Biographical Sketch of Dr. Stuart E. Lease / Bible Messages by Dr. Stuart E. Lease
[include file=/StatCounter-AllPages.txt] [include file=/StatCounter-SCM.txt]
Christ, Our Power
Open your Bible again with me, please, to Philippians chapter1, and were studying together throughout the book in these sessions that we have here at the Conference this week, and were dealing with it under eight headings three of which are in this first chapter of the book. We saw in one of our last two meetings, Christ in People, and never forget that the Word of God makes clear that the temple of God is His people, and in another understanding of that, each person who is a child of God is a temple of God; and God is not exclusive in His relationship to you or to me. He has involved Himself with each and every one who is His child. And, I think that as we interact with one another, we who are believers, we must never forget that when Paul said, For me to live is Christ, every believer has the right and privilege to say that, and it relates just as definitely to someone else as it does to me.
We have come into a period of time in our culture here in America where self-assertedness is one of the prime promotions of the day; and you can pick up on our newstands and bookstores all kinds of books on how to assert yourself and How to Say No and all the rest of that. You know folks, we need others; and God has delighted to share Himself with each and every child of God and in the family of God, we need each other. Lets never forget that as we consider this very blessed book. Lets not get so ego-centric with it in our own delight with the personal presence of Christ and we ought to be delighted. We ought to be overwhelmed with that, that we think were the only ones that have that particular right to Him.
I know that when I was a boy growing up, I had two sisters that used to fight over me; and when I got up in the morning, they would say, Whose boy are you? And if I said that I was Marys, then Miriam was angry with me. Well actually, I didnt belong to either one of them. I belonged to my father and mother, and we mutually belonged to each other. So, lets not get exclusivistic, either with ourselves as individuals or with others, and say, Well, the only way that person can grow is if he or she has contact with me. No, God may use somebody else, and we do need each other; and we share Christ one with another.
Then, in our emphasis yesterday, Christ in Our Problems, we have Christ there suffering with us; and remember that we never suffer alone. He Who walked this pilgrim pathway, our Lord Jesus Christ, I believe He suffered in a sense, every step that He took. The humiliation of Christ consisted not just of what happened to Him on the Cross and that immediately prior to it, but it included all of His earthly sojourn; because He knew perfection....because He had lived it and experienced it throughout all eternity past. And when He came here, I believe that in one sense, all of life was a suffering for Him; and yet there was joy in suffering. Joy, in the humiliation of Christ, were going to see more of that in our next study, especially in chapter two.
But, to suffer does not necessarily mean that youre out of the will of God. There is a bit of teaching among some Christians to that effect that if you suffer and if you have difficulties, if you are in any kind of trouble that immediately indicates that youre out of the will of God. Dont buy that teaching! The Bible doesnt teach that! The Bible indicates that were going to have trouble. We are going to have difficulties. We are going to have distresses, but Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. And though we do have opposition and we have difficulty and problems, yet God is greater than our problems; and the Lord Jesus in His personal relationship with us is able to sustain us in and through them and over them.
I pointed out that the key note of chapter 1, as well as of the entire book, is the verse with which we are going to begin today, verse 21, For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. We want to share today the thought that Christ is our power Christ, Our Power, and were very much aware of our need for power in the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed here in America. With all the electrical gadgets and conveniences that most of us have in our homes, as soon as the power goes off....which by the way we found it did in our home yesterday when we got back. We found our clocks were off by three or four hours, and fortunately we werent there to experience the inconvenience, but the power was off. When you dont have the power, you dont have the life in those particular gadgets. Now, were more than gadgets. We are Gods children. And yet the very power of God resides in us, because the Lord Jesus resides in us. As Paul said, For me to live [literally] Christ!
When I was a student at Lancaster, we got introduced to A. T. Robertson, and Ive been indebted to him many times from many things; and I like his statement in regard to this verse, Living is coextensive with Christ. We exist as He exists. One thing that encourages me about that is that He exists [How long?] forever! So, For me to live is Christ......Christ lives forever, I shall live [How long?] forever! For me to live, Christ!.....and I have aligned myself, by His grace, with Him; and therefore His resources are mine, and the reality of His life is mine; and as long as He lives, I shall live....but, I find that some Christians that.....they seem to feel...well, salvation is from the past. Yes, salvation saves me from the penalty of sin (and praise God, it does....fully so). We do have the forgiveness of sins, and thank God, for that. Then, they seem to think, Well, Im going to go to heaven, and thats going to be wonderful and great and marvelous....and we are! You know? There are some who doubt that, and I was thinking as we sang today- When We All Get to Heaven- there are some who would have to sing- If We All Get to Heaven. But, if you have enough confidence in the Word of God and what it teaches...to sing- When We All Get to Heaven- sure thats great and marvelous; but, theres an intervening time from the past thats been taken care of and the future thats prepared for us; and its that time...Now! Many of you have heard me say about the little boy who went to his teacher, down south, and said, Teacher, how do you spell rat? She said, R-A-T. He said, No. I mean rat now. And, in our study today, I want us to see something about Christ, our Power, rat now; and how the reality of Christ does deal with us now, but also with a perspective for the future, to know that if we die, we are going to be present with the Lord. But, ....nevertheless [and that word occurs down there in verse 24], to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. [When?] right now. And so, were going to see something of the dimensions of this as we consider Christ, Our Power, and He is indeed sufficient for us!
May I ask you, how are you living? Are you merely existing? Well, we exist in God, as Paul said to the Athenians. In Him we live and move and have our being. So, even the unsaved person has physical life, dependent upon Christ, because by Christ, all things consist [hold together]. The believer has spiritual life through Christ. John 5:24, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my Word, and believeth on Him that sent me, [What?] hath everlasting life... You can know that you have it, right now. And you can know that you are existing in Christ. But I like what I heard Dr. Charles Anderson say when he was ministering with me recently at Sandy Cove....I guess its an expression that many people have used but kind of new to me. He took the expression from John 10:10 where the Lord Jesus says, ...I am come that they might have life [and then theres a comma], and that they might have it more abundantly. And he referred that to life beyond the comma. Life beyond the comma! Not just that you might exist, but that you might exalt in the Lord.....that you might rejoice in Him....that you might find an excelling life in Christ....that you might have it more abundantly! And, I think that this is what Paul is setting forth in the book of Philippians. For me to live is Christ... not just an existence. Its an excelling life in Him, but its also an expecting life in Him. [Because, he says, No matter what comes, for me, the best is yet to come, because even if I die, I know that I am going to go to be with the Lord and be in His presence.] Thus, Christ, Our Power [and this is my major premise to begin with] Christ, Our Power enables a believer to live or die confidently!
Now one of the things, that caused me to come to know Christ as my Savior, was the fear of death; and though I was only nine when I came to know Christ as my Savior, I knew what death was. My dad was the caretaker of a local cemetery in the town in which I was born and raised, and I began working on the cemetery when I was just a little fellow: mowing, trimming, and then helping to dig graves. I often said that it was my first executive position....had a couple hundred people under me....but I came to know that people died, because I sometimes helped my dad to throw the dirt on top of them after they were placed in the grave. And, as a little fellow, I used to sometimes take my hands and fold them over myself, looked down over myself, and Id say, Stuart, if it happens to you like it happened to them, youre going to die. Now you say, Thats pretty morbid thinking. But, its realistic thinking; because as the Bible says, It is appointed unto men [What?] once to die; and I had enough sense to realize that happened. Now the very day that I came to know Christ, there was another little boy who received Christ as his Savior. His name was Billy; and right after the childrens meeting, he had a strange reaction after he had received Christ. He said, Now I want to die. They said, Why do you want to die? He said, I want to go right to heaven and be with Jesus. Now folks, it might be nice in a way if you could do that, as soon as you receive Christ....go right to heaven and be with Jesus; but He leaves you here for a while. But, I tell you one thing, that if you know the reality of life in Christ, you dont need to have the fear of death. In Hebrews chapter 2, it says of the Lord Jesus work on our behalf, that He Himself [because of the matter of death that we have to deal with]....beginning at verse 14 of Hebrews 2, Forasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He [that is, the Lord Jesus] also Himself likewise took part of the same, that through death [that is, through His own death] He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, And deliver them who through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Thank God that when you know Christ as your Savior, you dont need to be afraid to die; and Im thankful that both of my parents, from the time that I was just a child, looked forward to going to be with the Lord Jesus. They never referred to death, just as dying. They referred to it as going to glory, because they saw beyond and they anticipated that which would be theirs in His presence....and we can too. In fact, I think that the child of God ought to have a kind of a longing to be with the Lord. I believe that if we love Him, we ought to want to be with Him. Now, I know we can and should and do spend time in His presence, and some of the great men of God that Ive known in the past [and I think of Dr. Ralph Stoll, a man like that] was really more at home in the presence of God, usually than in the presence of people. And I loved to pray with Him, and I did many, many times; because I knew that he just loved to be in the presence of the Lord. Now, he is in the presence of the Lord! But, I know that he also longed to be in the presence of the Lord, and I believe every one of us, ought to have a longing to go home and to be at home with the Lord.
Paul did, as he says here. In Philippians 1:21, For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Everything that is of any value to me is over there. Ive been laying up treasure in heaven; and by the way, you and I can do that in various ways: by giving, by witnessing, by praying, by trusting, by developing good works in our own lives. We can be laying up treasure, and there ought to be over there....to die is gain. Now, he says, But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor, yet what I shall choose I wot not [I dont know what....Im...really...torn.].
Now I want to emphasize three things, after having stated the major premise, Christ, Our Power, which enables the believer to live or die confidently. It also creates a dilemma. It did for Paul, and it does for us a dilemma between staying here and going there. We know that we want to go over there. If we love the Lord, we want to be with Him. We know that we ought to be here to do what the Lord wants us to do; and theres a pull between there and here.....and Paul sensed that. He wanted to go to be with the Lord, but he wanted to be here to do the work that God had entrusted to him. And so, he sees in this dilemma a living and laboring option, and that is ours....in fact, I believe that God allows us to be here, so that we can serve Him. Im convinced that the Bible teaches that we shall also serve the Lord throughout eternity; but He also first wants us to serve Him here! And if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour [What? the fact that there will be gain coming from this, that I will be producing for the Lord while I am here. But, he wants to be over there. In I Corinthians 9:16, Paul was so convinced that he was to minister for the Lord and to serve Him, that he says this of his ministry, For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! He just had an impelling desire to serve the Lord, and he never lost that....right down to the very end of his life. While he was here, he knew that he had opportunity to serve, even though he was put away in prison, as on the occasion of this writing.
In contrast to that, he saw that departing meant delighting in the presence of the Lord. He says in verse 23, For I am in a strait betwixt two [I have pressure on both sides], having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is [What?] far better [not just better, but far better. And it is wonderful to be in the presence of the Lord, as Psalm 16:11 says, Thou wilt show me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
Moses knew that there was pleasure in sin, but he knew that it was for a season; and he esteemed the riches of Christ a far greater treasure; and he set aside the temporary for the permanent, for there are pleasures at the right hand of God for evermore. In II Corinthians 5 Paul, writing to the Corinthians concerning what I believe is the death of the believer, says that the body that we have now is just like a tent [the use of a tabernacle here], and he says, For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan [and some groan more than others and some have more reason to groan than others], earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven. Now I personally believe that this teaches what I would call the intermediate state, and that when we put off this body and that is laid in the dust of the earth, that God has [for want of a better term] a spirit body [That may not be the best term, but it is a term] that we receive that becomes then later on the heart of the resurrection body. See, this isnt the resurrection yet....at least, I dont think so. [Some of my friends do. I think that they are wrong. But, they can try to defend it when they have opportunity.] I believe this is what happens when you die that you go to heaven, and theres a real presence of your self there; and God gives a kind of a body, even there in heaven. If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. Were not just going to be disembodied spirits, floating about. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. [Now, go down to verse 6] Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord [Then, he goes on in verse 8] We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted [or be pleasing] to Him.
Paul, wherever he was, wanted to be pleasing to the Lord; and he wanted that his life, here and hereafter, would always please God. He knew that departing meant delight; but he also knew that staying meant serving. Notice verse 24 of Philippians chapter1, Nevertheless to abide in the flesh [to remain here in this body] is more needful for you. [Why? because I can and will, I shall serve as long as I am here.] And, he felt that these Philippian believers needed more of what he could give them; and thank God that he did keep Paul on, at least to finish this epistle; and even to write some more which he did.
So, he overcame the dilemma by realizing that God would use him to serve while he stayed. And I think that those of us who are allowed to stay, ought to realize, that while we are here, we have the privilege of serving; and we ought to delight to do it. Not everybody can or will serve in the same way. There are various gifts. There are various callings. But, in whatever calling you have from God, fulfill it; and dont just say, Well, Im just waiting to get to glory. Well, youll be sorry if you just wait. We are to occupy until He comes; whether He comes for us in death or whether He comes for us in Person.
Now secondly, out of this, theres confirmed a determination....a determination and thats in verses 25 and 26, And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith. Now he has a two-fold determination here. First, to see Christians develop in Christ; to see these Philippian believers; to see you and to see each one of us as Gods children develop...in...Christ. And that is the purpose that God has placed us here to fulfill, to become increasingly like His Son.
In writing to the Galatians, in Galatians 4:19 Paul says this, My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you. Paul wanted to see Christ formed, worked out, expressed in the life of each person, each child of God to whom he ministered. But further, not only did he want to see them develop in Christ, he wanted to see them, delight in Christ.....delight in Christ.
I see some Christians....[By the way, I was glad to see you all smile at the beginning, at least today. So I didnt have to remind you that if you have the joy of the Lord in your heart, you should inform your face.] But, some Christians really do look like theyre pickled, rather than preserved. And yet, the Bible does say that youre preserved; and were preserved because of the precious work that the Lord Jesus did for us, and the precious ministry and the sweet ministry of the Holy Spirit to us...so that, we ought to be delighting in the Lord.
In the concluding chapter of this book, Paul gives an admonition that most of us need, maybe daily.....verse 4 of chapter 4, Rejoice in the Lord [When?] always: and again I say [What?], Rejoice. Now I realize that rejoicing isnt always a hip, hip, hooray sort of thing; and there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness depends pretty much upon what happens. Joy depends on Who is in charge within; and when the Lord is in charge, the Lord Jesus is real within, you can have joy even in heaviness. I heard Dr. Ryrie address himself to that one time, and he told about a fellow at seminary, when he was a student there, that used to come up to him as some of these exuberant fellows do and slapped him on the back and said, Do you have the joy, brother? And he had taken this a number of times, and he was reminded of a verse, You can have joy in heaviness. And so the next time the fellow slapped him on the back, he said, Do you have the joy, brother? He said, Yes, I even have it in heaviness; and right now, you are the principle source of my heaviness! Now, you can have joy in heaviness. In fact, Ive seen it in the lives of many believers, that when seemingly everything had gone wrong, when as it were life had tumbled in, they still had the joy of the Lord. Why? Because they had the Lord. And this is what makes the difference Christ, the Life of the believers life becomes the joy of the believers life. So Paul is determined to see them develop and to see them delight in Christ.
Then, he communicates some directives to them, first emphasizing in verse 26, That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again. Then, these directives: First, Consistency of Conduct. I remember when I was a student in Bible school. We were trying to get the fellows to clean up a particular room there in the dorm, and somebody said, Is there a scripture verse that we can use for this? And, what do you use to get people to act properly and take care of things? I said, Well, use the American Standard translation of Philippians 1:27, Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ. Thats really what it says! Have a consistency of conduct in your life so that others, seeing your life, will see the reality of Christ in your life; and that you are consistent and not wavering and tossed about; but that rather you are consistent in the life that you live. That is what will back up the testimony that you give. It has been wisely said, Dont talk the walk, if you dont walk the talk. And years ago, I heard George Slavin say, They that talk by the yard, and walk by the inch, should be dealt with by the foot. I think thats a rather practical admonition, but were not always allowed to do that, of course. But, be careful that your own manner of life is worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Then, theres expected a Community of Concern. He says that, ....whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. Dont allow the enemy to divide you from other believers. He will do it through various ways. He will cause maybe a root of bitterness to spring up in your life. Maybe youll have an unforgiving spirit or something of that nature, that if not dealt with, will divide you from other believers....maybe it will be a holier-than-thou attitude. Thats just as bad as the others. But, God is delighted when we work together as children in the family of God and have a community of concern, one for another that then reaches out to a world in need.
Then thirdly, a Commitment to Convictions. Notice, he says, ....striving together for the faith of the gospel... Some one has said that in recent days we have had a lot of concepts, but not too many convictions. And maybe thats part of our problems. Were conceiving things and maybe its this and maybe its that; but what we need is Thus saith the Lord. And the Bible is clear on many, many things that people think are open to discussion, and they arent, as was emphasized last night. Homosexuality isnt open to discussion in the Bible. Its clear. Its sin! And the Word of God is very clear about many, many things; and lets not conceptualize that which the Bible sets forth as convictions. Lets set them forth as what they are, in deed, and in truth, the Word of God. So, a commitment to convictions. Not only to state convictions, but to stand by convictions; and I found that among some of my fundamentalist friends, they can have convictions, but they dont always stand by them. It has been wisely said, Better stand for something or youll fall for anything. These are days in which we need to stand in commitment to our convictions.
And then fourthly, Constancy of Contending. Verse 28, And in nothing terrified by your adversaries [and there will be various adversaries, some within you, some around you, some outside of you; and the very Adversary himself will be opposed to you if youre doing the will of God. I do believe that there is a resurgence, an expansion of demonic activity in these days, including that which is influencing believers; and we are not to be terrified by our adversaries. If the devil can use one form or another to invalidate our witness and our testimony and make us fearful, he will then keep us from being effective in the work of the Lord. In nothing terrified]: which is to them an evident token of perdition [In other words, if you stand true, people are going to know that God is going to deal in judgment. He will not spare them.], but to you of salvation, and that of God.
In II Corinthians chapter 2, Paul sets forth here under a figure of a train of triumph, that is a procession of triumph.....the children of God. II Corinthians 2:14, Now thanks be unto God, [Who] always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour [or the fragrance] of His knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish. Now the picture here is of a triumphant army returning to, as it were to the city of Rome [for example], and they have with them major opponents, that is, the officers of the army that they have defeated...maybe including the general; and these are being carried along in chains with them, and they are going to be publicly executed at the end of this parade. When this is over, the soldiers will have a time to be released and to have leave. So, for them, as the people throw the fragrant flowers that they smell and the perfume and all that to them its a fragrance of life, that is, the victorious soldiers....but, to the victims who are in tow, its the fragrance of death. And you know in one sense, all of the human race is in this train. The believers are the victors. The unbelievers are the victims. Now sometimes when you look at believers, you think its otherwise. You think that the believers are the losers, and the unbelievers are the winners. But, thats not true. Thanks be unto God Who leads us in triumph in Christ.... and unto God, were a sweet fragrance of Him. But to the world, were a fragrance of death. To believers, were a fragrance of life; and he says, For we are not as many, which corrupt the Word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.
So, the concluding two verses of Philippians 1, emphasize Comfort in Difficulty. Christ Who indwells the believer is sufficient for us, for the life that we now live, even though it may be a difficult life, For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake. You know, the inference here is that just as believing and salvation are a gift, and sometimes it is hard for us to see that as clearly as we should, but the Bible teaches that. Its a gift. We cant do anything to merit it. So, in a very similar way, to suffer is a gift. Its given to us, not only to believe, but also to suffer. Suffering can be given from God, just as it was to Job and it was to Paul....as in II Corinthians 12 when he had his thorn in the flesh; and I think therefore receiving both, as from God, sanctifies the suffering and sanctifies us.
Now as I indicated in a previous message, I used to think that you would always get out of your difficulties; and theres still some believers that think that everything will come to pass. But you know, whether we like it or not, there are some things that come to last; and we live with them the rest of our lives until we die. I have visited a few times, Christiana Tsei, down in Paradise. Some of you know her. And its many years now, I guess its approaching almost fifty years that she has had her affliction of compound case of malaria...that means that she cant even be in a lightened room. Thats why of course the book, Queen of the Darken Chamber. Many of you have read the book, Joni (Joni Erikson); and there appears to be no hope that she will ever be restored to the use of her limbs and her body again. Just last week I received a beautiful letter from a dear friend of mine, many of you know him, Dr. Richard Sueme. Hes been some ten years now without the use of his kidneys. He has to be on dialysis machine, three times a week, six hours at a time; and hes going to have to live with that as long as he lives..... until God takes him home. And you know, I have found that those three people, among many others have had to come to see that it was given to them, not only to believe, but also to suffer. And thats a hard pill to swallow; but after youve swallowed it, there comes a sweet release; and even a sanctifying of that suffering as a gift from God. Dont go believing everything that you hear some of these fellows on the radio say that God will always heal. God doesnt always heal. He didnt even heal the apostle Paul. And sometimes suffering is in the will of God, and its not easy......but His grace, as He told Paul would be sufficient for your needs.
You know in the book of Hebrews and Im just going to turn to that in closing to emphasize the point here, that Paul had the same conflict. In other words, as I read this in the Greek and other translations, he was still having his suffering problems....thats what the concluding verse says there in verse 30, Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me. In Hebrews 11 you have the exploits of faith and the heroes of faith....verse 32, What shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword... You say, Boy, thats tremendous! Yes, but you know, there were some, when you come down to verse 35, Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins;being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And the only deliverance that ever came to them was death. And they lived with suffering....all...their....life!
What did they have for it? They had the same Resource and the same recourse that Paul had Philippians 1:21, For me to live [even in the face of suffering] is [What?] Christ... The Christ Who suffered for him, for me, for you.....is the Christ Who will give you the resources that you need in your time of suffering, to rely on Him, because...to live is Christ, and to die [especially for those who suffer] is gain; because, To be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord.
Dr. Stuart E. Lease
Central Manor Campground, Mountville, PA