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Spiritual Warfare (3)

Be More Than You Can Be

Philippians

Jim Davis

The U.S. Army has used the phrase "Be All You Can Be," now the British Army has come up with the phrase "Be More Than You Can Be." I like it. Have you ever thought about being more than you can be? It is very simple to do so. I would like to think of the Lord’s Army as a place where you can be more than you can be. I don’t know how well equipped the British Army is in helping a person to reach that goal. I do know the possibilities in the Lord’s Army. You can be more than you can be by becoming what God is calling you to be. We can reach beyond our possibilities by measuring up to God's standard for our lives.

God is asking each of us to be more than we can be. When we look to measure self and others, we use worldly standards. We ask questions such as: How tall? How fat? How intelligent? How good looking? What kind of physique? Etc. The important questions are: How does God view me? What does God see in me? What would I be if I measured up to God's standard for me? I can't measure you by God's standard because I can't see what God sees. However, I do know that what God sees in each of us is far more than what many of us are willing to see in ourselves. It is more than we can be without him. This can only be accomplished by living up to the high calling of God.

Paul knew the possibilities of the Philippians becoming more than they could. He knew that it was God at work in them to make it possible.

Philippians 1:4-7
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. (NIV)

Sharing in God's ongoing working grace is the means to becoming more than you can be. Paul could not see what God saw in them, but he understood the important thing. God was at work in them to make their lives complete. They shared in the same powerful grace that Paul experienced. You cannot share in the grace of God without realizing that God is at work in your life right now to complete his work in you. He is at work in your life to make your life complete. He is there to make you more than you could be without him.

Sadly, so much of our self-help philosophy today revolves around seeing a better self without focusing on God. How much of your time is spent trying to see God at work in your life? For God to complete his work in you, you must recognize his hand in your life. Many of us have shied away from seeing God in our lives. We are afraid we will misinterpret what is happening. Somehow we feel more comfortable attributing what is happening in our lives to the god of coincidence or god of chance.

The sad thing about redemption is that we have confined it solely to the past. We see God redeeming our past as Christ paid the purchase price for our sins. The question is --- do you see God redeeming the present. Paul says, "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16 NKJ) The only way you can redeem the present is to walk according to God's high calling for your life in the present.

Confining God's saving grace solely to what was done upon the cross without understanding the ongoing work of God's grace in our daily lives is a deadly mistake. It is a deadly mistake because it leaves us with a dead faith. A dead faith is the result of confining salvation solely to a past event in our lives. Many look back to baptism as the moment of God's saving grace for them personally. It was exactly that, but it doesn't stop there. Baptism was also the time that we came to life in Christ (Romans 6:1-6).

From there we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

Discovering Power for Living in Christ

Sprinters have a saying: "Keep your eyes on the prize." That is, when you’re running in your lane, you keep your eyes focused on the finish line. If you look at your opponents, the movement of your head will slow you down. If you look at the track, the motion of your head will cause your stride to shorten. So you keep your eyes on the prize: The tape stretched across the finish line. We need to do the same thing. Keep your mind focused on what God is calling you to be through Christ. Our goal is much different than the sprinters goal. Our goal is that which actually gives us strength to become what he is calling us to be. Paul said, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13 NIV)

The easiest thing to do in religion is to lose sight of Christ. Too much of our efforts go into building a church we are comfortable with. We seek to build the worship services around what makes us feel good. We have our traditional worship and our contemporary worship. Our age is caught up in churchanity rather than Christianity. We are concerned about the doctrine the church should espouse rather than the kind of lives its members must live. I think this has left our personal lives void of a powerful personal Christ who is able make us more than we can be. We go to church on Sunday to escape the realities of living on planet earth rather than learning how to live above earthly realities.

We may seek to worship God on Sunday but allow the world to dictate the terms of our existence. The world measures us by what we have accomplished or haven’t accomplished. Too many of us measure ourselves by what we have done or haven't done. We measure ourselves by our past failures or our weaknesses. Either view leaves us short of being more than we can be.

Philippians 3:8-15
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. (NIV)

Paul says, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." It is not what you have or haven't done that matters. It is what you are going to become that matters. It is what you are willing to become in Christ that matters. Many of us feel that we have already obtained all we want to obtain. Our salvation stops at being redeemed and forgiven.

Do you know why Christ has taken hold of your life through the redemption and forgiveness he provided on the cross? He took hold of Paul so that he could be more than what he could be otherwise. It is only through looking to Christ that I can become more than I can be. Paul writes, "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

As a redeemed forgiven child of God what do you have your eyes fixed on? When you reach for the prize that God is calling you to reach in Christ you will become more than you can be. When you discover and seek God's high calling for your life you will become more than you can be.

Discovering Power by Suffering with Christ

You can’t discover Christ’s resurrection power in the present without a willingness to suffer as Christ suffered. Paul writes, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Suffering doesn’t have much of an appeal for those of us who live in this age of instant gratification. The world leaves the impression that we must avoid suffering at all cost.

If we wish to fellowship in Christ sufferings we must fellowship with the saints. Learning how to live within the fellowship of Christians teaches us how to live within the world. The church has the same problems the world does. We have people who don't think they have any problems. But there are no perfectly mature Christians in this church. We have much we must strive for. I don’t know of one Bible passage that promises Christians a problem free existence. However, Christian fellowship equips us to face the problems of living in the world.

We can’t begin to imagine how Christ felt as he gave up the boundlessness of heaven to be bound by an earthly existence. How many times do we feel our potential is bound by earth’s realities? Yet, it is the restrictions placed upon us that provide us with our greatest opportunities.

Philippians 1:12-14
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. (NIV)

God used Paul’s prison and chains to further his cause. God’s ways seem strange to us. God uses strange tools to pioneer a way for us to accomplish his will. The things we wish to avoid are the essential things we must experience to become more than we can be. We are convinced that obedience to Christ will make our lives miserable. We are afraid of how this world will view us and what it will do to us. Yet, these are the very things that God uses to advance his cause.

The great men and women of the Bible became great because they entrusted their lives to God in difficult times. Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Deborah, David, Daniel, Esther and Paul. In essence the things they suffered created the potential for their greatness. God used Joseph's arrogance, Moses' rod, Gideon's pitchers, Deborah's inferior position in her world, David's sling, and Daniel's and Esther's impossible circumstances to accomplish his purposes. I believe they became great persons because their circumstances forced them to rely upon God. When we choose to suffer as Christ suffered---we are forced to depend upon God’s power. It is his power that makes us more than we can be on our own.

We must understand that our circumstances cannot bind the word of God. Paul encourages Timothy to endure hardships as a good soldier of Christ. "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained" (2 Timothy 2:9). God's power to bring the gospel to fruition in our lives is not bound by time and circumstances.

It was Paul's chains that gave him contact with the lost in Rome. We need to tell people about Jesus Christ. We need to invite them to church. Then we need to sit back and expect God to do his part to bring fruition to our efforts in his good timing.

God used Paul’s critics to preach the gospel in Philippi. Paul writes, "It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance." (Philippians 1:15-19 NIV)

It is one thing for the world to be against us, but it is entirely another thing for those in Christ body to be against us. We may believe that the church shouldn't have any problems. I know of many who don’t go to church because of the hypocrites in it. I know of many who want listen to the truth because there are too many charlatans preaching. Paul recognized the good being done despite the false selfish motives of those doing the preaching. He not only saw the good, but he rejoiced and was planning on continuing his rejoicing.

We may want to think that our enemies will destroy us, but our enemies help us define our existence. They make us reflect upon whom we really are. They make us decide what role we are going to play in the scheme of things. They reveal things about us that we couldn't see any other way. Paul's enemies sought to destroy him, but they provided him with an opportunity reveal how Christians should react to difficult people.

Philippians 1:27-30
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved-- and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. (NIV)

It is our conduct in the difficult times that reveal the depth of our Christianity. Christianity has been something we have wanted preached, but do we really want it to change our conduct. Paul says, "conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." If we choose to live worthy lives God will make our lives count for something great. He will make us more than we can be otherwise.

Philippians 2:14-16
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life-- in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. (NIV)

It was through Paul's conduct as a Christian that he reached those he came into contact with. We have confined preaching to the pulpit. We need lifestyle preaching. The word must become incarnated in each of us. The word must be fleshed out in our lives.

God used Paul’s crisis to encourage him and others to remain faithful. Paul was confident that Christ would be exalted in his life whether he lived or died. Paul writes, "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death" (Philippians 1:20 NIV).

Paul's confidence was not in his flesh, it was in God. "Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh--though I myself have reasons for such confidence." (Philippians 3:1-4 NIV) Paul's fleshly accomplishments and wisdom were not the sources of his confidence.

The Jews took pride in their circumcision. It was a fleshly pride. They believed their circumcision made their relationship with God pure because it marked them as children of Abraham. They sought to build Christ kingdom upon their fleshly accomplishments. Today we certainly don’t look to circumcision, but what gives us our sense of pride as members of Christ kingdom. Is it fleshly accomplishments.

Paul's firm confidence came from Christ. Paul makes this statement, " . . . that is how you should stand firm in the Lord . . ." (4:1). Notice what precedes this statement:

Philippians 3:18-21
For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (NIV)

Focusing on how Christ can transform your earthly body at his coming is our means of confidence. It is that same power that is at work in us in the present. This kind of focus makes it possible for you to become more than you can be.

Conclusion:

God is not asking you to be all you can be. He is giving you the opportunity to become more than you can be. He is asking you to be what you cannot be without him.

Are you relying upon your abilities or Christ power to make you more than you can be?

 

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