Sep 1 2019 Philippians 1 - How to Immerse Yourself 'in Christ'

Sue: I was reading 4th John the other day – doesn’t that sound a lot more spiritual than reading John Lennon? Ok – so John Lennon was being interviewed, and he was asked – do you write songs for yourself or for others? My self, he replied – “I am a product of my time and my place – and if I’m faithful to that message, then I will be able to connect with others in my time and place.”

Each of us is a product of our unique time and place – but more than that – Philippians 1:6 – God has begun a good work in us – and God will work in our individual lives.

I have 3 examples of this.

The first was in Columbus, many years ago – we had a young couple over – and Judy and I were in the kitchen – I tried to be a better, kinder, nicer person – and that is what attracted me to God. Judy said, I want to be a better WIFE – Dick wishes I had said that. Judy went home that night and committed her life to God. Within a couple years – her husband died in a car accident.

A couple weeks ago, a young couple came up – she was obviously pregnant – and the dad had a t-shirt – Dad squared – Hannah and Eve – They said they were going with palindromes… - she told me she wanted to have more children – but she was getting fearful – because in talking to her friends with more children – she was bothered – that she would have to divide her love among her children. I said – I felt the same way – but when I had the second one – it was like a whole new channel of love came down and it doesn’t diminish my love for the first. “We’re so glad we talked to you!”

The third – the long-term love of God working in our lives… - There was a young person walking with a cane and wincing with pain – and I often look for some point of connection – the person was dressed in gender neutral clothes – and 30 years ago, I would have had a judgmental sermon of how this person deserves their pain – but over these 30 years – I see that God has forgiven and accepted me from the biggest sins to the smallest failures – and how can I not give that to every person created in His image. I still didn’t have a point of connection – but my heart started to grow – and I said – Looks like you’re in pain – and they said – constantly – and my eyes welled up – and I tell you – I was praying for this person – that God would show them love and kindness and comfort. We have that in us – sometimes we don’t’ think that who we are can make that big of a difference. But each of us is unique – Dick has shared before about the 4 blind men who encounter an elephant – Tail – like a rope, side, like a wall – leg, like a tree – and the fourth feels the trunk – and says it was like a snake! Run!

Each one had a different impression of the elephant – and they would only have been wrong if they told the others they were wrong.

When the blind man was approached by the Pharisees – I don’t know – but I know I was blind and now I see. If we are faithful to share the piece that we have – it contributes to the whole

Mike – Hearing from you all – is one of the most important things. Hearing from one another – what God is doing in our lives as individuals

Philippians 1: 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

Paul is in prison – and doesn’t know what will happen to him. Paul is proclaiming the gospel in even the worst circumstances. He doesn’t want to stop. He is asking God to make him continually bold – and now he gives the reason for his confidence:

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Paul is not being a tough guy – let ‘em kill me! – But his confidence is that to live is Christ and to die is gain. Everything about his life is Christ.

When he says for me to live is Christ – being filled with Christ – Christ living in us and through us – like Sue was sharing – Christ living in and through us. That is what Paul is working on – it is not about Paul – it is about Christ.

What does it mean – is Christ? For me to live ‘is Christ’?

We think – in our western world – we limit it to – to live ‘for Christ’ – and that is true and important – but it puts the focus on us and what we have to do for God rather than what Christ is doing in us. What Christ has done for us is the most important focus of this – not what we need to do for Him – there are at least 6 things here:

1 – to live in such a way that we are growing to know Christ. To have a growing love relationship with Him.

2 – to experience Him – his power in our lives.

3 – to make Christ known – to proclaim Him

4 – to serve Christ

5 – to love Christ

6 – and most importantly – more important than loving and proclaiming Christ – to be known and loved by Christ.

That is the ultimate of where we are going.

You might say that is a cop-out – but no, that is the solution.

Paul – to live ‘is Christ’ – all about Christ – not about me.

There was a game show – I don’t watch them – but my mom does – you have to fill in the blank – Family Feud – Survey said?

To Live is ______? Survey says? Grandkids! Friendship! Marriage and family! Healthy lifestyle! Going to church! Church ministry!

Each is good – and each can fit into “To live is Christ” – but – each of those things can also take away from “to live is Christ”

We can go to more funny ones – To live is… Browns football! Or better – OSU Football! Money! Beer! Fishing! Sports! The Weekend – they could write a song about everyone working for the weekend…

The reality – when we begin to stack each of these in our lives – they tend to squeeze Christ out – and it happens slowly and without us recognizing it.

We get ‘responsibility’ and allow it to pile up – and we become so filled up with that stuff that the Lord has been moved off to the side. We’ve all experienced that at times. But with those responsibilities – with kids and stuff – you want to do the best – but all of a sudden – it can begin taking away from Christ as we fill ourselves up with those responsibilities – Work – can begin filling it up – and we find – it is hard to eliminate those commitments.

From a simple practical point - - how to make – to live is Christ a reality – and the truth about it – we will always be trying – but will never get there fully –

I have not made it yet, Paul will say in Chapter 3 – but we will not be there, but always moving forward and trying

Christ will not be the focus of our lives if we are not immersed in His love for us – filling our hearts and minds with His love for us – we will not be able to say – to live is Christ. So the question – how do we get there?

First - We must learn to hear His voice! Do you hear His voice? I’m not talking about a booming voice from the sky – and I won’t deny that – but generally – that is not how it takes place. Generally – from the Bible – From Prayer – when I allow myself to spend time in silence, alone. It can happen through other people – I think we all heard his voice through Sue this morning. You need to be cautious of this -but it can happen in circumstances. We have to be cautious because we can mistake the enemy’s voice for God’s voice. Let me give you a hint – if the voice causes fear, guilt, shame – it is from the enemy.

A simple way to hear God’s voice: I have shared this before – but I will share it again – for people with limited time who can’t go as in-depth – when you lack time – what you need most – you need to hear God when you read the Bible – and this will help with that. Before opening the Bible – and begin reading – prepare your heart! It doesn’t take an hour to prepare your heart – it can take a moment. The psalmist says – Be still – cease striving – and know that I am God! Imagine God saying: STOP IT! Stop the mind from racing and the legs from moving – silence! Reflection! Opening our hearts to God. Open ourselves s up to what He would have to say – and then allowing His love and goodness to fill our hearts and minds – and as we begin to read, asking Him to speak into our hearts. I think God, in doing that, will speak to us.

I would say that we could experience this daily! God wants us to experience this daily. When we ask God to speak to us – that can be scary – because we think He will speak to us in a bad way – from our past experience – our upbringing – if you were brought up in a family where you got yelled at – that will translate into your experience of God. God doesn’t yell at us! Other families might have been based around shaming. God doesn’t shame! HE doesn’t do that. Or guilting! Some of your religious backgrounds might be filled with guilt. God doesn’t guilt. He forgives.

God will correct and challenge us – but He will do it out of love and grace – never yelling, guilting, or shaming.

Step 2 in this – once you get prepared – take a short passage – could be a psalm, part of a psalm – not more than a dozen verses – could be part of an epistle or part of the gospels – don’t try to read the entire book of Genesis.

Read it through once – get the general idea – and then read it a second time. This time, listen for a phrase, word, or verse that catches your eye – that resonates in your heart – that speaks to you – and then after that – you can underline – or make a mental note if your Bible is too holy to write in! I remember seeing people writing in their bible for the first time – OH NO! They have desecrated the Holy Book!

Ponder – why does this word or verse resonate with me?

Then read a final time – what is God trying to say to me? What is going on that I might need this? Then commit to taking it with you -and think about it and apply it.

Another way we hear from God is through prayer. This is not just our prayer request list – prayer begins with a silent and listening attitude – it is about hearing God, not about God hearing us. We think it is transforming God to our will – but prayer is about allowing God to transform us that we might do His will.

Another way God can speak – looking for Him in His presence through our daily routines – those stories Sue shared were not particularly spectacular – (something that doesn’t happen often) – and God comes to us in the simplest of ways – ways that we can be grateful and thankful for. We need to be thankful for his small blessings and graces. Thank You, Lord! It allows us to recognize Him throughout our day!

It is good to be reminded of these things.

Sometimes God wants to speak through our interactions with people.

Sometimes the person in pain coming to speak to you – is God speaking to you – giving you this that you might be compassionate in this situation.

Our grandkids and son and daughter in law were up – we got the four best light sabers there – five colors that they filter through and making that noise and changing colors – we were the great grandparents.

My son was telling a similar story to Sue’s – a friend from high school is going though gender reassignment. Our hearts just broke. Just broke. It would be so easy to be judgmental – but God wants our hearts to break for people. Think of it – we must understand the utter brokenness of the world we live in – and often we don’t because we don’t understand that we are utterly and totally broken – and it is only because Christ has saved us from our utter brokenness. It is what I love about our men’s times – we are utterly broken, and we are not afraid to say it – so we are trying to move forward –

The fourth thing – and this sets us up for next week – we need to look for God’s kingdom work and the opportunity to engage in that work to hear from God.

“On earth as it is in heaven” – God is wanting to bring His kingdom to our place – whether it be a library or a construction complex – God is trying to bring His will through us to that situation. How might God be doing this?

Philippians 1: 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;

24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith,

That is the theme of this book.

Lord, thank You for the opportunity to serve others through the shoe-box ministry – to serve people we will never see – and then, through our work – to love others and to know You.

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

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