"although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation 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 the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ." (Philippians 3:4-7)This is a difficult thing. We all have things we are proud of; things that we hold as evidence of our value, specialty, and worth in this world. Things by which we measure ourselves against others. Paul too had things in which he could boast. He could point to his ancestry, his adherence to his Jewish laws and customs, and his zeal for God as he understood Him to be. All these things are that for which he could boast in himself and find confidence in his own existence and importance in the world.
"Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:2-3)In reading this, we must remember that Paul is speaking of those who were seeking to infiltrate the church, to pervert the Gospel of Christ, and to lead people astray from the purity of their life in Christ. There are many dogs and evil workers in the world today, but Paul is speaking specifically of those who oppose the church and our freedom in Christ.
"Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you." (Philippians 3:1)Two things strike me as important in this verse. First is that Paul finds it important, even necessary, to command us to rejoice in the lord. Secondly, that he finds it important and necessary to keep reminding us of his command. Paul relates our joy in the Lord with our safety in life and in the kingdom. What is so important about joy and why does it ensure our safety? The scriptures give us two specific reasons.
2017-02-19T08:36:22.431-05:00"But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you. Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me." (Philippians 2:25-30)I find it odd that Paul would refer to Epaphroditus as both his fellow worker and a fellow soldier. While many fought against Paul, it's hard to imagine Paul, who spoke so elegantly about the virtues of love, to be one who was militant in his ministry of the Gospel. However, the Greek word used here for "fellow soldier" comes from a root word that could also mean a fellow "camper-outer". The idea of this term is not so much meant to convey a militancy but to refer to those who have gone out on a campaign or who have entered into a cause. Both Paul and Epaphroditus had gone out for the cause of the Gospel.It is important to note the connection between Epaphroditus and the church at Philippi. The sending out of Epaphroditus was not something the leaders thought us, nor was it something Epaphroditus devised himself, but it was a decision that the church made together. They were all vested in the decision to send Epaphroditus just as they were all invested in Epaphroditus. In sending Epaphroditus they were sending themselves. In receiving Epaphroditus, Paul refers to him as "your messenger". The Greek word is literally "apostle". Epaphroditus was sent as an apostle from Philippi to Paul to deliver support to him for which the church as a whole was unable to do because of their distance from Paul.At first read, it almost seems arrogant that Paul would speak of the deficiency of the service that the Philippians owed to Paul. However, this idea of a deficiency Paul spoke of in other places. To the Corinthian church, he spoke of their deficiency of support that was met by the sending of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, "I rejoice over the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have supplied what was lacking on your part. For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men." (1 Corinthians 16:17-18) Paul also speaks of his desire to go to Thessalonica to provide what was lacking, or deficient, in their faith. "as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith." (1 Thessalonians 3:10) Moreover, Paul saw it as his mission and calling to fill up what was lacking in the sufferings of Christ as they pertained to the benefit of the church. "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions. Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God." (Colossians 1:24-25)It seems to me that it is the work of an apostle to fill up what is lacking in the faith, lives, and support of others, be they Paul, Epaphroditus, or anyone else sent out as a messenger of love and care. For just as Paul was sent by God, Epaphroditus was sent by the Philippians. This idea of an apostle helps us to understand what Paul wrote when he said, "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the b[...]
2017-02-18T09:21:45.821-05:00"But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father. Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me; and I trust in the Lord that I myself also will be coming shortly." (Philippians 2:19-24)It's hard to imagine who Paul is referring to when he speaks of "they all", Certainly he is not including in "they all" people like Barnabus, Titus, and Silas is he? Perhaps he is speaking of those false apostles that Jesus referred to in the vision to John, "you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false," (Revelation 2:2) or maybe he is referring to those who preached the Gospel out of spite, those of whom he said, "Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment." (Philippians 1:15-17) Whoever these people were, Timothy proved to be of a different and superior character.Paul and Timothy had a special bond. Paul found Timothy while visiting Lystra. After meeting him and hearing of his faith, it was Paul's desire that Timothy should join him in his work. We read, "Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek." (Acts 16:1-3) It says that Paul wanted Timothy to go with him. Much the same is said of Jesus when he selected his disciples. "And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach." (Mark 3:14) To Paul and Jesus, discipleship was more than instructing others, it requires relationships with those with whom you were disciplining. Discipleship involves more than sharing what you know, it requires sharing your life; to allow people to come close enough to see you in your good times and bad and to learn of your faith through the quality of the life you live.Paul saw Timothy as his true son. He wrote of him, "For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church." (1 Corinthians 4:17) Similarly, Timothy regarded Paul as his father, and it is said that he served him as a son serves his father. This idea of a disciple serving his teacher as a son would serve his father is found throughout the Christian scriptures. We read how Joshua used to serve Moses before Joshua became the leader of Israel. "So Moses arose with Joshua his servant." (Exodus 24:13) We also read of how Elisha served Elijah and, in the end, called him his father. "Elisha saw it and cried out, 'My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!'" (2 Kings 2:12) Today we have many people who want their own ministry, but few who are willing to learn to serve in ministry before they get a ministry of their own.What set Timothy apart from the others, and what distinguished his character compared to the others, was the way in which he genuinely cared for the needs of people. With Timothy, there was no hidden agendas, no pretense, no angling to his own advantage. He just loved and cared for people. Two things are k[...]
2017-02-03T08:29:16.345-05:00"Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me." (Philippians 2:14-18)Paul had just exhorted the Galatians to obey him, not only when he was present, but "but now much more in my absence." (Philippians 2:12) Here Paul gives some examples of the things he had commanded them to obey: do not grumble, stop fighting with each other, etc. The things Paul commanded the Galatians to obey are the same kinds of things a parent would instruct their children to do: do not lie, play nice with each other, don't fight, etc. Paul's relationship with the Galatians was not as an overload but as a father.It is interesting that the way we prove ourselves to be children of God not through the purity of belief or our fidelity to a statement of faith but through our actions that show we have learned to conform our lives to the pattern set for us by our heavenly Father. Our conformance to creeds proves ourselves to be children of religion but our obedient behavior to our Father proves ourselves to be children of God.It was said of Jesus that, "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men." (John 1:4) The light of Jesus was not His creed or statement of faith but it was the life He lived. The life Jesus lived showed us a new reality, a new way to live. It showed us that it was possible, through God's help, to live a righteous life, a life that was new, abundant, and free of sin. The same is true today of our lives. If we live as children of God, then our lives will be the light of men; showing them the new life that is possible in Christ. This is why Jesus described us saying, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)Paul's mission in life was not to teach people but to deliver them to God as children of their heavenly Father. This meant not only seeing them united with the Father but also being conformed into His image and into the image of His Son. The proof of this transformation was to be evident in how they lived their lives. In Galatians, Paul speaks of running in vain regarding his gospel, "I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain." (Galatians 2:2) However, here he speaks of having run in vain in regards to his mission, the mission of seeing those he ministered to becoming transformed into the image of Christ.Paul found the secret to joy, even when faced with personal challenges and difficulties. Paul's joy was in seeing the positive effect of his ministry happen in the lives of other people. Paul did not live for his own benefit but found joy when his life brought benefit to others. When we live for ourselves, it is easy to become angered when circumstances do not turn out the way we had hoped and when difficulties and disappointments flood our lives. Our anger robs us of our joy and saps the strength of our life. However, when we live for the benefit of others, then even our circumstances are seen as opportunities to benefit others by allowing God to show Himself strong in the midst of our difficulties that others may ta[...]
2017-01-22T08:28:58.731-05:00"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)The true mark of maturity is not how you live on Sunday, but how you live on Monday when no one from church is watching you. As parents, we teach our children how to behave through instruction and commands; watching them to ensure that their behavior lines up and conforms to what we have taught and commanded them. When they do the things we command, we praise them. When they do not, we discipline them that they might learn to follow our instructions and commands. The goal of all this is so that, when they are grown and out of our sight, they will continue to live by what we taught them and trained them to do. Our fundamental hope is that, if we "train up a child in the way he should go, [then] even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) If we succeed in this, then we will have succeeded in raising our children to be mature adults.Paul viewed those in the churches to which he ministered as his children. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church saying, "For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel." (1 Corinthians 4:15) As a father, Paul was concerned with their growth towards maturity. To this end, he desired, not only that they would obey him when present, but even in his absence, the things he taught and commanded them would continue to guide their lives, conversations, and behavior. Only when they were able to live a righteous and moral live in his absence, would he have succeeded in raising them unto maturity.The working out of our salvation is our own personal responsibility. Having been taught and trained, it is up to us to put that training into practice. Others can instruct us, others can command us how we ought to live, but it is up to us to decide how we will actually live our lives and put to use those things we have been taught and commanded. Even the very faith we have in Christ, it is up to us to put that faith into action; to allow it to become active in our lives and to allow it to dictate and control every aspect of our daily walk and life. It is not enough to hear, learn, and understand the Gospel of God, we must actually learn to live by what we have learned, heard, and have understood. We must take what we know and put it into action.The great paradox in all of this is that, even though we are responsible for working out our own salvation, it is not really us who are working, but God who is working within us. While our salvation is our own personal responsibility, we do not do it alone. Prior to grace, we were left to the Law and the Law commanded us what it willed but give us no help or power to do the things it commanded. We were left to our own willingness to obey and our own power to follow through on that willingness. However, now that grace has come, we are no longer left to ourselves but God Himself aids us in living the life He commands. Paul, writing of himself, speaks to our new life in Christ. "For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Galatians 2:19-20) In Christ, we have died and have been given a new life. In this new life, we find that it is Christ who is living in us and who is working both to give us the willingness and the strength to live the new life we have been given and commanded. We have the very resurrected life in Christ empowering us to do the very things Paul commands; that we work [...]
"For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11)For what reason was Christ highly exalted to the place where every knee will bow and every tongue confess? Because of what Paul had previously taught us, that Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped and that He emptied Himself, became a man, and was obedient even to death upon the cross. Jesus descended to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. For this reason, He has also ascended to become the Lord of all. In saving all of mankind, He became the Lord of all mankind. This is also what Paul meant when, after quoting David, "You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives," (Psalms 68:18) he writes, "Now this expression, 'He ascended,' what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things." (Ephesians 4:9-10)
"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:5-8)Attitudes just don't happen, they are chosen and formed by a conscience act of our mind and will. This Greek word means to exercise the mind or to form and maintain an opinion or mental disposition. It speaks of an active undertaking not a passive acquiesce to a thought or idea. Paul is not calling us to an attitude but calling us to action to form such an attitude within us, an attitude which was also found in the person of Jesus Christ.
2017-01-07T10:44:38.297-05:00"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." (Philippians 2:3-4)How many churches have been destroyed through selfishness, strife, and empty conceit? How many marriages have been ruined by those same diabolical attitudes and behaviors? Strife and empty conceit not only hurt relationships but also destroys any attempt to unite people together either as a church, a marriage, or any other form of relational institution.Other translators translate the Greek word for selfishness as "strife" (Darby) and "selfish admission" (NKJV). Thayer translates this word as "a courting distinction, a desire to put oneself forward, a partisan and factious spirit which does not disdain low arts; partisanship, factiousness." In any organization, including the church, there will always be people who have different ideas, different views of how things ought to be done, and different ways they would use to approach a common issue or problem. The problem is not so much the dissension of ideas, plans, and means but the striving for having your own idea, plan, and means adopted as the only approach to any project, problem, or mission. We may not always agree on the direction or plan taken, but when we resort to intrigue, courting others to our side, and waging intellectual war against our opponents then we have crossed the line into something that is bound to be destructive and divisive. We must, in the midst of our differences, find a way to work together as a whole; to place ourselves under a common yolk so that we might pull together in a common direction and towards a common purpose.The truth of conceit is that all conceit is empty. Thayer describes this Greek word as "empty self-esteem." The reason conceit and self-esteem are empty is not because there is no reason to be conceited or to have self-esteem but because the source of those things for which we might have conceit or self-esteem is not from us but from God. There are many good qualities in each of us and many reasons to be proud and confident in who we are, but those traits and qualities are not from us but God given and God honed through His work in our lives. When we let ourselves think that who and what we are is a product of our own efforts and industry then we deceive ourselves and our estimation of ourselves is empty. However, when we realize that all the good things in us are gifts from God, then we are moved to thankfulness and our desire becomes to use those gifts for the benefit of others and for the glory of God. Then our purpose will not be to put ourself forward or to strive for our own way but to find how to use our gifts, talents, and abilities for a larger purpose than ourselves.Why should we view one another more important than ourselves? Are we not important? Are we not at least as important as they are? Why should we consider them more important? Vine defines this Greek word as "to hold or have above." In other words, the sense in which they are "better" than us is not derived from some qualitative comparison of morality, aptitude, or ability. Rather is is a choise we make to voluntarily consider them first before ourselves.There are two keys to being able to look at others as more important than ourselves. First, we must have a humble and realistic estimation of ourselves. The truth is that we are just like everyone else; we are no better or no worst. Paul reminds us that, "for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:22-23) In the things that really matter, we are just like everyone else. We have all sinned; we are all fallen; we all need a savior. Secondly, we nee[...]
2017-01-05T08:32:18.580-05:00"Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose." (Philippians 2:1-2)Paul is asking the Philippians to stop and consider the benefits they have found in Christ. While Paul's words are stated as a question, the implied answer to each question is "Yes". In response to Paul's questions, here is what he is hoping we will realize.There is encouragement in Christ. The Greek word for encouragement is a form of the same word that Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit as our comforter, "And I will beg the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever." (John 14:16 Darby) In Christ, there is comfort, encouragement, and consolation, even in times of trouble and loss. Our encouragement comes not from our own power of will, but because the one who is our comforter lives within us. We have comfort and encouragement because of our relationship with Christ and His very presence in our lives.In Christ we have received the love of the Father and, through the Holy Spirit, our lives have been filled full with the love of God. "The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:5) This Greek word for consolation is translated by Vine as "to speak closely to anyone." Through the love of God, we experience not only His nearness but we also hear his expressions of love and feel His breath upon our spirit as He speaks His love to us.In Christ, we have fellowship with His Spirit. Not only do we live in social intercourse with the Spirit, but we also participate with Him in His work in our lives and upon this Earth. Our fellowship with the Spirit goes beyond simply knowing Him, we also participate with Him in a purpose that is greater than ourselves. Through the Spirit, we become partners with God and partners in a mission that is extending His Kingdom throughout the whole Earth.In Christ, our hard hearts have been made soft again; where there was once coldness there is now the ardent warmth of love. Instead of indifference towards others, our heart now burns with love, compassion, mercy, and empathy. Instead of self-love, we find a new motivating force within us that draws us to others, that causes us to take notice and consider other people, and that motivates us to share with them the same love of Christ that has been shared with us. Our love, that was once selfish, has been turned outward towards God and towards others.In all of this, Paul is trying to get us to see all we have received in Christ and, in seeing this, to motivate us towards love and community with our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Message bible puts it this way, "If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ... then do me a favor..." (Philippians 2:1-2 The Message) We have been given so much in Christ that we ought not to keep it to ourselves or to use it only for our own purposes, interests, and benefit but we ought to share those benefits with others.Paul's joy was the joy of a father; the joy a father feels when his children grow up to become mature, well constituted, men and women of character, fidelity, courage, and godliness. Paul's judgment of their maturity was based upon how they lived and interacted with others. It is not only an inward maturity that Paul was looking for but also an outward maturity that affects every aspect of our lives, speech, and conduct.Paul's joy was not only for the individual but also for the whole church. Paul not only loved and cared for the individual but he also loved and cared for the church. To this end, Paul encourag[...]
2016-12-31T10:15:44.137-05:00"in no way alarmed by your opponents — which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me." (Philippians 1:28-30)The early church was often under the constant threat of persecution. Waves of persecution would wash over the church bring imprisonment, torture, and martyrdom to many. Here, Paul is not talking about people who just don't like us, he is speaking of those who oppose us, and threaten us, because of our faith. Paul is urging the Philippian church to stand strong in the face of persecution; to not be quickly moved to fear by the oppressive forces around them. The way we respond to persecution and oppression has a lot to say about who we are and who they are who seek to persecute us. If we respond in fear or like aggression then we prove ourselves to be just as they are. However, if we respond in faith, showing the confidence and peace that faith brings to us in times of difficulty, then we demonstrate ourselves to better than them, not because we ourselves are better, but because the hope and foundation of our lives are better than that upon which their lives are built. Furthermore, we prove that our confession of Christ is real and His promise of salvation is true. Our faith and confidence are evidence that what God has spoken is true and that, no matter how great the persecution that awaits us, our hope of deliverance and eternal life is greater than any persecution that can come our way. In the end, our faith and confidence in Christ are evidence that those who seek to destroy us are not fighting against us but against God and, those who fight against God, do so to their own destruction.In our own human understanding, it does not appear to be any great reward that we are granted the privilege to suffer for Christ's sake. However, when we suffer, it is not because we have done anything wrong, on the contrary, it is because God has found us worthy of His suffering. As such, it is an honor and a privilege to suffer for Christ. It is said of the Apostles, after having been beaten and released from Jail, that they rejoiced "that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name." (Acts 5:41) Persecution and suffering are not times for fretting, fear, or despondency but rather for rejoicing that God has found us worthy to suffer for Him. Jesus said, "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12) Persecution is evidence of the new creature, one who is worthy of this new life, that God has remade us to be.Finally, Paul reminds them that he too has suffered, and is suffering, the same things as they are suffering. When facing trials, sufferings, and persecutions, it is tempting to think that we are the only ones who are suffering, It is easy to feal alone in our suffering, thinking that no one else knows or understands what we are going through. However, this is not the case. The sufferings we experience are common to all believers. Paul promised us that, "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Timothy 3:12) The truth that we are not alone in our suffering ought to encourage us and give us hope in our suffering, It also should cause us to consider how we endure our own suffering, knowing that others are watching. We ought to suffer in a way to give the same kind of hope and encouragement as Paul's confident suffering did fo[...]
"Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." (Philippians 1:27)True integrity is found in how we behave when no one is looking. It is one thing to behave right when someone is watching over us, but it is another to live right when no one is watching and where no one can see. It is in these hidden places where the truth of who we are is revealed.
2016-12-26T09:36:46.146-05:00"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again." (Philippians 1:21-26)This is a curious statement, "to live is Christ." Here, Paul equates a verb with a noun. It would be like saying, "to drive is Henry Ford" or, "to eat a burger is McDonald." According to the conventional rules of grammar, this statement makes no sense. So what does Paul mean by this statement? Speaking of his relationship with Christ, Paul says, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Galatians 2:20) Paul understood that to live on in the flesh was to accept the calling to die daily to ourselves that Christ might live His life through us. To live requires our dying while to die brings us into eternal life. To live means to let Christ live through us.Paul contrasts the gain that is to be ours in our death with the gains the world has to offer us in this life. Speaking of those worldly gains, Paul says, "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ." (Philippians 3:7-8) Paul realizes that the gains of this world are not to be compared with the gains that are to be ours in the resurrected life. There are those who live for the reward of earthly gains only to forfeit to themselves those gains which are of true value, eternal value, and that are with God in heaven. Jesus said, "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:25-26) True riches, true gain, and true life is found when we are willing to lose our life for Christ's sake; when we are willing to set aside our will, plans, and purposes that we might take up Christ's will and purpose; that His life, plan, and purpose might be expressed and worked through us here in this life. Those who are willing to lose their life for Christ's sake will find it in abundance in Christ.Paul was in prison and he understood that there were two possible outcomes to his imprisonment: one was his release and the other his death. So which would he choose if the choice was up to him? It is interesting that Paul thought it hard to chose between the two possible outcomes. For most people, the clear choice would be to live. However, Paul was not so sure that was the best choice. Only those who have the hope and confidence of eternal life in the presence of God could ever view death as gain. Paul understood the reality of the life that was awaiting him upon his death. For him, living had no real gain beyond what he already had, yet his death would bring the realization of everything he had hoped for and lived for all his life. Therefore, why remain in this life while there awaited him so much gain upon his death? The only reason that Paul co[...]
2016-12-14T08:10:59.078-05:00"for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death." (Philippians 1:19-20)Paul was in a difficult place. In his imprisonment, things were happening around him that were outside of his control. However, Paul was not without hope nor despondent due to his circumstances. Paul had confidence that he would soon be delivered from his chains. The Greek word Paul uses that is translated here as "deliverance" is more frequently is translated as "salvation." This brings to light the depth of the meaning in this one Greek word. Our salvation in Christ affects more than our eternal destination. It provides salvation for the whole of our existence. Such salvation includes our healing, wholeness, deliverance, protection, and provision. This was the kind of salvation that Paul was confident that would be his even in his imprisonment.For what reason did Paul have such confidence in his salvation? From two sources; the prayers of the saints and the supply of the Holy Spirit. God is sovereign. He does whatever He desires and prohibits whatever He chooses. However, God has chosen to allow Himself to be moved by the prayers of His people. It is through prayer that we get to partner with God in His purpose and His work in the Earth and in each other. Our call to prayer is an invitation from God to join with Him in His redemptive and saving work in and around us. Our prayers and the provision of the Spirit are the catalyst for God in our lives.For this reason, Paul's faith produced in him an earnest expectation and hope in the will and plan of God. Thayer defines the Greek word translated here as "earnest expectation" as "to look forth from one's post." Vine adds that it carries the idea of being absorbed in watching for and expecting something or someone. Paul's eye was upon his salvation; he was absorbed in watching for and expecting God's deliverance in his life. Instead of being filled with dread, fear, or despondency in his imprisonment, he was filled with the knowledge that God was working in his life and the expectation of God's salvation yet to come. The Greek word for "hope" can also mean to "anticipate." Paul was not just hoping for deliverance, he already anticipated it and was planning what he would do once he was delivered from prison. So confident was his hope, that he already made plans for what he would do once he was released. This is true confidence, expectation, and hope.However, Paul's hope was not just for the future, he had hope for the here and now. While Paul fully expected to be released from jail through the prayers of the saints and the help of the Holy Spirit, he had hope in God's salvation even while he sat in jail. Paul's hope and confidence was that God would enable him to be a testimony for Christ whether in prison or out. If God's plan for him meant prison, then he was confident that he would be a witness for Christ in prison. If it meant freedom, then he would witness in freedom. Paul believed that in every circumstance of his life, God would and should be exalted.Paul's hope was that he would not be put to shame, but what shame is he referring to? The shame of falling short of the will and purpose of God for his life. Paul had a mission from God. This mission was more that that of an apostle but also that of a believer; a mission that included bring glory and honor to Christ through every aspect and condition of his life. Paul[...]
2016-12-10T09:22:53.958-05:00"Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice." (Philippians 1:15-18)Imagine this, that someone in your church or community that is being used by God to preach the Gospel, is arrested and imprisoned. Would you step in to fill the void and to take up the mantle and be the one to continue their work; the work of preaching and spreading the Gospel? Is so, why?This is what happened to Paul. He was imprisoned for preaching the Gospel and, in his confinement, others came forward to take his place and to take up the ministry left undone by him. However, not everyone did so out of the same motive. Some, out of love and respect for Paul, stepped forward to continue his work and to follow his example. They did it, at least in part, to stand with Paul; to show that they too loved God and were committed to the same cause as Paul. They showed their solidarity and their agreement with Paul, his ministry, and his Gospel. However, others did so out of competition. They entered the fray, not to show solidarity with Paul, but to finally have their day in the sun. This was their chance. All the time they spent in the shadows while Paul got all the glory; this was their chance to shine. Their resentment for the the ministry and notoriety that Paul enjoyed was now free to express itself, now that he was out of commission. It was now their turn to show Paul that they too could preach, that they too could shine bright, and that they too were just like Paul.Out ups and downs, our successes and defeats, and our advancements and retreats are all opportunities that challenge our hearts. When we are advancing, it is easy to become proud and to see our advancement as proof that we are worthy and right. However, our defeats can also breed resentment for those who are winning and advancing. After all, we are just as good as them so why do they get to glory while we are stuck in defeat? I am sure Paul faced these same inward challenges as he lay in prison. So how did Paul fight the temptations towards anger, bitterness, resentment, and judgment? By looking outwardly towards the outcome rather than inwardly at his own personal situation. Paul looked to the advantage that others were bringing to the Kingdom of God, that same Kingdom he had so long proclaimed himself. In the end, it was not his own personal advancement that mattered but the advancement of the Kingdom of God.Here is the moral of the story. When we focus on ourselves, we give ourselves over to competition, pride, resentment, and judgment. However, when we focus on the Kingdom of God, we see reason to rejoice even in our own personal defeats. We begin to understand that our life and position are secure in God and that what really matters in this life is not who we may seem to be to ourselves and others but the work that God has given each of us to do; a work that benefits the Kingdom and the Body of Christ. The key to surviving success and failure is looking outward to the goal of what our success and failures are driving at. If we can do this then we too, like Paul, can rejoice at the advancement of the Kingdom regardless of the personal motives of those who are seeking to advance it.David Robison[...]
"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." (Philippians 1:12-14)As the Roman government sought to stamp out Christianity, the more they persecuted it, the more it grew. Thinking to cause a deterrent to others, their imprisonment of Paul actually made other believers more confident and bolder in their defense and proclamation of the Gospel. This reminds me of another story from the scriptures. "Now it came about after this, that war broke out at Gezer with the Philistines; then Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Sippai, one of the descendants of the giants, and they were subdued. And there was war with the Philistines again, and Elhanan the son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam. Again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature who had twenty-four fingers and toes, six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot; and he also was descended from the giants. When he taunted Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David's brother, killed him. These were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants." (1 Chronicles 20:4-8)
2016-12-03T10:09:32.917-05:00"And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." (Philippians 1:9-11)The Greek idea of "abound" means to be more than enough, having love in excess, and even "super-abounding." Paul's prayer and God's desire for us is that our love would grow to the point where it is not only enough but where it resides in us in excess. Our progress in this Christian life is to be judged by the degree to which our love for God and our love for others continues to grow and abound. Paul reminds us that, "faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13)Love is not blind and love does not exist apart from judgment. Love must be a discerning love. Paul prays that as our love grows, so ought it to grow in knowledge and discernment. Not everything is to be loved and not everything is to be praised. The Greek word translated here as "real knowledge" can also be translated "full knowledge." It represents more than a cursory knowledge, it speaks of a knowledge that had been developed and honed to a depth by which we fully understand a subject or idea. Full knowledge takes intentionality in developing. It takes time and effort to search out and understand. Often we live by what we feel or what we imagine rather than by what we have sought out and come to acknowledge as true and right. Furthermore, many times we simply accept as true what we have been taught or what other people think and espouse as being true but we never search for the truth ourselves. We must take the effort to learn and understand truth for ourselves; the truth that is found in Christ, His word, and His kingdom.The Greek word translated as "discernment" comes from a root word that means to perceive. It is not enough to have full knowledge, we must also have accurate perception and judgment. Paul writes, "But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil." (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22) Knowledge is not enough, we must also be able to judge between good and evil, clean and unclean, and useful and destructive. Speaking of his own life, knowledge, and perception, Paul writes, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." (1 Corinthians 6:12) It is one thing to have the knowledge that all things are lawful for us, but we must also have the judgment and clear perception of things to understand that somethings are not profitable for us.The purpose of full knowledge and perception is not so that we might judge the intents and actions of others but that we might judge the intents and actions of ourselves. Knowledge and perception is meant to be a protection for us by allowing us to see and understand those things which are profitable for our lives and those things that are not. Knowledge and perception teach us to love what is good in our life and hate what is in use that is evil. The goal of such love is that we might be pure and blameless at His coming. Love that is built upon knowledge and perception is a love that motivates us to change; to repent from those things that offend God and to adopt those behaviors that are pleasing to Him. It is a love that does not seek to please ourselves but to please God.Finally, we must reme[...]
2016-11-30T07:50:36.052-05:00"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. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:7-8)It is only right that Paul feels in what way towards them? Is it in feeling that God will perfect them until the day of Christ Jesus as mentioned in the previous verse, or is it in feeling such intense love for them as mentioned in the next verse? I believe it to be the latter. Also, in what way is it right for him to feel this way? Is it out of faith or out of some other motive? What is interesting is Paul's next thought, "because I have you in my heart." Darby translates this thought in a unique way among all the other translators. He translates it as, "because ye have me in your hearts." (Philippians 1:7, Darby) Personally, I believe that this translation makes more since, at least as to how the sentence is constructed, and it helps the sentence to flow better and to yield a simpler meaning. It is right and just for Paul to have such love for then since, after all, they have expressed such love and concern for Paul and for his work. More than that, in all that Paul has been through, they too have endured, and as his love for them has endured through his hardships, so has their love for him endured throughout all of their own hardships.They, Paul and the Philippians, have a special bond one with another, not just a bond of love, but a bond of community; a bond that is formed through shared experiences. His hardships and theirs has taught them a level of grace and has brought them close though their mutual participation in that grace. It is easily to feel bonded with someone who has gone through things similar to you and who has found their strength, endurance, and joy in the same place and person(s) as you have. You both knew what it meant to suffer and you both understood, through experience, what it means to be sustained by the grace of God,This word for partakers is a contraction of a word that means "union" and one that means an "associate" or "companion." It implies that they are more than friends, companions, associates, and fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. It implies that they have joined together for a common cause, a common experience, or a common suffering in Christ. It is one thing thing to have friends in Christ, it is another to join with them in a common pursuit, vision, and purpose in Christ. This was who the Philippians were to Paul. While they were all believers in Christ, they were united in their common mission and suffering for the Gospel. We often talk about unity in the Body of Christ. Perhaps the unity is best achieved when we use the grace of God to participate together in the development and growth of the body among us and in the advancement of the Kingdom of God around us. Perhaps, if we feel isolated and at disunity with one another, it is because we are not invested with each in the common work of Christ. Paul said that it is through our union in purpose that the Body grows and bears fruit to God. "From whom [the head] the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:16) Unity can only be found in action, not in being.David Robison[...]
2016-11-26T11:01:39.642-05:00"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. 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 1:3-6)In Paul's greeting to the Philippian church, Paul is emphatic about his love and care for each and every one of them. Paul uses the same Greek word (or their derivatives) four times in repetition to emphasize his point. He says that his love and care for them is in "every remembrance," at "every time," with "every prayer", and for "every one." Paul was fully invested in the Philippians, not only as an apostolic worker on their behalf, but as a fellow participant in the Gospel and kingdom of Christ. Paul's letter is more than a momentary show of concern, it is the result of a daily remembrance of them, unceasing prayer for them, and an enduring love for them individually and corporately.Paul and the Philippians had very little in common. Paul was a Jew, raised in the strictest observance of their laws and traditions. Paul was raised to believe that he, and his people, were the only chosen ones and that the gentiles were to be forever excluded from the commonwealth of Israel. The Philippians were gentiles, raised without any benefit of the understanding of God's previous revelations in the scriptures and prophesies made before Christ. They were godless in their morals, ethics, and philosophy. Their God's were many and bore little resemblance to the one true God. However, even given all these differences, Paul found commonality and unity in the Spirit with these gentiles because they had something in common that was of greater significance than their differences: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our participation in the Gospel breaks down the walls that divide us. In the Gospel, though we are different and our heritage is varied and unrelated, we are made to be one people in Christ. We, who were many, have now become one. We have been joined together in a Gospel where, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise." (Galatians 3:28-29)When we first come to the Gospel, God begins a "good work" within us. What is important to understand is that, our salvation experience, is not the end of that good work, but only the beginning. Salvation is not an event that happens and then we go our merry way, but it is the beginning of a journey and a process of being transformed into the image of Christ. While being born again is essential to our new spiritual life, it alone is not sufficient to bring us to where God desires to take us. Salvation alone is not enough to bring us to "the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at [the] full-grown man, at [the] measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ; in order that we may be no longer babes," (Ephesians 4:13-14 Darby) Salvation is just the beginning and, once having started His good work, God wishes to bring it to a conclusion.This conclusion of the good work God has started will take a life time of walking with God. We will spend the rest of our lives learning of God, learning from God, and learning obedience to the things He asks of us. This process is begun by God, sustained by God, and completed by God. However, it's beneficial aspects in our [...]
2016-11-20T10:14:39.471-05:00"Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:1-2)Paul is writing from a prison cell in Rome. His apostolic partner, Timothy, is with him, although not in prison himself. Some have described Timothy as being a young pastor of one of the early churches. However, there is no evidence that Timothy was ever a "pastor" or a local leader of any of the early churches we know of. Eusebius, in his book on ecclesiastical history, never includes Timothy in any of his lists of bishops of the early churches. As far as we can tell, Timothy was an apostolic worker with Paul in Paul's ministry to the churches in Asia Minor. Later, when we read Paul's letters to Timothy, where He says to Timothy, "As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith." (1 Timothy 1:3-4) we understand that Paul did not leave him behind to "pastor" the church but to complete the apostolic teaching in the church that Paul himself did not have time to complete.Paul describes himself and Timothy as "bond-servants" of Christ. This is interesting in light of Jesus' words to His disciples. "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15) While Jesus says He does not call us slaves (the same Greek word Paul uses that is translated, "bond-servant"), Paul calls himself and timothy bond-servants. How can, or should, Paul call himself a bond-servant when Jesus does not but rather calls him a friend? The key to understanding this is to understand an Old Testament tradition. "If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment... But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently." (Exodus 21:2, 5-6) Paul and Timothy's subjugation to Christ as a bond-salves was not by coercion, force, or duty but rather voluntary our of their love for their master. While the love of God had set them free, their love for God bound them to Him in eternal servitude. They had committed their lives to serving their master out of the their boundless love for Him and His boundless love for them.Paul writes to those who are in Philippi and, almost as an after thought, to the overseers and deacons as well. It is important to note that Paul does not write to the leaders of the church, although he includes them in his letter, but he writes to the church in general. I have know churches where any prophesy or spoken words, other than simple encouraging words, had to be first submitted to the leadership for judging before being presented to the church as a whole. However, this does not seem to be Paul's approach to addressing the church. It is interesting that in addressing those who ruled over the church that he does not call them leaders or pastors but overseers. The role of th[...]
"But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts. Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love." (Ephesians 6:21-24)We live in a highly connected world. Sometimes it is hard to remember that back then they did not. It could be months in between communications and years between visits. Many people to whom Paul wrote had never met him or had met him only once. Having heard that Paul was imprisoned, many people prayed and hoped for his safety with out ever knowing if their prayers were having an effect or if their prayers had found the object for which they prayed. For them, it was a great joy to receive Tychicus and hear the report of how Paul was fairing.
2016-11-12T09:56:46.958-05:00"With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak." (Ephesians 6:18-20) We are to be constant in prayers and petitions. Many of us know this, but few of us do this. Moreover, how does one pray at all times and with all prayers in our busy and jammed pack lives? The key is in understanding what Paul means by "all times". The Greek word used here for "time" does not mean the sequential passing of seconds, minutes, hours, and days but refers to discrete moments or opportunities in time. Darby translates this verse as, "praying at all seasons, with all prayer and supplication in [the] Spirit." (Ephesians 6:18 Darby) God is not asking us to fill every waking moment of the day with prayer, rather, when opportunities arise or when the situation requires it, to be ready and prompt to pray. Each opportunity we face, each decision we must make, and each movement of testing that comes our way are to be filled with our prayers and supplication,Paul speaks of "all" as in "all prayer and petition" he means to indicate that there are various forms of our relationship with God of which prayer and petition are but two. Paul is encouraging us to use all forms of voicing our needs and concerns to God, be they asking, begging, or something else. Prayer is not to be rote or simply a static discipline we have with the Father. Payer should be dynamic and applicable to the need at hand. All forms of communing with the Father are to be pursued as needed. In fact, the Greek word for "prayer" can also imply "worship". Worship is a powerful force with God for it says, "Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, To bind their kings with chainsAnd their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the judgment written; this is an honor for all His godly ones." (Psalms 149:6-9) Worship can be a powerful weapon in our time of need. Furthermore, we must elicit the help of the Holy Spirit, praying in the Spirit, for it is the Spirit who "intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." (Romans 8:26) In our time of need we have not been left alone but have the agency and help of the Holy Spirit within us who not only enables us to pray but also prays for us as well.When Paul says, "with this in view," he is speaking of our need to prayerful in all seasons and in every occasion. Another translation would be, "With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:18 NIV) Knowing our need for prayer, we must always be on the alert, ready to pray, and praying with all perseverance. The Greek word for "alert" means both to watch and to keep awake. The opposite of sleeping is not being awake but watching. Remember what Jesus asked his disciples when He found them sleeping while He was praying, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Mark 14:37-38) Those who are asleep have no idea of what is going on around them nor the battle that is raging [...]
2016-11-11T07:31:05.345-05:00"Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:13-17)Once again, Paul encourages us to take up the panoply of God; taking unto ourselves the full armor, utility, and instrumentality of God. What is important to understand is that the time to do this is not when you find yourselves in the mist of the evil day. When everything is assaulting you, it's not the time to be looking for your armor. Armor must be put on prior to the battle, not in the midst of it. Also, the armor is not something you put on and take off. We are to be continuously robed in the armor of God. Only then we will be properly prepared to meet whatever may come our way. It is also interesting to note that our call is to stand. I have known some people who always seem to be looking for a spiritual fight. They are always assaulting something or trying to cast something out. Paul is not telling us to be running head-long into the battle we think we should be fighting, but rather to be prepared to stand should the battle come our way. Paul's words to us are like the Boy Scouts' motto, "Be prepared." You needn't go looking for a fight. Trust me, it will find you. Therefore, be prepared.To gird oneself is to be ready for action and for service. Jesus tells us to always be prepared for whatever may come our way. He also tells us to be ready at a moment's notice to obey our master's wishes. "Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately." (Luke 12:35-36 NKJV) Truth is essential to our preparation to act. Without truth we are easily lead astray. Without truth we fail to understand the true nature of life and the world we live in. We fail to understand the importance of being ready and what is at stake by our obedience to Christ. To properly see the world and to be ready to answer God's call we must shed the lies of the world and surround ourselves with the truth of the Gospel.While, here, Paul references the breastplate of righteousness, in other places he refers to it as the, "the breastplate of faith and love." (1 Thessalonians 5:8) I believe that this is because faith and love equal righteousness. Remember the words of Paul when he said, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6) Righteousness is nothing more than faith working through love. It is also interesting to note that righteousness can be a defensive weapon.Remember when Jesus said, "the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me." (John 14:30) Righteousness removes all the hooks in our heart by which the enemy can grab and yank us around. The enemy comes around looking for those in who he has place, but righteousness closes the door and keeps him out. How powerful is righteousness to our ability to stand!The phrase, "the preparation [...]
2016-11-07T08:00:43.621-05:00"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12)There are many things that seek to rattle our cages. As we go through each day, we often find things that seek to oppose us and derail us from our faith and consistency with Christ. However, far too often, when we try and war against these forces, our contention is misdirected and aimed at the wrong actors. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. Your enemy is not our spouse, your coworkers, your neighbors, or those of your family. Far too often these people become the recipients of our war against those things that seem to upset us, but they are not the problem, They are the unfortunate ones who are the closest to us so they are the ones who receive our frustration, our rebuffs, and our aimless flailing against our ever present opponent. Our unfortunate misdirection of force only serves to hurt those near us and perpetuate the influence of the enemy in our lives. We need to learn that people are not our enemies but rather our enemies are more powerful, unseen, and ready to exploit any weakness that may be in us for their own ends.Paul mentions four things, or classes of influence in our lives, which we do and ought to struggle against. The first is rulers. Darby translates this as "principalities". These are chief rulers; those given authority over specific domains. They were created as rulers, given both permission and empowering to rule by their authority. They hold sway over large areas and large groups of people. They may even be seen to govern over specific sins, such as drunkenness, and certain maladies such as leprosy and mental illness.The second is powers. These are those who have been given power and authority to act by the principalities they server. Darby translates this word as simply "authorities." There exists a host of minions doing the work and bidding of various principalities. We can think of these as the many demons who serve and work under the authority of higher ranking and ruling principalities of demons. These can be compared to the little foxes that Solomon refers to. "Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes." (Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV)Third are the world forces of darkness. Darby translates this as "universal lords of darkness," The Greek word for "world forces" is a combination of two Greek words. The first is the word "kosmos" which indicates all of this created realm, and especially this world. The second word can be translated "to seize or retain". I believe that this phrase refers specifically to Satan as the ruler of this world. It is curious that this word is translated in the plural and perhaps includes the many antichrists of which John says, "Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour." (1 John 2:18)Lastly, Paul names "spiritual forces of wickedness." There is a whole host of non-corporal beings that are at work in the unseen real whose mission is wickedness. It is not simply that their mission is to spread wickedness, but their mission is to menace, scheme, and agitate those who are seeking to live a godly life. They are bent on our destruction and o[...]