Archive for the ‘Philippians’ Category

Philippians 4

Philippians 4 has Paul finishing his letter to the church at Philippi.  He exhorts them to “stand firm thus in the Lord” and to continue on their walk with Christ.  He also addresses an issue in the church as he wraps things up – “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord….I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel”.  People were people back in Paul’s time too.  It seems these two women weren’t getting along so Paul calls them out and asks others to help get them on the same page.  The Body of Christ needs to be unified and working together on God’s agenda, not individuals focused on their own motivations and desires.

Paul goes on to challenge us with a simple statement.  “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice”.  His words begin and end with the same exhortation – REJOICE.  Paul’s message to the Philippians is really focused on joy.  It is all over this letter to the church.  It wasn’t based on circumstances or how wonderful life was.  His joy is about attitude and recognizing who we are and what we have through our relationship with Christ and the confidence that God is truly in control of all things.  Spurgeon wrote “What a gracious God we serve, who makes delight to be a duty, and who commands us to rejoice! Should we not at once be obedient to such a command as this? It is intended that we should be happy”.

Then comes a promise that we need to cling tightly to and allow to rule our lives.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.  Let’s be honest – we all worry.  And we worry about things we have absolutely no control over.  God’s plan is that we recognize that He alone is in control, and that He has it for us.  He knows what we need before we pray, but He still wants us to pray and connect with Him.  But we need to let Him drive and do what He does as God.  He is, we are not, and we’ll never experience peace until we let Him be God of all things in our lives.  We don’t live life alone.  He’s there, He’s got it, and we need to trust Him.

How do we do that?  By focusing our mind on the right things.  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you”.  What we think about matters.  We’ll never experience peace if we don’t focus our mind on the things of God.  Paul gives us a great list of things we need to ponder and meditate on daily.  Much of the Christian life comes down to the mind.  Paul set the example and exhorts us to live as he did – filled with God’s peace.  And that means victory in every area.  Paul tells us “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”.  We can too.  We follow the same Jesus with the same power and the same ability to transform our life.  We simply have to follow and obey!

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Philippians 3

Philippians 3 has Paul exhorting the church to “rejoice in the Lord”.  This is a fitting theme for the whole letter. Paul shared with the Philippians the principle of being able to rejoice in the Lord – not in circumstances or in situations, but in the Lord who works all things together for good. And then, in almost the same breath, Paul warns the church to watch out for three groups:

  1. “Look out for the dogs – a harsh reference to the troublemaking legalists who attempted to deceive the Philippians
  2. look out for the evildoers – a word against their emphasis on righteousness with God by works
  3. look out for those who mutilate the flesh”  – a harsh reference to the insistence of the Jewish legalists to require circumcision for Gentiles who wanted to become Christians

Paul sets the record straight.  He gives his pedigree of where he came from.  “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless”.  Paul has every reason in the world to be proud of his heritage and past, but he discounts all that.  “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ”.  He knew Christ was the only thing that really mattered.  All his personal information carries no weight in God’s economy.

Paul gives us a long sentence about how His relationship with Christ is all that matters. “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of  knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and  the power of his resurrection, and  may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may  attain the resurrection from the dead”.  That’s a lot of words, but Paul basically says the only thing that matters is Jesus!

So given Paul’s understanding of his place through Christ, he can sit back and just wait for eternity.  Right?  Nope.  Paul says “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”.  Paul is on mission.  He knows exactly what he is living to do.  “Brothers,  join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us”.  How we live matters.  Paul encourages the Christ Followers of his day to follow him.  We need to live in a way that people can follow us and get to Jesus.  What would happen to someone who imitates you?  Would they get to the Savior?

Philippians 2

Philippians 2 has Paul exhorting us on a number of different areas around how we should live.  He just completed telling them how to address external conflicts in the prior chapter, and now turns his attention to how they should deal with internal conflicts in the Body.  “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind”.  He focuses them on deep, abiding, internal unity, based on the reality of their walk with Christ and the fullness of the Spirit.

The problems we have in the Body are often about power and selfish focus.  Paul addresses it head on.  “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in  humility count others more significant than yourselves”.  Here’s the solution to being self absorbed – we put our focus on placing others first.  It’s how we love each other.  “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others”.  Life is not merely about us.  We need to realize that the world does not resolve around us.

So how should we think?  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”.  Jesus is our example.  He didn’t lay claim to His position, but freely gave up His seat at the right hand of God to take our sin on Himself as He went to the Cross.  That’s the way we need to live with and treat each other – realizing that we need to give up our rights to serve those around us.

So how did it work out for the Son who gave up position to be a servant?  “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.  Jesus didn’t hold on to what He had.  He gave freely to love us.  And God has lifted Him up and He will be the King of Kings and Lord of all.  Everyone will bow to Him someday.

So how does Paul exhort Christ Followers to live given the example Jesus set?  “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain”. We are to live a life that doesn’t just fit in, but to shine brightly as a Christ Follower.  We should stand out.  We should be different.  We should live in the power of Christ.

Philippians 1

Philippians 1 has Paul now writing to the church at Philippi.  He kicks off his admonition with some encouraging words.  “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at  the day of Jesus Christ”.  Paul knew that God would complete His work in these people because He always does.  There are no instances in all of history or mankind where God didn’t finish what He started.  And while our life as Christ Followers will not be absolutely complete until Jesus comes again, it will be perfected on that day.

Paul shares how we should pray for each other.  “It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so 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”. Paul prays that we have more and more love, no matter where we start, but also that there needs to be knowledge and discernment as part of that free flowing love.  He also prayed that we might be pure, blameless and filled with righteousness – not for our own glory – but as glory and praise to God!

When it comes down to priorities, Paul makes it very clear what His are.  “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain….My desire is to depart and  be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account”.  His priority is Jesus, and Him alone.  He knew his death would be a gain in two ways:

  • First, his death for the cause of Christ would glorify Jesus, and that was gain.
  • Second, to be in the immediate presence of the Lord was gain for Paul.

But even though he was ready to die and be with Jesus, he knew there was much more to do with the people in Philippi.  He certainly does not fear death, but knows his ministry is far from complete.  He wants to bear fruit for the kingdom!

So how then should we live?  “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents”.  Paul exhorts the church to live a life that is worthy of Christ.  We are not our own.  We were bought with a price and as such should live that way.  Paul wants them to know they are accountable for how they live, just as we are today.  We will give account for how we live when we stand before God.  We need to stand fast, together facing the enemy, and remain unified in our faith and mission to glorify and make Christ known to all around us!

Philippians 4

 Philippians 4 is Paul’s farewell to the church at Philippi.  But as he goes, he encourages them to “stand firm thus in the Lord….agree in the Lord”.  He challenges them to not be tossed by the waves that will come at them and try to move them from their walk with Christ.  He also challenges them to learn to agree.  The key to both – three simple words – “in the Lord”.  We won’t accomplish either on our own steam.  We can’t withstand the attacks of the enemy nor can we live in agreement with those in our patch.  But with Jesus at work in us – and we know that because Paul reminds them that their “names are in the book of life” – we can do both in the Lord!  Is your name in the book of life?  Don’t wonder – make sure!

Paul then gives us a very practical command to follow – “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice”.  Short verse – begins and ends with the same direction – we are to rejoice in the Lord.  We are to celebrate Jesus.  Do you take time to rejoice?  Or do you let the world weigh you down and keep your joy covered up.  He comes right along and reminds us why we struggle to rejoice: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”.  Ok – admit it – you worry about stuff.  And often it is worry about things you have no control over and can’t possibly change.  So why do we worry when it is out of our control?  Because we lack faith.  We fail to trust God.  Paul gives us the secret here – prayer, supplication, thanksgiving – ask God.  Quit carrying the burden and turn it over to Him.  Cast your burden – He can not only handle it – He is ready and wants it.

What Paul promises next is amazing: “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.  Have you experienced peace, God’s peace?  There is nothing like it.  When we are able to allow God to be God and let Him handle the rocks in our lives – turn over our burdens and concerns to Him – He can give us peace.  He can provide peace for us when we face major life crisis – or when we are dealing with little nagging things.  We don’t have to understand how or why – we just have to trust Him.  Paul tells us a bit later in the chapter that “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus”.  God is able – more than able – to meet whatever need we have and hand over to Him.  It is not a resource problem.  It is a trust and faith issue on our part.  Don’t keep wallowing in your worry – find His peace through trust and faith!

Finally Paul tells us that what we think matters – the things we allow to fill our hearts and minds is really important.  He begins this last guidance this way: “Finally, brothers” – he is giving us the secret to God’s peace.  Listen to what he tells us to “think about these things”:

–       “whatever is true

–       whatever is honorable

–       whatever is just

–       whatever is pure

–       whatever is lovely

–       whatever is commendable

–       if there is any excellence

–       if there is anything worthy of praise

We need to focus on godly thoughts – ponder positive things – be considering what is near to God’s heart.  But it is more than just right thinking: “what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you”.  We need to think right, but more important – we need to live right.  Obedience is part two of the equation.  We get the right mindset and then we walk faithfully in obedience.  That is how we experience peace.  Paul goes on to tell us he has learned to be content in every situation, but most of all he knows for sure “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”.  That same God is our God today.  We too can do all things if we are walking in His power and in His strength.  Too often though we try and do it on our own steam.  We want to do it our way.  We spend our time focusing on negative and earthly thoughts – not God and His ways.  What an encouraging wrap to the folks at Philippi.  It was also addressed to you and me as Christ Followers.  Do you have God’s peace?  Are you walking in His power and rejoicing as you go?  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  It is up to us to walk with him!

Philippians 3

Philippians 3 has Paul’s discussion about the power of Jesus in his life.  But he begins by warning the church to “look out” – three times he uses those words and warns the church to avoid people or things that can cause us to stumble.  Are you looking out and avoiding things that can lead you to sin or away from Jesus?  We certainly need to be alert and aware.  Paul is focused on one thing and one thing alone – Jesus Christ.

Check out how he describes his relationship with Jesus: “whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ….I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  Paul has made Jesus the center of his life – his only focus.  And the goes on to tell us that he wants to “know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”.  Paul understands that the power of Christ came with a price – death on the cross – and that he wants to share in those sufferings with Him.  Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?  But the reality is that becoming like Him means we give us our own rights and become humble and selfless – willing to become nothing.

Paul reminds us to do this “one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead….I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”.  Are you straining forward to get to God’s plan for your life?  Paul tells us to forget the past – and focus on where we are going.  Way too much time is spent wallowing in the past.  That doesn’t mean we ignore it or pretend it didn’t happen.  It doesn’t mean we don’t evaluate and learn from it.  But we can’t get to where we are going by focusing too much on the past.  We need to find people like Paul and do what he instructs “join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us”.  We need to find examples to follow, and we need to be an example to others to lead.  Sometimes we forget this part of our responsibility as a Christ Follower – others are to follow us.  That is what disciplemaking is all about – leading others to maturity in Christ as they follow our example.  Are you doing that – living life as an example that will lead others to the cross?  Do you have an example to follow that gets you closer to Jesus?  That is our call and God’s command for our lives.

Philippians 2

Philippians 2 has Paul starting with focusing the church on unity.  He says “so if there is….”

–       “any encouragement in Christ

–       any comfort from love

–       any participation in the Spirit

–       any affection and sympathy

Pretty broad categories and with the word any it would take a very unique place for there not to be any of these things.  What does Paul want to be the outcome if these things exist?  “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord and of one mind”.  He wants unity in the body of Christ.  Now there is quite a different idea, eh?  He wants us to act as one…..

He goes on to give us a hint as to how that can work.  “…in humility count others more significant than yourselves…..look not only to (your) own interests….but also the interests of others”.  We can work toward unity when we get our mind and focus off of self and on to others.  That is how we gain humility and begin to become like Jesus.  Paul says as we do this our mind will be “yours in Jesus Christ….He humbled Himself…..obedient to the point of death”.  Jesus took humility and obedience to a whole different level.  He was humble and obedient to death.  That is some serious humility and obedience. 

But Jesus’ humility doesn’t mean He gets no respect.  In fact Paul promises this about Jesus: “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow…..and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”.  That is a promise I am excited to see happen.  Jesus recognized for who He is – the Savior and Lord of all.  Jesus will be glorified and praised.  It should flow from us as Christ Followers now, but every person that is alive will honor Him when that day comes.  Until then Paul tells us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” – we are to find out what God intends to do through us and join Him in that pursuit.  As we do we are to “do all things without grumbling or questioning….that you may be blameless and innocent….you shine as lights in the world”.  We are to live as an example of how to get along with God. This gets a little sticky doesn’t it – without grumbling or complaining – that will require a change for many of us.  But the reason we need to get over that and get on to praise – because we are the light of the world.  We have a mission to fulfill.  God expects us to be blameless and innocent and praising and glorifying Him.  That is our assigned responsibility.  Are you living that way?  Humbly serving and sharing and praising Him?  That is our call!

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