Tag Archives: training

Philippians 4:14-20; brief thoughts pt. 1

14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs once and again.17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

One of the most prominent marks of the authenticity of a Christian community is a concern for the expansion of the gospel. When a pastor or missionary begins a new work, other Christian groups prove the veracity of their faith by their own support of the work of the gospel. This is the reason that modern division and dissension over new church starts and gospel ministries is so disheartening. When a church plant begins, often the new work has met a sort of passive rejection. Churches will express sentiments such as, “We’re not going to help and if this is the Lord’s work, it will survive.” Behind closed doors, the same churches will exclaim that their town does not need new churches. This sort of rejection is the same sort of rejection of the gospel ministry that the early church dealt with (Acts 5). Of particular interest is the statement of Gamaliel in which he advises the other Pharisees that they should leave the Christians alone because their work will fail if it is not of God (v.38-39). It is a tragic reality that many modern churches would assert the same instruction given by the opponents of the gospel in the first century.

The heart of the Christian church ought to be the increase of the mission of the gospel. When one body of believers hears of another work that is proclaiming the gospel, their response ought to be an immediate and powerful desire to join in the work. The Philippians joined in the work of the gospel from the beginning of Paul’s ministry. So great was their partnership with him that no one else joined in the work. Consider what they are being commended for: “giving and receiving.” The Philippian church joined with the work in both giving and receiving. It is easy to receive. It is easy to take the benefits that ministers and churches provide. It is quite a different when the support of another ministry requires sacrifice. The easiest way to test the authenticity of a church and its dedication to the mission of the gospel is to examine their budget and finances. Churches will allocate their money to what they deem most important.

Paul’s motivation for the commendation of the Philippians is that they would be inspired to increase and maintain their work for the gospel. He does not need nor want to gain more money from them. His motivation is for the proliferation of the gospel. Paul is glad to receive the gifts that the Philippians send because the resources sent result in the increase of the gospel. Paul has already exhibited a tremendous confidence in the provision of God for him. For Paul, the advance of the gospel message into the world is the chief purpose of the resources he is given. Concern for his own welfare and provision are secondary to the call to obey the gospel ministry.

Oh Christian, if you would submit to the calling of the gospel in the way Paul demonstrates, you would find that you have nothing to lose in obedience to the gospel. You will see that the Lord provides for those who follow Him. Paul surrendered every comfort for the gospel. He allowed himself no luxury and sought no benefit or provision beyond what the Lord would provide. Yet, in obeying the gospel’s call to engage his community with the gospel, he found peace, happiness, security in God’s provision, and a renewed purpose of life and ministry. You have nothing to lose in obedience to the gospel. Obey what the Lord calls you to do, He will meet your needs.

Philippians 4:5b-7; Brief thoughts on thanksgiving

The Lord is at Hand, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

How does one find perfect peace? In a world filled with violence, rejection, suffering, and turmoil, how can anyone find peace? First, peace is revealed in a trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is a general peace that accompanies belief. When a believer confesses faith, they are granted a sense of eternal peace through the assurance that they will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. However, the peace that Paul is proposing in verse 7 is a peace that is transcendent even of current circumstances. A prisoner who could not be overtaken or defeated by any circumstance, Paul gives the reader insight into how a person can achieve perfect peace amidst a life filled with suffering and strife.

Consider the exhortation of verse 6, “…in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God” (ESV). At the root of Paul’s admonition is thanksgiving. The basis of approaching the Holy God of the Universe is to do so with a spirit of gratitude. The word translated as thanksgiving is the same word used to refer to communion in the early church fathers.[1] This word denotes a sort of connection with God that exalts Him as Lord and submits to His design and will. Thanksgiving necessitates surrender. So it is here, in order to find peace, one must be willing to surrender their own control. Prayers and requests must be founded on a motivation of gratitude no matter what the outcome of the prayers may be.[2]

In addition to a spirit of gratitude, the target of effective prayer and supplication is God. He is the one to whom Christians direct their requests in times of anxiety. It is a peculiar reality that Christians often do not pursue prayer as their first course of action. When anxious feelings strike the soul, the often Western Christians will set their minds to solving the problem. They will seek to gather information, speak to others, seek out counsel, identify the solution, and even attempt to escape their own predisposed condition. Paul’s instructions are vastly different. Christians are not supposed to be anxious, but are supposed to combat anxiety with prayer first and foremost. Believers are designed to lean on God for comfort, yet almost every Christian conference in the west deals with being a better leader or developing a better strategy. There is almost never an emphasis on simply obeying this simple exhortation: pray. Is it any wonder that the western church is fraught with anxiety? As a culture, western Christianity has attempted to address moments of trouble and suffering with their intellect, financial means, and talents. Paul says peace will come if we pray with thanksgiving.

Take note of the kind of peace that comes. It is not merely circumstantial or temporary. The type of peace that Paul is proclaiming is one that is transcendent. It surpasses understanding. This is the sort of peace that baffles the world. This is the sort of peace that challenges human concepts of comfort. This is the sort of peace that can lose everything and rejoice in the face of certain death. This is the peace only Christ can give. This peace is so powerful and profound that it will guard those who have it.

Paul cites that this peace will specifically guard the “heart” and “mind.” Take encouragement dear Christian. God is concerned about your heart. He has not left you to struggle. He walks through your pain and suffering with you to guard your heart. Trust Him. Nor has God abandoned you to your own reason. He guides you and leads you on in your search for understanding amidst pain. You have not been left alone. God has come and is here with you, offering you peace in surrender to Him.

[1] Balz, H. R., & Schneider, G. (1990–). Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 88). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.

[2] For a more full explaination of the word for thanksgiving and the concept of eucharist, I highly recommend Ann Voskamp’s 1,000 Gifts.

Philippians 4:4; Rejoicing

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 

(Warning: the following article refers to happiness, joy, and gladness interchangeably… because they are interchangeable.)

Be happy! Be filled with gladness! The imperative of verse 4, taken by itself, would sound somewhat absurd to a group of Christians who are being persecuted. One would expect something like, “persevere” or “press on.” But Paul commands, “rejoice!” It seems absurd to adjure someone in a dire and desperate state as the suffering church of Philippi to be glad or happy, but that is exactly what this word means.[1] The call to rejoice is indeed a call to happiness in the midst of the world that attempts to deny that happiness.

Happiness and gladness have been dismissed by many in the Christian community as something trite that should not be pursued. It is as though happiness is considered selfish and the truly righteous pursuit of life is holiness. The Christian community has been taught that holiness is more important than happiness and that happiness and holiness are antithetical. However, when Paul exhorts us toward happiness, he encourages us to find our gladness/ happiness/ joy in Christ. Much of the Christian teaching in the world today separates happiness and joy. As if joy is some deeper more ethereal reality while happiness and gladness are fleeting emotions. However, the Bible is loaded with texts that talk about happiness. (Unfortunately, you’ll have to do a word search for “blessed” because even translators are uncomfortable with the word happy). A pursuit of happiness in God is central to the Christian life.[2] Rather than thinking of happiness and holiness as two opposing pursuits, Christians ought to recognize that the pursuit of holiness will bring the greatest measure of happiness. Happiness is not antithetical to holiness, it is the complement. Pursuing holiness and a knowledge of Christ is a pursuit of happiness. (For a more thorough explanation see footnote number 2 below).

Paul urges us to “rejoice in the Lord” (v.4). This rejoicing comes as an emphatic imperative. Christians have to be reminded to rejoice. Paul felt it necessary to emphasize the necessity of rejoicing. It is easy to forget that joy is found in a pursuit of Christ. When the surrounding world is constantly attempting to steal the attention of Christ’s followers from Him, it is necessary to bear constant reminder that joy/ happiness is found in Christ. In a world when fleeting desires are met with a swipe of a finger, the effort to know Christ more wars against the modern lazy tendencies.

Oh Christian, do not give into this world’s efforts to steal your happiness. Rage against the rulers who would insist that you belong to them and your desires will only be fulfilled in the pathetic offerings of self-indulgent, temporary satisfaction. Make war on sin and pursue holiness. In pursuing holiness you will find happiness/ joy. Pursue your joy in Christ and in knowing Him! Paul emphasizes rejoicing in the Lord because happiness/ joy is found in Christ.

Remember, Paul’s imperatives are exhortations. Meaning they are commands or statements that are based on a previously established or assumed truth. The assumption of this particular verse is that joy/ happiness is found in Christ. At this point in the reading of Philippians, it is difficult to argue that one will not find happiness in Christ. There is an overwhelming victory given to Christians through faith in Christ. Take a moment and skim back through this wonderful epistle. You will see, God has done and is doing more than you could ever ask or imagine. Trust Him for your joy.

 

 

[1] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

[2] Alcorn, Randy. Happiness. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; (2015).  For a more full explanation of happiness in the Christian life, check out Randy Alcorn’s book, “Happiness.” Seriously… go by this book.

Alcorn, Randy. Happiness. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; (2015)

Alcorn, Randy. Happiness. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; (2015)

Philippians 4:2-3; Brief Thoughts

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

In every place where people must stand together on principles, there is going to be strife and some contention. The stress of opposing viewpoints and passionate ideologies can and usually does lead to conflict. It is comforting to know that the Philippian church had some struggles among members. If the “jewel and crown” (4:1) of Paul’s ministry can have conflict, then the modern church should take encouragement. If such a compliment can be found among troubled Christians, then there is hope for the churches in the west, who find common the dissensions of trivialities.

Paul pleads with these two women, calling them to find some commonality in their faith in Jesus. He does not articulate a 4 step plan to resolve the conflict. He does not recommend a series of meetings with a pastor as discussion moderator. He does not even recommend eating pie together (everything is better with pie)! He calls them to found their affection for each other in their faith in Christ. His plea is a powerful example for Christian leaders. In times of conflict and strife, Christians must center their affections on Christ. Remind the people of God who it is they believe in. When strife and contention arise, it is Christ and deep understanding of His character that will resolve the troubles Christian’s often find themselves engaged in.

Deep thoughts about the character of Christ are important for two reasons. First, thinking deeply about Jesus puts in proper perspective the vanity of our passionate arguments. It is not uncommon to sit in church business meetings that have nothing to do with the Gospel of Jesus and everything to do with The arguments and debates over the color of the carpet, quality of kitchen materials, or the atmosphere of a room become trivial in the face of an authentic examination of Jesus’ character. When the church will put the deep doctrinal truths of Jesus before their eyes, the self-indulgent attitudes so common in the western church are exposed for what they are and they are replaced with appropriate and beautiful worship that glorifies God and unites believers. Second, thinking deeply about Jesus reminds the church of its mission. The mission of the church is to make God known in a world that rejects Him. When we examine Jesus’ character together and see that He was gracious to Judas and patient with Peter, the personalities that naturally frustrate one another are quickly forgiven and overlooked for the sake of the work of the gospel. Focusing on Christ puts the mission of Christ before the people.

Beloved leaders, please stop focusing on trivialities and attempting to resolve conflict with meetings that address felt needs and perceived offenses. You’re hurting Christianity. Instead, focus your efforts on teaching your people about the character of Jesus. Please. The church does not need unity of opinion, another program to answer disputes or even a good sermon series on resolution of conflict in the community. The church in the west needs Jesus. The church needs to know Him fully. Do not shy away from difficult doctrines that you think will be divisive. It is in this avoidance of an authentic examination of Jesus that the church finds itself arguing over preferences and methodologies. Please, point your people to Jesus’ character and nature, even if that character and nature are difficult for you to explain.

Take note of Paul’s exhortation to the leader of the church in Philippi. He reminds their leader four simple things. First, Paul calls him a “true companion” (v.3). Paul is not asking a subordinate to engage in this particular conflict. He is asking a friend who is joined together with him. The word used for “true companion” can be translated as “yoke-fellow.”[1] Paul reminds the leader that they are united together in the mission of Christ. What a tremendous thing to remember when confronting conflict in the church! Remember the tie that binds the church together. Disregard trivial offenses and remember that the members of the church are united in the mission of the gospel. Second, Paul calls the leader to help. Such a simple admonition. He does not insist that the leader solves the problem, or find a solution for their dispute on their behalf (though that may be necessary). Instead, he encourages him to, “help.” Leaders cannot fix the hearts of people, but they can point people to Jesus. Help your people by pointing them to Christ. Third, Paul reminds this brother that these women have served. Sometimes it is easy to forget the past service of a saint who is frustrating the work of the gospel in their personal conflict. Leaders need to remember when a person has sacrificed in the past. In acknowledging the past service of the saint that is in need of conflict resolution, the leader will be given hope that the relationship can be re-centered around the gospel, as the people in the conflict have exhibited a devotion to the gospel in the past. Finally, Paul reminds his friend that these ladies are believers. Believers ought to resolve disputes with the greatest of ease. The commonality of grace that has been given to the individual believer through Christ should serve to inspire the church and its leaders to extend the same depth of grace to one another.

Love well, work together, and strive together for unity.

[1] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

Philippians 3:19-21; Brief Thoughts

19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Paul exhorts the believer to keep watch on the way they walk so that they will not become like those who are characterized in verse 19. In order to maintain this holy lifestyle, a believer must be disciplined to examine him/herself and to work hard to pursue holiness. There are a few disciplines and activities that can aid a believer in strengthening themselves from the temptation to ever act like a wolf.

Fasting is a powerful tool for self-examination. The denial of self and surrender of satisfaction of desires is a necessary exercise to prove to oneself that the belly is not the master of the soul. In modern Christianity, most people do not know how to fast and few make a regular or even occasional practice of it. Yet, fasting is often assumed in Scripture as a discipline that Christians voluntarily submit to for purposes of guidance and purity (Acts 13:2-3, 14:23, 27:9, 1 Cor. 7:5). This lack of discipline could be an indication that many people claiming the name of Christ, do not actually know Him and the joy of His presence. Christians fast so that this can be proven incorrect and Christians can be assured that they belong to Christ.

Self-examination is an excellent means of grace. However, self-examination alone leaves blind-spots. This is why Christian community is critical. Believers must be plugged-in to an honest community of other believers who will call them to account for their miss-deeds and sinful behaviors. Further, a community of love and faith is necessary for a believer to be able to gain honest and unbiased insight into his or her own character. In short, if you don’t want to accidently fall into the trap of finding “glory in… shame,” then join a Bible-teaching, gospel-living church.

In an effort to surrender earthly treasure and man-centered focus one must be willing to focus their efforts on the world that lay beyond this one. Christians are in desperate need of an eternal focus in order to overcome the trappings of this world. That focus is gained through the consistent study of the Word of God, constant surrender of material goods to the work of the Kingdom of God, and faithful efforts to seek heavenly approval and scorn human accolade.

One of the greatest strengths of a believer is that mysterious confidence in eternity. Believers can recognize the great truth that there is a full life beyond this half-hearted momentary struggle that all humanity shares. There is a great everlasting existence beyond the grave that a believer can cling to with certainty and hope. A Kingdom set apart for God’s own set-apart people. This home that Christians trust in is currently invisible to the eye of man and yet it exists. Heaven has a real, physical, and full existence. It is not some ethereal realm that houses the disembodied spirits but is a real place with real streets and a real throne room, and a real King. A King who is going to return to this earth and claim His own people to Himself.

When the King returns, all His people will be transformed and given resurrected glorified bodies. Consider this for a moment: the King of all things is going to return and restore broken, incomplete bodies to a new state. He will give glorified bodies to His people. This means the bodies of believers will be re-created in the image they were originally intended for. The glorified condition of the believer’s body will, at last, match the redeemed condition of the heart. Jesus will accomplish this great transformation by the same power that allows Him to subject all things to Himself. He is King, there is nothing that is outside of His rule.

Oh Christian, cling to this truth: that Jesus is King. There is no trouble or turmoil that is too great for Him to overcome. No swell of waves that He cannot calm. No failing of man that He cannot change. There is no circumstance He cannot answer, He is God. He has the power of creation in Himself and He can handle all trials and circumstances. Trust Him.

Philippians 3:17-19; Wolves, Brief Thought

17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 

Wolves are horrible. They eat the sheep. They’re incredibly smart and maniacal. They work in teams and are just extremely dangerous and deadly when they are hungry. The Bible warns believers to watch out for wolves (c.f. Mt. 7:15, 10:16, and Acts 20:29). These are men and women who insert themselves into the community, claim the authority of God, and eventually bring destruction to the flock of God. Paul’s exhortation in verses 17-19 gives some insight on the identification of such wolves.

It is common in the western church to encounter wicked men who lead poorly and harm the flock of God. These men often appear to be incredibly godly men. Yet, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing knowing nothing about the Holy Spirit or the sincere love of Christ. Early in my ministry I was scarred by someone I thought to be a brother in the ministry. This man leveled me with accusations of failure and angry reproof without any righteous motivation. He did not scar me for my benefit or instruction. He attacked me and wounded me for his own gain and reputation among other wolves. Forsaking the glory, humility, and love of Christ, he reacted to me in anger and hatred. This man has been a source of tears and pain. I have wept over his sinful rejection of Christ’s love and subsequent display of self-righteousness. Paul was no stranger to such men. In his work he suffered rejection from Jewish leaders he once called brothers (Acts 18), materialistic Christians (2 Timothy 4:10), and even other so-called Christian leaders (Galatians 1-2). His warning to believers are born from experience. He admonishes the Philippians to remain faithful in following after his own example because there are many who will reject the cross of Christ and will lead others to do the same.

Identifying such people can be a difficult task. Verse 19 gives some instruction on the identification of those who would become enemies of the cross of Christ. Paul identifies wolves among us with three unique characteristics. Before he cites their characteristics, Paul proclaims their end. Wolves will be destroyed. There will not be rescue from the judgement for such as these. Their end is wrath and justice, not mercy and grace. Those who serve as enemies of Christ will find their end is destruction. There is no hope for those who reject the salvation of Jesus in favor of this world… there is only wrath.

The first of the three character traits that lead to this horrific end is a subservience to apatite. These are people who are enslaved to their cravings. They find it difficult to deny themselves their desires, even if those desires will harm them. Indeed, they worship their own satisfaction and everything they pursue is to that end. It is their apatite and self-satisfaction that drives their decisions and activities.

The second identifying mark is that they “glory in their shame” (v.19). Glory is an accurate representation of something. For example: the glory of a frog is that it jumps and is slimy. Glory is that which your identity is founded on. The glory of those who reject Christ is in their shame. They revel in shameful activities and give approval to them as though they were righteous.

The third character trait is an infatuation with earthly things and success in this world. Their focus is on this life and not the next. They want the approval of men and the wealth and prestige of the rulers on earth. An obsession with success according to the people of this world is the final mark of a wolf.

The difficulty in identifying wolves in the modern church is that so much of what they are calling success looks spiritual. It is common to find men and women who will seek the praise of other men and women through the auspice of leading in a church. They are governed by their apatite to be approved of and heralded as a great spiritual leader and they consider their divisive and deceptive actions to be wisdom and good business practice. Yet, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing, seeking their own advancement and not the Kingdom of God. Avoid these leaders, they will meet their end in destruction.

Be faithful, oh Christian, to maintain an eternal perspective. The admonition to keep your eyes on holy examples is imperative for the identification of other wolves to be sure. It is also critical that you do so for your own sake. You are just as wicked as the one who believes himself to be spiritual while feeding his apatite and hoping in this life. So stay faithful and consistent in your walk. In maintaining a persistent and faithful walk with Jesus, you will find yourself drawing closer and closer to the glory of Christ and thereby assuring yourself of salvation and keeping yourself from becoming or behaving like a wolf.

 

Philippians 3:17; Brief Thoughts

17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 

Imagine a great forest. The trees are dense and the brush is troublesome to push through, but there is a path to walk. A path that has been worn from years of travelers who know the way through the forest. Those who have gone before have pushed through the brush and followed the path that was laid by the owner of the land. You see, the owner has a kingdom on the other side of the forest. He owns the forest and He owns the kingdom. The people who seek the kingdom walk the path. So, if a person seeks the kingdom, they too walk the path that has been worn by others. What Paul calls the Philippians to do is walk the same path.

Imitate godliness. Find men and women who follow Christ well and seek His glory, then copy their lifestyle. Examine those you admire. Be careful to ensure that those who are respected are worthy of such respect.

Two errors are common among young believers seeking worthy men to follow.

First, they will give too much respect to a leader without evaluating that person’s life. Often age is given credence over righteousness. Christians ought to be cautious when seeking those to imitate. Age does not automatically indicate maturity or wisdom. Indeed, Paul’s admonition to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12 seems to indicate that young men are capable of being the necessary example for the congregation. Sometimes experience is prized when the leader has done a poor job assimilating that experience to their life. Be careful not to give respect to someone who has simply had experiences. Be sure that they have processed those experiences and learned from them.

The second error that young believers fall prey to is in over-evaluation. With tremendous zeal to ensure that they are seeking leaders who are pursuing Christ, they set their standards too high and drift into legalistic judgment of those who could encourage their walk. It is important to recognize what Paul has already said about himself: he has not already obtained the resurrection and is not perfect. Seek men and women to imitate who are honest about their own flaws and are pursuing Christ.

When a believer finds a person whose life and efforts exemplify Christ, that believer should labor to become like Christ by following their example. Follow the example of those who have walked the path of righteous obedience. Find men and women who have led holy lives and have exemplified Christ. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul exhorts the believers to “imitate me as I imitate Christ.”[i] Paul’s exhortation to imitate him is based on the reality that he is imitating Christ. The goal of Christians is not to become more like holy men and women who have gone before but to become more like Christ. Sometimes it is easier to evaluate one’s own walk by examining and imitating the life of a fellow believer who has a faithful life. Believers should aspire to imitate godly men and women in so far as those leaders are imitating Christ.

Oh beloved Christian, find godly people to look up to. Find men and women who lay down their lives for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Find people who delight themselves in eternal truth and God’s provision for the soul. Find men and women worthy of respect. They will not look like the world. They will not have the trappings of this world and, at first, their lives may not be appealing. But, look closely and see that the holy ones who walk with Jesus are content when no one else is. Find them, follow their lead, and you’ll begin to walk through the forest with greater ease.

[i] This is my own translation.