15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. (Philippians 1:15–17, NKJV)
When early Christians were persecuted for their faith, they “went everywhere, preaching the word” (Acts 8:1-4). To “preach Christ” means more than telling about the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel they preached was “the word of the cross,” all of Christ’s truth, the “whole counsel of God” (1 Cor. 1:18-25; Gal. 1:6-9; Acts 20:27; 2 Tim. 4:2-4). Paul knew some did not preach Christ from pure hearts and genuine faith (Phil. 1:12-18). Still, he rejoiced that Christ was preached even when he suffered from these pretenders (Phil. 1:18). In today’s passage, the apostle gives us motives markers for preaching Christ. Our hearts will be judged as well as the content of our message when we preach Christ. The apostle notes that sound gospel preaching includes: 1) Boldness to speak the word without fear (1:14); 2) Goodwill, not envy and strife (1:15); 3) Sincerely (honestly), without selfish ambition or harm to others (1:16); 4) Out of love for God and His truth, for brethren, and the lost (1:17); 5) In truth, not pretense (1:18). When we teach the gospel, let us maintain godly motives. Otherwise, we are little more than “sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1).
22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. I23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. (Acts 11:22–23, NKJV)
We frequently hear about people with hidden agendas. Void of forthrightness, these manipulators lurk in the shadows, pulling strings and massaging situations to achieve their nefarious objectives. These people are not only found in politics and business but also in religion (see Gal. 2:4; Rom. 16:17-18; 2 Pet. 3:1-3; Jude 4). When Barnabas went to Antioch, he encouraged the new converts to take an entirely different and honorable approach. He urged them to continue to have “purpose of heart.” The Christian’s agenda should be open, exposed, not hidden. Our lives are to show our open intention to be faithful to the Lord. Barnabas urged Christians to live with obvious determination, to stand in the grace of God, and live faithfully before others (cf. Rom. 5:1-5). We are the light of the world; therefore, we must not hide our faith (Matt. 5:14-16). May we have the resolve of heart to be loyal to the Lord in the face of spiritual obstacles and those who try to keep us from continuing with the Lord.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8–10, NKJV)
To confess means to acknowledge, “to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with, assent…to concede” (Thayer, 446). Confessing our sins requires that we agree with God that we have transgressed His truth; we have sinned. God’s assurance of forgiveness to Christians “if we confess our sins” is bookended with “if we say that we have no sin” (v. 8) and “If we say that we have not sinned” (v. 10). We must acknowledge our sins to ourselves before we can and ever will properly confess them to God (Psa. 32:3-4). We must come to ourselves like the prodigal (Lk. 15:17). God’s word describes this process as godly sorrow producing repentance that leads to salvation (2 Cor. 7:10). With contrite hearts, we admit our sins to ourselves, and with repentance toward God, we confess our sins to Him (Lk. 15:18-19). With such a confession of sins, we fall before the throne of grace seeking mercy, and God keeps His word to cleanse our defilement (1 Jno. 1:9; Psa. 32:5; 51:3-4, 7-12, 17). John says four things happen when we deny our sin: 1) We deceive ourselves, 2) The truth is not in us, 3) We make God a liar, and 4) His word is not in us. God is faithful to forgive us when we trust Him and confess our sins to Him.
32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him. (Mark 12:32–34, NKJV)
Obedience is worthless when it does not come from a heart given to God completely. The scribe in today’s text perceived this truth when Jesus told him the first of all the commandments was to love God fully (Mk. 12:28-30). May we grasp this fundamental truth; Out of the heart comes the obedience that pleases God. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jno. 14:15). Without love for God in our hearts, our outward actions of obedience are null and void. Christ calls us to be obedient children, so we will not discount the place of obedience in the Christian’s life (1 Pet. 1:13-16, 22). Obedience from the heart pleases God and frees us from the bondage of sin (Rom. 6:17-18).
21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” 22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:21–22, NKJV)
Wanting to follow Jesus is not the same as actually following Him. That may seem obvious, yet we easily convince ourselves we follow Him when the evidence says otherwise. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Doing the Father’s will begins in the heart and produces conduct consistent with the heart’s intention and devotion. This man had kept the commands of God from his youth (Mk. 10:19-20). But he lacked one thing. His heart was greedy and he trusted in riches more than God (Mk. 10:24). His love for personal possessions controlled his conduct toward others. His unwillingness to sell and give exposed his selfish heart. Why do we emphasize complete obedience to Jesus? Not because it earns us treasures in heaven, but because it expresses a heart that loves God “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mk. 12:30; Rom. 6:17-18). One thing prevented this man from having heavenly treasures. If even one thing is hindering your obedience from the heart, repent, and do what Jesus says (Lk. 6:46). Jesus knows our hearts just like He knew this man’s heart. Do we (2 Cor. 13:5)?
25 And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses. (Mark 11:25–26, NKJV)
Christ teaches us to have a willing heart to forgive those who sin against us. We do not wait until the offender says, “Forgive me” before being ready to forgive. We are to probe our hearts and remove any malice toward one who has sinned against us. True, God grants forgiveness when the sinner petitions Him for relief according to His will (Rom. 10:13; Acts 2:37-38; 22:16). Still, Jesus, Stephen, and Paul illustrate the willing heart of forgiveness before sinners repented of their sinful deeds (Lk. 23:34; Acts 7:59-60; 2 Tim. 4:16). God’s readiness to forgive is our model: “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; And attend to the voice of my supplications. In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, for You will answer me” (Psa. 86:5-7). God is ready to forgive. Likewise, we must have hearts of forgiveness (Col. 3:12-13). The provision Christ states is unmistakable. If we are holding something against a person, we must forgive to be forgiven.
1 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. (Isaiah 53:1–2, NKJV)
No doubt, many are drawn to others based on their physical features. Yet, we can fairly say that Jesus Christ was not particularly handsome. He had “no form or comeliness…no beauty that we should desire Him.” Unlike Saul, who was tall and handsome, God’s Anointed did not draw people to Himself because of his outward appearance (1 Sam. 9:1-2; 10:23-24). Christ does not gather a following like Absalom, who “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” with false humility and flattery (2 Sam. 15:5-6). It was David, a man after God’s own heart, who typified God’s suffering servant (1 Sam. 13:14; Psa. 89:3-4). God looks on the heart, not physical appearance (1 Sam. 16:7). So, what draws your attention to Christ and the gospel? Is it a large church building full of wealthy people? Maybe it is cathedrals or temples built by human hands. Maybe it is the social program of the church. Furthermore, what are Christians using to draw people to Christ? It must always be the gospel, not things that appeal to the pride of the flesh. The Father draws sinners to Christ and salvation by hearing and learning His word, and so must we (Jno. 6:44-45).
18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:18–20, NKJV)
We must run away from sexual immorality. Paul used the general term porneia (fornication) that includes all sinful sexual joining of males and females (1 Cor. 6:15-16). Sexual immorality applies to the sins of premarital, extramarital, and multi-marital sex, homosexuality, incest, and unlawful remarriages (1 Cor. 6:9; Heb. 13:4; Matt. 19:9; Rom. 7:2-3). Every sin we commit begins in the heart (“outside the body,” v. 18), including sexual immorality (Matt. 15:19). Additionally, the sin of fornication violates the purpose of the body (v. 18). Our fellowship with the Holy Spirit necessitates that we use our bodies to glorify God (v. 19). Our bodies are to be living sacrifices to the Lord, offered in holy service to Him instead of being used to indulge the lusts of the flesh (Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Thess. 4:3-5). We were redeemed from sin by the lifeblood of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:18-19). We belong to Him, body, and soul. These are the reasons why Christians must flee sexual immorality: 1) This sin is against the holy purpose given the body, 2) This sin defiles the dwelling place of the Spirit of God, and 3) This sin dishonors God and those who practice it.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8, NKJV)
The turmoil of unrest in our country and around the world impacts us in many ways. These things unsettle our thoughts, our emotions, and attack our faith. They give our adversary, the devil, an opening to infiltrate our hearts with evil thoughts, words, and deeds (1 Pet. 5:8). Scripture teaches us to meditate on good things – even when things around us are awfully bad. (Recall that Paul was imprisoned unjustly for more than two years when he wrote this exhortation.) The word translated “meditate” means “to take an inventory” (Strong, G3049). Rather than becoming immersed in the sinful venom and bile of worldly people, the gospel of Christ calls Christians to inventory our thought process and dwell on things that are 1) Noble (honest, honorable), 2) Just (innocent, equitable), 3) Pure (holy, clean), 4) Lovely (friendly towards others), 5) Of good report (of worthy reputation), 6) Have virtue (morally excellent), and 7) Praiseworthy (commendable). The God of peace guards our hearts with His peace as we trust Him and meditate on these heavenly things (Phil. 4:7, 9).