The Pauline Epistles have a way of hitting home for me. The way Paul describes and simplifies complicated Biblical truth always givings me clarity, peace, understanding and conviction. The ending of Philippians is one of the most convicting for me. Paul is thanking the Church in Philipi for supporting him in his ministry. This is what he says after he thanks them…
I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:12-13 NLT
At first this seems like a back handed ending to a compliment, a thank you.. but, I would have been fine either way, I appreciate your help but I didn’t really need it…..I don’t think that was Paul’s intent here. I think Paul wanted to use this opportunity to illustrate an important truth. This life is full of highs and lows, feasts and famine, good times and bad. And usually there isn’t much more than a comma or semicolon between them. The nature of life as a human is one of uncertainty, especially if we are committed to a life in service of the Gospel the way Paul was. Most of us are too fearful of the lows to truly be 100% reliant on Christ. Paul didn’t allow fear to stop him. He had the highest highs and the lowest lows. Extemes most of us will never know. But still we have highs and lows and need to find the secret to being content in all of it. Paul says he found the secret to living in any circumstance, it’s full reliance on Christ. We can find this verse on tshirts, hats, window clings and almost everywhere else….”I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” Paul isn’t talking about winning a state championship in football or nailing a presentation to the executive board at the office, the way we sometimes use this verse (which is ok). Paul is talking about contentment in any situation, anything that comes Paul gets his strength from Christ and knows Jesus isn’t unaware and hasn’t abandoned him. The same is true for us, no matter where our circumstances may land us, we can know Jesus is already there and He is offering us the strength to get through it.
This word from Paul makes me look at a “bad day” at work for me and realize it’s really not that bad, I’m not truly suffering, I’m not going without and I’m not 100% reliant on Jesus the way I should be. I’m not asking for 39 lashings and ship wrecks but I would like to live my life more reliant on Christ the way Paul did. I can do it and we can do it. We can’t allow fear to stop us.
I’m sure we’ve all heard someone say, “the Bible says not to judge.” Which is true, but it commonly gets taken out of context. The passage is Matthew 7:1-2. “Do not judge others and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” What gets left out is what Christ goes on to say in Matthew 7:15, He says, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” If the Church picks and chooses what verses to hear and apply, we will miss what the true message is. If we aren’t willing to use discernment, aka judgement, to tell if others are true and genuine we will be tossed and thrown around by every new teacher and idea and feel good message that comes along…we have to use judgement! One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is discernment of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10).
As followers of Christ we have a responsibility to protect the Body of Christ from false teachers and evil doers. We also have to responsibility to tell a fellow brother or sister in Christ if we see them headed down the wrong path. This also goes back to Matthew 7:3-5. If we have major unrepentant sin in our lives how can we help another believer with their sin. It’s easy to recognize the sin in someone else’s life, but much harder to recognize it in the mirror. Jesus tells us to get our own spiritual lives in order so that we can help other get theirs straight. 1 Corinthians 2:15-16 says Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. For “Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ. So to say, we don’t allow the world to tell us we’re wrong, or that our faith is misplaced. The world doesn’t have the ability to judge us, they have no moral compass or anchor to base any judgments on. Also, we can’t understand what the Lord is doing, our minds can’t comprehend the plans and purposes He has for us.
It’s important to add, we are not called to judge the heart or motives of other believers, we can’t assume we know their heart. What we can see is their actions and fruit and that is what we can evaluate and help them with. I believe the key to all of this is simple, if we truly love others we will, first, want the best for them and second, let them know gently in love and compassion that they may be headed the wrong way. Jesus was the master of this. He never left someone with scars, He left them with hope. The Holy Spirit will enable us to do the same if we allow Him to.
The passage below is a stern warning from Paul, he says, “with tears in my eyes”….makes it feel like even more than a stern warning. It gives the feeling of desperation and longing to be heard and understood. This desperate desire of Paul that none should perish is the same as Christs, and part of what made him such a powerful evangelist. When was the last time I had tears in my eyes over someone else’s sin?
Philippians 3:18-19 NLT I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.
Their god is their appetite. How obvious Paul makes this. When we want, want, want and don’t consultant with God and seek His will, we end up allowing our flesh to run the show, and become enemies of the grace of the cross. Our flesh is our sin nature that we are all born with, it’s the part of us that wants to feel good no matter what, it’s the part of us that is never satisfied with what we have. The flesh will tell us we deserve something or we need it more than they do. The flesh is a master manipulator with in insasable appetite to rule us.
Paul is saying, when we allow our fleshly appetites to be in charge, we will perish, and there are many of us headed down that road. This is something I believe Paul was so passionate about because it closely affected him. Paul had an appite to be right, he came from a past of killing Christians because they didn’t agree with the Jewish law. Our appetite can be for a lot of different things, pride, gluttony, lust, money..fill in the blank.
We all have an appite for something that is leading us away from God. The life we have now isn’t all there is. Don’t mortgage eternity for a cheeseburger today.
Christ expects us to be perfect….Absolutely! He says this not just once, or in passing or as an add on. He makes it clear. James 1:4 tells us to let our endurance grow and when it does we will be perfect and needing nothing. Matthew 5:48 says to be perfect as your Father is perfect. There are other verses as well that state a similar command. Jesus intends for us to be perfect. He is the perfect lamb, He paid the perfect price, and He’s calling us to perfection.
Philippians 3:12-14 NLT I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
The feeling and thoughts of “good enough” or “I gave it a good try” are common to me. But that is literally the opposite of what Jesus intends for me and you. God didn’t send His perfect, sinless son to die on a cross for us so we could waller in medocrity. Good enough isn’t good enough!
This idea Paul lays out of pressing on, by forgetting the past and looking ahead shows key mindset for life that approaches perfection. All that stuff that I messed up yesterday, the sins that dragged me down yesterday, don’t have power over me anymore. I’m a new creation in Christ, a prefect son or daughter, choosen by the Father to be a perfect reflection of Him. Focused time in the Word to know God more is a good place to start, as well as prayer. But you are to be perfect, as your Father in heaven us perfect. Matthew 5:48
The Bible doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room with this whole humility thing. I remember my first reaction to the command to be humble….”I’m awesome at humility.” That was seriously my thought. If there was one thing I had, it was humility, and I had it in spades!
It only took a few seconds for the irony of my own thoughts to hit me.
Philippians 2 speaks to what humility really is, and how Christ lived it out.
Philippians 2:5-11 NLT You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges ; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus didn’t accidentally or coincidentally have moments of humility. This passage says He gave up His equality with God, He gave up divine privileges, took a humble position and humbled Himself before God. This shows intentionally, it didn’t happen by default. It also paints humility as a lifestyle, something Jesus was, not something He did from time to time. The Bible tells us to be humble and also gives a point of reference to how the Master did it. We have a lot less to give up than Christ did to reach true humility, we don’t have that whole equality with God thing to get over, even though our pride can make us think we’re close.
The close intimate walk with God is one of intentional, regular and repeated humbling of ourselves, the same way Christ did. As we made it regular habit, we will become a humble person instead a person who can be humble.
How many times have I prayed for God to help with the next thing I was trying to do? How often I pray for God to bless these wants and desires I have? The true answer is most of the time. Even something I feel like God has given me a peek into, that is His will for me, I instantly name it and claim it and mutate it to be mine, then I ask God to bless this less perfect and even flawed desire based on something He already had planned. It can be something “righteous” or “good” but its my will not His or at best a modified, changed version of His will that really isn’t even what He had in mind. I was smacked across the face with this revelation this morning. God has good things planned for all of us. And they’re His plans, in His timing, in His ways, not needing my interjection or input. Lord let me do your will! Let your will be my will.
As a Christian, it would be impossible for me to say everything done and said at the church is God’s perfect will, I mean, after all, we are fallible humans with a sin nature second to none. With that said, I do believe that the American Christian Church in its form and function is God’s will.
I recently finished a book that used 12 chapters to grind out all the ways the church in America is a mess and no where near the original church that Jesus planned. From the buildings, to the way churches do communion, to the Pastor and trained clergy, the worship, tithing and literally everything else…basically, the book sighted every element of the Sunday morning worship experience and slayed it. The author even went on to say that the Bible itself is incorrect due to the order of books not being chronological and the numbering of chapters and verses. And because of these reasons people don’t get a full panoramic view of the New Testament, instead we get a chopped up, cut and paste version that takes away from its true meaning.
I’ll be honest, I had a hard time finishing the book. It felt like an anti-Christian writing disguised as Christian lit with a strong element of piety. I’m not going to name the book or the author because I don’t want to give it any additional publicity or recognition.
Here’s my take. The Bible does give plenty of information about the necessary elements of a Biblical church, it also leaves lots of room for interpretations as the Holy Spirit leads believers. I don’t think a fruitful church in Ethiopia is going to look the same a fruitful church in Alabama, this may be why Jesus didn’t bother with explicit instructions on every matter. From what I’ve gathered, here is the short list of the things Jesus revealed in the Bible that a Church body should contain.
I’m not claiming this to be an exhaustive list but the idea presented in the book that no part of the American church is inline with the Biblical model is ridiculous.
The local church has a responsibility to be a Spirit led body of Christ, and what that looks like may vary from Body to Body. I believe many if not most of the churches in America were planted out of Spirit led direction and purpose, and I believe the Holy Spirit is leading many church bodies week to week. The Body of Christ in America may be drastically different that the original church demonstrated in Acts, but that doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit is any less involved or that God is any less glorified though it.
One week in, the process is going about how I expected it would. The hardest part so far has been finding the time to commit as much as I would like. The times I have been able to buckle down, I have had waterfalls of creativity, more in my head than I am able to write down fast enough. At the advice of my wife, I have started carrying a note pad all day to jot down the waterfall moments. The desert moments only come if I focus too much minor details or get bogged down with the order of telling the story. I am focusing on getting things from my head to paper, I will reorganize later.
Thanks for the prayers!
This book is the true retelling of our coming to Christ experience. By “our”, I’m referring to my wife Cleo, myself and in turn, our children. This wasn’t a slow burn salvation, it was as a firecracker! Jesus brought us to Himself in a remarkable way, in a move of power, and created in us an unhindered faith that is still being widened and deepened to this day. The main purpose of this book is to do the one thing I am sure I am supposed to be doing, telling people about Jesus. Anything else anyone may glean from my writing is a bonus and gift from the Holy Spirit. Speaking of Him, it is my purpose to be led by Him alone. He wrote the story, I am going to try to do it justice on paper with ink.
The idea behind this website is to give a window into the writing process of the book I am working on Unhindered Faith. I intend to share my progress and some tidbits from the book. It is also meant to serve as a motivator to keep me moving forward. I would appreciate your prayers, support and encouragement on this endeavor.
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton