Biographical Sketch of Dr. Stuart E. Lease / Bible Messages by Dr. Stuart E. Lease
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Christ in Our Practice
FATHER We thank You for what You have for us this morning in Your Word and from Your Word. May we indeed be careful how we hear, and how we receive, and how we apply that which You have for us from Your Word. We give You thanks for what Youre going to do in us and through us by Your Spirit, as we praise You in Jesus Name. Amen.
Open your Bible to Philippians chapter 2, and were dealing this morning in our Bible study with the theme Christ in Our Practice. This theme of Practice is a very important one. Sometimes, it is variously understood and misunderstood. I have used a number of times the illustration of a Doctor of Divinity that signed into a hotel, as Dr. So-and-So and not giving his D. D. afterwards. I guess you know there was Rev. Fiddle who refused his D. D. and said that it was bad enough to be called Rev. Fiddle, but the Rev. Fiddle D. D. is just too much! But, this Doctor of Divinity had signed in; and they had an accident in the lobby, and they saw that Dr. So-and-So was there, so they called him in his room and said, Doctor, will you please come down. Weve had an accident down here, and would you take care of this? Oh, he said, I dont practice. I just preach. Now what he meant was that he wasnt a medical practitioner; but unfortunately some Christians are like that. They dont practice. They just preach. They can tell others how to do it, but as far as practicing it in their own lives, thats quite a different matter. Well, I believe that the Word of God is practical, and so is Paul. In fact, I was reading a statement in one of my books that Paul was practical as well as profound; and we saw something about his profundity last night in this earlier part of the chapter. Some of the greatest theological truths in all the Word of God are found in that passage in Philippians, especially in verses 5-8 and then of course in verse 11, great profound Truth!
But, now today we come down to earth into very practical Truth, and were going to look at this from two sections: First, The Expectations from the People, what he expected from those to whom he ministered and then Examples from Paul in regard to this matter of practice.
First, there is in Philippians chapter 2 and verse 12, A Precept to Practice, Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Some people, seeing that verse, immediately say, Oh yes. That proves that youve got to work out your salvation. Your salvation depends upon what you do, youve got to work it out and woe be unto you if you fail to work it out adequately or successfully or if you slip somewhere along the way, and the job does not get finished....then, youre finished! Well folks, thats not what the passage is talking about. In fact, we almost have to point out immediately that verse 13 indicates that ...it is God Who worketh in you both to will and to do [literally, to work] of His good pleasure. You can only work out what God has worked in; and God by His grace has done a work of grace in the heart and life of every one who believes on Him; and every one, who believes, is saved by grace through faith plus nothing. Our works cannot add to or take from the salvation which is ours in Christ! Salvation is a perfect thing: in its preparation, in its application, in all of its involvements, we cannot and dare not take from it or add to it.! All that we can do is receive it, But as many as received Him, to them gave he power [literally, the authority] to become the sons [or the born-ones] of God... born into the family of God!
I think that most of you know that salvation is, in what we call, in three tenses. There is the past tense, in which we have been saved from the penalty of sin [Ephesians 2:8 and 9], For by grace are ye saved [literally, have you been saved. Its really in that passive sense, in the past, youve been saved from the penalty of sin.] through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Now what we have before us here in this aspect of salvation is the present tense of salvation, in which we are being saved from the power of sin in life day by day; and there needs to be that constant outworking of the reality of salvation in our lives, day by day. This is a very practical thing, and the outworking of our salvation, just as even in a sense the initial aspect comes because we obey the Word of God. We obey from the heart that form of doctrine that was delivered to us....thats what saves us, but thats what continually saves us, that is, that demonstrates the reality of our salvation by...our...obedience.
I believe in the emphasis upon the love of God and in some of our recent songs, Theyll Know We are Christians By Our Love. Yes, thats one aspect; and one of the evidences that I believe of a corporate witness for Christ...is love, that we love one another; but also, that there be unity and that there be purity. But I think that a major mark, of the child of God in one word, is obedience! Obedience!....This is the evidence of the reality of Christ in the life!
One of the problems that I found emerging in recent fundamentalism, and I wanted to refer to this last night; but frankly, there has emerged in some segments of fundamentalism, a teaching something like this: It doesnt matter what you do on the outside, as long as youre right on the inside! Now, I want to tell you folks, thats a damnable heresy!.....because it does matter what you do on the outside! If you have been changed on the inside, then it will be demonstrated on the outside by a life of consistent loving obedience to our Heavenly Father, delighting to do His will, even as His Son delighted to do His will when He came to this world. [So, when Paul taught the believers, he says, I want you and Im delighted to believe that as you have obeyed in my presence, so you will obey in my absence.] You know, its amazing how wonderful some people can be when the preacher is around, and how they clean up the house and put magazines away and hide things here and there when they know that the preacher is coming. Well, the Lord is present everywhere; and if youre going to be obedient only when somebody is watching you, then theres something wrong with your heart....something wrong on the inside when the outside is not changed. And, its obeying that demonstrates the reality of the present tense of salvation.
Now of course there is a future tense, and were looking forward to that, when well be delivered from the very presence of sin....well be lifted out, [literally, seized out]. Thats what the word rapture means. When we become enraptured, we are seized out of ourselves; but when were raptured by the Lord, were seized out of this world into the presence of our lovely Savior!.... and thats the future tense.
But here, were talking about the present aspect, A Precept to Practice.... work out, demonstrate the reality of your salvation by obedience; but also, with fear and trembling. You know folks, we dont hear too much anymore about the fear of God. We hear a lot about the love of God, but not so much about the fear of God. Now I dont believe that the Bible teaches our fear of God is a cringing thing whereby we sort of back away from God because we are afraid of Him. No, its rather a reverential respect for God, Who He is and a desire for us not to displease Him.
The Power of Example, I think, is a tremendous thing. (We talked about Example last night, as a matter of Pattern. These people who say that punishment is no deterrent for crime, to use a Pennsylvania Dutch expression, Thats a lot of baloney! I know that punishment is a deterrent for crime. I saw what happened to my brothers and sisters up the line, ahead of me. Im the last of thirteen, so I had a lot to watch out for ahead of me. And, as I often say, My dad never talked much, but he had very pronounced punctuations. And, when I saw what happened to some of my brothers, that kept me in line! That punishment was a deterrent for my crime. And, also on the positive side, to see some of my older brothers and how they aspired in life, was an inspiration for me! So, you have the negative as well as the positive example; and I feared my father in the sense of a reverential respect; and though when I grew to maturity, Dad only came to my shoulders (He was a short man.), I nevertheless looked up to him, because of who he was, because of what he represented to me, and because of what he could and would do to me if I got out of line. And, dont think that because you are a child of God, that you can get away with things! Ive often said that one of the evidences that our two children belong to us, that was hanging in the kitchen by the window, it was a paddle. We didnt use it on the neighborhood kids, we didnt use it on the heathen abroad, we used it on our two children. They belonged to us, and they had the right to that particular paddle. It was theirs; and when they needed it, they got it. Now, I think that God does paddle His children. Some of us have been paddled and know it; and we thank God that He does. So...work out [demonstrate the reality of] your own salvation with fear and trembling.
My brother, George and I used to have to mow the cemetery near where we lived, and people used to say, Now what do you get for this? Well, we kind of jokingly said, Well, its not what we get for it, but its what we get for not doing it. And you know, I find among so many young people today, they want to know what theyre going to get first. You know folks, you ought also be aware of what youre going to get if you dont be obedient to God in your life....and its tragic!
Now secondly, The Power to Practice, and that is verse 13, For it is God [Who] worketh in you both to will and to do [or to work] of His good pleasure. I was interested to see it in the Greek, the word there for work and the word for do are both the same word in the Greek. Theyre both verb forms of the same root, from which we get energy, ENERGEO; and God energizes the child of God to want to and to be able to do Gods good pleasure, to do that which is pleasing to the Lord.
Through the years, Ive been rather interested in the matter of motivation, because people are motivated in various ways. Some are motivated by force. You just have to keep after them with a whip. Thats not the best kind of motivation, obviously. Others are motivated by a sense of duty, because something needs to be done, theyll do it....just because it has to be done. Thats far better than the force aspect. Then there are those that are obedient on a much better plane, and thats a plane of love! Remember the Ephesians when it was said to them in the letter to them in the book of The Revelation chapter 2......that they had left their first love; and I believe that one of the problems for the child of God is that when we first come to know the Lord, we love Him so much that we want to do everything to please Him; but then after a while, works of love become works of duty!
Its a little like getting married.... When you first get married, you wives and husbands too, but I can apply that to wives a little easier because their works are a little more obvious in the home. Oh, you do the washing, the ironing, the cleaning, the cooking....all because you love him; and if you arent careful, after a while, you end up doing it just because it has to be done. But, if you arent careful, works of love will turn into works of duty; and it was said of the Ephesian church, [Return] and do the first works.... which were [What?]......works of love. It is amazing, the motivation that love brings! I studied this matter of motivation, and I found that theres something better than obedience. That wasnt original with me. I read it first from Dr. Scroggie in his commentary on the book of Romans. He said, Theres something better than obedience. And, I thought, Whats better than obedience? He said that if my mother had sent me to pick a quart of raspberries, and I knew that she wanted two.....to pick one, I would be obedient. To pick two, I would be pleasing. And as I studied that word pleasing, I found that of the Lord Jesus, there was a prefix on the word and it means to be well-pleasing. That means that you either pick three, or pick two and bring them home and wash them.
I had something like that happen in my own experience, and some of you have heard me tell this. We have a two-car garage at home that has a lot more than two cars in it, as most garages do; and they accumulate one thing after another....papers, magazines....they pile up.....and the garden things are there and things that you want to work with later. And, if youre not careful, your whole garage becomes one mass of all kinds of things. Well, this happened at our home and my wife said, Stuart, youve got to clean the garage. I said, Yes, Honey. Ill get to it. I dont say, Round to it anymore, because I have a round to-it, some of you have seen it. Thats a round tuit. So, I never did get around to it, except this one. And....our son was about thirteen at the time, and I was paying him to mow the lawn; and Id been away for a Friday night and Saturday morning retreat, and I came back on Saturday afternoon. As I pulled in the driveway, I saw that the lawn had been mowed; and when I drove into the garage, I saw that the garage had been cleaned. Everything was in place, the floor had been cleaned; and I thought, O boy! [Sometimes I have the power of negative thinking. Do you have the power of negative thinking?] Do you know what I thought? I thought that my wife did! But, when I got into the family room, our son was there and he said, Dad? Did you notice anything? I said, Yes. I noticed that the lawn has been mowed. Yeah, you can pay me for that. He said, Did you notice anything else? I said, Yes. The garage has been cleaned. Yeah, Dad, he said. I did that for you!............Does that illustrate the difference between obedience and being pleasing? Now the thing I find, its tough to even get people to be obedient! Its almost impossible to get them to be pleasing. Amen? Oh, I wish in my own heart to be pleasing to God. Now that involves obedience as a basic minimum. Its a little like tithing. Obedience is the minimum, but you ought to go beyond that. Dont give till it hurts. Go beyond that to where it feels good.....and thats the way in serving the Lord! God works in you both to will and to [work] of His good pleasure. To do the things that please Him! Well, if you do that, then theres going to be propriety in your practice.
Verse 14, Do all things without murmurings and disputings. That word murmuring is a word that is a euphonic word. Its meaning comes from its sound....murmurmurmurmurmurmurmur. You get the meaning, dont you?....just by hearing the word repeated, the sound of it; and this is a problem that Moses had with the children of Israel. They murmured in the Wilderness. In I Corinthians 10:10, thats referred to. It says, Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. And then it goes on to say, Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples [literally, typically.....They were types.]: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world [or the ends of the age] are come. Lets be careful not to be complaining Christians. I really believe that a complaining Christian is a contradiction; because if we are a Christian, weve been saved by grace, and then we ought to at least be gracious and considerate and kind and not murmur or complain.
Then in verse 15, Purity in practice, That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke [Now sometimes we do need to be rebuked, and sometimes the servant of God has to rebuke, because it not only says, Preach the Word [but it also adds];.... to rebuke.... and most people dont like that, and yet if we live in such a way....to be well-pleasing to the Lord, well avoid having to have rebuke; and well demonstrate this,....in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation [or generation], among whom ye shine as lights in the world. Jesus said that we are the light of the world; and as our light shines, it shines brightest in the darkness; and the darkness is increasing in the world in which we live, but ours is to be the light of the world....reflecting and shining forth as those who are Christians.
Then verse 16, Persistence in Practice, Holding forth the Word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. This word holding forth, some believe has to do with holding fast the Word of life; and I believe that has a real meaning. You may or may not be familiar with the Marathon races that were held in Greece back in ancient times, but one of the Marathon races was to carry a torch; and one man would carry it from one point to another point, and then the man would take the torch from him and go on from there, and then hed pass the torch on to someone else known as passing the torch, and you see these torches pictured on educational institutions. Do you know that if a runner dropped the torch, he was disqualified! He had to hold fast to that light that he was carrying. Do you know folks, I have tragically seen some servants of God who once held the torch and held it high, who have dropped it....and they have become disqualified! Disapproved! And, I believe that weve got to hold on to the Word of God in these days, even as we run. Weve got to run sure, but weve have to hold forth [hold fast] the Word of life; that [we] may rejoice [at that future day] in the day of Christ [when were evaluated before the Judgment Seat of Christ], that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. You dropped the torch, youre disqualified in the race! So, theres persistence, holding on to the light of the Word of God....Persistence in Practice!
Then, The Examples from Paul, after these Expectations from the People, verses 17-30 of Philippians 2. Theres first the Example of Pauls Concern, verses 17 and 18, Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith [That offer there, really means if I be poured out as a drink offering. Some have translated this, If I, literally, pour out my lifes blood upon this sacrifice and service of your faith], I joy, and rejoice with you all.
I found that a mother who loves her children, as our mother loved us, would have literally given her life for us. I find that servants of God, who love the children of God whom they serve, sometimes do almost literally pour out their life blood, and Paul did. Paul was so dedicated and devoted to those whom he served, he was willing to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith; and hes going to do it with joy. He said, I joy, and rejoice with you all. This type of consecration comes only from the Lord Jesus [as we read in Heb. 12:2], ....Who for the joy that was set before him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is [now] set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Servants of God oftentimes are poured out as an offering even as Paul was willing to be, For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me. We indeed ought to count it a privilege to pour out our lives in service for Christ as Paul expressed here in his concern for the work of the Lord.
Then the example of Timothys Commitment. He says, But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus [or Timothy] shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort [or encouragement], when I know your state. Timothy served with Paul. Youll find this reported in Acts 16 [We looked at that in our first study.] how that Timothy joined with Paul in the work of the ministry, and he says, For I have no man likeminded [no man who is concerned as Timothy is], who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christs. How tragically true that is of so many Christians today. They seek their own. They want their own way. They want their own things. They say, This is my thing, this is my time. Well, you know folks? All that we have, that is of any value, is from the Lord; and we ought to delight to give back to Him that which is rightfully His. As Jim Eliot said, He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep, to gain that which He cannot lose. And, as you give yourself and give all that you have and are, back to the Lord....Remember when Abraham was called upon to offer up his son, Isaac?...and he responded willing to do it? Did he call that the place of deprivation? No. He called it Jehovah-jireh, The Lord will provide. He found that the Lord provided when he was willing to give back to God that which meant most to him. And, Timothy was so minded. He was willing to give up himself and his substance and his friends to minister with Paul and to minister to Paul on behalf of the gospel. But you know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. You see, Paul himself did not know if or whether he would be delivered from imprisonment and or death; but he says that come what may, there are those who do stand with me. Theres Timothy and then hes going to refer to Epaphroditus....these who are faithful to the Lord and to me.
May I emphasize that if you really love the Lord, youll love serving other Christians. In II Corinthians chapter 8 verse 5, this is expressly stated as a combination thing, speaking of the Macedonians [and that would include these Philippians], This they did [He uses them as an example to the Corinthians], not as we hoped [or expected], but first gave their own selves to the Lord [Now in some circles, that is about the only emphasis that is made. You just give yourself to the Lord. You do the Lords will. Sure, thats great, wonderful, and marvellous; but it also includes another dimension, folks. It includes giving yourself to others in the work of the Lord! They first gave themselves to the Lord and unto us by the will of God. So many Christians have adopted the philosophy of the world that, Nobodys going to tell me what to do. After all, I answer to the Lord. Well, in the book of the Ephesians chapter 5 when it talks about the evidence of the Spirit-filled life, the third evidence [The first of course is that you have a joyful frame of mind and attitude. Then you have a thankful attitude, verse 20], but verse 21 follows verse 18 as part of that same sentence when we are exhorted to be filled, to be controlled by the Spirit, and the evidence of this will be, Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. And if you love God and have given yourself to God, youll delight to minister to the servants of God and to other Christians, submitting to them and serving them as Timothy did and as Epaphroditus did to Paul in their day.
Now the third example then, Pauls Concern, Timothys Commitment, the example of Epaphroditus Conscientiousness, verse 25-30, Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger [Now apparently he had brought a message to Paul concerning the dear folks there at Philippi, and now Paul wants to have him return to them, and it says in verse 26, For he longed after you all [Now he had come and stayed with Paul and had ministered to him; but I like what one of the modern translations has this, He got homesick. He was homesick for the folks there at Philippi, ....and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. He was sorry that they had heard that he had been sick, because he knew that it would make them feel bad.
I was listening to the Morning Chapel Hour, as I drove here this morning; and they were dealing with the word sympathy. Sympathy means to suffer with. And, it reminds me of the little girl whose girlfriend had a pet die, and they said, Susie, what did you do? She said, Well, I went over and cried with her.......I cried with her. You know, when others are hurt in the work of the Lord, we ought to weep with those who weep......but then also rejoice with those who rejoice. And, Epaphroditus knew that the dear saints at Philippi having heard that he was ill, he knew that that upset them, and he was sorry that it did. He didnt want to hurt them. He was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death... [but I prayed for him and he got well. Is that what it says?] No. It says, ....but God had mercy on him...
Now, may I say immediately, God can heal whenever He wants, but God doesnt always see fit to heal. May I give you quickly four principles in regard to healing. These were a real blessing to me. They were given by a medical doctor, a Christian medical doctor, the very summer that we had learned that our daughter had Hodgkins disease.
l- God has built healing into the human body. [Thats the number one principle.] (You cut your finger, and unless there is bacteria gets into it, it will heal.) (You dent your fender, it doesnt heal.)
2- God has given wisdom and means to men and women to assist the healing process. (By the way, that includes medicine. Im a little disturbed by some fundamentalists that always label anybody who takes medicine as a pill-popper. And I say that sincerely. We ought to thank God for some of the pills that we have today. This man was head of the medical staff of Philhaven Hospital. He said, I previously served in a mental hospital as chief of staff there, and they had 5400 inmates. He said, That population was reduced to 1800, [reduced by 2/3rds by medication alone]; and he said, We ought to thank God that we have found some of the medications that we have found to be able to help people in desperate need. But some people need those medicines, and we ought to thank God that they are available for them.
3- God can heal directly without means whenever He wants to. [Anybody disagree with that? I agree with that. I believe that God can heal today. Ive seen it happen.....seen it in my own life.]
4- Ultimate healing awaits the child of God only at the Resurrection. You know, thats something thats never said by the so-called divine healers. They think that you get ultimate healing right now; but you dont. Some do. And, healing is in the Atonement, but its for the future. Were ultimately all going to receive glorified bodies, and we thank God for that.
....God had mercy on Epaphroditus; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Paul hurt when Epaphroditus hurt; and he was sorrowful when Epaphroditus was in sickness. So he said, I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Isnt it a tremendous encouragement to be encouraged by other Christians who come to you? Some believers are just a benediction to other believers, a constant source of encouragement; and I believe that Epaphroditus was exactly that type of person. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation. [Honor him highly. Why?] Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life [Not even being concerned about his illness], to supply your lack of service toward me. Now, some have felt that this was kind of a dig by the apostle Paul against the Philippians for not doing more for him. Actually, the sense for this is that Epaphroditus did for you what you were not able to do for me. Thats the sense of that. Its not being unkind to the Philippians, but he came in your place and served in your place. You know, there are a lot of people who serve in your place; and you ought to thank God for them. You ought to pray for them, and you ought to support them....not only in your prayers, but oftentimes financially as well; because their practice is part of your practice. You see, its Practice by Extension.
Thus, we have before us what we have seen: The Expectations of the People, what was expected of them, because that which was done for them by Jesus Christ; and then The Example from Paul, His Own Concern for them; of Timothys Commitment, and Epaphroditus Conscientiousness on their behalf.
We indeed ought to demonstrate in life the reality of the life that is in us. If the life of Christ is in us, then the life of Christ ought to be demonstrated through us. It does matter what we do on the outside if weve been changed on the inside. We want to demonstrate in obedience and being pleasing, that which pleases the Lord. Shall we pray?
FATHER We commit this time of studying in Your Word, and we trust that there shall be the reality of practice in our lives. May we not just speak of that which means so much to us, but may we show it forth in our very lives and in our actual actions, so that others in seeing what we do, will know that we believe what we say. I pray in Jesus Name. Amen.