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Daily Distinctives, April 16, 2015 (The Example)

April 16, 2015

Daily Reading:

[Phl 4:4 NKJV]
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

[Phl 4:5 NKJV]
Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord [is] at hand.

[Phl 4:6 NKJV]
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

[Phl 4:7 NKJV]
and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

[Phl 4:8 NKJV]
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things [are] noble, whatever things [are] just, whatever things [are] pure, whatever things [are] lovely, whatever things [are] of good report, if [there is] any virtue and if [there is] anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.

[Phl 4:9 NKJV]
The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Daily Distinctive:

As believers we are to be living examples of Christ in what we do. This is hard to do when we rely on the flesh to accomplish what only the Spirit can accomplish. The difficulty in living the Christian life comes when we fail to rejoice in the LORD; when we allow hostilities to dwell in our hearts; when we grow anxious and lose heart; when we think about things that are not edifying; and when we fail to walk in the wisdom of godliness that the saints of old set as examples for us. Perhaps the biggest and most important part of discipleship is understanding how we ought to live and so we look to Christ as our example, and we look to the apostles as our example, we are constantly pressing in to godliness by meditating on His WORD and seeking ways that we might put an end to our flesh in favor of godly living. And so I thought that the verses above would be a great place to draw from for my daily devotional. My prayer is that it blesses you as it has me.

[Phl 4:4 NKJV]
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

As I mentioned in my devotional a few days back, “when God says something twice it is definitely worth our attention.” Here we have a repetition built into the verse. Rejoice and again Rejoice! When do we rejoice? Always! Even when times are tough? Especially when times are tough! What about when I don’t feel like it? Always! What if I am not at church? Always! What if I am at work? Always! There is always something to rejoice in the LORD for. The fact that we have breath of life is alone enough for us to rejoice, so start there. Think about the things around you. Do you have a job? Rejoice in the LORD that He has provided you with work. Do you have health? Rejoice that the LORD has made you healthy. Do you have a family? Rejoice in Him that He has given you a place to practice your faith. No matter where you are or what you are doing there is reason to rejoice. I am sitting in a coffee shop as I write this, and I just got a call from a brother of mine on the phone. I am a pretty loud guy, and you can bet that people here in the coffee shop got a dose of the WORD if they overheard my conversation, and so I rejoice in that fact. The point is that there is always room for rejoicing, so rejoice!

[Phl 4:5 NKJV]
Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord [is] at hand.

I read this and it is blow to my spiritual face. I am not the most gentle guy in the world. It is a shortcoming that I have. But my wife will tell you that I have the ability to be gentle, she sees me demonstrating gentleness with my children all of the time. But I guess the difficulty for me is that with grown adults there is an expectation that they would behave like grown adults. If they are believers then shouldn’t they behave like believers? Sometimes I am indignant and intolerant. But here is the rub. By not being gentle I am doing the very same thing that I detest in others. I am called to live a life that is above reproach. And so I need to be gentle with all who I encounter so that my gentleness, the same gentleness that I offer my children, the same gentleness that the LORD offers freely to me, will be known to all men. Furthermore; in light of the fact that the LORD is coming again, how much more should I live with gentleness towards my fellow man so that my example would serve to bring others to the gentleness of Christ?

[Phl 4:6 NKJV]
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

How many of us have ever experienced uncertainty? My hand is raised. There are so many variables in life and we want to know the outcomes so that we can make wise decisions. I recently read a book by Andy Stanley and the thesis of his book could be summed up with one question that we can ask ourselves: “Is what I am about to do the wisest thing to do?” This question should help us with our anxieties, because if we are walking according to wisdom we will undoubtedly be in prayer, we will be seeking the LORD and walking according to His WORD. The Proverbs are full of verses pertaining to wisdom and the promises that come from applying wisdom. If we make a decision that is based on Scripture and bathed in prayer, we can trust that the outcome will be favorable even if it does not seem like it (Romans 8:28). I know that people drop the Romans 8 verse as a catch all, but the words “all things” mean exactly that, “ALL THINGS.” And so we do not need to be anxious for anything. Instead we should be in prayer about everything and thankful for what God is going to do in and through what appear to be circumstances in our limited, finite view of life. We must lay everything that we are uncertain about before God and then enjoy the peace that comes from trusting in the God of the universe, in whose hands our requests now lay.

[Phl 4:7 NKJV]
and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

We are guaranteed peace when we lay aside our anxieties and give our plans to the LORD. It says here that the peace is inexplicable, and I can certainly attest to this having laid down many overwhelming things before the LORD and experiencing His peace. All I can say to you is to test this for yourself. The next time that you have a difficult decision to make, or if you are experiencing anxiety; confess it before the LORD, ask Him to help you, and then trust that He has it all in His control. Then watch how He will protect your heart and mind and give you a peace that is inexplicable. When you have experienced this peace, every time you see this passage of Scripture it will bring a smile to your face.

[Phl 4:8 NKJV]
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things [are] noble, whatever things [are] just, whatever things [are] pure, whatever things [are] lovely, whatever things [are] of good report, if [there is] any virtue and if [there is] anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.

Paul’s final exhortation is that we meditate on godly things. I am reminded of a bumper sticker that I read a long time ago. It said, “Skaters On Ice Stay Out of Hot Water.” I used to ice skate, and was even a competition skater. And what this bumper sticker was pointing out is that the environment that we put ourselves in largely influences our behavior. I know that I was less apt to get into any trouble when I was on the ice. The same goes for the things that we put in our minds. If we are constantly filling our minds with garbage, what goes in must come out. And so Paul encourages us to change our way of thinking and instead of dwelling on the corrupt things of the world that stagnate and even atrophy the Spirit, quenching His ability to work in and through us, we ought to think about things that are noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. In doing so we are less likely to dwell on things that are dishonorable, wrongful, impure, detestable, notorious, dishonest, and reprehensible.

By focusing on godly things, which can all be found in the Bible I might add, we will find that our time, energy and thoughts are consumed with godliness and the outpouring of our thought life will be apparent in our works, our conduct and our speech.

[Phl 4:9 NKJV]
The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

In order for us to be godly examples we must lean in on the LORD and follow His example. This is what Paul did. And so he says to the believer, that which you learned and received, heard and saw in me, do these things. In other words, follow my example. Of course Paul was a sinner just like you and I, and so I am sure that he would agree, don’t emulate my sin, but my godliness. “Well that is hypocritical don’t you think?” you might ask. The truth is that we are all going to fall short of the glory of God and therefore the only things we can do that are¬†worthy of example are the things done in the Spirit. Paul will be the first to tell you that he understood the war between the flesh and the Spirit. Paul is not advocating a “do as I say, not as I do” doctrine. Paul’s desire was to live out a life of godliness and this was evidenced by the fruit of righteousness in his life. Paul is encouraging us to follow his example of godliness. Paul gives us plenty of examples of how he once walked in darkness, and he refutes that way of former living. We know that he had what he referred to as a thorn in the flesh, and while we are not sure what that “thorn” was, he is not referring to that here in this passage. What he is telling us is that we should emulate the godliness that is evidenced in his life.

We too should set the example. We are going to blow it. We are going to fail. Chances are really good that we are going to sin. But does that disqualify us from being an example? I would have to ask one question: “Are you living for your sin, or for Christ.” If you are living for Christ then you are motivated to live righteously despite your carnal nature because an overwhelming sense of thanksgiving to the LORD for what He has done for you. While you may be a sinner, sin is not the driving force behind your life and when you do sin there is a godly sorrow that produces repentance. If you are living for Christ you know that there is nothing innate in you that is worthy of salvation and so you understand how precious a gift salvation is and you want to share that with the world. I have heard it said that we are all beggars, believers just happen to know where to get the bread, they have surrendered to the Baker. After all, Jesus said that He is the bread of life. And so we set an example as Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:12

[1Ti 4:12 NKJV]
Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

And so we are to be the example in speech; the way we speak and the things we say, in conduct; the way we act and behave, in love; the way we give of ourselves, in spirit; our godly disposition, in faith; our trustworthiness and reliability concerning the things of God, and in purity; our fidelity.

In short we are to live our lives by the example of Christ, whose example Paul followed, whose example we follow, whose example the generations after us will follow. I know I use this term from time to time, but “rinse and repeat.” We should follow the example, and then become the example that others can follow. So long as we are living according to the tenants of the faith, trusting in the LORD and being obedient to His commands then we will, by virtue of obedience, be holy examples that others can follow.

Daily Muse:

I only wish that I could be a better example for those closest to me. The problem is that those closest to me are my biggest critics. I just did a devotional about how a prophet is not esteemed by his own countrymen. My wife would say, “Yeah, but you’re not Jesus so it doesn’t count.” Still, my hearts desire is to be a holy example for my own wife and children to see and emulate. I have heard it said that the best proving ground for ministry is the home. And so if I want to be a better example to my family then it would do me good to always rejoice, practice gentleness, be steadfast in my faith, nurture a godly thought life and follow the example set before me by godly men and women who are honored in God’s WORD for their faithfulness. I know that in and of myself this is impossible, but I know that God is so much bigger than the challenges before me. He is the One who is working in and through me to sanctify me and bring me to godly perfection in Him. So I suppose it boils down to simple obedience. If I will set my mind on being obedient to Christ, then I will naturally, or supernaturally rather, live a life worthy of emulating.

Daily Prayer:

LORD, help me to be a godly example to those who are in my sphere of influence. I pray that You would help me to be above reproach with my speech and conduct, especially around those who are my most staunch critics, the ones who know me the best. LORD, I truly desire to live righteously, but somehow it evades me. I could go through a long laundry list of things that I don’t do wrong, and things that I do right, but the fact remains that I am a sinner and apart from You working in my life to perfect me I would be hopelessly lost. But I do pray for grace, help me then to be graceful. I do pray for compassion, help me then to be compassionate, I pray that I would not be misunderstood, help me to be understanding. I pray for honor and respect, help me to be honorable and respectful. I pray that You would be glorified in me, help me to glorify You. I can’t do anything without You LORD. Even my own critics are in the same boat as me. If they realized how inept they were too, they would be less likely to cast stones. LORD I am not ignoring the specks¬†in my own eye, but I amazed how others can see them through the planks in their eyes. LORD, I pray that You would just take us out of the sawmill. Remove us all from sin, and help us all walk in godliness. I know that as long as I am in this body of flesh that I am doomed to be a hypocrite by virtue of the dichotomy that exists between my flesh and spirit. What makes it all the more difficult is there is nothing I can do to will it to be different. I can only trust in You and depend on You to work these things out in Your timing and according to Your mercy and grace. And so I rejoice in You that the timing is always perfect. If You were to perfect me today, I would be ready to go home. What need would I have to keep on living. I could not since I would not have a body to live in. My flesh is what contaminates the equation. Oh what a wretched lot we are. How we need You LORD. Thank You for giving us a salvation that we don’t deserve. Pour out Your Spirit upon us LORD that we might be closer to You and dispense with our flesh. You have given us the way out of sin. You tell us to be perfect as You are perfect. And so there is a way through You to get there. I suppose my prayer then should be to expedite that process, but even then Your timing is everything. So then I pray, take my will out of the equation and don’t allow me to sabotage the work that You are doing in me, but then You have given me a will to honor You with. So then I pray, make me holy as You are holy. And then I realize, that is what You are doing. And so I am thankful LORD. Though I don’t understand the fullness of what I am thankful for, still I will rejoice in You and trust that You are in control of it all. I resign myself to live in obedience, forgive me when I fail. Praise You Jesus. I wish there was more to say, but Praise is the only thing that is worthy. It is in Your name that I pray LORD, Your name. ¬† ¬†-Amen

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