Monthly Archives: May 2012

Philippians 3:12-16 – Pursuing Maturity; May 23, 2012

Philippians 3:12-16 – Pursuing Maturity

 

I work with students.  To their credit, I am not as repulsed by them as most people are.  I hate when people write off students.  I think that’s why I’m called to minister to them.  I find it interesting that people expect an adolescent to be mature.  I find it even more interesting that some parents in the church expect their students to walk in godly maturity when they have not yet reached maturity in their faith.  Paul gives us a glimpse of godly maturity.  Following the path of Paul’s logic, a mature Christian sees the worthlessness of things achieved and accrued apart from Christ and sees the unparalleled value of knowing and pursuing Christ.

People in the church can often become confused as to what maturity really looks like.  Evangelicals, especially in America, have gone out of their way to redefine maturity in Christ.  Many would have us believe that Christ is our means to a better, more comfortable life. Many would call us to allow God into our lives so that we can accomplish more than we ever could on our own.  Many call us to add salvation to our list of achievements.  Paul calls us to count all of this as loss.  This is the mark of godly maturity.  This is the mark of one who sees the prize and pursues it.

Life is not about a list of successes.  It’s not about pointing back at our accomplishments and thanking God for how great we are.  Our lives are about supplanting our own righteousness and crowns with the Christ’s righteousness and His Cross.   We put down our ideal and pick up His cup.  We stop seeking a flood of cheers and pursue His baptism of fire.  Godly maturity comes when all earthly endeavors become refuse in comparison to knowing Christ.  There have been few who people that I have intimately known who have been given that gift of maturity.

The challenge that is placed before us is not one that we can gird ourselves for.  Maturity is not achieved, it is given.  Let us not attempt to achieve our maturity.  Let us ask our gracious and loving Father to give us this gift.  We do not choose to be mature, like we do not choose to be saved.  He is faithful and He is willing to take us and mold us.  May we be moldable clay in the Potter’s hands.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

 

JOT

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Philippians 3:1-11 – Gain and Loss Part 2; May 16, 2012

Philippians 3:1-11 – Gain and Loss Part 2

 

Read Philippians 3:8-11.  Read it carefully.  Let the words soak into your heart.  These words have profound power to shift our lives and pursuits.  If verses 1-7 did their work in extinguishing pride and accomplishment in our past, verses 8-11 does the same for our present and future.  There is nothing that is considered gain if it is obtained outside of knowing Christ.  Even if we take away the profundity of Paul’s experience in context of verse 10, this passage would have tremendous depth and weight on the individual.  The fact that the words are spoken by a man who had seen Christ face to face, been to the 3rd heaven, healed the sick, raised the dead, and survived countless trials forces the depth of the heart cry beyond any other’s reach.  For Paul to cry out for a more intimate understanding of Christ is weighty.

This may well be my shortest entry to date.  My heart cannot find words.  You can feel God’s call to deeper intimacy with Him in this text.  If Paul longs for more of Christ, why don’t we?  I want to know Him.  Lord, open my eyes.  Break my heart for the places I have counted gain, and the pursuits that I have planned to add to my own gain.  Forgive me.  I love y’all more than you know.  I leave you with the text with my own emphasis added for meditation.  Grace and peace,

 

JOT

 

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.

Philippians 3:8-11

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Philippians 3:1-11 – Gain and Loss Part 1; May 9, 2012

Philippians 3:1-11 – Gain and Loss Part 1 The Holy Spirit is relentless. He is not prone to letting up or letting us out of consequences. Sanctification is one of those unique experiences that allows us to feel the freedom from sin as righteousness is imputed to us in Christ, but it also allows us to feel the weight of still waging war against our own, very personal sin. Sanctification is the epitome of bittersweet. Paul is describing his own experience with sanctification in the opening passage of Philippians 3. He dives headlong into the depth of his past and drags us to the bottom with him. He builds out his sandy foundation of heritage, self-righteousness, and blind zeal and then drops the bomb in verse 7, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Boom… down goes crowning achievement of Paul’s life. There are few of us who could spout off the rap sheet that Paul does in verses 4-6. Many of us were lawbreakers from our childhood. We stole, fought, and lied straight out of the womb. Paul may have been a lawbreaker as a very young child, but you never know what the household of a Pharisee training a Pharisee looked like in the first century. Regardless, Paul’s boast is in what he had made. Paul’s list of external success is staggering. Paul’s rights as a Pharisee, Hebrew of Hebrews, and citizen of Rome would have made him extremely successful and powerful in his day. And the cherry on top was that he had done it. He had accomplished it. He had made his own way. I often look back on my life and examine the things I used to take pride in. I used to be a good athlete. I have a box full of awards, medals, and plaques from my high school career. I have three ridiculous rings from state championships in football and baseball. I can still remember wearing those rings to school and feeling very proud. All those things represent a lot of time, a lot of sweat, and a ton of work. It has been easy for me to look back and glory in what I had accomplished. It didn’t take long for God to dismantle the tower to heaven I had built for myself. I don’t say that as if I had anything to do with the dismantling. God faithfully knocked my off my horse in college and it took a few more years for the scales to finally fall off after that. What does your tower look like? What have you accomplished? What do you wear as your badge of honor in your community? I want to be very clear here, there’s nothing wrong with working hard and accomplishing something. Paul was just as zealous for Christ as he was for Judaism. There are things that God has put into us that can bring glory to His name in dozens of ways, but how do you view your gifts? What is at the heart of your pursuits? Is it to be seen and recognized? Do you often pursue after money and toys of this world and then thank God for them when you’ve got them? Has your life been changed because of Christ or do you just add His name as a tagline to the things you’ve always pursued? Let’s think about it this way, what would have happened if Paul would have had the “salvation” experience like so many of us might have had? What if Saul was sitting in the synagogue and Peter gave an altar call, and Saul went finally went forward and asked Jesus into his heart. Saul finally decided that he should do things for Jesus now. So instead of persecuting the Christian church in his zeal, Saul turned his resourcefulness to pursuing the Jews. After all, the Jews were the ones who were blaspheming now. So Paul set out, doing exactly what he had always done, but now he had Jesus attached to his cause. This may be a silly, over dramatized example, but it fits how most of us view our relationship with Christ. We generally view our lives as being just fine before we accepted Christ, so there’s little change that really needs to take place. We just need to stop cussing, stop drinking alcohol or smoking, and be nicer to our spouses and that’s about the extent of how “bad” we were before Christ. Paul teaches passionately against this. There is something that radically changes in us when Christ saves us. We don’t see things the same way we did. We don’t want the same things we wanted. Everything is different. Salvation for us is not about how we finally chose Christ, but how He finally chose us. Everything changes when we have been confronted with the perfect love and grace of Christ. All the motivations that drove us before look disgusting to us now. This is what it looks like for what we once thought gain to become loss. I’m not saying that we all have to change our life path when Christ rescues us. The change is not always total. Meaning you may not have to completely change your job once you get saved. It’s our motivations for doing what we do that changes. Our jobs are no longer about making money or gaining success but about Christ’s glory. Our homes are no longer about comfort and status but about Christ’s glory. Our vehicles, family, accomplishments, money, savings, hobbies, time, and resources are no longer about us but about Christ’s glory. It’s the heart that changes. Some of you should change careers, sell your house, downgrade your car, or a number of other things when you realize the beauty of Christ as Paul did. It is the Spirit who leads you in deciding what you need and what you don’t need. Trust Him. It is my hope that Christ would wake us up to the glory of who He is and to the inglorious state of our hearts when we choose our self-made accomplishments over Him. I pray that we would count all things as loss for the sake of Christ. May He teach us how to join with Him in our sanctification for the glory of His name. I love y’all more than you know. Grace and peace, JOT

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Philippians 2:19-30 – Timothy, Epaphroditus and Tethered Affections; May 2, 2012

Philippians 2:19-30 – Timothy, Epaphroditus and Tethered Affections

 

History tells us that Paul was a single man.  He had no wife, and subsequently no sons or daughters.  He does not mention siblings as far as blood relatives.  He does, however, mention a lot of brothers and sisters in his letters.  Mostly referring to those in the churches to which he wrote.  In the final verses in Philippians 2, Paul mentions two men, one he calls his son and another a brother.  This should not be considered strange terminology to those who have grown up in the church, and especially to those who are acquainted with the writings of Paul.  It is my hope that we do not miss the subtle depth of these labels of affection.  We are in desperate need of understanding them in our modern context. In order to bring this into stark focus we must ask ourselves a pointed question: to whom do you tether your deep affection?

Paul and Timothy have a unique and intimate relationship.  For someone with no children to call another man a son is no small thing.  It denotes affection, intimacy, and exclusive love.  I do not love my children like I love other children.  I do not feel the responsibility for other children like I do for my own children.  The term “son” or “daughter” is not lightly thrown to random younger beings.  It is birthed out of much labor and toil, and I do not use those terms by accident.  As a father I cannot adequately express the depth of love I have for my daughters.  They have a love that I do not give lightly.  They have a type of unhindered love that I do not give to everyone.  This is a love that Paul gives and shares with Timothy.  We will never exhaust the depth of their relationship.

Paul and Timothy point us to an aspect of spiritual development that is becoming more and more rare in the American church.  Not that it does not exist or that there has not been a revival in the practice of Pauline discipleship, but as widespread as the “church” is in America, we do not see this as we ought.  There are two sides to this example of discipleship: 1) Paul – a man totally and unequivocally sold out to the work, spread, and personal sanctification of the Gospel (2) Timothy – a young man willing to suffer and struggle under an unrelenting servant of the Gospel.  Paul in training and discipling Timothy is showing us how to further the Gospel for future generations.  It is not the only way, but it is a sure way.  We are in desperate need of men of faith to rise and lead younger men into a deeper understanding of the Gospel.  This is done not just in word but in deed.  We have too many who have twisted the words because they have despised the deeds.  May the Lord continue to raise up men of God to biblically lead the next generation of young men.  May the Lord also raise up young men ready to submit to the Gospel through the discipleship of Godly men.

Epaphroditus is another animal.  He is not a constant companion of Paul.  He is given the distinction of “brother.”  Here again, we have Paul giving a familial term to someone not blood related.  Epaphroditus was a man willing to risk for the sake of the Gospel, and in that Paul found kinship.  Epaphroditus surely knew the risk of traveling to Rome from Philippi.  He must have understood the dangers of robbers, sickness, and weather, and yet he journeyed despite the challenges.  We also must not forget the nature of his long journey.  He was not coming to visit a prominent, well-respected, socially acceptable friend.  He was coming to visit a prisoner.  In joining himself to Paul in support he was risking reputation and welfare beyond natural complications yet he was undeterred in his coming.  In this he receives commendation from Paul who calls him not only a brother but a fellow worker and soldier.  Terms of great honor in the work of the Gospel.

I ask the question again, to whom do you tether your deep affection?  Who do you call brothers?  I think most of us would point to blood relatives, best friends, or fellows in the same line of work.  I want to remind us of Christ’s words on this subject in Matthew 12:48-50, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?… whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”  As Christians, we are called to have deep affection for those who have tethered their affections to Christ.  In Christ we are of one mind, one focus, one love.  I fear that sometimes we have kept our affections tethered to our old relationships instead of tethering our affections to Christ, forming newer, deeper connections with those in His body.  I am not suggesting that we do not associate or love those who are not in Christ.  I am simply wanting us to examine our lives and see where our affections really lie.  Do your affections in relationships center on Christ or something else?  May the Lord lead us into a deeper understanding of our need to Godly, Gospel relationships.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

 

JOT

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