Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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8. Cultivating Christ Like Character, Peace – Part 1

Philippians 4:1-9

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work. Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life. Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”

As we continue to look at “Cultivating Christ Like Character” Galatians 5:22 reveals the third virtue of the fruit of the Spirit, Peace. Peace is something we all want but few of us seem to have. Unfortunately today many Christians instead of living in, and living out God’s provision of peace, live in the problems and live out the panic. Peace is one of God’s greatest gifts that not only blesses our lives but also benefits those we pass it onto. Sadly many of us have a perverted view of God, seeing Him as a punisher instead of as a provider of peace. We don’t embrace His peace because we expect punishment. But God promises peace to His people not punishment. It is here in Philippians 4 that we discover three aspects to God’s peace:

Peace with God – This is the vertical dimension. In Romans 5:1 it says: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Our sin separates us from God, but the Saviors sacrifice puts us at peace with God. This what I call a saving peace. So, let me ask you do you have peace with God? Has there been a point in your life when you not only admitted that you were a sinner, but accepted Christ as the only Savior for your sin? The second aspect to God’s peace is the:

Peace of God – This takes place internally. Philippians 4:6-7 say: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This is a securing peace that calms both our hearts and our heads in challenging times. It’s a peace that transcends not only our understanding but our troubles. The third peace is:

Peace with others – when we have peace with God and we experience the peace of God, we can then extend peace horizontally. Matthew 5:9 says: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.” Jesus didn’t call us to be “peacekeepers,” but “peacemakers.” Fear tends to bring friction and create factions between people, but peace provides a platform to confront conflict. So that instead of competing we start complementing. We are called to be peace workers not war workers. This is a serving peace, that desires to help not to hinder and hurt. Christians should be known as people of peace who don’t just live in God’s provision of peace but live out His peace by passing it on to others. It’s here in Philippians 4 that we see two women at war with one another. It’s not that they don’t want peace, we all want peace; the problem is that we want peace on OUR terms which instead of leading to peace usually leads to problems and conflict. So how do we have peace with people? It’s here in Philippians 4 that Paul reveals God’s prescription for peace, and he starts first by reminding us of our peace with God as he reminds these women of their:

  1. Position in Christ

In verse 2 we read Paul pleading with these women to pursue peace based on their relationship with the Redeemer, “Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement.” As Colossians 1:20 states: “through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” It is at the cross alone that the gospel of peace is discovered. Today we spend millions of hours and billions of dollars in bookstores, courtrooms and counseling offices searching for ways to resolve conflict and attain a measure of peace. But how much of our time and treasure do we wasted on worthless places looking for peace? In our pursuit for peace why do we constantly pass over the only place where real peace presides, the cross of Calvary? Colossians 1:20 reminds us that reconciliation is a result of Christ shedding His blood to buy us back from bondage. He purchased our peace at the cross. Have you knelt at the foot of the cross before Christ, have you admitted your sin before the sinless Savior? Do you believe that the blood of Jesus that has the power to purify you from sin? Do you believe that on the cross Christ conquered sin and defeated death? Have you confessed Christ as your only Savior from sin? It’s at the cross that we discover peace with God and His gift of grace that gives us the power to make peace with others. Because Jesus has freed us from the penalty of sin we can break free from those sinful attitudes and the habits we harbor that foster conflict and pollute peace. Are you pursuing God’s peace, are you making it your priority and passion? What places are you look to for peace? Are you stuck sifting through the millions of supposed solutions or are you secure because at the cross of Calvary you found the Savior?


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7. Cultivating Christ Like Character, Joy – Part 3

John 15:5-11

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

After being reminded of the first joy builder, recognize you are loved by the Lord and the first joy buster, unresolved conflict, we now come to the last two Joy builders and busters:

  • Builder #2 Rest in your Relationship with Jesus not in your results – Vs 5-6

This is not just listening to His words of love but living in them. On the last night of His life, facing the cross, Jesus chose to talk about joy. The writer of Hebrews looking back at this writes these words in Hebrews 12:2; “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross and scorned its shame.” You may ask “How can there be any joy in a cross?” but first we need to ask the question, “How can we experience that kind of joy?” because it is this answer that answers the first. So how can we experience this kind of joy? First, we need to respond and rely on His relationship. In John 15:5-6 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire & burned.” Believers are branches that bear fruit only when they are attached to Jesus the vine. This is where the joy begins, when we have accepted and are attached to the Almighty. Joy is an evidence of the presence of God in our life. If God is in your life, if you are filled with the Spirit of God, then the fruit of the Spirit, joy, will be obvious and overflow. Is your joy an overflowing river or has it been reduced to a trickle? Are you doing life with the Lord or are you a loner? Are you attached to the vine or relying on self-sufficiency?  This brings us to joy buster number 2:

  • Buster #2 Unconfessed sin

This joy buster is perhaps responsible for chasing more joy out of lives than any other. Guilt will gut you and sin will suffocated your joy faster than anything else. Something David understood when he tried to ignore the promptings of the Spirit calling him out over his sin. But when he confessed his sin God was faithful to forgive and the suffering of unconfessed sin was replaced with joy. Psalm 32 recalls both his repentance and restoration, Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Interlude Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” The third joy builder is:

  • Builder #3 Remain in His Love – Vs 9

It’s not just about being attached to the vine so that we can obtain but so that we can be obey. First, we need to be secured to the Savior and second, we need to give ourselves in service for others. One of the biggest problems in our world today is that we have become so self-centered that we no longer experience the joy of serving others. We were saved to serve not be selfish. How can there be any joy in a cross? Why did the writer of Hebrews call the cross an object of joy for Jesus, because Jesus didn’t do it for Himself, He did it for us. Have you lost the joy of service, has your joy become dulled by duty instead of delight? There is a difference between obedience and obligation, it’s the difference between being relationship directed and results driven. Joy is not found in selfishness but in service as we obediently share the Savior with others. In Acts 16 we find Paul and Silas being stripped, severely beaten and thrown in prison for proclaiming Jesus. Their response to persecution was to praise, instead of whining they worshiped and sang songs. Joy is not held captive by our circumstances but transcends our troubles, as Nehemiah said “… the Joy of the Lord is your strength” Nehemiah 8:10. The result of this rejoicing was an earthquake that broke their chains but instead of fleeing and saving themselves they stayed and served by proclaiming the Gospel to their jailer who was saved from his sin. What about you is your response to pain and problems one of rejoicing? If your eyes are on Jesus your response will be one of praise but if it’s on the junk it will be one of protest.

  • Buster #3 Unsatisfied expectations

Many of us are dying from the disease of discontentment. The spirit of discontentment will dismantle your joy. But in Philippians 4:12 Paul reveals the secrete to contentment in all circumstances. Philippians 4:12: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” I find it interesting to note that Paul calls contentment a “secret.” There’s a mystery about it. Paul also had to “learn” how to live with unsatisfied expectations. Contentment doesn’t come when we have everything we want but when we want everything we have. What about you what roof have you positioned your chair under, are you sitting under the roof of happiness that is dependent on your happenings or under joy that is tied to Jesus? Genuine joy is not anchored in the calm harbor of happy circumstances but in Christ our heavenly harbor who walks over the waves of worry and silences the storms of this life. Right now, I want to encourage you to take some time to talk to God and give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to do some pruning in your life. I want you to ask Him to sift your heart and show you if there is an unresolved conflict, unconfessed sin, or unsatisfied expectations.  To not only acknowledge them but confess and repent of them. No matter where you are at in the journey if you have Jesus you can have joy.