Philip is included in the list of disciples in Matthew, Mark and Luke but other than that, they tell us nothing about him. It is in the Gospel of John that we are given the few scant details that we know about this obscure apostle. We first meet Philip in John 1:43-44: “The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, ‘Follow me.’ Philip findeth Nathanel, and saith unto him, ‘We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ And Nathanel said unto him, ‘Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?’ Philip saith unto him, ‘Come and see’ “ (John 1:43-46)
“Come and see.” A simple invitation but it turned Nathanael’s life around. After meeting Jesus and seeing for himself, he confessed Jesus in these words: “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” (John 1:49) It all started with a simple invitation, “Come and see.”
You never know what an invitation can do. Invite a friend or a stranger to church. In so doing you may turn someone’s life around.
“For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: but even after we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.” (1 Thessalonians 2:1-2) These are the words of Paul in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica. They tell of his courage and determination in preaching in Thessalonica even after a bad experience at Philippi.
In Philippi Paul and his co-worker, Silas, were put in prison, not because they had done anything evil, but because Paul had healed a girl who was possessed with a spirit of divination. They were whipped, and that illegally and finally asked to leave the city. They were, so to speak, “run out of town.” A lesser man than Paul might have “called it quits”—at least for the time being. But not Paul—he came to Thessalonica and boldly preached the same gospel he had preached at Philippi.
God’s people have always had some trouble to come into their lives. Joseph was sold into slavery. Job lost his wealth, his children, his health and the respect of his friends. Jeremiah watched his people turn away from God and go into captivity. John was exiled on the isle of Patmos. We, too, can expect some rain to come into our lives. In the midst of trouble let’s have Paul’s attitude: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed, we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
At times serving God can be discouraging. Sometimes everything may seem to go wrong. At such times let’s follow Paul’s example. Let’s learn to “get up and try again.”
In the Winston-Salem Journal dated Tuesday, April 24, 2012 there appeared this news item: “A priest with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia…is trying to bring one of the oldest forms of Christiantiy—the Western Rite Orthodox Christian Church—to the Triad.”
The priest is correct in saying that the particular form of Christianity which he is trying to bring to the Triad is one of its oldest forms. However, it is not the original. The original form of Christianity is that which is found in the pages of the New Testament. Furthermore, this original form is the only one that has God’s approval. All other forms whether old or new are the inventions of men and are not acceptable.
Jesus made it clear that all who profess to worship Him but do so “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” are only offering lip service. (Matthew 15:8-9) The North Main Street Church of Christ does not follow any of the many different forms of Christianity based on the doctrines and commandments of men whether old or new. Rather we go all the way back to the original as found in the Bible itself.
The apostle Peter wrote: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” (1 Peter 2:2) We might make several observations about this passage.
First, just as a newborn baby needs milk in order to grow physically, so Christians need the word of God in order to grow spiritually. This is why we need to attend church regularly and why we need to privately read God’s word. Forming these two habits ensures that we will have a regular diet of God’s word.
Second, note the word “sincere” –“the sincere milk of the word.” The New King James Version translates it better like this: “the pure milk of the word.” We certainly would not want to give contaminated milk to a baby. The same is true in spiritual matters. We need the pure, unadulterated, uncontaminated milk of God’s word. Everything else you read may be contaminated: books, articles, newspapers, etc. Only when we read our Bibles can we be sure that what we read is totally pure truth.
Third, note that Peter says “desire”. We really need a strong desire to know what God has to say in His word.
The Book of Proverbs is a book of wisdom—wisdom on how to live one’s life. One of its early pieces of advice is this: “My son, if sinners entice thee consent thou not.” The passage then continues to warn against joining with thieves and murderers. But the principle applies more broadly. We must not let a sinful world seduce us to do any kind of evil. Exodus 23:2 says, “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.” In Psalm 1:1 there is a blessing pronounced upon the man that “walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”
What we see and hear can have a tremendous influence on our lives. We must, therefore, always be on guard that the world does not draw us away from God’s standard. In speech we must not imitate the world’s profanity, in dress we must not follow society in immodest apparel. We must beware that we are not caught up in the world’s emphasis on material success. We must not let our secular society steer our eye away from heaven and things eternal.
In Ephesians 4:31-32 Paul writes: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” This passage gives some vital instruction on how Christians are to get along with each other.
The apostle presents the negative side first. There are certain things which are out: 1- Bitterness (long-standing resentment), 2- Wrath (outbreaks of passion), 3- Anger (long-lived anger), 4- Clamour (loud talking and insulting language), 5- Malice. As Christians we should work to remove all these from our lives.
Next the apostle presents the positive side. He says, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.” We are all imperfect human beings. We will not be able to live at peace with our brother if we demand perfection from him while we ourselves are yet imperfect. The Christian attitude toward an imperfect brother should be one of kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness. When Christians manifest this attitude toward one another, Satan is hard pressed to disrupt the harmony of God’s people.
A few years ago the Winston-Salem Journal carried a news story on the Druids. The lead paragraph begins, “Druids have been worshipping the sun and earth for thousands of years in Europe.” The article further elaborates on this ancient religion saying, “They worship natural forces such as thunder and the sun and spirits that they believe arise from places such as mountains and rivers. They do not worship a single god or creator, but try to cultivate a sacred relationship with the natural world.”
How is it that ancient people such as the Druids came to worship the sun and earth and other natural forces? We might enlarge the question to include not only the Druids’ worship of nature but other ancient practices such as idolatry, witchcraft, astrology, divination, etc. For that matter we might ask how is it that so many people in modern society are turning to these same pagan practices.
The Bible gives a very clear straight forward answer –when a people reject the one true God, the Creator, they just naturally turn to one foolish thing or another. The apostle Paul states the governing principle in his letter to the Romans: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things…Who change the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:21-23, 25)
Now take a look at the modern world and you can see the same thing happening all over again. As people today reject the one true God, they turn to the same foolish practices so prevalent in the ancient world. Some like the Druids worship the forces of nature. Others turn to such superstitions as astrology or divination or witchcraft or necromancy. This is all the natural out- growth of forgetting the one true God.
A few years ago this headline appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal: “Weddings drop to lowest level for over 100 years.” Much of the article had to do with present economic conditions and the effect it has had on marriage. But it also contained this statement: “Marriage rates have been declining for years because of rising divorce and an increase in unmarried couples living together.” We now live in a society in which cohabitation without the blessing of marriage is generally accepted.
The Bible, however, is very clear: God expects all sexual activity to be confined to marriage. “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4) “This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that everyone of you know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)
As we stand for Christian morality we find ourselves out of step with society. But we should not be surprised—Christianity has always been a counter-culture and it is no different today.
The apostle Paul wrote: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)
There are numerous good works in which Christians can participate—feed the hungry, cloth the naked, shelter the homeless, etc. I would like to remind all of us of one standing opportunity that is always there—our shut-ins. We have members of this congregation who for years were faithful worshipers of the Lord but who now are confined to their homes. These all appreciate a visit from their Christian friends.
I guess it would be fair to say that none of us visit enough. So this is a reminder to us all. Why not make out a list of those whom you feel you should visit and resolve to do so. Maybe determine to make at the very least one visit per month. Then when you have finished, start over. This is a good work in which every able-bodied person can participate.
The apostle John in a message to his fellow Christians wrote: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)
First, it is to be the goal of every Christian to rise above sin—to make every effort to purge it from our lives.
Second, when we fail and do sin, all hope is not gone. We have Jesus who is totally sinless as our advocate. He will speak to God for us. Also, He is the propitiation for our sin. That is, He is Himself the offering for our sin.
Third, not only is Jesus the propitiation for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world. That is, everyone in the whole world has the opportunity to become a Christian and have the forgiveness of sins. But how are they to know? That’s where we come in. It is our responsibility to tell the story.