November 2015

Loving in Excellence

How are we to #love one another in excellence?

 

Philippians 1:10 “(And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment), so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”

 

One of the biggest obstacles to purposeful Christian living is getting sidetracked onto things that aren’t relevant, or as Paul calls them, “excellent.” D. Martin Lloyd Jones said, ““The difficulty in life is to know on what we ought to concentrate. The whole art of life, I sometimes think, is the art of knowing what to leave out, what to ignore, what to put on one side. How prone we are to dissipate our energies and to waste our time by forgetting what is vital and giving ourselves to second and third rate issues” (The Life of Joy [Baker], p. 54). Paul’s prayer for his brothers and sisters in the Philippian church was that they would cultivate and express Christ-like love toward each other that is centered on knowledge and discernment so that they would not be diverted onto worldly things of little or no importance. It is our goal to apply a laser-like focus onto the things of God, recognizing the areas that both bring Him glory and show others His kingdom. When we do so, we live as “pure and blameless.” This does not mean that we live as perfect and faultless, but as with integrity and right thoughts. It is interesting that Paul’s focus for the Christian displaying these excellent and God-honoring qualities is in the way that we love one another. We do all of this with the understanding that Jesus is returning, a day when we will both be called home to Him and where we will be held to account for how our love abounded correctly for each other.

 

Study/Meditation: How does what Paul writes to the Philippian church in these verses much like what Jesus told His disciples in John 13:34-35? (http://www.esvbible.org/John+13/)

 

*Father, help me to see how I should love my brothers and sisters with excellence. Thank You for loving me this way. Amen.

 

Biblical Love

Biblical #love is a balance between head and heart.

 

Philippians 1:9 “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.”

 

“Love” is often misused and misidentified within the Christian community. Some think that real love is devoid of intellect. They believe that we are to love by accepting the beliefs of anyone and everyone with no regard to the doctrinal authenticity of those beliefs. Love for these people is all heart and no head. Still others have gone to the opposite extreme, sacrificing kindness and patience in favor of strong doctrine. They feel love is intolerant to the extreme; it is all head and no heart. Paul realized that there is to be a fine balance between head and heart when it comes to biblical love, and it is in this kind of love that we are to “abound more and more.” Biblical love that is Christ exalting is in displaying kindness and self-sacrificial behavior toward others, but it is guided by “knowledge and all discernment.” Knowledge that drives true love does not anchor itself in culture but in God. It is spiritual knowledge that finds its source in God’s Word and in all Holy Spirit driven insight. True discernment comes only upon the foundation of Godly knowledge. One is discerning if he or she can correctly understand and identify truth as it is portrayed in the bible. Consequently, Paul’s prayer for the Philippian church, which should also be our prayer for ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ, is that we love one another with a Godly love, a love that is based on God’s Word and that in that knowledge can identify the differences between good and evil. This is love that combines both heart and head in order to truly glorify our Lord.

 

Study/Meditation: How can an incorrect balance between heart and head cause damage within a church?

 

*Father, help me to love correctly with my head and my heart. Thank You for giving me the Holy Spirit so that I might know these things. Amen.

 

Love One Another

Why must believers seek to #love one another?

 

Philippians 1:8 “For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”

 

There is no argument that just because we are brothers and sisters in Christ that loving each other can sometimes be difficult. Yet Paul uses the word “yearn” to describe how desperately he misses his Philippian church family. The Greek usage of this word was used to speak of one’s intestines or inward parts. In other words, Paul was saying that his longing to be with them came from the deepest part of him. Do we have that kind of longing to see our church family when we are away from them? The truth is that we should. Surely not everyone in the Philippian church was easy to get along with, so how could Paul yearn for their company so deeply? The key to this dilemma lies in the phrase “with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Jesus cared for all of His children, regardless of their personality quirks, and He did so with such ferocity that He quite literally died for them. We love each other through Christ. We look beyond our own sinful responses to the personalities and actions of our brothers and sisters toward the sin-erasing, wrath-removing love our Savior has for them. As we obey by seeking to eradicate our own judgmental, unloving reactions and instead move toward Christ’s love for others, the feelings of love will naturally, and in time, follow.

 

Study/Meditation: Think of at least one brother or sister in Christ that you have a difficult time loving. What steps can you take so that you can grow to love this person through the love Jesus already has for them?

 

*Father, forgive me for being unloving and judgmental of my brothers and sisters at times.   Help me as I endeavor to love with Your love. Amen.

How We View Church

How do people sometimes treat going to #church like shopping for a new car?

 

Philippians 1:7 “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.”

 

It is fully unfortunate that consumerism has permeated our idea of church today. The notion that church is the place where you go one or two times a week to have your needs met and then go home to your regular life would have been completely foreign to the Philippian church and to Paul. Often today we “church shop,” going from church to church looking for the “right” one that satisfies our personal criteria for church. Then we take our seats in the pew and receive for an hour and half at which point we go home to our lives. Nervous pastors fret when members leave to go down the street to another church that seems to offer full service programs, so they get busy revamping their own services to further meet the public needs. Church is not a place we go to be entertained or to have our needs met or to reflect mainstream society in whatever fashion is prevalent that day. Church is where we go in fellowship with other believers to worship and serve our risen Lord who bought us with His blood. Sometimes, as Paul indicated in his letter, that includes being persecuted. Paul tells the Philippian church that he remembers them with joy because they were partakers with him in both the grace they received from God but also in persecution. Let us not be infiltrated by the world’s idea of church, but instead be consumed with passion of like-minded believers who long for nothing else but communion based on Christ, a communion that shares in both the joy and the hardship.

 

Study/Meditation: How do you see church services in contemporary society often straying from what Paul would consider correct church focus? What attitudes in yourself need to be altered when you attend church so that you are there for the right reasons?

 

*Father, thank You for giving me my local church. Help me attend as a worshipper of You and of the Lord Jesus Christ, not for my own needs to be met. Forgive me when I attend selfishly. Amen.

 

The Church Family

Do you feel that your #church is your family?

 

Philippians 1:5 “…because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

 

The following analogy was given some years ago: A family went to the movies together. They went in and sat down, but the youngest of the sons stayed in the lobby to get some popcorn. When he finally got through the long line at the concession stand with his refreshments, the movie had already begun. He stood at the back of the dark, crowded theater, looking unsuccessfully for his family. Finally from the back of the auditorium he yelled, “Does anyone in here know me? Does anyone recognize me?” Unfortunately, that is how many people feel when they enter their local churches. It is supposed to be filled with their brothers and sisters in Christ, but when push comes to shove, they don’t feel like anyone in the crowded room even knows them. That is not the way it should be when we meet together as a church family, and it is not the way it was in Philippi. Paul began his letter by telling this church that he thanked God every day for them, for their partnership with him in ministry. He remembered them in love because they were his family and they made sure he knew it. When you walk into your church, do you ever feel like that little boy in the movie theater, searching desperately for someone who might know you? Or are you one of the members who are content to sit in the pews, looking straight ahead, making no effort to either greet your family or be greeted by them? Our church is our family, our God-centered family. Let us strive to greet one another as such, making sure every member of the family knows that they are known.

 

Study/Meditation: What active plan do you have to make your church more like your family in Christ?

 

*Father, thank You for giving me brothers and sisters in You. Help me to both seek them out as well as avail myself to them as they seek me out. Amen.

 

Joy in Prayer

How often do we seek #joy by praying for others?

 

Philippians 1:3-4 “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.”

 

Paul knew the secret to attaining true joy, and it is founded in the Holy Spirit and through the outpouring of relationship. Don’t misidentify joy for happiness. Being happy is a response to circumstance. Joy is the result of right relationship. Paul was sitting in prison upon writing this letter to the Philippian church. It’s a pretty sure bet that he wasn’t exceedingly happy in his circumstances. However, he knew how to seek joy, and that was in remembering his brothers and sisters in Christ and praying for them. The ability to do this sort of remembering and focused prayer can only come from a joy that first originates with a right relationship with God. When we have peace with Him, being assured of our salvation and eternity with Him, then joy permeates our situations in life and naturally pours forth in joy toward those who share this experience with us. As a matter of fact, we know that trials and persecution don’t touch joy if it’s the joy of the Spirit in a Spirit-filled life. On the contrary, these circumstances may become occasions of deeper joy because they cast the believer totally off his circumstances and on to his God. It’s in that relationship, its depth, that real joy is found. Are you looking for true joy today? If so, look no further than to your relationship with your Father and then remember and pray for your fellow brothers and sisters. Your circumstances, no matter how dire, will not permeate your state of heart in this eternal perspective.

 

Study/Meditation: Think of at least two fellow Christians you can pray for today and lift them up in prayer. Why do you think this is a path to the joy we all have in Christ?

 

*Father, my hope and my joy is in You. I love You and I give You all the praise and glory and honor in my life. Amen.