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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Work in Progress

God isn't finished with us yet, Philippians 3:10-17, sanctification
Artwork: Billy Frank Alexander
Recently, the Lord reminded me of a situation that happened years ago. 

For the first time, I realized I'd handled it with a critical, legalistic spirit. 

This situation happened when we lived in another state, and the man involved was only an acquaintance. But I hunted down his contact info and emailed to ask his forgiveness. 

A few days later I heard back. He admitted he'd been hurt, forgave me and said he appreciated my apology.

I was sad it took me years to get to the place where I understood my sin in this situation. But I was also encouraged that I wasn't the same person I used to be.

As we "work out our salvation with fear and trembling," God "works in us to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose" (Philippians 2:12-13).*

I'm grateful we're works in progress--God isn't finished with us yet! (Philippians 3:10-17)

Last week in Worldly Witness, we studied qualities that damage our witness as Christians. This week we're looking at the positive process of Christian growth--the "making of a good witness."
The situation I described above illustrates four things about Christian growth:

1. It's a process. It's called sanctification, and is the "working out of our salvation."* 

2. It produces results. There will always be outward signs for inward changes.

3. It requires humility and conviction of sin. 1 John 1:8-10;  James 1:22-25

4. It improves our witness, making us salt and light in our world.

Has God convicted you of sin lately? Do you need to ask God's forgiveness or the forgiveness of others? Do you need to be more careful to listen for the conviction, correction and rebuke of the Holy Spirit? Do you need to deal more deliberately with a reoccurring sin in your life?  

Below is the Bible study from last week (Worldly Witness) with my insights in blue.
Bible Study 
1. Reword the phrase "take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me" putting it in words that help you better understand the meaning. List the things Paul mentions to help achieve that goal.

http://biblelovenotes.blogspot.com/2014/03/real-life.html

I might reword this phrase: "living up fully to God's plan for my character growth and my life."
For added insights, read the 1-Minute Bible Love Note Real Life.

Philippians 3:12-17:  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.~17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 

1. Paul realized he hadn't arrived at his goals (v.12,13). Understanding this keeps us from getting proud or lazy about our spiritual growth. 
2. He stayed focused (pressed on) toward God's purposes for his life (v.12,14). 
3. He didn't dwell on past mistakes (v.13). Paul had been an enemy of Christians before his conversion. But he moved forward, aware of his sins but confident in God's forgiveness. 
4. He trusted God to direct him (v.15). When we are out of fellowship with God, we are less likely to hear His guidance. 
5. He made  progress (v.16). 
6. He followed the example of godly men and women (v.17).

http://biblelovenotes.blogspot.com/2012/10/baby-muscles.htmlRead Baby Muscles for more insights

2. Note the specific characteristics of worldly people and compare the other Bible versions (linked below it) to get a fuller understanding of this passage. How does identifying these characteristics help us?

Ephesians 4:17-24: So I tell you and encourage you in the Lord’s name not to live any longer like other people in the world. Their minds are set on worthless things. 18 They can’t understand because they are in the dark. They are excluded from the life that God approves of because of their ignorance and stubbornness. 19 Since they no longer have any sense of shame, they have become promiscuous. They practice every kind of sexual perversion with a constant desire for more.~ 20 But that is not what you learned from Christ’s teachings. 21 You have certainly heard his message and have been taught his ways. The truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught to change the way you were living. The person you used to be will ruin you through desires that deceive you. 23 However, you were taught to have a new attitude. 24 You were also taught to become a new person created to be like God, truly righteous and holy. (God's Word Translation)

New International Version
New Living Translation
Amplified Bible

It always helps me understand a passage when I look at the verses in several translations. This and other passages in the Bible show us that bad behavior starts with bad thinking: 

"They can't understand" (GWT)
"Their moral understanding is darkened and their reasoning is beclouded" (AMP)
"Their minds are full of darkness" (NLT)
"They are darkened in their understanding" (NIV).  

That's why Christ tells us to take every thought captive: 2 Corinthians 10:5.

copyright 2014, Gail Burton Purath, BiteSizeBibleStudy.com
All Scripture NIV unless otherwise noted

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