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MINISTER'S MESSAGE > FEBRUARY 2009
Paul's Keys to Joy - Part One
We live in difficult times. Our country continues to fight a war against Islam and the terrorism that is always associated with it. Our economy is only beginning to "pay the piper" for its excesses and failure to practice self-control. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are out of work and the future of millions more is uncertain at best. Faithful Christians are disappointed that our new President's first policy decisions were to expand the war on the unborn.
It’s not hard to look at the world around us and become discouraged. But time and again God’s children are told to be happy. The apostle Paul was one who had many opportunities to be discouraged, but instead worked through his problems while encouraging others more fortunate than himself.
Such is seen in the book of Philippians. From the opening chapter we see Paul is a prisoner in chains (vv 12-17). However, Paul is not concerned with how many brethren come to visit him or send him letters of encouragement. Rather, despite his circumstances, he writes to encourage the brethren at Philippi (vv 12-14). In fact, the entire epistle is one of warmth and exhortation.
As Paul concludes this marvelous letter, he gives a number of admonitions to the brethren on how that can be joyful in every circumstance. The first nine verses of chapter 4 each contain several imperatives by which the Philippian brethren can find and maintain genuine biblical joy. Consider . . .
Verse 1 – Stand fast in the Lord, knowing you are loved. Few people are more miserable than those who continually ride an emotional roller coaster without any semblance of an even keel. While we understand that life can have highs and lows, a lack of balance is just not emotionally healthy. Understanding that we are loved helps us to avoid being led too high or too low by relatively insignificant matters. Note how Paul uses the word "beloved" as bookends to his admonition to be steadfast in the Lord.
Verse 2 – Be of one mind with the brethren. In accordance with prophecy (Isaiah 2:2-3; Joel 2:28-32; Daniel 2:44), the church of Christ was established in Acts 2. Five times in the first five chapters of Acts we read of the brethren as being "of one accord." The word so translated has a musical nuance. A symphony contains many different types of instruments: brass, string, woodwinds, percussion (and different types even within those categories). Yet when properly tuned and played, the music of each blends with the whole to make a pleasant sound. The same can be said of the church. The local body is made up of a variety of individuals: rich, poor, educated, street smart, etc. But when everyone is dedicated to living like Christ and reflecting him in their lives, it creates a beautiful picture for all to see, both in and out of the church. Paul really drove home this point as he mentioned it in 1:27 and 3:16.
Verse 3 – Knowing my name is in the book of life. The imperative here is to help those fellow laborers who had assisted Paul in his work. But when one considers the importance of having the assurance of salvation, everything else pales in comparison. But we must issue a word of caution. One can only know he’s saved by comparing his life to the commands given in the Bible. In his first epistle John said his audience could know they were saved by the things that are written (1 John 5:13). Not by one’s feelings (Prov 14:12; 28:26; Jer 17:9). Not by the words of some so-called man of God (Jer 6:13-14). Only by a careful comparison of one’s deeds as they measure up to the will of God (Matt 7:21-23).
Lord willing, we will conclude this study in our next edition. TC
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January 2009 - Divine Encouragement For the New Year
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