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Lesson 1: Truths That Transform

Written by: Biblical Studies Foundation    Posted on: 04/09/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

                                             Preface

       Spiritual growth is a life-long, ongoing process. In this process of maturing, every believer needs a thorough        grasp of what can be called ætruths that transform.Æ These are growth truths of Scripture designed by God to        transform us into the image of Christ. These are the truths that enable us to live more and more dependently on        the Lord in accordance with the principles of Scripture. This means faith in the power of God rather than faith        in our own schemes for how to live the Christian life.

       There is a propensity in all of us to try to live the Christian life in our own strength, ever seeking to measure up        to what we or someone else thinks we ought to be. The principles found in this series of lessons take believers        through the faith/growth truths of Scripture that, when understood and appropriated by faith, enable them to        experience change from the inside out through the Spirit of God.

       These lessons build on the basics covered in Part One: The Assured Life, and at the same time prepare the        way for the studies in Part Three: The Multiplied Life.



                                            Lesson 1:                                       Truths That Transform

                                           Introduction

       Do you have one single goal in life that consumes you, something that has become the primary force that        stimulates and motivates you daily in everything that you do? Or do you feel like someone in a canoe whose        objective seems to change with the various hazards he finds around every bend in the raging river as he is being        propelled along trying to navigate white water, logs, and rocks. Life can be like that. If we are not careful, our        goals and objectives are set for us by the demands of the everyday forces of life.

       Goals and objectives are tremendously important because they are dynamic and determinative of what we do        with the life God has given us. It has been said, ôAim at nothing and you will hit it every time,ö and ôPeople        donÆt plan to fail, they just fail to plan.ö Without defining goals and then the objectives needed to accomplish        those goals, most people accomplish very little. Of course, we all have goals, even if we havenÆt clearly defined        them, and these goals determine a great deal of what we do.

       Again, let me ask the question, if you could reduce your life to one primary goal, what would it be? On a        day-to-day basis, what are you actually focused on and seeking to accomplish? DonÆt answer this question        with what you think the answer should be, like, ôMy chief aim in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever!ö        Or, ôMy goal in life is to please the Lord in everything I do!ö Be honest. Think about what was on your mind        every morning this week when you woke up or as you faced the varied circumstances of the week.

       Were your thoughts on how you might change your spouse who doesnÆt treat you the way you want to be        treated? Or how you might handle your boss who is a bully and unfair? Perhaps your focus was on your car        which keeps breaking down, or on some home appliance that would make life easier. Perhaps your objective        is to get through school with a 3.5 grade point average. Or maybe your goal is simply to keep your head        above water in your job.

       The world has a way of intruding like a thief into our lives to steal from us what should be our focus or the        major objectives of life. These intrusions have a way of disturbing us, even though we may not realize the        source, because in losing sight of GodÆs purpose or goal we fail to see the problems of life in accord with        GodÆs overall purpose and consequent objectives.

       Isaiah declares:

                 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast (being sustained),                  because he trusts (continues to depend on) in you. (Isaiah 26:3) (NIV)

       God doesnÆt expect us to be oblivious to the problems and needs of life, but when our goals are GodÆs goals        we are better able to look through our problems to the Lord and His supply. When our focus is the Lord,        something wonderful begins to happen in us: God begins to change us and make us like His Son ôwho for the        joy set before Him (consuming goal) endured the cross, despising the shame, àö (Heb. 12:2).

                                          Joy and Peace:                                    Consequences of GodÆs Purpose

                 Isaiah 26:3 The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace, Because he                  trusts in Thee.

       One of the consequences of having GodÆs purpose, as we see from Isaiah 26:3, is a life of peace even in the        midst of trials. To prepare His disciples for His departure and absence, the Lord instructed them concerning        their purpose in the world (John 13-16). In the midst of this instruction, just a few hours before the Lord Jesus        went to the cross to die that we might have peace with God and know the peace of God, He made this very        illuminating statement: ôPeace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to        you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearfulö (John 14:27, emphasis mine).

       Then, in Galatians 5:22, we are told that two character traits of the fruit of the Spirit are joy and peace. These        verses teach us that when we are experiencing His life within ours (the Christ-exchanged life) we are going to        experience joy and peace along with other Christlike qualities.

                 Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,                  goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no                  law.

       Many Christians, however, seem to have little joy or peace. One of the reasons is found in the LordÆs        statement regarding peace. We too often seek our joy and peace from that which the world gives rather than        from the Savior who provides peace and joy in a very different way and from a very different source.

       I am not at all suggesting that the goal of the Christian life is to be a self-centered focus like joy and peace. Joy        and peace, however, do constitute part of the fruit of a life that is experiencing God and the spiritual        transformation that He works within at the core of our being when He is truly the source of our trust. Joy and        peace become barometers of how well we are resting all the various facets of our life on Him (Isa. 26:3). ItÆs        like taking our temperature. As a fever is indicative of an illness, so the absence of the joy and peace Christ        gives is an indication something is wrong and we need the prescribed remedy of GodÆs Word and healing        touch of the Great Physician.

       As illustrations compare the following passages:

                 Isaiah 26:3 The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace, Because he                  trusts in Theeà

                 Psalm 56:3 When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee.

                 Psalm 32:3-4 When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my                  groaning all day long. 4 For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; My vitality                  was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah.

                 Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root                  of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;

       Two key notes are sounded in the book of Philippians: ôJoyö is found seven times, and ôpeaceö is found only        three times, but it is still a very important concept in the theme of the book (Phil. 4:6-7).

                 Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and                  supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the                  peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your                  minds in Christ Jesus.

       Two other books which were written in the same year as Philippians were Ephesians and Colossians. These        are companion or sister epistles and there is an interesting relationship that can be observed between these        three epistles that is pertinent to the issue of joy and peace, and the transformed life.

       Ephesians gives us the truth statedùin Christ ascended, in the heavenlies, blessed with every        spiritual blessing. It declares the sublime truth of the believerÆs new position and identity in Christ. All        believers are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the realm of the heavenlies in Christ.

                 Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has                  blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

       Colossians gives us the truth guardedùin Christ complete, sufficient in Christ. It protects the        believerÆs new and glorious identity and what it should mean to his faith as the walk of faith is confronted with        all sorts of religious systems claiming to be the answer for the spiritual life. Colossians shows that, since        believers in Christ are complete in Him (2:10) in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge        (2:3), they need nothing more for transformed lives than Jesus Christ. He is our hope of glory both for heaven        and for transformed living. We donÆt need the joy/peace killer of legalism nor the futility of any of manÆs        religious or philosophical system. As we have received Christ alone by faith in the message of the gospel        (1:4-5), so we are to continue to walk by means of His life by faith in the truth of GodÆs Word (2:3-10).

                 Colossians 1:4-5 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you                  have for all the saints; 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you                  previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel,

                 Colossians 2:3-10 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.                  4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive argument. 5 For                  even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to                  see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ. 6 As you therefore                  have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted                  and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were                  instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive                  through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men,                  according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.                  9 For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have                  been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

       Colossians warns us against accepting manÆs substitutes for either justification or for sanctification (transformed        living) because manÆs substitutes, or those of the world, are always faithless in our complete position in Christ        and futile to our sinful condition.

                 Colossians 2:16-23 Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or                  drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath dayù 17 things which                  are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let                  no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the                  worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause                  by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body,                  being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth                  which is from God. 20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of                  the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to                  decrees, such as, 21 ôDo not handle, do not taste, do not touch!ö 22 which all refer                  to things destined to perish with the usingù in accordance with the commandments                  and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance                  of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the                  body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

       Philippians gives us the truth practicedùin Christ satisfied, joy and peace in Christ. In a number of        ways this epistle promotes the application of the messages of Ephesians (blessed with every spiritual blessing)        and Colossians (in Christ complete). Philippians shows us how to know joy and peace as we walk down the        path of life with its many ups and downs, its blessings and afflictions, and its pleasures and pain. Knowing we        have such a glorious identity in Christ is obviously a cause for great joy and the source of true peace, but so        often Christians fail to experience true joy and peace. So enters the book of Philippians, which has much to        say about joy and peace in Christ.

                 Philippians 1:4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,

                 Philippians 1:18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth,                  Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.

                 Philippians 1:25 And convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with                  you all for your progress and joy in the faith,

                 Philippians 2:28-29 Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly in order that                  when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you.                  29 Therefore receive him in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high                  regard;

                 Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things                  again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.

                 Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and                  crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.

                 Philippians 4:4,7-9 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! à 7 And                  the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and                  your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is                  honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of                  good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind                  dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and                  seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.

       Right in the middle of the book (Philippians 3) is an extended passage which points us to the heart of the issue        being discussed hereùexperiencing ChristÆs joy and peace. Biblically, joy and peace are related to the pursuit        of the right goal, one that is to become the all-consuming goal of a ChristianÆs life. Please note especially verses        8-15.

                 Philippians 3:8-15 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 in order that I may gain Christ, 9 and                  may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law,                  but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on                  the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and                  the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I                  may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained it,                  or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that                  for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard                  myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and                  reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of                  the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect,                  have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that                  also to you;

       WhatÆs the thrust of this passage? Notice verse 14. Paul says, ôI press toward the goal for the prize of the        upward call of God in Christ Jesus.ö This focuses us on the ultimate goal of the passageùpossessing and        pursuing GodÆs goal for oneÆs life. That goal is an upward, heavenward call. Included in that call is spiritual        transformation through knowing Christ intimately and the power of His resurrection that we might be made like        Him being conformed to or perhaps even, by His deathùpassing through death into new life, and at last to        capture the coveted prize, being in ChristÆs presence at the Judgment Seat, or Bema, to receive the awards        that will be given on that day (see 2 Tim. 4:6-8). Paul was living not to gain heaven by his works, but to        receive the prize of knowing the power of ChristÆs life in his daily life with a view to the eternal rewards that        would follow. The goal of the apostle was to live daily in view of the resurrection (literally, ôthe out resurrection        from among the deadö) as mentioned in 3:11. Speaking of this same hope, John wrote, ôEveryone who has this        hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pureö (1 John 3:3, NIV).

                                 Pressing Toward the Goal (Phil. 3:14)

       Explanation of the Text

       ôI pressö is the Greek word, dioko, meaning ôto pursue, chase, to press on.ö It is used figuratively of one who        runs swiftly in a race to reach the goal in order to obtain the prize. The verb is a present of continuous action        which shows this pursuit is to be the pattern of the believerÆs life on a daily basis.

       ôGoalö is the Greek, skopos, which refers to an observer, a watchman, or the distant mark on which to fix the        eye, the goal or end one has in view. In this context it is defined as ôthe prize.ö For emphasis, the text literally        has, ôToward the goal, I press onö which highlights the concept of fixing oneÆs eyes on the goal.

       ôPrizeö is the Greek, brabeion, which refers to ôthe award given to the victor in the ancient Greek games.ö In        this context, may I suggest that it refers to two things: (1) primarily, PaulÆs focus is on the return of Christ for        the church because that will mean (a) glorification and translation into heaven either by resurrection for        believers who have died, or transfiguration of those believers who are alive at that time (1 Thess. 4:13-18), (b)        examination before the Bema for eternal rewards (1 Cor. 3:12-15; 2 Cor. 5:9-10), and (c) compensation,        the bestowal of the rewards that await believers for faithful service. ôThe upward call of God in Christ Jesusö        further defines the goal which is also the prize. But I believe this upward call also includes (2) the heavenly        reward of Christlike character, transformed lives. In other words, living in anticipation of the awesome event,        or with this as the focus of life, should have a transforming impact on the way we live moment by moment (see        also 1 Cor. 9:24-27).

       This takes us back to the thought of verses 10 and 11, resurrection life, dying and rising with Christ in        transformed living by the power of God through faith (cf. vs. 9 for the faith emphasis).

       While there is some disagreement about the meaning of the words, ôresurrection from the dead,ö in 3:11, Paul        probably has in mind his hope in the imminent return of Christ with all that event will mean for believers as        mentioned above. This is supported in the context with 3:20-21, and by the factor of the doubt and uncertainty        expressed in this verse. For instance, the NASB has ôin order that I may attain,ö but in the margin, it has the        more literal translation, ôif some howö in place of ôin order that.ö The KJV has ôIf by any means.ö The Greek        text has ei pws (ôif by any meansö). This construction is found in only three other places in the NT (Rom. 1:10;        11:14; Acts 27:12), and in each case an element of doubt is expressed. This idea of uncertainty is further        supported by the use of the subjunctive mood which expresses contingency, potentiality, anticipation, but not        certainty, an element reserved more for the indicative mood in Greek.

       Was Paul questioning the fact of the resurrection? Of course not, and that is evident from 1 Corinthians        15:1-34. I believe Paul is speaking of not the fact, but the when. He had in mind something he might        experience in his lifetime, the rapture of the church, his translation and consequent reward.

       Others believe that he is not speaking about the resurrection of the body or questioning it as a fact for the        believer, but means he wants more and more to realize in his daily walk what it means to have been        co-identified with Christ in His death and resurrection. He has in mind experiencing the truth of Romans 6:4-14        and Galatians 2:20. But ultimately, both concepts are in the apostleÆs view as part of the goal with the imminent        hope of ChristÆs return being one of the motivations that constrained or controlled the life of Paul.

       Application of the Text

            We Need the Right Goal in Life

       Our goals not only say a great deal about us but they also, from a Christian perspective, have everything to do        with spiritual change and with our experience of joy, peace, and other Christlike qualities. Lying close to the        bottom of all we say and do are our basic aims, whether we are seeking to protect ourselves, meet our        perceived needs or desired pleasures, or whether we are seeking to protect someone else. The point is simply        that goals are dynamic and determinative. They will strongly affect how we live.

            Goals Are Determined by Our Objects of Faith

       This includes the concept of motives. Equally important with our goals is the question, why do we have the        goals or objectives we pursue? The answer is, we all have certain goals because we believe these goals will        somehow meet our perceived needs. We think they will give us joy and peace, security and happiness,        significance and meaning. Behind our pursuits are often a variety of motives.

       Robert McGee writes:

                 Many of us tend to approach Christian living as a self-improvement program. We                  may desire spiritual growth, or we may have one or more fairly serious problems                  from which we desperately want to be delivered. While there is certainly nothing                  wrong with spiritual growth or desiring to be rid of a besetting problem, what is our                  motivation in wanting to achieve goals like these? Perhaps we desire success or the                  approval of others. Perhaps we fear that God canÆt really accept us until we have                  spiritually matured, or until ôour problemö is removed. Perhaps we just want to feel                  better without having to struggle through the process of making major changes in                  our attitudes and behavior.

                 Motivations such as these may be mixed with a genuine desire to honor the Lord,                  but itÆs also possible that deep within us is a primary desire to glorify ourselves.                  When self-improvement becomes the center of our focus, rather than Christ, our                  focus is displaced.

                 It is important to understand that fruitfulness and growth are the results of focusing                  on Christ and desiring to honor Him. When growth and change are our primary                  goals, we tend to be preoccupied with ourselves instead of with Christ. Am I                  growing? Am I getting any better? Am I more like Christ today? What am I                  learning?

                 This inordinate preoccupation with self-improvement parallels our cultureÆs self-help                  and personal enhancement movement in many ways. Personal development is                  certainly not wrong, but it is misleading--and it can be very disappointing to make it                  our preeminent goal. If it is our goal at all, it should be secondary. As we grasp the                  unconditional love, grace, and power of God, then honoring Christ will increasingly                  be our consuming passion. God wants us to have a healthy self-awareness and to                  periodically analyze our lives, but He does not want us to be preoccupied with                  ourselves. The only One worthy of our preoccupation is Christ, our sovereign Lord,                  who told the Apostle Paul, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in                  weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).25

            An Adequate Goal

       The only adequate goal for the Christian is knowing Christ (Phil. 3:8-10) and Christlike transformation (Phil        3:11-14). This means pursuing Christ which will result in growth in the experience of the character of        Christùhis love, grace, mercy, endurance, values, priorities, pursuits, etc.

       Since growth and maturity are the subjects of this series of lessons, letÆs take a short overview of what        Philippians 3 teaches about having the right goal.

       (1) As to its Source: Having the goal of knowing Christ and Christlike maturity is a matter of spiritual insight        or knowledge of the surpassing value of Christ over anything man or the world has to offer. Faith in Him is the        product of that insight (cf. Phil. 3:8-9). But the text reveals several elements that are critical for a faith that has        this goal.

                 Philippians 3:1-15 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same                  things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Beware of the dogs,                  beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 3 for we are the true                  circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no                  confidence in the flesh, 4 although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh.                  If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5 circumcised                  the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of                  Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to                  the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. 7 But whatever things were                  gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 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 in order that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a                  righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in                  Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may                  know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings,                  being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from                  the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect,                  but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of                  by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but                  one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,                  14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ                  Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in                  anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;

            We must repudi

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