Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: James 1:19

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Shine like lights in a dark world

Philippians 2:12 - 18

12 Wherefore, 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. 

"Work out your own salvation" means that the entire church was to work together to rid themselves of divisions and discord.  The Philippian Christians needed to be especially careful to obey Christ, now that Paul wasn't there to continually remind them about what was right.  We too must be careful about how we believe and live, especially when we are on our own.  In the absence of cherished Christian leaders, we must focus our attention and devotion even more on Christ so that we wont' be sidetracked. 

13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

 God has not left us alone in our struggles to do his will.  he wants to come alongside us and within us to help.  He helps us want to obey him and then gives us the power to do it.  The secret to a changed life is to submit to his control and let him work.

To be like Christ, we must condition ourselves to think like Christ.  To change our desires to be more like Christ's, we need the power of the indwelling Spirit (1:19), the influence of faithful Christians, obedience to God's Word (not just exposure to it), and sacrificial service.  Often it is in doing God's will that we gain the desire for it (see 4: 8,9). 

14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
15 That 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;
16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.  

 Why are complaining and arguing so harmful? If all that people know about a church is that its members constantly argue, complain, and gossip, they get a false impression of Christ's Gospel.  Belief in Christ should unite those who trust him.  If our church is always complaining and arguing, it lacks the unifying power of Jesus Christ.  Stop arguing with other Christians or complaining about people and conditions within the church and let the world see Christ.

Our lives should be characterized by moral purity, patience, and peacefulness, so that we will "shine as lights" in a crooked and perverse world.  A transformed life is an effective witness to the power of God's Word.  Is your light shining brightly, or is it clouded by complaints and arguing?  Be a clean, radiant light shining out for God.

17 Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice  and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. 

Even if he had to die, Paul was content, knowing he had helped the Philippians live for Christ.  When you're totally committed to serving Christ, sacrifice for the faith of others is a joyous reward. 

18 For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Be humble like Christ

Philippians 2 -  Joy in serving
vs 1-11

1 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 

"Bowels and mercies" means the tenderness and compassion.  If there is to be unity in the church, Christians must feel and how kindness and affectionate sympathy to fellow believers.

2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 

Selfish ambition ("vainglory") can ruin a church, but true humility can build it.  Being humble ("lowliness of mind") means having a true perspective on ourselves (see Romans 12:3).  It does not mean that we should put ourselves down.  Before God, we are sinners, saved only by God's grace; but we are saved and therefore have great worth in God's Kingdom.  we are to lay aside selfishness, treating others with respect and common courtesy.  Considering others' interest as more important than our own links us with Christ, who was a true example of humility. 

4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Paul encourages us to guard against any selfishness, prejudice, or jealousy that might lead to dissension.  Showing genuine interest in others is a positive step forward in maintaining unity among believers.

5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Many people - even Christians - live only to make a good impression on others or to please themselves.  When people are concerned only for themselves, seeds of discord are sown.  Paul therefore stresses in verses 1-5 spiritual unity, asking the Philippians to love one another and to work together with one heart and purpose ("being of one accord, and of one mind").  When we work together, caring for the problems of others as if they were our own, we demonstrate Christ's example of putting others first, and we create unity.  Don't be so concerned about making a good impression or meeting your own needs that you strain relationships in God's family.

6 Who, being made in the form of God, thought  it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

 The incarnation was the act of the preexistent Son of God voluntarily assuming a human body and human nature.  Without ceasing to be God, he became a human being, the man called Jesus.  He did not give up his deity to become human, but he set aside the right to his glory and power.  In submission to the Father's will, he limited his power and knowledge.  Jesus of Nazareth was subject to place, time, and many other human limitations.  What made his human ity unique was his freedom from sin.  In his full humanity, Jesus showed us everything about God's character that can be conveyed in human terms. 

8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

 Crucifixion was the form of capital punishment Romans used for notorious criminals.  It was excruciatingly painful and humiliating.  Prisoners were nailed or tied to a cross and left to die.  Death might not come for several days, and usually came by suffocation when the weight of the weakened body made breathing more and more difficult.  Jesus died as one who was cursed (Galatians 3:13).  How amazing that the perfect man should die this most shameful death so that we would not have to face eternal punishment!

9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God he Father. 

 At the last judgment, even those who are condemned will recognize Jesus' authority and right to rule.  People can choose to regard him as Lord now as a step of willing and loving commitment, or be forced to acknowledge him as Lord when he returns.  Are you prepared to meet him?

Jesus Christ ...
  1. has always existed with God.
  2. is equal to God because he is God
  3. though he is God, he became a man in order to fulfill God's plan of salvation for all people;
  4. did not just pretend to have a man's body - he actually became a man to identify with man's sins;
  5. voluntarily laid aside his divine rights and privileges out of love for his Father
  6. died on the cross for our sins, so we wouldn't have to face eternal death
  7. God glorified him becasue of is obedience.
  8. God raised him to his original position at the Father's right hand where he will reign forever as our Lord and Judge.
Jesus Christ was humble, willing to give up his rights in order to obey God and serve people.  Like Christ, we must serve out of love for God and for others, not out of guilt or fear. 

Often people excuse selfishness, pride, or evil by claiming their "rights."  They think, "I can cheat on this test; after all, I deserve to pass this class," or "I can spend all this money on myself - I worked for it." But as believers, we should have a different attitude; one that enables us to lay aside our rights in order to serve others.

If we say we follow Christ, we must also say we want to live as he lived.  We should develop his attitude of humility as we serve, even when we are not likely to get recognition for our efforts.  Are you selfishly clinging to your rights, or are you willing to serve? 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Honor Christ by life or death - continued

Philippians 1: 19-30

19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.  
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 

This was not Paul's final imprisonment in Rome.  Awaiting trial, he knew he could either be released or executed,.  However, he trusted Christ to work it out for his good ("shall turn to my salvation").  Whether he lived or whether he died, he wanted to be an honor to Christ.  As it turned out , he was released from this imprisonment but arrested again two or three years later.

To those who don't believe in God, life on earth is all there is,  and so it is natural for them to strive for this world's values - money, popularity, power, and prestige.  For Paul, however, life meant developing eternal values and telling others about Christ, who alone can help us see life from an eternal perspective.  Paul's whole purpose in life was to speak out boldly for Christ and to become more like him.  Thus Paul could confidently say that dying would be even better than living because in death he would be spared from the troubles of the world and see Christ face to face (1 John 3:2,3).  If you're not ready to die, then you're not ready to live.  Once you are certain of your eternal destiny, then you're free to serve - devoting your life to what really counts without fear of dying.

22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I know not.  

Living "in the flesh" refers to living in the body (it does not refer to living according to the evil desires of our human nature as in Romans 8:1).

23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better:
24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
25 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;
26 That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.  
27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

Paul encourages the believers to fight side by side, "striving" or contending for the faith.  How sad that much time and effort is lost by fighting against one another in the church instead of uniting against the real opposition!  It takes a courageous church to resist in-fighting and to maintain a common purpose to serve Christ.  

28 And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.
29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake:

Suffering, in and of itself, is not a privilege.  But when we suffer because we faithfully represent Christ, we know that our message and example are having an effect and that God considers us worthy to represent him (see Ats 5:41).  Suffering has these additional benefits:
  1. It takes our eyes off earthly comforts;
  2. It weeds out superfiial bellievers;
  3. It strengthens the faith of those who endure;
  4. It serves as an example to others who may fallow us. 
Suffering for our faith doesn't mean we have done something wrong.  In fact, the opposite is often true - it verifies that we have been faithful.  

30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me. 

Throughout his life Paul suffered for spreading the Good News.  Like the Philippians, we are in conflict with anyone who would discredit the saving message of Christ.  All true believers are in this fight together, uniting against the same enemy for the same cause. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Honor Christ by life or death

Philippians 1:12-30

12 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;

Being imprisoned would cause many people to become bitter or to give up, but Paul saw it as one more opportunity to spread the Good News of Christ.  Paul realized that his current circumstances weren't as improtant as what he did with them.  Turning a bad situation into a good one, he reached out to the Roman secution.  We may not be in prison, but we still have plenty of opportunities to be discouraged - times of indecision, financial burdens, family conflicts, church conflict, or the loss of our jobs.  How we act in such situations relects what we believe.  Like Paul, look for opportunities to demonstrate your faith even in bad situations.  Whether or not the situation improves, your faith will grow stronger. 

13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; 

How did Paul end up in Roman prison? While he was visiting Jerusalem, some Jews had him arrested for preaching the Gospel, but he appealed to Caesar to hear his case (Acts 21:15-25:12).  he was then escorted by soldiers to Rome, where he was placed under house arrest while awaiting trial - not a trial for breaking a civil law, but for proclaiming the Good News of Christ.  At that time, the Roman authorities did not consider "proclaiming the Good News" to be a serious charge.  A few years later, however,  Rome took a different view of Christianity and made every effort to stamp it out of existence.  Paul's house arrest allowed him some degree of freedom.  He could have visitors, continue to preach, and write letter's such as this one.  A brief record of Paul's time in Rome is found in Acts 28:11-31.

14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 
15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:
16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:
17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.  
18 What then?  notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

Paul had an amazingly selfless attitude.  He knew that some were preaching to build their own reputations, taking advantage of Paul's imprisonment to try to make a name for themselves.  Regardless of the motives of these preachers, Paul rejoiced that the Gospel was being preached.  Many Christians serve for the wrong reasons.  God doesn't excuse their motives, but, we should be glad if God uses their message, regardless of their motives.  

Will continue tomorrow

Monday, February 1, 2010

Paul's prayers for the Philippian believers

Philipians 1:3-11

3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,

This is the first of many times Paul used the word joy in his letter.  The Philippians were a source of joy when he prayed.  By helping Paul, they were helping Christ's cause.  The Philippians were willing to be used by God for whatever task he had in store for them.  When others think about you, are you a source of joy for them?

5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; 

The Philippians first heard the Good News about ten years earlier when Paul and his companions visited Philippi (during Paul's second missionary journey) and founded the church there.

6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

The God who begins his good work in us continues it through our lives and will finish it when we meet him face to face.  God's work for us began when Christ died on the cross to forgive our sins.  His work in us begins when the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts, enabling us to be more like Christ every day.  Paul is describing the process of Christian growth and maturity that begins when we accept Jesus and continues until Christ returns.

Do you sometimes feel as though you'll never make progress in your spiritual life?  When God starts a project, he finishes it!  As with the Philippians, God will help you grow in grace until he has completed his work in your life.  When you are discouraged, remember that God won't give up on you.  He promises to finish the work he has begun.  When you feel incomplete, unfinished, or distressed by your shortcomings, remember God's promise and provision.  Don't let your present condition rob you of the joy of knowing Christ or keep you from growing. 

7 Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye are all partakers of my grace.

When he said "in my bonds," Paul was probably referring to his imprisonment in Philippi, recorded in Acts 16:22-36.  In verses 13 and 14, Paul speaks of his Roman imprisonment.  Wherever Paul was, even in prison, he faithfully preached the Good News.

8 For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. 

Have you ever longed to see a friend whit whom you share fond memories?  Paul had such a longing to see the Christians at Philippi.  His love and affection for them was based not meerely on past experiences, but upon the unity that comes when believers draw upon Christ's love.  All Christians are part of God's family and thus share equally in the transforming power of his love.  Do you feel a deep love for fellow Christians, friends and strangers alike?  Let Christ's love motivate you to love other Christians, and to express that love in the way you treat them. 

9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in the knowledge and in all judgment;

Often the best way to influence someone is to pray for him or her.  Paul prays for the Philippians to prevent any disunity.  Their love was to result in greater knowledge of Christ and greater "judgment" (insight or moral discernment).  As we grow in Christ's love, our hearts and minds must grow together.  Is our love and insight growing? 

10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;

Paul prayed that the Philippian believers would 'approve things that are excellent" - in other words, they would have the ability to differentiate between right and wrong, good and bad, vital and trival.  We ought to pray for discernment so we can avoid the criticism of unbelievers by maintaining our Christian morals and values (Hebrews 5:14)

11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.