Monday, January 24, 2011

Passing Heaven's Taste Test

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Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, January 23, 2011

Philippians 1:9-11, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

A prayer for a more perfect church… Have you been praying this prayer recently? Philippians one, verses nine through eleven, a prayer – our prayer – for ourselves, for our families, for this church; a prayer for every day of the year.

So far, in our look at this marvelous prayer the apostle Paul offered up to God in behalf of the church at Philippi, this prayer God’s Spirit led him to record for us, we have examined the CONTENT of this prayer. Paul asks God to cause Christ-like love to abound, to increase in the lives of God’s people, he prays that Christ-like love, the Christian’s ‘crown jewel’, might be evident in every area of our lives personally and congregationally. And, he prays this way, he beseeches God for this abounding Christ-like love because he knows how Christ-like love, when its influence is as strong as it should be, it will result in sweeter fellowship, richer prayer, more practical need meeting ministry, and wider, more caring outreach.

A prayer for a more perfect church, a church marked by Christ-like love, abounding in its midst - is that the kind of congregation you desire to be a part of? Here’s a model to use in asking God for that very thing!

Then, we looked at what Paul said here about Christ-like love abounding in knowledge and depth of insight, Paul’s prayer, he wasn’t simply asking God that the Christians at Philippi would be well-educated… no! Education is fine, sure. But education, if knowing Christ, knowing Him and being more completely conformed into His image, if knowing Christ, grasping His wisdom, attaining to His understanding and insight is not the goal, is not at the heart and center of the curriculum, then, ultimately, such education is worthless!

Paul’s prayer, our prayer for a more perfect church, is not a prayer for a better educated church, loaded with Ph.D.’s and M.D’s and so on. Rather, his prayer, our prayer, is to be that expression of simple, child-like faith, “Jesus, I want to know YOU! I want to be, to become, what You want me to be…”

And this is my prayer, that your love may abound still more and more, in knowledge and depth of insight.” That’s the CONTENT of Paul’s prayer, WHAT he prayed for the Philippians, and for us.

But then – what’s next? Next Paul shows us why he prayed this way - we looked at this part of Paul’s prayer last week, didn’t we? He asked God to move upon the hearts and minds of the Philippians to move upon our hearts and minds – why? Not only so that our THINKING might be aligned with the mind of Jesus, but also so that our DECISION-making might be so aligned! “And this is my prayer, that your love may abound still more and more, in knowledge and depth of insight…” Why? “So that you may be able to discern what is the best…” “So that you may APPROVE, that you may prove, put to the test and prove in your day-to-day lives, those things that are excellent, those things that really matter as far as Jesus Christ is concerned.

This part of this amazing prayer, what is it concerned with? What is it that Paul is trying to say to us here? He’s urging us, he’s nudging us in the direction of priorities, He’s challenging us to align what we consider most important with what God considers most important! “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…” That’s a statement of priority, isn’t it? And that’s the kind of thing Paul had in mind in this part of his prayer.

But, now look at the next section of this prayer. Paul has told the Philippians, “I am always praying for you, joyfully petition God for you…” (verse 4) And, in verse 9, he tells them what? He asked God for in their behalf: “that [their] love might abound still more and more in knowledge and in all judgment, in all spiritual discernment and understanding…” But, then in verse 10, he moves the focus of his prayer from CONTENT to OUT-come. “I am praying for you, my Dearly Loved brothers and sisters in Christ at Philippi, praying that you might grow in Christ-like love and increase in your knowledge of Jesus Christ.” Why? Here’s the hoped-for, the prayed-for, outcome: “that you may be sincere and without offense – that you may be blameless and pure – until the day of Christ and filled [overflowing] with the fruits of righteousness that come by Jesus Christ.”

How many of you ladies have ever baked a pie, a cake, a batch of cookies, or maybe even a casserole, a main-course meat dish or some unique salad or side entrée, and submitted it to a ‘bake-off’ contest or a ‘tasting bee’?

In my experience with 20 years of delicious fellowship meals here at Northwest, a lot of you ladies could very easily enter and win such a contest.

Ladies, let’s say you decided to enter such a contest. And so you work hard perfecting your recipe, and the precise details regarding oven temperature, time in the oven, cooling time and so on. And, then, the bake off day arrived. Time to make good on all the practice efforts. So you send your husband to the store, with explicit instructions to purchase the exact ingredients you need – nothing more, noting less. So, your husband heads off to Kroger®, and he gets a bunch of Dole®-brand bananas – you see, you’re going to make a banana-nut cake. And, he grabs a package of Diamond®-brand walnuts, and a bottle of McCormick®-brand cinnamon, and a dozen of Pilgrim’s Pride® large-sized eggs, and a gallon of Borden’s® brand whole milk, and a 5-pound sack of gold medal, unbleached, pastry flour. Check – check – check, he gathers every last ingredient that you asked for – except… Except for the one ingredient that is most essential: the Adam’s® brand vanilla flavoring. Kroger® was out of it. So, he takes out his trusty cell phone and calls you with the good news, “I’ve got everything on your list – I’ll be home soon.” “Did you get the Adam’s® vanilla?” you inquire! “No, honey – they’re fresh out of it at Kroger®.” “Well, would you mind checking at Brookshire’s® for me, please?” “I will.” And, off he goes to scour the shelves at Brookshire’s®. “No Adam’s® brand vanilla. Do you want me to try Walmart®, maybe Albertsons® or Sam’s Club®…” “Yes, honey – please. I’ve got to have Adam’s® brand vanilla, or my cake won’t taste right.” Your husband, who loves an adventure, checks all the other stores and ends up - I know the suspense is killing you – he ends up empty-handed. There’s not a drop of Adam’s® brand vanilla to be found in all of McKinney. “Hmmm! Well, thank you, honey, for all your extra efforts. I guess I’ll just have to settle for a teaspoonful of the store brand instead, and hope it all works out…

Two hours later, after the cake is cooled and ready to be frosted, you slice off a portion for your husband to sample – “Mmmm, mmmm! Just as delicious as always.” he remarks. “Oh, honey, you’re my biggest fan. But, what will the judges think? Maybe they won’t taste the difference, because I’m sorry to say, I do!”

Have you ever wondered what it will be like to have your life ‘tasted’ by the ‘Master Chief’, the King and final Judge of heaven? When Paul prays this prayer, he asks God to so work in the lives of God’s people, to so order and combine the ‘ingredients’ of Christ-like love and depth of spiritual insight and Kingdom of God-oriented priorities in and into our lives, that the outcome, the finished product when we’re DONE with our time in this ‘oven’ (earth), is not a “I’m not sure whether the presence of second-rate ingredients in my life will be acceptable.” But rather, a confident, “God, my Maker, You have made me, worked mightily in my life and combined in me all the right ingredients so that – now – here I stand before You, blameless and pure, sincere and without offense…”

My friends, my Dear Loved Ones in Christ, do you understand, do we grasp the seriousness of what it will be like to take part in HEAVEN’S tasting bee? We may be able to pull one over on human judges, but not on the Judge of heaven! When He tastes our lives, what will He say? And how will that affect our eternal destiny? “That you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.” This part of Paul’s prayer ought to stop us short, because it points us in the direction of a Day yet to come, the Day of Judgment!

But, you know there’s a second aspect, a second level of application to our lives that flows from this part of the prayer. And that is this: what effect on others, spouses and children and parents and siblings and the person across the aisle from you at work or down the row from you in this sanctuary, what effect do second-rate ingredients mixed into our lives have on others’ lives?

In chapter two of this incredible letter, Paul moves from praying for the Philippians, to exhorting the Philippians along these very lines. Philippians 2:14-16, look what he says:

Philippians 2:14-16, ”Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”

The blameless life, the life of Christ-like purity, it’s not just for God’s eyes to observe, it is meant for everyone else’s eyes, too! The Christ-like life, lived without admixture, not only does it hold forth promises in the life to come, remember Jesus’ beatitude: “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God…”? Not only does a life of sincerity, a life of good and godly ‘ingredients’ mixed in us through and through hold forth promise in heaven - listen – it also has power, great power to INFLUENCE others for God’s Kingdom – now!

Let me ask you a question, if I may: “How many of you have ever been God’s servant to baptize someone into Christ?” Now, let me ask this: “How many of you have ever conducted a funeral of someone who apparently drank himself to death, who stepped into the baptistery with you fifteen years earlier?” I have – yesterday.

How did that happen? What went wrong in the life of my young friend, D. L.? Don’t get me wrong – I’m not God, nor do I have all the answers and insight that He has – but listen, I wonder that if a part of why D. died in the horrible way in which he died, is because somehow, somewhere, he saw ‘cakes’ that had inferior ingredients and he couldn’t reconcile the truth of what he read in Scripture, with the hypocrisy that he saw elsewhere!

Does that statement hit you between the eyes? It hit me between the eyes yesterday, as I stood next to D.’s casket.

Paul’s prayer here and this emphasis on the blameless life, the pure, faultless, sincere, no-admixture, life, in view of the Heavenly tasting bee, and in view of the earthly impact of such a life, reminds me of these familiar words from a cherished hymn – and with these I will close:

“When He shall come with trumpet sound,
oh, may I then in Him be found
dressed in His righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before His throne
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.”

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