Monthly Archives: March 2012

Philippians 1:27-30 – A Life Worthy of the Gospel; March 28, 2012

Philippians 1:27-30 – A Life Worthy of the Gospel

 

There is something that you are constantly reminded of as a minister.  Something that eats at the “old man” inside us – something that perhaps gets quieter as you mature in Christ but I would think would never fully go away until we are glorified.  It’s the understanding that we can never measure up.  We can never do enough, be enough, know enough, or accomplish enough on our own.  We are totally dependant on God for everything.  This is a foundational piece of the Gospel.  Without it, everything falls apart.  The “old man” hates this – makes war against this.

Human nature has a natural aversion to suffering.  We don’t like it.  Even those twisted enough to have convinced themselves they do don’t really.  Suffering is understanding we are not in control.  It’s unwelcomed, uninvited discomfort, and it’s guaranteed to those who would follow Christ.  I want to be very clear here.  Suffering has many different forms and manifestations.  We will not all be subject to torture, imprisonment, or death like the Apostles and even many of our modern kindred in the faith.  We will not all get cancer.  We will not all suffer poverty or want.  But we will experience suffering.  We will feel the weight of sin and death on this broken world.  Sometimes our suffering will be self-inflicted.  Sometimes we will refuse correction and walk in disobedience.  Sometimes we will walk in obedience but watch others walk in sin and be helpless to prevent it.  We will all see death.

I don’t say these things gleefully, as if it’s my pleasure to dampen the nice day you may have been having.  It is, however, my responsibility.  The Gospel does not go forth without attracting those who would war against it – in either the spiritual or natural realm – and with war comes suffering.

This post is not about suffering.  We will have plenty of time to discuss it as we get into chapter 2, but we must address it as we discuss what a life worthy of the Gospel of Christ is.  A life counted worthy of the Gospel is a life lived in total dependence on Christ.  Christ is all, and from Christ flow all things.  This means that even suffering is to be embraced for the sake of Christ.  We are to embrace war with our flesh, war with sin, war against those who attack Christ and His Church, war against those who defile His Word.  We are to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12).  And in embracing such war, we embrace the suffering that accompanies it, knowing that it will eventually kill off this perishable shell that we may be raised imperishable.

I want to leave you with a warning.  Beware the voices that want to pull you away from the suffering that accompanies the Gospel.  Beware the voices that scream God’s desire for you is to be healthy, wealthy, and prosperous.  May we ask God to increase our faith that we may endure the hatred of the world for the sake of His name.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

 

JOT

Tagged , , ,

Philippians 1:18-26 – To Die is Gain; March 21, 2012

Philippians 1:18-26 – To Die is Gain

 

This has by far been one of the most difficult blog entries I’ve had to write.  I’ve rewritten this three times which is unprecedented for me.  I usually just sit and write the entry in one take, no rewrites or corrections unless my wife reads it and decides to help me correct commas and typos.  Each rewrite has had a different angle to this passage.  Each sounded really good to me, but I kept having this unsettled feeling as I’d get closer to finishing it.  I think I was over-stating what should not be over-stated.  Paul uses one key sentence to essentially sum up the entire life of a disciple of Christ, and I wanted to wax poetic on the subject.  So without further adieu, let’s get to the point.

“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (v. 21) This is the heart of the Christian walk.  If we breathe, we are Christ to this world.  We are broken, He is perfect.  We are earthen vessels, He is glorious beyond all comparison.  We are rebels struggling to kill what is blasphemous within us, He died that rebels might come to know true freedom.  We have no desire for the things that do not last in this life if Christ is truly our life.  We don’t chase what the world chases.  We don’t speak with the language of the world.  We don’t hide our imperfections like the world.  We don’t lie to ourselves that we are more than we are as the world does.   We are more than what this world sees because it is Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20).

If this is where we find ourselves – if Christ is our life – if we have detached ourselves from the world – then the only place we can land when it comes to death is to count it gain.  I cannot stress to you enough the value and worth of battling over this in the depth of your heart.  Would death be gain to you?  I am not asking would death be easier for you – that’s not the question.  If we see our lives as worthless in our time on earth, we have at best missed a large part of the Gospel message and at worst we’ve missed it altogether.  The question could be rephrased like this: Have you so enjoyed Christ in this life, whether in suffering or prosperity, that the prospect of leaving this shadowy plain to receive His fullness is the greatest prize you could seek to attain?  This is the heart of Paul.  Can we see death as gain?

It would be easy for most of us who have loved the Lord to answer this question with a resounding “YES!”  We have tasted the goodness of the Lord and are ready to see Him face to face.  But we must ask ourselves another question if we say we agree with Paul – a question that often goes unasked or is avoided.  Are we living like death is gain for us and damnation for others?  You see the truths that are set before us in following Christ allow us to rejoice in our salvation while longing for its fulfillment, and yet we too often forget the other end of that spectrum.  We forget that our justification makes us salt, light, and life into a flavorless, dark, and lifeless world.  So few of us who would claim that death is gain are willing to speak about it with others.  So few of us are willing to sacrifice our comfort and peace in order to spread the Gospel we have been given.

The biggest difference between most of us and Paul is that we have not lived a life fully surrendered.  We may have given up a weekend or two during the year to devote to evangelism or discipleship, but the majority of our time is fixated on ourselves.  We don’t see Christ as being gain enough to share, we are usually content to sit on it until its comfortable or time to cash it in.  I fear some of us may have missed it altogether if we approach the Gospel this way.  This life is war.  We must battle our selfish desire to obtain this great treasure of Christ only to hoard it within ourselves until this life is over.  I cannot tell you what this really looks like for you in your walk.  It is for the Spirit to lead and guide.  It is my prayer that we don’t become lazy in our faith; waiting for death to take us, unwilling to share the great gift we have been given.  May our souls awake to the desperate need around us for the Gospel, and our role in sharing it where we have been placed.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

 

JOT

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Philippians 1:12-18 – Singular Focus; March 14, 2012

Philippians 1:12-18 – Singular Focus

 

Paul has always stood out to me as an intriguing enigma.  He must have been one of the most frustrating people to deal with if you despised Christ, but he also must have been one of the most perplexing for those who loved Christ but preferred to keep their lives at a comfortable status quo.  As Paul writes his letter to the Philippians he is in prison, most likely in Rome, and, if in Rome, most likely not going to be released.  And yet, he is focused, undeterred, unrelenting in his call.  He has used his imprisonment to evangelize the imperial guard and give strength to local believers to continue to spread the Gospel.  As I look across the landscape of the American church, I can only imagine how Paul might be received in our churches.  We would most likely marvel at the works of power that the Spirit did through Paul.  We would most likely applaud his initiative in planting churches.  We might even take up a love offering to help offset some of his costs.  But would we be changed?  Would Paul’s singular focus begin to take root in our hearts or would we simply admire his personal faith and go about our business as usual?

Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter to the Philippians.  He was in prison for preaching the Gospel.  He used the opportunity to preach the Gospel, and in taking such an opportunity, others were inspired to preach the Gospel.  How do we use the “opportunities” that we’ve been given.  I use quotation marks because most of us would like to argue that where we have been placed aren’t opportunities per se.  Being forced to go to the high school that you go to isn’t an opportunity to spread the Gospel, it’s just what you’re forced to do.  Being stuck at your “dead-end” job isn’t an opportunity God has given you, it’s just what bad luck and/or poor choices has left you with.  O ye of little faith.

Scripture teaches us, whether we believe it or not, that God is in control of all things.  ALL things.  That means that there is nothing that happens to us that is by accident or outside of what He has designed for us.  For those of us who believe, that means that places where we live, work, go to school, shop, get gas, eat, etc. are places where God has placed us to spread the Gospel.  How often do we look at our lives this way?  Don’t we usually take life’s circumstances as an opportunity to dream about something better?  Don’t we usually look at our jobs and wish we could have a different one that paid more or was more entertaining for us?  I know that when we were (or for some of you are presently) in school, we didn’t see that building and that group of people as opportunities to spread the Gospel.  We most likely whined and griped about how hard the teacher was, how smelly our classmates were, how other schools were better, or how much we just couldn’t wait to get out of there.  I hear these words out of the mouths of Christian students all the time.  I hear constant complaints from men and women who despise their jobs.  I remember saying or thinking those things when I was in high school.  I fight similar feelings towards my job at times.  It is our selfish, human natures that demand correction of how life has mistreated us.  We are so easily distracted.

There’s something in Paul that should unsettle us.  A ferocious, tenacious, unrelenting faith that makes ours look like a playdoh sculpture next to Michelangelo’s David.  Scripture teaches us something else that we must take to heart.  Faith, and consequently the supernatural focus that comes with it, is given to us.  It’s not something that we accomplish or produce – it is a gift.  If that is true, and the Bible tells us it is, that means that you and I, when our eyes were opened to the truth of the Gospel, received the same faith as Paul.  We are now temples of the Holy Spirit.  We are now earthen vessels containing the glory of God.  Just like Paul.  Our focus can be as keen as Paul’s was.  We can walk through life, be given hardships, suffer loss and disappointment in this life and still be able to see those difficulties as opportunities to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is our “partnership in the Gospel”.  Not that we are all given a platform like Paul or pastors that we can all name, but we are all given opportunity.  If we have breath, if our hearts are beating, then we have been invited to bear witness to the transformative work of Christ in our lives. What a wonderful calling.

I wonder if we have a desire to see the Gospel go out into our schools, workplaces, homes, and neighborhoods?  Now that we have been saved by the work of the Gospel, are we anxious to see others changed by it as well?  May we be about the business of spreading the Gospel where we have been placed.  May our hearts share Paul’s singular focus.  May we take our eyes off of this world, and set them firmly on Christ.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

 

JOT

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Philippians 1:1-11 – Partnership in the Gospel; February 29, 2012

Philippians 1:1-11 – Partnership in the Gospel

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,” can this be said of us?  Do we affect our homes, schools, jobs, and communities in such a way that if we were absent people would say this of us?  Paul was not referencing perfect people.  He was not even addressing people that he had spent a lifetime with, but somehow in a short time the Philippians had affected Paul.  They had ministered to him.  They had been used by God to build up.  Can this be said of us?

Too often I see Christians satisfied with simply blending into the backdrop.  I see Christians who don’t want to be seen as different.  They simply want to live their lives and go to church.  They want to live out their lives in comfort and quiet.  They, like Peter, don’t want to be associated with the Jesus who goes against the grain.  They want to walk with Jesus and be counted among the five thousand who eat the miraculous lunch provided by Him, they want to be healed by Him, they want to dream about their place in His Kingdom, but if that costs them something they tend to want to blend into the crowd.

I’ve known Christians who use the truths of Jesus and His Word to be the intellectual deliverers of hard and demanding truths, but when love was required they were happy to remain step back into the shadows.  I was one of those once.

I’ve known Christians who love everybody, enjoy differences and idiosyncrasies, but would never stand with Christ on issues of sin and sanctification.

Paul’s affection for the Philippian church was not because they simply supported him.  It wasn’t because the sent him encouragement and care-packages while he was in prison.  Nor was it because they simply agreed doctrinally with his message.  Paul’s affection for the Philippians was rooted in their “partnership in the Gospel.”  The Philippians were walking in what Paul taught and planted in the churches he founded.  Their love was for Christ, and in loving Christ they loved and appreciated Paul.  Their passion was for God’s Word being proclaimed and protected, just like Paul.  Even if it meant they were put to shame for loving the Gospel Paul preached – even if it meant they suffered in this life as Paul did – there was something of infinite value that occupied their hearts and affections, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

May we be found partnering in the Gospel.  May it be that our affections, desires, and motivations meet at the heart of where Christ calls all believers.  May it be that the Spirit unites the hearts of God’s people to His own and destroys that personal preferences and comforts that keep us from being the Body of Christ.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

JOT

Tagged ,