Biographical Sketch of Dr. Stuart E. Lease / Bible Messages by Dr. Stuart E. Lease
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Christ, Our Pursuit
HEAVENLY FATHER Were so thankful for this blessed Book, the Bible. Were thankful that it was divinely originated, and the understanding of it is to divinely operate it by the Holy Spirit; and then may it be even a divine obligation that we have as we hear what You give to us from Your Word, so that we shall not just be here, but we shall go forth to demonstrate in life the reality of Your Truth. I pray in Jesus Name. Amen.
The theme of the book of Philippians is CHRIST OUR LIFE, and in this passage of Philippians chapter 3, we are going to relate to Christ, The Believers Pursuit. We have three major points: Preparation, Verses 1-6; Pursuit, Verses 7-19; and then the Prospect That Is Ours, Verses 20-21. Preparation, Pursuit, and Prospect.
First, Preparation for the Pursuit, verses 1-6, Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
In this passage Paul reveals first a Proper Perspective for the Preparation for this Pursuit. In verses 1-3, you have first a Word of Wisdom, verse 1; a Word of Warning, verse 2; a Word of Worth, verse 3. Now when he says, Finally, it doesnt mean that he is coming to the conclusion of his message. [Some say that Paul has a problem winding up his messages, because he says, Finally....early in the book. At least hes not finished yet.] Actually, hes drawing something to a conclusion here, and hes concerned that we think of what is before us here, and hes drawing their attention, Finally, my brethren [Pay attention now.], rejoice in the Lord. And, the very first thing in Preparation for the Pursuit in this proper perspective is a Contentment Prescribed....rejoice in the Lord. You know sometimes, it seems like everything goes against us; and when everything goes wrong, we can still rejoice. Why?...because we are still in the Lord and He is ours, and we are related to Him eternally; so, that perspective is a tremendous one. Someone has said that when the outlook is bad, the uplook is always good. So, keep looking up and rejoice!
Then a Consideration Presented. He says [and this sounds like a hard thing to understand], To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Let me give you a very simple translation of that. It is this, It is not tiresome to me to repeat what is safe for you [or a safeguard for you]. And, one thing that a teacher has to do constantly is repeat; and you repeat this and that, and this is how you remember; and in your study you have to repeat things....go back over it. So, hes telling them something undoubtedly he had told them before, but which they needed to be reminded of once again. So, there follows a word of warning.
Now this warning is against the Judaizers, that is those who came in teaching that it is not enough just to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and to trust the Spirit of God to energize your life. You must also, in addition to this, keep the various rituals prescribed in Judaism and pay your vows in the temple and observe all the customs of Judaism or at least the major customs including circumcision and other things, especially the sacrimonial system related with it. Now in regard to these, Paul gives a three-fold description of these Judaistic teachers. The first one Beware of dogs [doesnt just mean, Beware of dogs that you see them running around here. Dogs was a term that the Jews used about the Gentiles.] They referred to them as dogs. Now Paul is taking that term dogs and turning it around against these Judaistic teachers, and he says that they are dogs. Now as I studied this, I thought, What is particularly true of each of these things in regard to these Judaistic teachers? Now let me give you something, two things for each of these. First, as dogs, they attack and devour; and those Judaistic teachers did that. They attacked believers and devoured their testimony and devoured all that was appropriate in Christianity by ruling it out by bringing in something that they felt was just as good. And, may I say this folks, there is nothing just as good as our salvation. There is nothing that you can put on a plane, there is nothing that you can put on a par with it....the Gospel of the Grace of God, our salvation is a perfect thing and you cant compare it to anything! Its beyond compare! So, these Judaistic teachers came in as dogs, attacking and devouring.
Second, as evil workers. As evil workers, they antagonize and destroy. You know, its amazing what an evil worker can do even in a factory. He can destroy morale. He can antagonize the workers. [Ive worked in factories, and I know what can happen.....just taking an evil worker in that very materialistic sense, and the evil workers in the church, even evil workers today may not be Judaistic teachers can antagonize and destroy a work. And then, as of the concision. Thats a word, that if we were to bring it over into English today, would be....it relates to those who cut, and circumcism had to do with cutting; and Paul uses this word and really he would be calling it, if he was saying it in our English today....the cutters! Not the cut-ups by the way, but the cutters. And the concision agitate and divide. Did you ever come up to anybody with a knife, and theyre putting it out before you? Do you get agitated? I do. And, if they use it, what happens? They can divide you.....more or less, depending where they hit you. So, these false teachers attacked and devoured, antagonized and destroyed, agitated and divided.
But, he follows this Word of Warning with a Word of Worth concerning our position, our practice, and our peculiarity. He says, We are the circumcision [That doesnt mean that we are Jews. Its in the sense in which Paul has referred to this in Colossians chapter 2 and verse 11, In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, and hes using this term there in writing to the Colossians of the cutting off that is ours because were in Christ, no longer any dependence on the flesh, the cutting off from that dependence; and were part of that proper circumcism.
Then, Our Practice. We ....worship God in the spirit. Remember the Lord Jesus in talking with the woman at the well? She asked Him if it was right to worship there or to worship in Jerusalem. Jesus in speaking to her [in John chapter 4] told her, Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. And it is through the Jews that salvation has come to us. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in Truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in Truth. We who are born again are those who worship God in the spirit, not just an outward ritualistic worship, but an inner relationship to God.
Then Our Peculiarity. We ....rejoice in Christ... and we reject carnality. We rejoice in Christ! You know the thing that is amazing about believers in the early church age and throughout all ages of the churchs history is that even in the face of persecution, believers have rejoiced in the Lord. Remember Paul and Silas when they were there in the Philippian jail, having been beaten and bruised? Yet, what happened? They sang to God praises and showed forth His praises in song and rejoicing, there in that prison. We are those who rejoice, even in the face of persecution. We rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh. In John 6:63 the Lord Jesus said, It is the Spirit that quickeneth [that means, gives life]; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. And then in writing to the Galatians, Paul writes in chapter 5 beginning in verse 16, This I say then, Walk in the spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Then he goes on to relate the works of the flesh, the evidence, the demonstrations of the flesh.
I remember my first year in Bible school, one of my teachers stressed that the real sense of understanding flesh as Paul used it in the scriptures and other New Testament writers use it, in relating to our conflict with the Spirit, is to drop off the last letter of flesh and turn the word around, and you have what? SELF! And self is the essence, the essential principle of sin and lies behind all sin: self, pride, selfishness. And Paul says that we who have believed on Jesus Christ do not rest in and rely upon the flesh. We ....have no confidence in the flesh. So, in Preparation for the Pursuit, he gives this Proper Perspective: a Word of Wisdom, a Word of Warning, a Word of Worth about position, of practice, of peculiarity we rejoice in Christ. We reject resting in the flesh.
Then in verses 4-6 Paul relates his Previous Priorities, those that really meant something to him before he was a believer. His whole life, prior to coming to Christ, was based upon pride. Pride, this essential principle behind sin. I want to give you eight things wherein Paul expressed his pride [actually, you could use the first one as the basis for all the rest if you wanted to and have seven under that]. But he says, Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh [in other words, if he could boast, so could I]. So he says, ....I more. So, Paul had pride of: Pride of Reputation [and thats in those two words, I more.] He had a higher reputation for personal attainment in that which he went after, than anyone in his day. Then second, he had Pride of Ritual, Circumcised the eighth day [which indicated his covenant relationship among the chosen people of God, a ritual that was required and was observed among the Jews; and Paul had that ritual done to him very early in the eighth day of his life]. Then, ....of the stock of Israel... Israel, his Pride of Race; and Israel is an unusual race of people [unusual from many, many perspectives in their preservation, in the way God has used them, in the way He has given us the Bible through Israel....many, many things that they could point to with pride]. Then, Pride of Relationship ....of the tribe of Benjamin... Benjamin was one of the beloved tribes, because Benjamin was the son of the right hand of his father [Jacob]. Fifth, Religion, ....an Hebrew of the Hebrews... [careful in his observance of religion from a child and throughout all of his life, an Hebrew of the Hebrews].
Now I struggled with a couple words for this Pharisee. They were men of renown; but I think that if there is one thing that Pharisees were, they were men of restrictions; and they had Pride in their Restrictions, of what you could not do if you followed what the Pharisees taught. You could only go a certain distance on the Sabbath day [but of course, they had certain ways of expanding that] but they had great restrictions and they had pride in them.
Then in relation to the church, his ....zeal, [in] persecuting the church, there was Relentlessness, Pride of Relentlessness. He did not give up! In fact, if you think about it, I heard someone refer to that just today in one of the radio broadcasts that Paul was out on the highway heading to Damascus in the middle of the day; and hardly anybody who had any sense would be out in the middle of the day going somewhere. Thats the time when you would rest....in the heat of the day. But so relentless was the apostle Paul that he was out there, as the sun was shining brightly, moving on to persecute the Christians. And then finally, he also had Rectitude....the Pride of Rectitude, of doing ....righteousness which is in the law [and of that], he was blameless.
You know, there are very few people that could list such a pride of accomplishments and of ancestry that Paul had here, and in which he could boast of; but notice, he is not going to boast about those things. His whole perspective changed when he met the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus met him on the road to Damascus, and He said, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And then the Lord Jesus identified Himself, I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest... And then Saul [That was his pre-Christian name] said, ....What wilt thou have me to do? First, Who art thou, Lord? [and he found out that He was the Lord Jesus]....and when he believed on Him, he said, What wilt Thou have me to do? Remember the Lord Jesus indicated that Saul was going to have to suffer many great things for His Name...and he did. By the way, later on, Paul gloried in what?...his sufferings! His sufferings....on behalf of Christ....not on behalf of what he was before he met the Lord Jesus, but on behalf of what had accomplished through Him, even the sufferings and scars that were his. So, Preparation for the Pursuit.
Then, Pursuit of a Proper Priority. Remember Philippians 1:21 is the theme of this study of this book, For to me to live...is...Christ... Christ became the persistent priority of Pauls life and became the dominant theme for his practice. In verses 7-14 we have Pauls Persistent Practice. First, there was a Transformation of Attitude, But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Those things that could have been in the credit balance, he put over into the debit balance. No longer credit, but loss. His whole attitude [about what he was or what he was going to do] was transformed when the Lord Jesus converted him. I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung [or refuse or garbage], that I may win Christ.
You know the figure that Paul is going to move into here, just a little bit later in this section, is that of a runner [Most of what I know is by way of observation, not by participation, although my brother was a runner. I went out for track for a while, and then it was a toss up between track and singing; and I chose singing. I figured that Id get hurt less than from singing. So, I dropped off the track team. But, Ive learned something about this.]
Number one, Mental Attitude is a tremendous necessity to be positive if youre going to win! You cant really win if youre going out there and you think that you wont. More than likely, you wont! And Pauls whole attitude had to change from what he was to what he had become in Christ; and so he transformed from one of self to the Savior, ....that I may win Christ.
Then a second thing in running is that you have to Concentrate Your Attention in keeping your eye on the goal. Youre not thinking about whats happening out there in the stands, or what youre going to do afterwards, or what you did before. You Concentrate Your Attention on what is before you; and here Paul concentrates on....that I may win Christ! His whole attention is concentrated there on Him! Then he goes on, And be found in Him. Now this doesnt mean that he was lost or that he was trying to attain his salvation. No, he knew that he was saved. He wanted to go deeper with the Lord Jesus. He wanted to know Him more intimately, And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness [not boasting about what I have been or done, such as [My righteousness] which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ [literally, faith in Christ through what he has done not what I have done, but what He has done], the righteousness which is of God by faith. This righteousness has been imputed to Pauls account, to our account, to everyone who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. And so because of what Christ has done for us, we concentrate our attention on Him, and we are concerned that our whole life be Christol-centric, that is centered in Christ.
Now verse 10 is a life verse of many believers and rightly so, That I may know Him... What a precious prospect for the child of God....to know the Lord Jesus! You say, Well, didnt he know Christ? Yes, he knew Him as his personal Savior. Yes, he had acknowledged him as his Lord. But, there are various ways that you can know people. I know some of you, in fact, Ive just seen you for the first time today. Maybe some of you have just seen me for the first time today. But, some of you I just barely know. Others I know from other situations. [I see friends who have come over from York County, my old stamping territory. I know them, and some know me from when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Dont ask them about those days!] Then theres one person here that I know better than anybody else. Thats my wife, because we live together; and you get to know someone when you live with them.
You know theres an old saying that you get to look like the person that youre with. Did you ever notice how when a couple gets up in years [maybe forty or fifty years together]?.....husband and wife get to look like each other. Isnt that nice? Now I often said, I hope that I get to look like my wife, and she doesnt get to look like me. You know....as you spend time and live with the Lord Jesus, you get to look like Him. As you concentrate your attention on Him, you get to look like Him.
I told this story many times, and some of you are familiar with it, having had to read the story, The Great Stone Face. How many of you had to read that in school? The essence of this story is that the man who is the central character of this story, looked out upon the figure of the Great Stone Face up there, the old man of the mountain in New Hampshire; and he was so impressed with the majesty of that face that he was convinced that somewhere is this world who bears this image of the Great Stone Face. So, he spent his entire life going up and down, looking, trying to see and to find someone who bore that image....always coming back and looking at those majestic features of that Great Stone Face. Many years passed. He was rather disappointed that he never found someone who bore the image of the Great Stone Face. But....when after years and years had passed and he had become an old man, he looked in a mirror and found that he had acquired the image of the Great Stone Face! [That used to be required reading in grade school. It ought to be, today!].....because you get to be like what you spend time with and look at! And by the way folks, that includes what you look at when you read and what you look at on television.
That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection... Ephesians 1:17-20 relates to that matter of power....and we like that. We like the power of His resurrection! We dont like so much the next expression, ....the fellowship of His sufferings.... Most of us if we had our choice, wed choose the power of His resurrection but not the fellowship of His sufferings. May I emphasize something, friends? When you get into suffering, you also know something of the power of His resurrection! You cant really face suffering unless you know the power of His resurrection. And, know that come-what-may, you are going to eventually be with Him. But, sufferings do come to the child of God. Remember what Paul said back in Philippians 1:29? For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also [What?] to suffer for His sake....the fellowship of His sufferings! Ive referred before to what Dr. Stoll used to often say, Its hard to be optimistic when you have a misty optic! And it is tough when tears are in your eyes! But sometimes, you never get to know the Lord better than you do, through tears. Sometimes Hes magnified through our tears! ....the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death... Dr. Hubbard said that he read a book on suicide years ago, and Dr. Barnhart said that he read a book on suicide....setting forth four hundred ways in which you can kill yourself. Now thats not very inspiring reading, I guess; but Ill never forget what he said about that. He said, Theres one way that you cannot commit suicide, and thats by crucifixion. Youve got to have somebody do it. But then he added, There are always plenty of people around to do the job.....Amen? Thats true, folks. And, sometimes you know what its like to be conformed unto His death of crucifixion. Paul knew what that meant in many, many different ways. He said that hes always delivered unto death that the life of Jesus might be manifested in his body. If by any means I might attain [and thats in the sense of measuring up ] unto the resurrection of the dead. Christ, being raised from the dead because He died. We experience something of the reality of this resurrection because of the death principle that works in us! [We have been] crucified with Christ: nevertheless [we] live; yet not [we], but Christ lives in [us]: and the life which [we] now live in the flesh [we] live [How?] by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved [us], and gave Himself for [us]. Paul wanted to know the Lord Jesus, but he got to know Him through death! You know, when you study Psalm 23, in the beginning its talking about Him. When you pass ....through the valley of the shadow of death, youre talking to Him. And, when you go through suffering and deep suffering, you really get to talk to the Lord! You know what Hes like, personally! And, thats the way that Paul wanted to know Him....the Concentration of Attention!
Then in Continuation for Attaining, verses 12-14, Not as though I had already attained [I havent arrived], either were already perfect: but I follow after... I keep going on; and one of the things in a race, and especially if it is a prolonged race, is to know how to pace yourself so that you can keep going on and on and on and on. Years ago, my father-in-law gave a message, when he was inaugurated as President of Printing Industry of America, entitled Reaching Your Objectives. It had three points: Setting Your Objectives, Selling Your Objectives, and Seeing Your Objectives; and he used his own experience in business here in Lancaster and then the experience of the apostle Paul. He used Paul in each of these; and by the way, Setting Your Objectives, he used Philippians 1:21, For to me to live is Christ... and Selling Your Objectives, he used Philippians 3:14, I press [on] toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus; and then Seeing Your Objectives, ....I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7) When he came to this portion, he used what is called a little poem and Ive used it many times. He entitled it, Go On! Go on and on and on and on. Go on and on and on. Go on and on and on and on. Go on and on and on! Remember the title? What is it? Go On! You know folks, thats the secret of the Christian life! Go on!
Dear Brother Kraybill, one of my teachers used to say, I dont care how high a man jumps, just so he walks straight when he lands! Its Go on! Its one step at a time. Life is hard by the yard; but by the inch, its a cinch! Go on and on and on and on! I follow on. ....I follow after, if that I may apprehend [or lay hold] that for which also I am [laid hold] of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do [I wish that I had time to give you a message on One Thing The Rich Rulers Lack, The Blind Mans Light, Marys Love, Pauls Longing.]...this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind... Dont allow the past to dominate your present! Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth [literally, stretching every muscle] unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
A large part of my life was spent as a student and then a little larger part in education; and I always wanted to attain and always wanted to do well in school. Im an odd fellow. I liked school from the first day that I went there; but it was always to press on...for the prize... Why? Because, commencement was coming! May I say to you folks, commencement is coming! Commencement is coming! And, I agree with Dr. Ryrie. He said, When we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, everyone will have passed the course! But...not everybody is going to get the same grades...and thats true! Not everybody will get the same rewards. It depends on what youve done on this race....this race on the Concentration of Your Attention on the Lord Jesus and then the Continuation for Attaining, going on.
Now Paul makes a passionate plea then in verses 15-19: An Exhortation for Maturation [to become mature]. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect [or mature or aspiring to that], be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
Now in this Exhortation, I want to stress three things. In verses 15 and 16, first, Think Right, Guard Your Mind, Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded... And then, Do Right. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Now, what are we to mind? How have we attained? Colossians 2:6, As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him. How is it? By faith. By faith. And so, Think Right, guard your mind; Do Right, guard your life; Believe Right, guard your faith......and dont let it go.....hang on to the faith, once for all delivered to the saints, and be confident and rest your case in it! You see, here again is the matter of imitation coming up. Be followers, be mimics together with me.
Exhortation for Maturation..... Examples for Motivation, Follow Diligent Disciples! Verse 17, Brethren, be followers [The Greek word there is mimics.], together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. Follow our pattern. I ministered with an outstanding speaker who said that Paul was the only one that could say that you could follow him. Well, here he is using it in the plural....so it is more than Paul; and folks, I believe whether you like it or not, youre going to follow other people. Youre going to follow other people, but keep looking unto Jesus! And when people deviate, you keep looking unto Jesus and keep following Him. Why? Because there are some deviating disciples, verses 18-19, Paul refers to them here, (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.... Oh, I can think of a number of folks that one time stood true to the Lord. I think of one who has been very close to me, who ministered the Word of God faithfully and fervently even in this area, and now no longer walks with the Lord....no longer concerned about spiritual things. Dont follow somebody like that! Thats a wrong example! Follow diligent disciples, not deviating disciples, because they are enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, [Theyre going to be dealt with. Their enabling is their inner desires. They want what they want, when they want it right now].....and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) This is the evidence of what they are.
May I say something very pointed?.... and mark it well! Even outstanding Christians, at times, can be a bad example! Did you get that? I think of the apostle Peter. Remember Peter in Matthew chapter 16 made that grand and glorious statement, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God! but, following that when Jesus began to reveal to them that He was going to have to be crucified, Peter took the Lord Jesus aside and he said, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. And what did the Lord Jesus say to Peter? He said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan....[Satan energized and used Peter. Why? Well, the Lord Jesus laid his finger on here,] ....thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. And, when you become dominated by mans thinking rather than by Gods Truth, even though you are an outstanding spiritual leader, youre wrong! And youre used by the Adversary, even as Peter was. When somebody does that, dont follow them in that!
Now finally the Prospect. Weve seen the Preparation, the Pursuit, and now the Prospect of Precious Provision. Four things. We have an Exalted Citizenship, For our conversation [a better translation there is, citizenship] is in heaven... Thank God, we have a better citizenship than what we have on earth! In fact some of us are almost ready to go to heaven and can hardly afford to stay here anymore and pay taxes. Our [citizenship] is in heaven... Were pilgrims and strangers here. Then, an Expected Coming, ....from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ He is coming folks, and He could come tonight! He could come at any moment! An Expected Coming! What a Precious Provision that will be for us! And then, an Exciting Change, Who shall change our vile body [the body of our humiliation], that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body [Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be (What?) like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.] And it concludes this portion with what I call, an Extraordinary Capability, ....according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself. Sometimes we think thats only possible in the future, but its also possible now in our lives, Now unto Him that is able to do [What?] exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think......unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
FATHER We give You thanks for the blessing received from this study of Your Word. Enable us to act upon its Truth and ignore its errors. We love You and want to serve You better. I pray in Jesus Name which is above every name. Amen.