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Trophies of Grace

"7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and establishment of the gospel. For God is my witness, how deeply I miss all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, 10 so that you can approve the things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God."
Good Morning Beloved,
Welcome to worship this Lord's Day 
We're happy to welcome our brothers and sisters in Israel, Brazil, Hong Kong, Japan Russia, India, Cameroon and Canada.
We want you to know that we are covering you in prayer. 

As followers of Jesus Christ, our calling does not end at the cross, it begins at the cross. It should inspire us that God takes care to develop us and shape our character into His image. Our salvation is not the completed work of God but the beginning of what God seeks to do in our lives. The word ‘work’ taken from verse 6 comes from the Greek word ergon, which literally means ‘to produce an accomplished product by hand’ and ‘complete’ or ‘epiteleo’ means to complete to perfection. 
Paul is telling us to be confident in our fellowship in the gospel knowing that your relationship with God means that God works in you with individual, careful attention so that He can bring you into heaven as an accomplished treasure fashioned by His own hand. You are an individual treasure with such immense value that the Bible says that the entire world does not compare to the value of your soul. The shaping of your salvation is compared to the refining of precious metals such as gold and silver. With impurities in the metal, the value is stripped. Each refining only increases the value. The only way you can be incomplete when you stand before God on the ‘Day of the Lord’ is by ignoring His call for you to follow Christ.

So what is our role in the process? Do we just sit back and relax, allow Him give us a makeover?

Of course not, we must actively submit to God. When we resist and go our own ways, God does not shape us. God has given us a free will so that we must choose to love Him and choose to love the things of Him or choose our own ways. He could force us into a mold, but then we would be no different than the rest of creation. God has clearly demonstrated His love toward us by paying the debt of our sins by His blood on the cross. If we have truly trusted Him with our sins, we shouldn’t have trouble trusting Him with our lives. 
Let's bow our heads in prayer.
Heavenly Father,
Father, we are again so thankful for Your Word for us today, for the clear instruction of these great truths, may we hear the injunction. Help us to know the gentleness, goodness, love, peace, joy and delight Your Spirit produces in us, help us to walk by faith, in meekness and humility.
Lord, we are weary from the iniquity of the world around us, burdened with our sin, help us to find rest in You, refresh our spirits, renew our hearts and our minds. Make us joyful O' Lord, make us joyful.
In Christ's name we pray

Today's Message: Trophies of Grace
There are three areas we must act upon as revealed in this passage; love His truth, approve what is excellent, and judge sincerely so we may be without offense. If you do these things, you have the promise that Jesus will fill you with the fruits of His righteousness.
We must actively submit to God. When we resist and go our own ways, God does not shape us. God has given us a free will so that we must choose to love God and choose to love the things of God or choose our own ways. He could force us into a mold, but then we would be no different than the rest of creation. God has clearly shown His love toward us by paying the debt of our sins by His blood on the cross. If we have truly trusted Him with our sins, we shouldn’t have trouble trusting Him with our lives. There are 3 areas we must act upon as revealed in this passage; love His truth, approve what is excellent, and judge sincerely so we may be without offense. If you do these things, you have the promise that Jesus will fill you with the fruits of His righteousness.
We must love His truth. Love comes from the word agape, which can be translated as unconditional love. There are two other Greek words that we translate into the word love. There is eros, which refers to passion and philia, which means warm affection or friendship. It is easy for us to understand how to love based on passion or warm friendship, but because emotions are not the trigger, agape must be a part of our willful choice. Only man, created in God’s image has the ability to exercise agape love. The rest of creation loves as a response to receiving and cannot love without conditions. Agape is a love based on choice, not feelings. We are instructed to love/agape knowledge and all discernment. We are to love knowledge based upon truth, not based upon feelings.
We are instructed to base discernment on truth, not on what makes me feel good or on what stirs my emotions. I am to love the things of God by understanding with or without the benefit of feelings. Feelings are unstable. Anything in life that is rooted in feelings is on unstable ground. Temptation to sin arises from feelings. If it didn’t feel good, I would not be tempted to do it. Agape is choosing to love God and love His commandments not based on feelings but based on truth as revealed by His word. All other forms of love are based on emotions but only agape stands like a rock – refusing to change with the climate around it. Agape can stir up our emotions and does not depend on emotions. Eros and philia are based on what we can get. Agape does not seek its own, but seeks to be self-giving.
Our agape is to abound more and more in knowledge and discernment. Knowledge, or epignosis in the Greek, means precise and correct knowledge. Our knowledge is to exceed to the point of overflowing and must be founded on precise truth. It is discernment that sharpens our knowledge. Discernment, or 'aisth─ôsis' means to have perception with the senses and the intellect and to have moral discernment in ethical matters. It is discernment that directs us to knowledge and truth. 
My judgment of the validity of truth is not based on what I feel but based on my love for God and His Word. When I base my faith on feelings, precise knowledge is in jeopardy. Because if truth conflicts to what I feel, it can't be trusted, as my feelings change. I'm sure we have all heard truth rebuked because it does not make us "feel good." We will be led astray, and sorely deceived. The reality is that it isn’t truth that hurts our feelings, but the unwillingness to let go of a lifestyle that contradicts the truth.
Let me say that again, the reality is that it isn’t truth that hurts our feelings, but the unwillingness to let go of a lifestyle that contradicts the truth. 
If we base our relationship with God on feelings instead of knowledge of the Word, we will doubt when we don’t feel. A life that is founded upon agape love for the truth will be stable, even when our feelings aren't. A life founded upon feelings will not have a solid foundation, because feelings are driven by circumstances and every wind that happens to blow by, so the life based on feelings will be tossed by every wind as well. When feelings take a dive, a feeling driven life will dive with it or frantically seek an emotional fix in anything that offers temporary gratification. 
Our relationship with Christ is to be based on a precisely accurate knowledge of the word of truth. That knowledge must abound and our lifestyle should continue producing an abundance of knowledge that overflows. That means a lifestyle actively seeking God daily.
We are also approve what is excellent. To approve is to put everything to the test of scripture. Examine everything and scrutinize it to see if it is genuine and worthy of acceptance. The determination of excellence means to judge between good and evil and judge what is of the most value. We first must have precise knowledge and the ability to discern, then based on that understanding we scrutinize everything that comes into our life to determine if it is valuable and worthy enough to enter into our lifestyle that is founded upon Jesus Christ. 
This is where temptation passes or fails. If I don’t have enough knowledge to pick out the good from the bad, I will accept anything that gives a good sales pitch. Some evil is very subtle as it is masked as good. There are two ways we are deceived – by out of control emotions or deception by a counterfeit. Satan will disguise sin in godly packaging, if it will lower your guard. How many husbands or wives leave their mates behind because another relationship makes them feel good? I have heard many men and women alike justify their sinful choices by saying it is God’s will. People will justify adultery by convincing themselves that they can serve God better with someone who might have similar ideas. 
People say things like, "It can't be wrong, because it feels right. If it were wrong, I'd "feel" it. God would let me know!" If they had precise knowledge of God’s stated will in His word, they would have clearly seen the moral violation of Scripture. If they had loved the truth with agape love, they would have based their decision on His truth and not on their feelings. 
Beloved, let me be clear, God will not bless a relationship that violates His stated Word. God will not bless a ministry that is founded on sin. For the Christian, sin is almost always presented with enough truth to lower our defenses and draw our attention. We must measure each decision based on truth. Good or bad, every decision we make is measured and approved by our will. If our judgment is off, which it usually is, our decisions will be wrong. We must be sure that our decisions are based on God's Word. 
We must be careful not to choose what is shallow over what is excellent. God has instructed us to discern what is excellent so that we are not swept away with emotions or a pleasant feeling with no value behind it once those feelings fade.
We cannot base our choices on what's popular, the current trend, or upon what others are doing, we will almost always make the wrong choice. We can't allow what everyone else is doing to effect our lives and relationship with God. We must compare our decisions to the truth in God's Word. The majority of believers sacrifice what is excellent and choose what is polluted because they were not able to identify false doctrines, false emotions or false values. We must choose one or the other. You can’t have a polluted life and the promises of God. 
People choose what is corrupt because they either measure it against their unstable emotions or they could not discern the error because of a lack of precise knowledge based on truth. The majority of our problems are often the symptoms of wrong choices. 
The Bible clearly warns that we will reap what we sow. If we sow righteousness, we will reap the blessings of God, the benefits of godliness and the rewards in heaven. If we sow sin, we will reap the consequences in this life and will give an account in heaven. We have to approve what is excellent. We are the ones who examine what comes into our life and determine whether it is good or evil and whether it is of great value based on scripture. Our actions are always a willful choice. 

We must also be sincere. To be sincere, or the original Greek word heilikrines, means to be found pure when unfolded and examined by the sun’s light. When God examines your life, His light will reveal all that is hidden and God judges righteously without watering down the truth. 
Hebrews 4:12 teaches us that "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."
God's Word can separate the thought from the intent of our heart. Nothing is hidden from Him and God will examine our sincerity. I can fool myself and I can even fool others, but I can not fool God. We can justify our actions, but God examines our heart, He knows our intentions, waging them against our actions.
II Chronicles 16:9 says "For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars."
A sincere heart is a heart that seeks God’s will and not its own. If we seek to usurp God's role, we will surely corrupt the task. Just look at the world around around us...
Isaiah 26:3 says this "The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace,
Because he trusts in You."
In other words, God will guard with peace those whose minds lean on Him because he remains confident in You. When I lean upon God for my choices and draw my direction from Him, then I will have that peace that surpasses our understanding.
And I can be confident in His will knowing that He will be my guard and looks out for what is my greatest benefit so I no longer have to concern myself with what's best. Also, I can rest securely in His unchanging word. To be sincere, I must abound in the love of the knowledge of His word, approve what comes into my life according to that knowledge and if I do these things, I will be found sincere in the light of His word.
If we love God's Word, and do these things, we have God's promise, we will succeed.

May it be so...
And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

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