue until the moment he would exit his earth suit and meet JESUS face to face.  The same is for us.

When we yield more of our will to GOD, the Holy Spirit becomes greater in our lives. When self is diminished it makes more room for the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our power, strength and guide but only to the extent we allow HIM to be manifested in and through our lives. Has JESUS taken over our lives?

Paul knew that he had yielded his life to JESUS and all that he had experienced reflected his obedience to GOD and re-enforced GOD’S care for him. Yet, he knew he was still running in the race toward the goal. Paul knew he had not arrived at the finish line of Spiritual completion.

The Apostle Paul had obediently walked with JESUS for many years and had suffered much because of his faith in JESUS, yet he considered himself in the process of maturing Spiritually. Paul knew that GOD’S goal for every Christian is to be made into the image of JESUS and he still had a ways to go. How far did Paul have to go?

13 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead,

What is the “it?” It is the goal.

The Apostle Paul had suffered many things spreading the Gospel. He knew that JESUS had taken hold of him but he was still taking hold of the fullness of JESUS in him. Some who knew what Paul had suffered may have thought those sufferings were proof that he had arrived Spiritually and was a fully mature Christian. They were indications.

Paul made it clear that his past suffering did not mean that he had arrived but they, his past experiences, spurred him on to be even more committed and yielded to obediently serving the LORD JESUS.

Christians are to learn from their failures and triumphs. We are not to dwell in the past by being hampered by our failures or dwell in our successes and get puffed up. Time is of the essence because those who know the truth must press on toward the goal and as they do share the Gospel of Salvation through faith in JESUS.

14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus.

What was the goal Paul was still pursuing? It is revealed in Philippians 3:10-11:

10 [My goal] is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,

11 assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.

Paul had not achieved the goal and would not until he saw JESUS face to face and hear the words from JESUS “Well done, good and faithful servant” as JESUS expressed in the parable JESUS told as written in Matthew 25:20-30:

20 The man who had received five talents approached, presented five more talents, and said, 'Master, you gave me five talents. Look, I've earned five more talents.'
21 "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master's joy!'
22 "Then the man with two talents also approached. He said, 'Master, you gave me two talents. Look, I've earned two more talents.'
23 "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master's joy!'
24 "Then the man who had received one talent also approached and said, 'Master, I know you. You're a difficult man, reaping where you haven't sown and gathering where you haven't scattered seed.
25 So I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground. Look, you have what is yours.'
26 "But his master replied to him, 'You evil, lazy slave! If you knew that I reap where I haven't sown and gather where I haven't scattered,
27 then you should have deposited my money with the bankers. And when I returned I would have received my money back with interest.
28 " 'So take the talent from him and give it to the one who has 10 talents.
29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.
30 And throw this good-for-nothing slave into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

What was the prize? It is the heavenly call to eternal life which can only be realized through faith in JESUS. Faith in JESUS is the only way anyone can experience the resurrection and receive his or her Glorified body, just like the Glorified body of JESUS. What a prize indeed!

Let’s read Philippians 3:15-19:

15 Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this to you also.

All mature Christians should think this way. Mature does not mean perfection. It refers to having a mindset of perfection and it was not Paul’s calling to determine the maturity level for all who were in the race toward the finish line. 

All Christians are on different levels of Spiritual maturity and positions in the race. Paul was responsible for himself before GOD and each of us are equally responsible before GOD.

It is not our job to judge others, that is GOD’S job.

16 In any case, we should live up to whatever [truth] we have attained.

All Christians attain truth and we should live up to that truth realizing that we will gain more truth as we mature Spiritually. The longer we obediently serve GOD, the more truth we attain and truth builds upon truth. Truth is one thing and understanding and applying truth is another. This is Spiritual growth and maturity.

Spiritual growth and maturity are never ending processes because they build upon each other. It will be fully obtained when we exit our earth suits and see JESUS face to face. The Bible tells us in 1 John 3:2:

2 Dear friends, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is.

Why do we not know “what we will be?” It is because we are still under Spiritual construction and will be until we draw our last breath as a human and go into eternity.

17 Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.

Are you an example to others? As Christians, we should be. Whether we like it or not we are always on display to others – fellow Christians or non-Christians. Only by and through the indwelling Holy Spirit can Christians live the Christian life.

Notice, Paul used the word “us.”

Paul did not set himself up as the only example for others to follow. He knew there were many other Christians who knew the truth and lived the truth. But Christians must be discerning regarding the person or persons they follow. Knowing JESUS and what GOD’S Word reveals about JESUS will quickly identify those who are true followers of JESUS and those who aren’t. It may be that some we follow need to mature more Spiritually. Ask GOD to reveal to you those you should follow and regardless of who you follow always check their teaching and lifestyle against GOD’S Word.

The Spiritual gift of discernment is a very good gift for Christians to have. But GOD gives Spiritual Gifts to whom HE chooses. But we can always make a request to GOD.

18 For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.

As Christian, do we weep over the things that break GOD’S heart? When we see or know of others doing the things that break GOD’S heart, do we weep?

19 Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things,

The ultimate end of those who reject JESUS is eternal destruction/eternal death. Satan’s desire is for us humans to focus on the physical and material things upon earth. He wants us to think that what we see, feel and experience is all there is to physical life.

In truth, life upon earth is designed to lead us to truth that awaits all who place their faith in JESUS.

Salvation from the consequences of sin is eternal life in Heaven, where truth resides. We upon earth are looking through a glass darkly and then face to face as we build the right relationship with GOD through faith in JESUS. GOD can be found by all who seek HIM.

The Apostle Paul makes it clear that once we are born-again in our spirit our eternal destination has changed from eternal death, outside of Heaven, to eternal life, inside Heaven, in the presence of GOD and JESUS. Salvation transports Christians from earth to heaven with our duty station being earth until JESUS calls us home or comes to deliver us. Christians reside upon GOD’S earth colony as HIS ambassadors.

Let’s read Philippians 3:20-21:

20 but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Do you recall what is recorded in 2 Corinthians 5:20?

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ's behalf, "Be reconciled to God."

All Christians represent CHRIST to fellow humans upon earth.

JESUS is in Heaven with GOD. JESUS eagerly awaits the time for HIS second-coming to earth to redeem all who belong to HIM and are alive upon earth. This is the rapture of the true believers who make up the Spiritual church upon earth.

We, as Christians, eagerly await JESUS’ return. We should consider that each day could be the day of JESUS return. This anticipation keeps the urgency of HIS return fresh in our minds because we encounter those who do not know JESUS as their Savior each day and we may be their only hope to hear the plan of salvation.

21 He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.

In an instant, in the twinkling of the eye Christians who are alive upon earth will be changed to their New Glorified bodies, just like JESUS’ Glorified body. All Christians who have already died and gone to Heaven will come back with JESUS and they will receive their New Glorified bodies at that instant as well.

The Apostle Paul referred to this in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:

The Comfort of Christ's Coming

13 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, concerning those who are asleep (have died), so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
14 Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus.
15 For we say this to you by a revelation from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord's coming will certainly have no advantage over those who have fallen asleep.
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel's voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

In verse 21, in our focus scripture, Paul was explaining the importance of being committed to obedient service to GOD through faith in JESUS. Faith is turning loose and trusting GOD. This is not testing GOD but trusting GOD by building the right relationship with HIM through faith in JESUS.

When GOD, by the indwelling Holy Spirit, prompts you to take a step of faith, do it. This comes from trusting GOD which is built through relationship. GOD gives us baby steps and then bigger steps as we build our trust in HIM and put what we know into action as we walk with HIM. As we walk with HIM by faith, the joy of obediently serving HIM is overwhelming and leads to truth and Spiritual maturity. Growing with JOY!