Philippians 3:4-17; 1 Cor. 9:16-23; 2 Cor. 5:14
For many, many years, now, I have labored as a pastor and evangelist. I have been in over seven-hundred churches, traveled and ministered, back and forth and up and down in most parts of the United States – and to nearly all shades and brands of Bible-believing churches and organizations. As a result, I have formed some very strong convictions about the world and the local church that is in it.
Concerning the world and the times we are living in, I agree with the Apostle Paul who said that “perilous” (difficult, hard-to-bear, dangerous) “times” were coming. They are here! And I believe they will get worse. Like most thinking people, I am concerned. Crises such as, morals and money, unemployment and education, government and military, crime and domestic violence, race and gender, multi-culturalism and religious pluralism, famine and energy challenge us.
Concerning the local church, I believe we suffer, in many areas, from a lack of aggressive and Spirit-empowered leadership. We have depended more on man’s programs than we have on God’s plan and power. Furthermore, what God said of Israel, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6) is still true today. If tested by the Word of God, many would be “ashamed” workmen (2 Tim. 2:15). We suffer from spiritual “near sightedness,” and fail to see the ripe “harvest fields” (Jn. 4:35). Thus, we feel more comfortable retiring to the recreation room and the supper table than engaging in the battle for souls.
I believe the Apostle Paul shared many of the same concerns that are common to us today. But, I believe Paul was most urgent about (1) Spirit-filled living and service, and (2) evangelism.
Picture, if you will, a terrible house fire. The house is engulfed in flames. The flames are licking up the side of the house. The smoke billows out of every crack, window and opening. A little child stands at a second-story window choking, coughing and screaming for help – only moments away from a fiery death! The parents are outside frantically searching for help. There is need for urgent help! Do not delay! Rush! It’s a matter of life and death! Such is the the way I view the problem and the above-mentioned urgent needs!
Spirit–filled Christian living and service
The need for Spirit-filled living and service is a matter of urgency.
“And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4) …“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake” (1Thess. 1:5).
The Book of Philippians is often called the “Book of Joy,” but that is not its subject. Its subject is sacrificial service. The joy is born out of the service! That service must be executed by the power of God. The Apostle Paul uses the language of an athlete in Philippians 3:13-17 to demonstrate this and the urgency with which it needs to be pursued.
For Paul, Spirit-filled power for service was a matter of surrendering the things he called “gain” for that which he considered superior, i.e., “knowledge of Christ” (Phil. 3:8). Paul believes that to know Christ is to “win” Christ and all that He is and has. He believes that Christ is the repository of all wisdom, power and revelation (1 Cor. 1:24; Col. 2:3; Eph. 1:17-18).
Specifically, Paul wants two things: (1) To know, experientially, Christ’s resurrection power for service now – not in the sweet bye and bye (Phil. 3:10-11). He wants what he called the “out resurrection” now! He knows that he, along with all other saved dead, will one day experience a bodily resurrection. Thank God! But that is not what he wants now. In Paul’s inspired way of thinking, what is so desperately needed in this world of lost sinners is an army of believers who are energized, animated, controlled and empowered by Christ’s resurrection power – now. (2) To “press towards… the prize.” Paul is giving his top priority to investing all of his energies to “finish the course,” gain the victor’s “crown,” receive a “glorious body” and take up residence in Heaven (2 Tim. 4:7-8; Phil. 3:13, 21).
The Apostle Paul points to himself (Phil. 2:17), Timothy (Phil. 2:19-23), Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-30), Sysugus (“Yokefellow”) and Clement – “fellow laborers” (Phil. 4:3), as examples of believers who have been empowered to serve God even in times of difficulty. He said, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample” (Phil. 3:17). The supreme example for Paul and his “fellow laborers” was, of course, our Lord Jesus Christ Who was obedient unto death” (Phil. 2:5-9).
It is important to point out that the primary focus of Paul’s desire for the power of God was the salvation of the lost. Please note his repeated emphasis on the “gospel” of our salvation (Phil. 1:5,7,12,17,27; 2:22; 3:3). This leads us then to mention the world’s need for evangelism.
The need for evangelism is a matter of urgency (1 Cor. 9:16-23; 2 Cor. 5:14). What believer can honestly doubt the need for evangelism (Rom. 3:9-23)? The world will never experience any lasting change for the better or have any enduring peace through reformation, rehabilitation, religion, education, social improvement, moral rearmament or politics but, rather, by regeneration through the Gospel of the Grace of God (Titus 3:5).
Regeneration is that work of God the Holy Spirit which erases the slate of life clean – takes the believer back to the beginning – before the fall. Without a spiritual rebirth, mankind is not going to be condemned or lost; he is already condemned and lost (Jn. 3:18, 36). This is why the Apostle Paul was so urgent about preaching the gospel. For him evangelism was…
- a necessity (1 Cor. 9:16);
- a grief if he didn’t preach the gospel (1 Cor. 9:16);
- a dispensation to be discharged (1 Cor. 9:17);
- a requirement (1 Cor. 4:1-2); and
- a “race” and a “fight” for reward (1 Cor. 9:17, 24-27);
For this Paul was…
- willing to become a servant (1 Cor. 9:19); and
- willing to lose his own identity in order to be “made all things to all men” in order that he “might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:20-22).
Conclusion: Mark 10:46-52
Imagine, if you will, standing over the shoulders of the blind beggar Bartimaeus as he sits at the side of the road. Feel what he feels. Put yourself in his shoes. He represents the spiritual condition of the Nation of Israel and that of all humanity, too. He had heard many stories of the Savior who would come with “healing in His wings” (Mal. 4:2). Then one day, he hears commotion and noise that comes with a large crowd moving though the city streets. Imagine his excitement when he hears that it is Jesus! He cannot contain himself for joy. He seizes the opportunity and cries out “Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!” This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, for Jesus was never to pass this way again! Feel his emotions and imagine the thoughts of his heart as a thoughtless crowd tries to distract and discourage the beggar. But, out of a sense of need and urgency of the moment, “he cried the more” (a great deal), “Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!” Our wonderful Lord Jesus responds to his urgency and made him whole. Rejoice with Bartimaeus! No more a beggar or blind man but a follower of Christ in the way! Amen!