Discerning Truths

Philippians 1:12-26

Our world is rife with blaming and villainizing when things go wrong.  Someone must “pay” is often the chorus repeated to oblivion to whatever difficulty rises to the surface.  We have the uncanny desire as humans to seek revenge thinking that will better the world if everyone pays for their misspoken word and dastardly deeds. Chained to a prison guard 24/7 Paul was keenly aware of this philosophy.  It was especially so given many outside were trivializing Paul’s work and preaching the gospel of Christ Jesus with the intent of self-gratification and the intense desire to make a name for themselves, which when you think about it isn’t any different today. It is here these words bleed off the pages of Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

(12-14) Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.  And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

Then the clencher:

(15-18) It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.  The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.  The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.  But what does it matter?  The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.  And because of this I rejoice.  Yes and I will continue to rejoice.

Circle back to Philippians 1:9 for a minute and consider the brilliance of what Paul is saying.  Before he tackles the subject of the two kinds of preachers in this world; those who do it for personal gain, and those whose hearts are passionate about proclaiming the love of Christ, he affirms a profound prayer for the Philippians:

(9) And this is my prayer:  that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.

Paul prays very intently for them to have discernment and understanding of what is best, pure and blameless. His desire was for the church to focus on their purpose which was to be fixed on God and God alone.  Pay no attention to the grumblings, stirrings, and arguments, or get stirred up in the blame games as those are a distraction to our purpose as believers in Christ Jesus.  Those with a discerning heart and mind will live their testimony in purity and blamelessness, regardless of what others think.  Whatever happens, our role is to live in a manner worthy of the gospel, to have discernment as we speak about Christ and Christ alone. This is essential in the life of a believer and the community known as the church.  When suffering comes, and it will, we are able to discern in the midst of it our role so that others can be encouraged and grow confident as well.

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All Y’alls a.k.a the Church!

Philippians 1:1-11

We need each other! If you’ve read or listened to the news any time in the last 50 years or more, you would agree so many god-less things happen globally every day it’s hard not to be consumed with fear and worry.  One could easily get wrapped up in the clamor of any given issue that threatens to upend our world and personal security and completely lose sight of what our true responsibilities are as believers; which is the building up of the body of Christ, known as the church. As a matter of fact, Satan has worked this plan so brilliantly we don’t even know we’re wrapped up in the wrong things most days.

You could easily brush over Paul’s greeting to the church in Philippi in these opening verses of the book of Philippians.  But to do so would overlook the important framework for which the rest of the book springs into action.  For as you review more closely, you see the inner workings of the church come to light.  And the church, in these days between Christ’s ascension and his return, is known as the era of the Holy Spirit and the growth of church.  Christ will return for his bride, which is the church.  The emphasis on this body of believers is profound.  Missing it has devastating consequences to our responsibility to do the two things in this world Jesus commanded us to do when he said “love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, mind and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27, Deuteronomy 6:5).  Salvation is personal and corporate.  The church is personal and corporate.  Knowing grammar is vitally important at this point too!

When we moved to Texas we learned there is an actual proper grammatical structure of the pronoun “y’all”.  If used to include everyone, not just those within hearing distance, the proper use is “all y’alls”.  Circling back to this week’s passage the pronoun is critical to the meaning of what Paul is saying to the church in Philippi.  Verse six is a widely known passage that is repeated on greeting cards and signature lines the world over as a personal encouragement.  And while it isn’t “illegal” to use it that way, in context Paul means the church in Philippi corporately.  Speaking Texan as you read it may make the passage clearer to you in proper context:

He who began a work in all y’all will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.

All y’all is the church!  It is you, it is me, it is individual and it is corporate.  A personal relationship with Christ Jesus leads us into fellowship with a body of believers known as the Church.  The work of the church is not to make the gospel relevant (it already is).  The work of the church is to make the gospel clear to a lost and dying world.

It is here that Paul opens this book with a prayer for the church in Philippi.  The swirling unrest is growing as Christians become hated even more by the Jews and now Romans. Nero has come into power and it will be less than three years before the destruction of the temple and all “things” sacred will be destroyed, and Christians will be used as torches to light the streets of Rome. One could get wrapped up in this horrifying turn of events but Paul prays this incredible prayer for the church in Philippi.

“I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for (all y’alls).  I always pray with joy because of (all y’alls) partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in (all y’alls) will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Considering the broiling circumstances of the day that could derail the message of salvation and the growth of the church (the body of Christ). Paul adds:

“And this is my prayer:  that your (all y’alls) love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight (not just what is good or sentimental), so that you (all y’alls) may be able to discern what is best and may be pure (sincere, judged by sunlight) and blameless (not causing anyone to stumble) for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Christ Jesus – to the glory and praise of God.”

We all get wrapped up in circumstances, its the nature of the will of man to be consumed with himself.  But Christ Jesus calls us to love others because of our growing love for him.  Taking the focus off circumstances and whatever chatter is escalating during the day and seeking God for knowledge and depth of insight will give us,the body of Christ (the church) discernment for the day ahead. Which, ultimately is the good work he is completing until the day of Christ Jesus!

 

Philippians Intro

Trust issues.  We all have them.  Some are so severe they create immeasurable anxiety and depression.  And as you look at the book of Philippians, it is the polar opposite of what you would expect coming from a man in prison, and facing probable death for preaching the gospel of Christ Jesus.  Instead of long letters proclaiming his innocence and demanding a fair trial, asking his lawyers to do what it takes to free him from false accusations, Paul pens a letter to the church in Philippi chock full of encouragement with an underlying theme of joy.  Therein lies the beauty of this New Testament letter.  Regardless of his personal outcome, he spends his days encouraging others who will carry the message of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  That includes us today!  We are recipients of this remarkable letter because of Paul’s longing to preach the Gospel regardless of personal circumstances, knowing GOD is the author and perfecter of our lives.  Perceiving at some point in the very near future his life would end on earth, Paul spends the better part of all his imprisonments writing letters to the fledgling churches in the first century.  The bulk of which make up what is now known as the New Testament.

 

Whenever Paul entered a new city, he visited the synagogue first to proclaim the news of Christ Jesus.  Though he was considered an Apostle to the Gentiles, he always took the Gospel message to the Jews first because Paul was first a Jew and a very scholarly one at that.  So much so he was a Priest who was on a mission to end the growth of the Christian faith until God course-corrected his mission! Philippi was the first city he visited where so few Jews existed that there wasn’t a synagogue (less than 10 families).  It is considered the first “gentile” city, and the first European city in which the Christian church was established.  Being part of the Roman empire didn’t mean the people of Philippi were god-less, though their practices in spirituality were completely and utterly god-less.  These people had no understanding of The Law and Jewish traditions and culture.  When Paul spoke of the one true God to those in the city, they believed in faith.  Free from the grips of sin the people of Philippi were a generous group, and supported Paul in his mission for the rest of his days.  The city was the portal for which the gospel went to the ends of the earth.

 

It is believed this letter was penned after Paul received a donation from the Philippi church while in prison in Rome.  Paul was accused of a crime and arrested in Jerusalem and transported by the Romans to Caesarea Philippi. As a Roman citizen, he made an appeal to Caesar which obligated the Romans to take him to Rome.  In all of Paul’s journeys his one desire was to reach Rome so that he could preach the Gospel of Christ Jesus there.  His way was made through the prison system! Through that avenue, the Gospel message made it to the highest seats of government. It was not done easily, and not without intense suffering.

 

As Paul sat considering his end may be near, he sent word to his friends in Philippi thanking them for their generous support, encouraging them to remain steadfast, worry-free and trusting God’s plan for the Gospel in the world.  It is hard to imagine Paul not dealing with trust issues, anxiety or depression given these dire circumstances.  But the tone of his letter embodies the one thing that most of us desire above all, trusting God with our future.  Paul knew his future on earth was for one sole purpose, to share his testimony of the redeeming power of God in his life.  And if not that, then his future meant being in the presence of God.  He envisioned God being the author of all his future, which cast away anxiety about what “might” happen.  He used each day as it was given, focusing on the message for that day alone.  He had no need to suppose what the future may hold.  He embraced the day he had with reckless abandon to the Gospel of Christ Jesus.  That he knew.  That was life.  And if not life, then fully present with God.

 

When you get overwhelmed by your day or even thinking about the future, cast your anxious thoughts aside (a theme you will hear in the book of Philippians).  Trust the promise that God is with you each moment.  Remember those like Paul, who have gone before you in circumstances far worse.  The threat of death can either grip us with fear and render us completely useless or we can rest knowing that God goes with us through the process delivering us safely into God’s hands at the end.