Category Archives: Philippians

What Christ Has Done

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I was raised to be good and right.
I followed the rules.
I was sure Jesus saved me, but also believed my works kept me saved.

“We come from good stock.”
(No one is good but God.)
“But, we go to the right church.  Those other churches don’t understand what it takes to truly be a Christian.”
(God saved you by His special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.)
“I can’t dance.  It’s against my religion.”
(Christ has really set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.)

I once thought all these things were so very important,
but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.

Yes, everything else is worthless
when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

I have discarded everything else,
counting it all as garbage,
so that I may have Christ and become one with Him.

I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God’s law,
but I trust Christ to save me.

For God’s way of making us right with Himself depends on faith.

As a result, I can really know Christ
and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead.
I can learn what it means to suffer with Him, sharing in His death,
so that, somehow, I can experience the resurrection from the dead!

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things
or that I have already reached perfection!
But I keep working toward that day when…

I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be.

No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be,
but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing:

Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,
I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize
for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.

~from Philippians 3

The Vine Life

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We moved into our house ten years ago. (Wow, time flies!)

I remember the first night lying in bed talking with Phat, “Can you believe we live here!?!” It was nothing fancy, but very well maintained. The owner didn’t have an eye for decorating or landscaping, but she did believe in having the best quality. So, although I had mega-plans to fix up the place, the bones were already there.

After stripping the kitchen of the old wallpaper (HUGE job!), I decided to paint and stencil. Ten years later I still love the color and design. I won’t be changing it anytime soon. Green on green with flowing vines and the scripture, “I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, shall bear much fruit.”

It’s a life-changing verse.
It’s the main point of life with Christ. 
Abiding…in The Vine.

“All of nature depends on hidden resources. The great trees send their roots down into the earth to draw up water and minerals. Rivers have their sources in the snow-capped mountains. The most important part of a tree is the part you cannot see, the root system, and the most important part of the Christian’s life is the part that only God sees. Unless we draw upon the deep resources of God by faith, we fail against the pressures of life…’I can–through Christ!’ was Paul’s motto.”

Philippians 4:13:
“I am ready for anything through the strength of the One who lives in me.” (JBP)
“I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.” (The Living Bible)
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (NASB)

“No matter which translation you prefer, they all say the same thing: the Christian has all the power within that he needs to be adequate for the demands of life. We need only release this power by faith….

For many years, Hudson Taylor worked hard and felt that he was trusting Christ to meet his needs, but somehow he had no joy or liberty in his ministry. Then a letter from a friend opened his eyes to the adequacy of Christ. ‘It is not by trusting my own faithfulness, but by looking away to the Faithful One!’ he said. This was a turning point in his life. Moment by moment, he drew upon the power of Christ for every responsibility of the day, and Christ’s power carried him through.

Jesus teaches this same lesson in the sermon on the vine and branches in John 15. He is the Vine; we are the branches. A branch is good only for bearing fruit; otherwise you may as well burn it. The branch does not bear fruit through its own self-effort, but by drawing upon the life of the Vine. ‘Without Me, you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). As the believer maintains his communion with Christ, the power of God is there to see him through. ‘I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency’ (Phil. 4:13, AMP).”   ~Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Joyful.

Abiding.
It’s the secret of the abundant life.  I placed it on the wall so I would be ever mindful…only in Him who gives me strength.
The Vine Life.

He Is At Work

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So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. ~Philippians 2:12-13

Paul exhorts the church in Philippi to continue in obedience, even when he’s not there to “watch out” for them. As their spiritual father he feels the need to be ever watchful of their conduct. But also, knowing he must allow them to walk the path set before them, with the Spirit being their guide, he exhorts them to work out their salvation.  How? With fear and trembling.

What?? Fear? And trembling?

Yes.  Fear.  The word for phobias…phobos. It literally means with dread and terror. So much of the time we like to put the word “reverence” in place of the word fear, hoping, I believe, not to sound so “fire and brimstone.” However, in this case we must keep the word as it is meant to be.  Fear of our God…”the consuming fire”…the Lion of Judah who is able to crush our bones…the LORD whose longsuffering can be spent…the Rock who will crush civilization at the end of days.  Yes…we need to fully understand His character.

And trembling.   In case you didn’t catch the word fear, Paul adds another word to make his point…trembling:

1) a trembling or quaking with fear
2) with fear and trembling, used to describe the anxiety of one who
distrusts his ability completely to meet all requirements, but
religiously does his utmost to fulfil his duty

It’s the second meaning which is used in this passage. 

One who distrusts his ability completely to meet all requirements, but religiously does his utmost to fulfill his duty.

Not trusting in my own ability, yet, working to fulfill my duty. 

My duty to whom? 

To Him who is able to make my paths straight. 
To Him who keeps diligent watch over my soul. 
To Him who desires my best good for His glory. 
To Him who set me apart as His own possession. 

I am not my own.  I’ve been bought with a price.  The price?  His shed blood on the cross to cover my sins.

And yet, the good news…not that I am to strive to make it to heaven…not that I work for my salvation.  Salvation is a gift given to me through faith in Him.

Do you see the next part of the verse?  He is the one doing the work.

For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

He doesn’t leave us to strive on our own, hoping to accomplish all He’s asked of us. No. He is the one who will do the work in us, to bring us to a complete end. He will do all He has set forth to accomplish…why? Because it brings Him pleasure to do this work in us.

It brings Him delight to see His bride dressed in glory.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 1:6

Yes, I have a work to do, but I do not need to be concerned of the outcome. Why? Because He is faithful and will make me to stand in His presence, blameless and with great joy!

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to make you stand in the presence of His glory
Blameless with great joy,
To the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Be glory, majesty, dominion and authority,
Before all time and now and forever.
Amen.

~Jude 1:25

The Gift of Suffering

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But whatever happens to me, you must live in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ, as citizens of heaven. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing side by side, fighting together for the Good News.  Don’t be intimidated by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself.

For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.  We are in this fight together. You have seen me suffer for Him in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of this great struggle. ~Philippians 1:27-30

I began studying the scripture in-depth in my twenties. I had just taken a leave of absence from teaching due to illness, and was frustrated with my new job as a secretary. My pastor asked how he could be a blessing to me (great question from a servant-leader) and I let him know I wanted to find a Precept class. Did he know of any in the area? We were recent transplants.

He said he didn’t but would love for our church to start one.  Would I be willing to lead? You must know, at that point in time, I had only spoken a couple of times in front of a group of peers.  My target audience was always under the age of twelve.  But…with the offer to pay for leadership training, and the encouragement from a caring pastor, I said I’d give it a shot.

His spurring me toward “good works” and study of the Word, led to ten years of Precept Bible Studies.  I count it a huge privilege that God allowed me to enjoy those years of study and leading.  He has been good to me.

All of that to say, why did I highlight those phrases in the passage above?

Well, you see, Philippians was the first course I taught and those two phrases have been planted in my mind and heart for over twenty years now.  Those two phrases, I believe, are God-given words to me.  Prophetic words for my life.  Words God planted in my heart to get me through the coming years.  I believe that with my whole being.

One is a command: You must live in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.

The second is a prophecy: …but also the privilege of suffering for Him…

To walk in a manner worthy of the gospel…”If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” It’s as simple as that. Love of Christ will lead to love of His ways. To love Christ means to follow Him in all aspects of our lives. 

“Walk worthy, Michelle.”  Those words have caused me to think clearly through many choices in this life.

And for me, “it has been granted to you to suffer for Him” (NASB) has allowed me to know the path I’m on is a privilege.

Some see it as a burden, this life of difficulty in the flesh.  And I must say, somedays I agree.  However, God’s Word says it is a privilege to live with suffering. 

The gift of suffering allows us to know Jesus better.  He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  It is possible to get a glimpse of His suffering as we experience our own and then to more fully understand the joys of the life to come.

It really isn’t all about now.  He is doing an eternal work in us.  One we won’t see this side of a New Heaven and New Earth. 

His path for me has not been easy.  But, is it ever easy for a soldier,…an athlete,…a runner to go through training? 

The gift of suffering. 

It is a privilege. 

God’s Word says so.

I Am Second

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My confident hope is that I will in no way be ashamed but that with complete boldness, even now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether I live or die. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I don’t know which I prefer: I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body. And since I am sure of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for the sake of your progress and joy in the faith, so that what you can be proud of may increase because of me in Christ Jesus, when I come back to you.    ~Philippians 1:18-26

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I’ve felt these verses this week.  Once again, life isn’t making sense.  The only part of life I feel sure about is my faith in Christ.  I love Jesus and will follow Him no matter where the path leads. 

I was reading Blue Like Jazz again this morning.  I like the way Miller puts it:

I think the most important thing that happens within Christian spirituality is when a person falls in love with Jesus.

Sometimes when I go forward at church to take Communion, to take the bread and dip it in the wine, the thought of Jesus comes to me, the red of His blood or the smell of His humanity, and I eat the bread and I wonder at the mystery of what I am doing, that somehow I am one with Christ, that I get my very life from Him, my spiritual life comes from His working inside me, being inside me.

I know our culture will sometimes understand a love for Jesus as weakness.  There is this lie floating around that says I am supposed to be able to do life alone, without any help, without stopping to worship something bigger than myself.  But I actually believe there is something bigger than me, and I need for there to be something bigger than me.  I need someone to put awe inside me, I need to come second to someone who has everything figured out.  ~Donald Miller

I concur.  I am second.  I will follow wherever He leads.  To live is Christ…

www.iamsecond.com  (Check out my pastor’s testimony, Pete Briscoe)

Other Philippian posts can be found through Philter48.

Circumstances

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Do your circumstances dictate whether or not you are willing to share your faith? 

Financial difficulties, health issues, death of a loved one, natural disasters, marriage problems…many reasons…too many to name… 

In a moment our circumstances can change.  You could be driving down the road, feeling all is well with the world one minute and then get hit by a truck the next.  It’s possible to be cleaning your house, singing praises to God, wondering what to make for dinner and then get the phone call that will throw your world into disarray.  You might be imagining the boss has called you into his office for a raise and be given a pink slip instead. 

In a moment, life can change.

How will you respond?  At times we are knocked down with such violence it takes a while to get back on our feet.  But once you’ve had a chance to breathe, what will you do?  What will you say?

Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. ~Phillipians 1:12-14

Can your circumstances turn out for the greater progress of the gospel? 

At times I feel my body is my prison.  At times I wonder if we’ll ever get past our current storm.  At times I consider walking away from it all.  But then I go to the scriptures and I am reminded again, it can be done.  I can persevere through the One who endured to the end of His life and afterwards became the first fruit of the harvest.

But the fact is that Christ has been raised from the dead. He has become the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again…there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised first; then when Christ comes back, all his people will be raised. ~1Corinthians 15:20,23

Each Friday I will be posting on the week’s discussion from the book of Philippians at Philter 48.  You can check out the other posts by clicking the link provided.

Paul’s Prayer for Us

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Each Friday I will be posting on the week’s discussion from the book of Philippians at Philter 48.  You can check out the other posts by clicking the link provided.

Continuing through Philippians 1:9-11:

(v.9) And I pray this, that your love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight

Paul prays for Christians to abound in love.  Love for others seems to be the cry of his heart as he speaks to the churches:

And may the Lord make your love grow and overflow to each other and to everyone else, just as our love overflows toward you.  ~1Thessalonians 3:12

And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in Him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.  ~Ephesians 3:17

My goal is that they will be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love.  ~Colossians 2:2a

And, of course, the famous chapter on love, 1 Corinthians 13, ends with “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Some seem to think this is not a major theme of the Christian life.  I’m not sure how they can defend such a notion.  It is the cry of Paul’s heart because it is the essence of our Lord and Father.  God is Love.  Without love we do not know God (read 1 John).  As we grow more and more in our knowledge and discernment, we will be more grounded in love, grounded in God.

How do you know if you’re abounding in love?  Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and insert your name in place of the word:

(Love) is patient, (love) is kind, (it) is not envious. (Love) does not brag, (it) is not puffed up.  (It) is not rude, (it) is not self-serving, (it) is not easily angered or resentful.  (It) is not glad about injustice, but (it) rejoices in the truth.  (It) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 

It’s a simple but effective test.  The areas in which one may need help are easily exposed.

But why are we to grow more and more in love through knowledge and every kind of insight?

(v. 10) So that…

you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;

Discern/approve means to test, examine, prove, scrutinise (to see whether a thing is genuine or not), as metals

We are to test, to examine, to scrutinize.  It reminds me of those old movies where a cowboy would bite into a coin to see if it was real.  We are to examine all things to see if they are genuinely excellent things to add to our lives.

Man!!! Not much gets past a test like that.  Many things are detrimental to love.  If we are not concerned about what is excellent, if we choose to let things into our lives which can tear down rather than build up, we will hurt our witness and may not stand in confidence before Him.

Why do we need to live sincere and blameless lives until Christ returns?

sincere – found pure when unfolded and examined by the sun’s light

blameless – without offense, not troubled by a consciousness of sin

On the day of Christ’s coming we are all going to be unfolded and examined in the sun’s light — the Son is the Light of the world.  Will we be troubled by a consciousness of sin? This speaks so strongly to me of the passage from 1 John:

Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. (2:28 )

Sometimes the call seems too high, even unattainable.  I am thankful it’s not entirely up to me, as Paul makes clear in chapter 2:

…work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (v.12b-13)

The green part of the passsage gives me hope.  He doesn’t call me to something He won’t help me through.  He will do the work which He began, so that we may stand before Him on “the day of Christ Jesus…”

(v.11) filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.

Abounding in love while testing what is excellent, will cause us to stand before Him “filled with the fruit of righteousness.” The fruit of the Spirit comes through our relationship with Jesus. We will be filled with the fruit if we are filled with the Spirit, and we are filled with the Spirit when He comes within. The closer we move to Him, the more we want of Him, the more we will be filled with Him. Then…THEN the glory and praise will be to God.

Do you desire to bring glory to His name? I do. I want more of Him. I want more of His love to flow from me to others. Therefore, I must test, I must see what is genuinely excellent and add that to my life. Then I will share the good things, the fruit of His righteousness by loving others. And He will be glorified.

This is Paul’s prayer for us. 

Pray it for yourself. 

 Pray it for your family and friends.

In My Heart

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Each Friday I will be posting on the week’s discussion from the book of Philippians at Philter 48.  This is the first week of postings.  You can check out the other posts, by clicking on the link provided.

The authors:  Paul and Timothy, bond-servants (slaves) of Christ Jesus,

The recipients:  To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:

 We, you and I, are the recipients of this book.  We are considered saints.  Holy ones.  What an amazing description!  Would you describe yourself this way? 

This letter is also for the overseers and deacons: the leaders of the church.  The overseers are considered “elders” and the deacons were established to help the elders.  If the deacons will do the hands-on work, then the elders can give more time to teaching and prayer.  (Titus 1:6-7; Acts 20:17,28; 1Tim 3:1-7)

v. 2-5  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

What a beautiful way to describe his feelings!  We see the constant prayer going up as Paul remembers, as he’s reminded of the Philippians and their participation in the gospel.  With each mention of them he prays constantly.  Now wouldn’t that be a great way to live?  As someone comes to mind, offering up a prayer of thanksgiving for that person.  I’m not talking about a formal show, just a thankful response in your heart, “Thank you, Lord, for Nor and Darla.  They’ve been so dear to me.”  Simple.  Instantly my heart feels lighter and a smile crosses my face.  Try it.  I think you’ll be surprised at the lifting in your spirit.

v.6  For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

This verse is a favorite for many people, myself included.  It speaks clearly of the sanctifying work in the Christian’s life.  God sets us apart for a good work.  He began the work and He will complete the work.  When?  Until the day of Christ Jesus.  From the beginning of the work until the day we see Christ, we are being perfected.  Not that we will achieve it this side of heaven, notice the timing.  It is a good work and Paul is confident it will be completed.

v.7  For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.

Sometimes I’ve wondered if  I’m a sap.  I have such strong feelings for people.  I’m not at all the “tough American” living on the frontier — although I do like to let people know I’m a Texan.  (There’s something in the word “Texan” that just sounds tough.)  But I cry for people…lots.  I understand Paul when he says it’s only right to feel this way.  I didn’t know my heart could hold so many people in it, and still keep beating.  But it does.  I love people.

Paul is in prison at this writing.  We get our first clue in verse 7: both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel “…in my imprisonment” in the Greek literally means, “in my bonds.” He is bound, fettered, chained as he writes this book.  Yet he speaks of joy (v.4).  We aren’t past the introduction to the book and Paul is speaking of joy while in chains!  As will be seen, joy while in difficult circumstances is the theme of this book. 

v. 8  For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Here we see it again.  What?  The third time Paul expresses his love for them.  He specifically declares, this affection comes from Christ.  The word affection originates from the word “spleen.”  The KJV uses the word bowels — I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.  Not so pretty!!  But note this definition: the bowels were regarded as the seat of the more violent passions, such as anger and love; but by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderest affections.

Do you have strong, tender affections for those you know in Christ?  Paul is talking about the church at Philippi, a congregation he knows.  He has them in his heart.  In his gut he feels strongly for them.  Do you have this kind of connection with your church, with those you are in fellowship with through Christ?  This is the kind of love we are to have within the body.

It’s only right to feel this way (v.7). 

It’s his prayer for them, to have an abounding love:

v. 9  And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment…

Next Friday I’ll delve more deeply into verse 9 as we continue going verse-by-verse through the book of Philippians.  Be sure and check out Philter48.  It’s a great site for some good discussion!