Measuring Our Faithfulness
Everyone stops from time to time to take account of where he or she is? How far have I come? Where am I going? Am I making the progress that I would like to be making. There are all kind of criteria for such evaluations: Businessmen want a profit & loss statement. Radio and television stations use the Neilson ratings or others to measure their viewers. Sales managers track gross billing figures. A farmer might look the yield per acre. Poultry people figure feed conversion and mortality rates. You see, we measure everything in this world, from our weight to our savings accounts, But all too often we never measure our progress as God’s people. In this lesson I would like to raise an awareness of our spiritual progress. What are some signs of spiritual maturity or Christian faithfulness?
Sign number one, “Am I personally making any spiritual
progress?” The truth
of the matter is simply that we are growing or dying... There is no middle
ground. I don’t believe there is such a
state as one holding his own. Jesus denounces such an attitude in His
letter to the church at
5And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 10Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Peter is telling us that to secure our salvation, we must continue to: Add to our faith, and increase in these Christian virtues.
In our text, Philippians 2:12, Paul admonishes us to do what?... 12Wherefore, 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. This was never said to a person outside of Christ, who is not a Christian…..Paul is not instructing us to devise our own plan of salvation. Now there many quote this passage in that context. Philippians 2:11 is speaking of works that accompany salvation. Works that God has ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10) work out these things, move toward perfection, toward maturity in these works. Will we ever reach perfection? No!.. But the goal is perfection.
13Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded Philippians 3:13-15
The question then is not so much, “Where I am I right now in my spiritual maturity. But am I making any progress?... Am I moving forward?” Where I am right now is OK... What is NOT OK is our remaining here. I must ADD TO... I must INCREASE. Genuine New Testament conversion is a continual growth process. The Hebrew’s writer says, we must progress from milk to meat, from being unskilled in the Word, to being able to discern right from wrong, and grow into teachers of God’s word. Paul tells us we should study to become approved of God, by rightly applying God’s word to life. 2 Timothy 2:15. Can we fall from grace, YES, but not as long we are practicing progressive Christianity... Not as long as we are working out our salvation. Our Christian life is a journey toward God, and the first sign of faithfulness is “Are We Making Progress”. 2 Peter 1:10-11
10Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The second sign of faithfulness is humility... Note verse twelve. 12Wherefore, 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 (What?) with fear and trembling.
This is not the fear and trembling of a slave cringing before an unjust and harsh master, Or a dog cowing, whimpering at it master's feet. It is humility that comes from the understanding of: Our own unworthiness, Our own sin And inadequacy. And God for Who He is and What He is. You see, only humility will allow us to seek God and His help, His salvation. My pride says, "I can do it by myself I can be morally good enough to get to heaven. I can do enough good works to earn my salvation." Moral goodness in and of itself will save no one, there are many good people who have never obeyed the gospel, therefore they are lost. 2 Corinthians 4:3
In Philippians 2:5-8 we read — 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Are we willing to humble self and submit to Christ? Are we willing to take a servant position in the Kingdom? Are we willing to humble ourselves and give? Are we willing to humble ourselves and serve others?
Solomon gives us the whole of man, Eccl. 12:13 — 13Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this (is) the whole duty of man. 14For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Our whole of this life is to fear God and submit to His authority. If we want to really measure our faithfulness we must check our willingness to humbly ourselves before the authority of Christ. in Romans 12:3
3For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
The third sign of faithfulness is peace and serenity. Have you ever meet an individual that regardless of their circumstances, never questioned or complained? They just accepted the current situation, and actually looked for blessings even in bad situations? From our text — Philippians 2:12-14 12Wherefore, 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. 13For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. 14Do all things without murmurings and disputing:
Paul is saying that maturity, will allow God to work His will without our murmuring or complaining... These words look back to the complaining of the Israelites during their wilderness wondering. They murmured, and complained even though God was: feeding them manna from heaven, providing their water, even their clothing didn’t wear out. Their shoes didn’t rot. neither their feet swell. God was guiding and providing their every need, yet they murmured and complained.
Now contrast the attitude of the Israelites with the attitude of the apostle Paul who was imprisoned., beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, flogged... additionally, had the cares of the churches on his shoulders. • Paul had experienced all kinds of danger, yet in Philippians 4:11 he says. "I have learned to be content in whatsoever state I find myself." This kind of peace puts a Job like characteristic to our Christianity. This kind of maturity helps us cope. allows us to say, "The LORD gives, the LORD taketh away, blessed be the name of the LORD." Regardless of what happens to us, like Job, we can praise God. Show us a person with this kind of peace and serenity and you'll find an individual that is maturing in Christ. All of life takes on a whole new meaning when we are certain where we stand with a holy and gracious God. That’s spiritual maturity.
Then, 4th our text tells us that faithfulness is maintaining moral purity. Philippians 2:14-15
14Do all things without murmurings and disputing: 15That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;.
We have a duel nature, a fleshly nature, and a spiritual nature. Paul tells us the battle is on... It is always ragging inside us... He says, "there are times that I do things that I know I shouldn’t... That I don’t really want to do. There are times that I don’t do the things I should... things I really want to do. " We must know that this battle will continue to rage as long as we are in the body. A sign of spiritual maturity is when we realize this duel nature, and conscientiously choose to be led by the Spirit through the will of God, rather than by the flesh and our passions. Again in Philippians 2:15 15That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
The Greek word used here is used elsewhere to describe milk, wine, or water that is pure. The sign of Christian faithfulness before God is when we are: pure, unspotted and unmixed with, moral impurities of this world.
Then finally, the fifth sign of faithfulness is when we become mission minded. We must personally be evangelistic. Note our text again, Philippians 2:15-16
15That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain
The gospel has been passed to you and I. 2 Corinthians 4:6-7
6For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. I read about a man, when he first met you his first words were: "Are you a Christian? Do you have a church home? Can we interest your children in 4-H? " Powerful stuff, I was impressed with his priorities. He was interested in their spiritual welfare, and the well being of their children. God help us to be more like this.
Let me challenge you by asking you this, where are your priorities? Are they on the spiritual welfare of the lost of this world? Do we care enough to confront them with an invitation to come and hear the gospel preached? Do we care enough about their children to involve ourselves in their lives? Do we care enough, to let them see Jesus in our daily walk? Do we care enough to support the mission fields who can and are willing to go? Sobering Questions,
I believe with all my heart that our faithfulness to God is evidenced by our desire and willingness to be evangelistic... To hold out the word of life. How well do we measure up? How about you? How do you measure up to God's expectation for you? Are you a Christian? Have you obeyed the gospel of Christ, by which every man will be judged 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10?
Ron Cope Minister churches of Christ