More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.
Do you know Jesus? That is a common phrase heard amongst evangelical believers. The problem with this is it is easily misunderstood. What does it mean to know Jesus? Does it mean have you answered an altar call, or prayed the prayer ? Or does it mean you have answered the question right when you are asked are you going to heaven when you die? Paul talked about “knowing” Jesus in today’s verse. For Him it wasn’t a casual statement or something that happened once upon a time, it was a deep, intimate relationship with the Lord that was increasing throughout his life. It wasn’t an add on in his life, for Paul knowing Christ was his life. Paul said that to know Christ was the most valuable possession that he owned and the very pursuit of all his energy. His ministry seemed to be an overflow of his pursuit. Here is how Steven Fry describes Paul’s statement.
“From a prison cell in Rome, Paul pens this personal letter in which he comes to terms with an accomplished past and a confining present. After his past as a persecutor of God’s people and through his “superior” religious activities as a Pharisee, Paul came to the liberating conclusion that all is rubbish compared to knowing the Lord! Freed from the stagnation of yesterday’s victories and the emotional paralysis of yesterday’s mistakes, Paul knew that the only thing that ultimately counted was knowing the Lord and being obedient to His will. Not only was his past subsumed by this singular passion, his present imprisonment could not snatch from him the joy of knowing Christ. Prison chains could not keep him from pursuing God, nor dull his effectiveness in ministry. Paul’s desire to know Christ sprang from no other motive but to enjoy Him. He wanted Christ for Christ’s sake, not his own. He was a lover of God, not a user of God.”
I love that statement, He wanted Christ for Christ’s sake. So let me ask that question once again, do you know Jesus? Do you know Him as your passion, your goal in life and your friend? Answering this question is where life begins.
Ps.28:7 – The LORD is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart exults,
And with my song I shall thank Him.
All of us need help, acknowledging that is the only way to get it. The Lord is our helper and stands with us in whatever comes down the road in our day to day activities. In today’s verse David describes the supernatural joy he experienced by the anointing that was resting on his life. Too often, our so called spiritual accomplishments, can lead us to a case of the “big head syndrome”. When we acknowledge that it all flows from Him and back to Him again, God receives the honor and glory, we experience the blessing of being used by the Lord. Knowing Him personally puts you in touch with His continual help. He is our Helper in every aspect of our lives. Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon on today’s verse.
“Every day the believer may say, “I am helped, “for the divine assistance is vouchsafed us every moment, or we should go back unto perdition; when more manifest help is needed, we have but to put faith into exercise, and it will be given us. Therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. The heart is mentioned twice to show the truth of his faith and his joy. Observe the adverb “greatly, “we need not be afraid of being too full of rejoicing at the remembrance of grace received. We serve a great God, let us greatly rejoice in him. A song is the soul’s fittest method of giving vent to its happiness, it were well if we were more like the singing lark, and less like the croaking raven. When the heart is glowing, the lips should not be silent. When God blesses us, we should bless him with all our heart.”
In Christianity it is recognizing your weakness and not your strength that is critical. Thinking that “we have this” leads us into pride on one side or failure and depression on the other. Knowing your weakness puts you in a place of dependency on the Lord for His help. David had seen the Lord as His help when defending sheep, fighting the Philistines, running for his life from Saul, writing his Psalms, reigning as king, and avoiding the mine fields of betrayal. The same God who helped David defeat the giant is your help when facing all the giants in our world.
Rom.15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
One thing I really love about the Holy Spirit, He is with us in our day to day life. He is not only there for ministry but also our source of joy in whatever our hand finds to do. Whether you are a student, an office worker, a gardener or a cashier; it makes no difference. The joy of the Lord is your strength. Often times we can tend to categorize our lives. We have our work part, family part, recreation part, and our spiritual part. The beauty of the work of the Spirit is He is involved in all of it. He is our life and source of joy in whatever arena we find ourselves in. Here is how Andrew Murray describes it.
“Shortly after his conversion a man said to me, “I always thought that if I became religious it would become impossible for me to run my business. The two things just seemed too diverse to me. It seemed to me like a man trying to dig a vineyard with a bag of sand upon his shoulders. However, when I found the Lord, I was so filled with joy that I could cheerfully do my work from morning till night. The bag of sand was gone! The joy in the Lord was my strength and power. This is an important lesson. Many Christians do not understand that the joy of the Lord equips them for their task….Today’s text testifies to the joy and peace available to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
So what kind of adventure does today hold for you? The Lord will be with you satisfying, directing, empowering, and strengthening you for the task. He will be your word in season, wisdom to make right decisions, love to love the unlovely, and will strengthen you physically and emotionally for all of your labor. He has already gone before you so there is absolutely nothing for us to worry about. As a matter of fact He can make the most miserable circumstances and challenges an absolute delight. So take some extra time to stir yourself up in the Spirit before you head off today; after all, the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Lk.15:14-16 – But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
I often think of the last time I had a private conversation with Dr. David Cho, founder of the great Yoido Full Gospel Christian Church in Seoul, Korea. It was in April of 1994 and Dr. Cho had seen major change in his nation and his church since he pioneered his tent church in 1958. There had been a huge spiritual awakening accompanied by a shocking economic explosion in Korea. What he told me at that breakfast meeting caught me by surprise. He said that prosperity had become a great curse on the Korean Church. What could he possibly mean? Dr. Cho built his church on 3 John 2, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers”. Prosperity had always been a major part of his message. What he had seen in the Korean church was this, their poverty had caused many to call upon the Lord. Their prosperity had masked their need for the Lord and the results was a new spiritual poverty that grew as they prospered financially. This is not new, John Trappe made these same observations in the 1600’s about the curse of prosperity in his comments on the parable of the Prodigal Son.
“And when he had spent everything, and left himself nothing at all except for air to breathe and earth on which to tread, he made his own hands his executors and his own eyes his overseers, swallowing much of his patrimony through his throat and spending the rest on harlots, who left him as bare as crows leave a dead carcass. Ruin follows riot at the heels.”
William Cowper made similar observations in the 1700’s.
“This is seen daily in our unfortunate experience, for human hearts are most empty of thankfulness and their mouths are most filled with blasphemies of God’s name when their stomachs are most filled with God’s benefits. Thus this forlorn son went away from his father just when his father was most beneficial to him and had given him his portion.”
It doesn’t have to be that way. If you are experiencing lack, look to the Lord the source of all our provision. If you are experiencing financial abundance, look to the Lord and acknowledge your total dependence on Him.
John 6:35 ¶ Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
We were made to live off of God. This is the lesson of communion, God is the very food for our souls. What is really troubling is what we try to fill the hunger of our souls with. It often proves to be nothing that really satisfies. Recently there have been many reports of the suicidal epidemic related to opioid use. There are people from every social group, ethnic group, and age group that are falling prey to drug abuse and actually thousands who have died as a result of overdosing. What would cause someone to resort to such drastic measures? Actually the answer is spiritual; we were made to live off of God. When we look to other things as the source of life and pleasure the results become catastrophic. Man has a basic need for God in his soul, that is the way we were made. Our capacity for happiness is God sized and nothing else can fill that God sized hole. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes our need for spiritual food.
“This excellency of Jesus Christ is the suitable food of the rational soul. The soul that comes to Christ, feeds upon this, and lives upon it; it is that bread which came down from heaven, of which he that eats shall not die; it is angels’ food, it is that wine and milk that is given without money, and without price. This is that fatness in which the believing soul delights itself; here the longing soul may be satisfied, and the hungry soul may be filled with goodness. The delight and contentment that is to be found here, passeth understanding, and is unspeakable and full of glory. It is impossible for those who have tasted of this fountain, and know the sweetness of it, ever to forsake it. The soul has found the river of water of life, and it desires no other drink; it has found the tree of life, and it desires no other fruit.”
It’s funny that no matter how much man advances his basic need is still the same. We need the Lord. He is our food and our drink. In Him alone we find life and in Him alone will we find peace for our souls.
Song 8:5 Who is this coming up from the wilderness,
Leaning upon her beloved?
I remember when I first became a Christian one of the frequent criticisms I received from family and friends was “Jesus is just a crutch”. At first I took offense, as if I was strong enough to not need a crutch. After thinking about that criticism I finally embraced it. “Exactly!” I would respond. “Jesus is my crutch, actually He is more than a crutch, He is my life support system”. When you are crippled you need a crutch. John, the beloved of The Lord taught us about crutches; as he fed at the last supper he was leaning on The Lord. Who or what are you leaning on? Here are some profound statements by A. B. Simpson about leaning on The Lord.
“Will we make the claim most practical and real and, like John, at the Last Supper, lean our full weight upon our Lord’s breast? That is the way He would have us prove our love. “if you love me lean hard,” said a heathen woman to her missionary, as she was timidly leaning her tired body upon her stalwart body. She felt slighted by the timorous reserve and asked the confidence that would lay all its weight upon the one she trusted. Jesus says to us, [Cast] all your care upon [me]; for [I care] for you (1 Peter 5:7). He would have us prove our love by a perfect trust that makes no reserve. He is able to carry all our care, to manage all our interests, to satisfy all our needs. Let us go forth leaning upon Him and feeding on His life. For John not only leaned but also fed. It was at supper that he leaned. This is the secret of feeding on Him, to rest upon His bosom. This is the need of the fevered heart of man. Let us cry to Him, Tell me, 0 thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon (Song of Solomon 1:7).”
What a powerful picture John leaves for us, at the last supper he is leaning and feasting on The Lord. That pretty much describes our Christian walk, I am leaning hard on The Lord and at the same time feeding on His goodness. If you feel you are limping along maybe its time to humble yourself. It is okay to have a crutch when you are lame. If lameness describes your life, leaning on Him is a great alternative.
John 11:25 ¶ Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.
This was one of the greatest miracles in the ministry of Jesus. It was like the final crescendo of a great orchestral piece, the defining moment of a classic game, the final argument for a lawyer before the jury. It was Jesus’ exclamation point of His life and ministry. Two statements thunder through the ages. “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE”. The second statement stands with the first, “LAZURUS, COME FORTH”. When LAZURUS came bounding from his darkened tomb, you and I came with him. No longer bound by death, no longer captive to our fears, and no longer slaves of the prince of darkness. We have stepped into the liberty of sons and daughters. We have entered into a brand new life. Johnson’s commentary on John has the following powerful observations on this miracle.
“I am the resurrection, and the life. She (Martha) had declared her belief in the resurrection. Christ makes the grand, striking declaration that he is the RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE, words that never could have fallen from the lips of a sane mortal. They mean that he is the power which opens every grave, gives life to the sleepers, and calls them forth to a new existence; that the life that endows men with eternal being is in him and proceeds from him. In the light of his own resurrection they mean that when he burst open the tomb he did it for humanity and in him humanity has won the victory over death. His utterance was far above what mere man could utter; it proclaimed a divine being and power, but the resurrection of Lazarus, a few moments later, was the demonstration of the truth of his words. His utterance was grander than man, Godlike, but immediately followed by a Godlike act in demonstration. It is another mode of declaring the same truth uttered when he told the Samaritans that he was the Water of Life, or the Galileans that he was the Bread of Life.”
What kind of tomb are you in today? Are you bound by fears of what tomorrow may hold? Maybe you are ensnared by the attractions of this life. Perhaps your tomb is one of addiction or an addictive lifestyle. Regardless of what the source of your bondage may be, Christ is the Resurrection and the Life. One word from Him and you will step into His freedom. If you listen carefully there is activity outside your tomb. Can you hear it? Just as Mary and Martha were interceding for their brother, someone is calling out to The Lord for you. The next sound? It’s the creaking of the stone as it rolls away from your tomb. Now comes the climax, “COME FORTH!” He is calling for you. Your days of darkness are over, it’s time for you to step into the light.
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
The Lord was an incredible teacher. His words were simple yet incredibly profound. He would always come directly to the point, not beating around bushes, to expose and correct our lives. In this passage He is very direct, no one can serve two masters. He taught that a person either served The Lord or they were servants of money. Actually that is just another way of saying that we are either God centered or self centered. To serve money is to serve ourselves. Martin Luther taught powerfully about this verse, here are some of his thoughts.
“Remember what people say about kind and generous individuals: “They are masters of their money.” Money doesn’t control them, unlike a greedy miser who ignores God’s Word and everything else God wants. A miser would rather withhold a helping hand than let go of money. This kind of greed is the mark of tightfisted, childish, and insensitive individuals. That type of person doesn’t put resources to good use or even enjoy them. They ignore eternal treasures for the sake of money. They pursue their own selfish goals and neglect God’s Word, thinking they can get around to it at a more convenient time. Meanwhile, they scramble to get everything they can, without a penny to spare for the work of God. If left unchecked, they will sink deeper and deeper into greed and jealousy, moving further and further away from God’s Word. Eventually their hearts will be filled with cynicism, and they will become enemies of God. So Christ spoke sternly when he said, “Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” We pursue what we love. We talk about it because that is where our hearts and thoughts are. Augustine came right to the point when he said: “Whatever I love is my god.”
You see its not money that is evil, evil comes out of our hearts. Money is just a tool to function in our world. Its how we do everything we do. How we spend our money is a clear indication of what is in our heart. Actually, that is a great litmus test for our spiritual condition. Where do we spend our resources? Do we care enough about the work of God to invest significant funds into God’s work?
The Lord actually will gift certain people with the ability to generate finances in powerful ways. When these individuals have their minds renewed and actually fall in love with the work of God, they can be powerful instruments to advance God’s kingdom. They can be God’s channel to finance missionaries, churches, Christian rehabs, and a multitude of other powerful ministries. Who knows, maybe God will use you to advance His kingdom with financial resources.
PLACE OF ABUNDANCE
Psa. 66:11-12 You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
I sometimes feel like I am really spoiled. Several years ago, our church acquired the Dick Mills library. With the books in that library and the books I already owned, this library has over 6000 volumes. The reason I feel spoiled is this, this library also serves as my office. I live in a world of some of the greatest volumes our world has ever known, I am literally like a child in a candy shop.
Recently I picked up one of Brother Mills old bibles as I was studying and a piece of paper fell to the floor. It said “a word from The Lord from Dick Mills” on it and there were several verses of scripture on the paper. One of the verses was today’s verse from Psalm 66. The Lord would bring us out of a time of trials and testing into a place of abundance. As I read that passage I sensed that word was for me and for many people in our church, The Lord is bringing His people into a wide place of deliverance. Maybe you have been facing unusual adversity, if so take this scripture as a word to you from The Lord. This time of testing is actually bringing you into a wealthy place. Here are some thoughts from Charles Spurgeon on this verse.
“But thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.Canaan was indeed a broad and royal domain for the once enslaved tribes: God, who took them into Egypt, also brought them into the land which flowed with milk and honey, and Egypt was in his purposes en route to Canaan. The way to heaven is via tribulation. How wealthy is the place of every believer, and how doubly does he feel it to be so in contrast with his former slavery: what songs shall suffice to set forth our joy and gratitude for such a glorious deliverance and such a bountiful heritage. More awaits us. The depth of our griefs bears no proportion to the height of our bliss. For our shame we have double, and more than double. Instead of the net, liberty; instead of a burden on the loins, a crown on our heads; instead of men riding over us, we shall rule over the nations: fire shall no more try us, for we shall stand in glory on the sea of glass mingled with fire; and water shall not harm us, for there shall be no more sea. With patience we will endure the present gloom, for the morning cometh. Over the hills faith sees the daybreak, in whose light we shall enter into the wealthy place.”
Faith sees beyond our present circumstances. We all must pass through the valley of the shadow of death but that valley is not our destination, it is only the pathway to His place of abundance. Good days are ahead for His sons and daughters.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
Its funny how upside down our world really is. Human’s priorities are really not proportional to what really matters in life. Many people just live their lives for the momentary pleasures they can have today. For that person, next year (or tomorrow for that matter) isn’t even on the radar. For the more conservative natural man, he has his attention fixed on storing up for the retirement years. He is looking forward to living the “good life” as an old man. The born again Christian has a different perspective. He knows that this life is just a momentary shadow, ready to be overwhelmed by the coming kingdom of God. He has embraced eternity, recognizing the best this world has to offer is fleeting, it will be gone in a moment and has no eternal weight or value. Here is Luther’s take on Solomon’s thoughts revealed in Ecclesiastes.
“The book of Ecclesiastes condemns, not what God has created, but rather people’s evil tendencies and desires. We aren’t satisfied with what God created and gave us to use. So we concern ourselves with accumulating more possessions and achieving more fame as if we were going to live on this earth forever. We become bored with what we currently have, then we strive for more things, and then strive for even more. Depriving ourselves of what we presently have because we’re desperately concerned about acquiring more for the future is shameful and pointless.
These twisted tendencies and human striving are what the author is condemning in this book, not the things themselves. Later, in Ecclesiastes 5:18, the author says that nothing is better for people than being happy and making their lives pleasant by eating, drinking, and finding joy in their work. The author would be contradicting himself if he condemned these same things in this passage. Instead, he’s only condemning the misuse of these things, which comes from having a wrong attitude.”
The Lord has created all of these natural pleasures we enjoy in this life. These momentary pleasures are never intended to satisfy our hungry hearts, that is reserved for God alone. When we delight in God and He becomes our pleasure, then we begin to see the earth and it’s pleasures from a whole different perspective. We have become pilgrims (today you would say aliens), just passing through this life. The touch of God upon our lives liberates us so that we are free to enjoy Him, and in turn, we are freed up to love and enjoy all of God’s gifts and provision He gives to us along life’s journey.
So does your life feel meaningless to you? No matter what you accomplish, no matter what you accumulate, there is still no peace in your soul. That was the place I found myself in in the summer of 1973. I had tried sports as my purpose, I had tried education as my pursuit in life; I still found myself shouting with Solomon, “Meaningless, meaningless”. All of that changed when Jesus stepped into my life. In that moment, I discovered what a meaningful life was all about.