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Philippians 1:27-30 Worthy of the Gospel

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel  without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.  For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him,  since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.”

This is a packed paragraph!  Four sentences, but so much content.

First, Paul is encouraging the Philippians to live in such a way that is worthy of the Good News of Jesus.  Live your life in light of this amazing and true story: that your life is more than just the sum total of your days on this planet. You are an alien, an ambassador from the Kingdom of God.  You are in this world, but not of it.  SO live your life in light of this truth.  Your life should be a reflection of your Father!  People should be able to easily see a resemblance.

Second, he reminds the Philippians that they are not in this alone; they are not all little individual units living their individual lives.  They are ONE, standing together as ONE ENTITY, living out together as ONE the faith of the gospel.  Now, the Philippian church saw persecution.  There was strong, life-threatening opposition to the faith they proclaimed.  Paul is encouraging them to remember in the face of this persecution that they are not alone.  They must remind themselves of WHOSE they are and that HE who called them has given them each other.  They have Christ and they have the Body!
“. . . striving together as ONE SOUL for the faith of the gospel . . .”

Third, he encourages them not to be afraid.  There is opposition.  There is a battle.  Paul tells them to not be deterred.  Continue to stand firm in the midst of this battle together as one.

Lastly, Paul tells them that they have been “granted” to believe in Christ AND to suffer for him.

To be honest, none of this seems very attractive.
1)  Live a holy life that reflects God.
2)  Live this life in complete unity with a bunch of other believers.
3)  You’ll face opposition.
4)  You will suffer.

Does that sound like something for which you would voluntarily sign up?

And while we know that was Paul writing to the church in Philippi, how does it apply to us today?

Well, the first two points can easily be applied to us today.  We understand that we are to be holy because our God is holy.  We also know that we are not holy and that the GOOD NEWS (gospel) is that Jesus makes his holiness ours.  So we must, as Paul writes, live lives that are WORTHY of this incredible unconditional love.  AND we know that we are united in the family of God.  BOTH of these points are by the grace and work of God in and through us.  WE cannot attain perfection or holiness.  It is a gift of God that we must embrace each day.  And likewise WE cannot attain unity.  It also is a gift of God that we must embrace each day.  These are things that God works IN and THROUGH us to his glory!

Points three and four are more difficult for us to understand because we are not (most of us) facing any kind of opposition or suffering.  Why not?  Should we?  Well, if we are living our lives in light of the truth of the gospel, if we are walking through this world as Jesus did, our lives WILL cause friction.  His life produced a lot of tension and controversy.  Maybe we do not face opposition because we are a little too comfortable, a little too much “wearing the mask of our neighbours?”

In light of our contemporary world, I feel like we are engaged in major battles.  More and more it seems that there are forces at work that wish to divide, powers which foster fear and hate.  This is our present-day battle as those who are Christ-followers.  Will we be sucked in to the suspicion, fear and hate?  Will we seek to isolate ourselves?  Or will we strive together as ONE for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by the opposition?  This means, I believe, looking to Jesus, following him as ONE into the world.  LOVING those whom we are told to hate.  EMBRACING those we are told to shun.  WELCOMING those we are told to shut out.  TOGETHER with one heartbeat, reaching out to the lonely, the misunderstood, the poor, the orphan, the side-lined.  LISTENING to those who have no voice.  STANDING for those who cannot stand for themselves.
This is our act of worship: to follow our Lord into his world, the messy world which he loves, and to love as he loves.

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Posted by on March 19, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Philippians 1:12-26 Death unto Life

“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.”

sm leaves

Paul led an interesting life.  Never a dull moment.  From 2 Corinthians 11 we read that he was beaten on five separate occasions with thirty-nine lashes of a whip, caned three times, stoned once (and thought by those administering the punishment to be dead), shipwrecked three times, often under threat, weary, hungry and thirsty, cold and naked.  Paul never rested but traveled on and on preaching the Gospel, telling people of the wonder of God’s grace, encouraging the Church to press on in following the Lord.

Here in his letter to the Philippians he writes of the circumstance in which he finds himself.  He is imprisoned.  Scholars argue (since Paul faced detention and arrest many times in his ministry) about where Paul was when he wrote to the church in Philippi.  Some think it was Rome, others say he was in Ephesus and still others believe it was Caesarea.  It doesn’t really matter.  We know he was “in chains” (meaning either that he was literally bound or that he was being prevented from free movement).  Paul’s fervour for the Lord and his passion for Christ lead him, even while in confinement, to proclaim the “Good News” about Jesus.  He states, “it is clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.”  We can, if fact, be grateful for his confinement, as this is probably the one thing that slowed Paul down enough physically to write letters to the Church, which we enjoy reading even to this day (some 1 950 years after he first penned them).

Paul rejoices that Christ is being preached.  The Philippians had probably written to him telling him that there were those who were “evangelising” with impure motives.  They were advocating Christ not from a place of love and compassion, but from selfish ambition.  They saw the status Paul was given, the regard in which he was held in the Church, the attention he received when orating in the marketplace.  They thought, perhaps, to usurp Paul while he was in prison, to garnish the affection he received from the Church.  Paul tells the Philippians that their motives do not matter.  What is important is that the Gospel is being preached.  God can use even impure motives to advance His kingdom.

And Paul finishes this portion of his letter to them in which he talks about himself, by stating that because of who God is and because Paul knows His goodness, he can trust God completely.  He knows he will be delivered.  He goes on to say, he does not know what that deliverance will look like.  He may be released so that he can continue to preach the Gospel and encourage the Church.  He may be put to death and so trust that the Lord will use his death to further the work of God.  He has no fear.  Whether he lives and continues to proclaim Christ or he dies and goes to be with the Lord, he trusts God.  And he records these most precious words:  “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

What a challenge for me!  Can I say this?  Can I proclaim that for me to LIVE is CHRIST and that to DIE is GAIN?  We are told in the Church from a young age that when we die we go to live with the Lord, and that this heavenly life will be filled with joy and peace.  We are comforted when faced with the passing of our dearest that they have entered into eternal rest.  So we assume that to die is to gain, even if we still fear the cessation of our time on Earth.  But Paul is not placating us.  He is saying that to truly live here on this planet we must live in Christ, walking with Him, knowing Him.  That real joy is found in the journey with our Saviour.  And that after this pilgrimage, death will usher us into an even deeper and richer life with Him.

If I haven’t known the richness of life in Christ during my sojourn here, if I haven’t lived in the joy of the Lord, if I haven’t been a channel of His mercy and grace, if I haven’t abandoned myself to His love, how can I see death as a gain?

It is difficult to trust someone we do not know.  And if we know someone is completely trustworthy, we can completely trust them.  Paul knows Jesus.  Paul has unreservedly surrendered himself to God.  He is “all in!”

How about me?  Am I dipping my big toe into the pool, flirting with the idea of going in?  Or am I plunging into this adventure with Christ with everything I’ve got?

For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Death unto Life.

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Philippians 1:7-11 POWERFUL PRAYER

In this passage (Seven Eleven) Paul expresses his love for the Philippians.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

seed hearts

Paul’s “I have you in my heart” line sounds like a modern pop lyric.
He is telling them in this paragraph that even though they are separate, one from another, they share in the same grace.  And he longs from them with the affection of Christ.

He then goes on to pray for them.  He prays the following:

That their LOVE may abound more and more in KNOWLEDGE and DEPTH OF INSIGHT, so that they may be able to DISCERN what is BEST and be PURE and BLAMELESS for the day of Christ, filled with the FRUIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS which comes through JESUS CHRIST — to the GLORY and PRAISE of GOD.

Paul again writes excitedly in long sentences.  Here we find the kernel of Paul’s longing and heart for the Philippians.  He prays that their love may ABOUND more and more.  Abound!  I like that word.  ABOUND:  verb,  to exist in great quantity;  to be rich in supply; to be filled plentifully.  Paul desires for them to have love that is constantly being  poured into them, love that actively lives in them, that is never stagnant nor decreasing, but which continues to swell in volume (think crescendo!).

And this love, he goes on to explain, does not just escalate in space, it grows in KNOWLEDGE and DEPTH OF INSIGHT.  It is a love which is not silly or stupid, sloppy or superficial.  It is a love that has great depth in terms of understanding and wisdom and MATURES.  We often think of our children as they grow from infancy to adulthood as growing not only physically, but developing in their understanding and knowledge, becoming mature and intelligent adults.  Paul is, in a sense, saying this is how he longs to see the Philippians grow in their love, that their love might mature and grow in depth (like a tree putting down a massive taproot).

This kind of love, which grows in knowledge and understanding, is one which is able to better and better discern what is good and right and honourable.  And this love leads us into living a life which is pure and blameless.  This comes to the heart of what Jesus was teaching.  He tried to get the Pharisees to understand that the righteousness which they worked for was useless if it was rooted in ritual rather than love.  Actions which flow from a life centred in love are beautiful, because they are a living tangible expression of that love.  Actions which flow from obligation alone are lifeless; they fall flat.

And Paul prays that they might be filled with the FRUIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS which comes through JESUS CHRIST.  This righteousness (right-ness/purity/holiness) which is born of this living love produces fruit.  This fruit is what Paul wrote of in Galatians (5:22-23) which is LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS and SELF-CONTROL.  Paul prays that as their love grows in knowledge that their lives will reflect the holiness of Christ and that they will be filled with this fruit which comes through Jesus.

And what is it all for?  To the GLORY and PRAISE of GOD!  Not for our glory and praise, for the honour and worship of God, to bring him praise.  Here is a real test of love:  pure love which is from above grows in us a righteousness and bears in us the qualities listed above and ultimately brings God glory and praise.  There is no “me.”  There is only God.  All done for him, in him and through him.  And in this is true love, that I sacrifice “me” (which brings no life) and exchange “me” for Christ (who brings life).

The catch:  when I try to do this myself, I fall down.  When I let go and let Christ do this in me, fruit grows, holiness abounds and God is glorified.

Come, Lord Jesus.  Let this prayer be for us, the Church, especially for this generation.
Do your work, Lord, in us together.
Amen.

Powerful prayer!

Mighty God!

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Philippians 1:3-6 FELLOWSHIP OF MESSENGERS

Paul really loves these guys! 
He thanks God for them every time they come to mind.
And when he prays for them he says he prays with joy. Always.
And the reason he prays with joy is because of their partnership in the Gospel.
Their κοινωνία (koinónia) in the εὐαγγέλιον (euaggelion).
Their fellowship in the GOOD NEWS.

I am a keen reader of The Lord of the RIngs. In the Fellowship an unlikely group of travelers come together with a single purpose.  Although they don’t stay in a single band for the entire adventure, their common objective binds their hearts.
This is what Paul is saying to his beloved Philippians.  Although they are separated from each other, they are united in heart and mind in the work of the gospel, the good news.  And THE good news is this:   God loved the world SO very much, that he gave his one-and-only Son, Jesus Christ, to bridge the gap between HOLY GOD and self-centred HUMAN.  And in Jesus Christ’s victory over death, we can now know our HOLY GOD in an intimate way through his Holy Spirit.  And His Spirit binds our hearts and minds in Christ! A fellowship of followers.

The Greek word  εὐαγγέλιον  (which is translated here as Gospel or Good News) originally meant a reward given to the messenger for good news (εὔ = “good”, ἀγγέλλω = “I bring a message”; the word “angel” comes from the same root) and later “good news” itself.  inherent in the GOSPEL is the idea that this GOOD NEWS is proclaimed, that the fellowship is one of proclamation. 

Paul is saying:  “I pray for you with great joy because we are united in the FELLOWSHIP of BEING MESSENGERS of the GOOD NEWS from the first day of this adventure until now, and I am certain beyond any doubt of this, that Christ, who began this GOOD WORK in you will continue working until the work is complete on the day of Christ Jesus.”

The koinonia of euaggelion —

the Fellowship of the Messengers of Good News

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Posted by on January 25, 2013 in philippians

 

Philippians 1:1-2 — GRACE & PEACE

 grace&peace

Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons

After identifying Timothy and himself as bondservants of Christ,
Paul greets the Philippians as “saints.”  This is translated from the Greek “ἁγίοις” (or  “hagiois”) which when translated into English means  saints / holy ones / those who are set apart by God / pure and blameless ones.
He continues and says “together with the elders and deacons.”
Isn’t it interesting that Paul addresses his letter to ALL the saints in Christ Jesus, and tags the elders and deacons on at the end.  He wants to be inclusive.  And he doesn’t want the “hagiois” to sit back on their hands and leave the elders and deacons to do all the work.  Neither does he want the elders and deacons sitting back directing the work.  He is addressing them all in this letter as equal Kingdom citizens.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

We often end our letters with this kind of “wish” or “blessing.”  It is so vitally important to our life in Christ that Paul puts it in the second line of his letter.  “‘GRACE’ (undeserved favour of God) and ‘PEACE’ (wholeness and health) to you,” he writes.

The good news of the Good News of the Gospel is GRACE! χάρις!  Charis!  Grace is undeserved favour.  We deserve death.  And God comes down and makes him who knew no sin, become sin on our behalf.  Undeserved.  Amazing, unfathomable grace!

And the result of this grace in our lives is PEACE!  εἰρήνη!  Eiene! Health and wholeness!  God’s grace breaks the curse of self-centredness in our lives and allows us to fix ourselves to Christ as his bondservants.  Only by receiving his GRACE, and responding to his grace by humbling ourselves into a position of servanthood, can we know PEACE.

Paul’s blessing is also his prayer for them.

Grace and peace to YOU!

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2013 in philippians

 

Philippians 1:1 — SERVANTS

bondservant

Paul starts the way any good letter writer should — identify the author(s) and greet the recipient(s).
The text begins with: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus.”

This would be so easy to skip over.  Paul and Timothy.  Okay.  Timothy was with Paul, who is writing this letter from Rome while he was under house-arrest, awaiting trial.  Paul never married, but devoted his life to Christ and the establishment of Christ’s Church.  Both in his letter to the Philippians and in a letter to the Corinthians, Paul claims Timothy as his “beloved and faithful son in the Lord.” In a letter to Timothy, Paul addresses him as “my beloved son.”  Timothy (whose grandmother Lois and mother Eunice were believers) was with Paul when he first traveled to Philippi. Timothy was a devoted companion to Paul and a faithful courier for Paul.

Paul identifies Timothy and himself as SERVANTS of Christ Jesus.  This Greek word δοῦλοι is translated as “servants,” “slaves” or “bondservants” in various translations.  Today when we read the word servants many of us think of “those who serve.”  Domestic workers are “servants.”  Waitrons are “servants.”  But the word Paul uses, δοῦλοι,  denotes people who are bound in service to another without any compensation.  δοῦλοι were servants who liked their masters enough to choose a lifetime of serving them. The root word of doulos is the word meaning “bond” or “fasten,” frequently with chains in the biblical contexts. Doulos is a permanent, willing humility to a designated other.

Paul is eager to use this word to describe himself. By using this one word he is saying that he is irrevocably bound to Jesus as a slave.  It is his one and only directive — with each breath he draws — to serve Christ, and Christ alone.

We have so many agendas.  If we are completely honest with ourselves, most of us spend each and every day serving ourselves.  Oh, sure, we go to work and serve others — but we do the job for compensation.  How many of us would get up each day and go to our place of work if we were not getting paid?  I am not suggesting we should work for nothing, but can we call ourselves bondservants of Christ?  Is he the one for whom we do everything we do?  Can we call ourselves bondservants of Christ Jesus?  And if we do take this identity seriously, what do our lives look like?

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in philippians

 

Philippians

philippians

Philippians is the eleventh book in the New Testament. The Church in Philippi was the first congregation in Europe. Paul visited Philippi for the first time on his second missionary journey (49-51 A.D.).
The record of Paul’s stay in Philippi can be found in Acts 16. While traveling through Galatia, Paul had a vision of a man begging him to come to Macedonia to help them. Paul and his companions (including Silas and Timothy) immediately set sail for Samothrace and then travelled on to Philippi. Philippi was a Roman colony and a leading city in the district of Macedonia. On the Sabbath they went outside the gates of Philippi to the river, expecting to find a place to pray. There were some women there, one of whom was Lydia, and the men sat down and started speaking to them. Lydia responded to Paul’s message and she and every member of her household were baptised. She persuaded the travellers to stay at her home.
Amazing things happened in Philippi. Read the story in Philippians 16:11-40. (http://niv.scripturetext.com/acts/16-16.htm )
Paul wrote the letter to the church at Philippi during his imprisonment in Rome (probably about 61 or 62 A.D.). It is a letter filled with his expression of joy for the Philippians and thanksgiving for their material support.

On a personal note, I can remember studying the book of Philippians five times in my life. Rather than becoming mundane, the repeated studies have endeared the text to me. Some of my favourite pieces of scripture are found in Philippians. I am thinking that 2013 will be the year of servanthood, and what better place to start than in Philippians.

Take it away, Brother Paul.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2013 in philippians