Christ-Like Compassion

Philippians 2:1-4 (NASB): 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. 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.

What makes you look different to the unbelieving world, if you are a follower of Christ? Do you give freely of your time and material possessions to those in need? Can you look at your fellow man and see him or her as a creation of God? Are you more humble than proud? Do you regard others “as more important than yourselves?” Do you only look out for yourself and your family and never take into account the needs of others? Those who have not accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior are looking to us and how we live out our lives for the answers to these questions. Will your life be a witness to those who do not believe in order that they might be led closer to accepting Christ into their own lives? How we conduct ourselves as Christians can impact the lives of those around us.

Many people go through life and only think of themselves. They give very little thought to the people they come into contact with. Sadly, many people today only care about themselves and how much wealth and recognition they can attain. The Apostle Paul warns of such a time when the world is focused on itself: But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-4 NASB).

What kind of a believer will you be this week in your daily walk with God? If you are a follower of Christ, make every effort to be kind and considerate of others you come into contact with. Ask God to put someone in your path that is in need of some love and kindness. This week, try to look at others as more important than yourself and try to help them instead of being judgmental. The unbelieving world is watching how we will react to those in need of the love and salvation that only Christ can offer. Will you ask God to help you look at your fellow human beings this week and view their lives as more important than your own?

 

The Christian Life: Worthy of the Gospel

Philippians 1:27-30(NIV): 27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

The first sentence in this passage is something that I need to be reminded of daily. As Christians, we must always strive to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. But the first two words of this passage is something that we often fail to fully comprehend: “Whatever happens” can be two difficult words for most of us to fully embrace.

If you listen to those who preach the prosperity gospel, you will hear little mention of passages like this. It has been my experience that life is lived one day at a time and there will be good days and also difficult days. How we react to and handle those moments serve to define who we are as a Christian. We certainly fail to prepare new believers in their daily walk with God if we don’t help them to understand that – “whatever happens” – we must continue to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. And this is also true of not only new believers, but those who have been followers of Christ for a long time. We must all be reminded that non-believers will be watching to see how we cope with the difficult and tragic moments of life as followers of Christ.

This week, I have been reminded that so many unexpected and difficult times will come upon all of us, believers and non-believers alike. We can’t anticipate or prepare for these moments in life, but we do have the assurance of knowing that Christ will be with us as we go through difficult times, and will help us to emerge stronger for facing these trials. Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

Paul writes that we are to “stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” The world is becoming increasingly hostile to Christians and it’s crucial that all believers pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to stand firm against those who oppose our faith. So far, I have not been asked to endure many hardships for proclaiming the gospel message but that situation could change very quickly in the future. Christ suffered and died for our sins and we are encouraged to view it as a privilege when we face adversities and hardship in the name of Christ.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes: Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory (Romans 8:17). Will you view it a privilege to suffer for the name of Christ? Many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world are faced with that very question today. “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

 

 

Philippians: To Live is Christ

Philippians 1:21-26(NASB): 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 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. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.

In this passage from Philippians, we find Paul longing for heaven but knowing in his heart that he still had more of God’s work to carry out on this earth. Paul is looking forward to that day when his body will be made new and glorious and he will be in the presence of God. But for now, Paul is convinced that God still has plenty for him to do on this earth: “I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith.”

As I grow older, I often just get quiet before God and wonder what heaven will be like. I guess I owe that to my grandfather who would many times wonder out loud about heaven. We would often sit on his front porch and we would talk about heaven and what we imagined heaven to be like. For my grandfather, he longed to see many of his family who had gone on before him and he would describe to me what he thought that reunion would be like. But more importantly, he longed to be at home with the Lord and in the presence of God.

My grandfather would describe to me what he thought heaven might look like and the beauty that he described remains with me to this day. However, he would always caution me that, while it’s natural to imagine what heaven will be like, God expects us to continue on with the work he has given us on this earth, until the time comes when he calls us home. Paul is at this very place in his ministry, longing to be with Christ, but realizing that he still has plenty of work to do on this earth. Paul calls this “fruitful labor.”

I was thinking about my grandfather the other day and our many conversations about heaven. Those frequent talks have remained with me throughout my life and have given me hope during difficult times. One of my fondest memories is of me playing hymns on the piano and my grandfather singing along. One of his favorite hymns was, “Shall we gather at the river.” To this day, I can hear him singing along as I played this old hymn. After singing this hymn, he would often talk about his image of that beautiful river that flowed by the throne of God. I am so grateful that God put this man in my life in order to teach me about God and how to live a life that exists only to glorify God in all things.

God expects his followers to be “fruitful” in our labors for his kingdom. We must continue to be the hands and feet of Christ to a lost and dying world. But we also need to take a little time to just close our eyes and imagine what our eternal reward will be like; we need to take the time to imagine the beauty of heaven. It is moments like these that give us hope and encouragement to continue on in this world, until that day when we shall “gather with the saints at the river that flows by the throne of God.”

 

 

 

 

Philippians: In Chains but not Defeated

Philippians 1:12-14(NIV):12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 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.

From the text today, we find Paul “in chains for Christ.” Paul is imprisoned, not because of an actual crime that he committed, but rather he is confined because of his courage to proclaim the gospel. And from scripture we know that the “whole palace guard” knows the truth behind Paul’s imprisonment. What seems like a hopeless situation for Paul and the spread of the gospel has actually served to be a springboard for the gospel to be presented to the “whole palace guard.” Paul trusted that God would take what seemed to be a hopeless situation and turn it into something that would introduce new people to Christ and ultimately glorify God. Paul did not let his chains keep him from doing what God had called him to do.

Romans 8:28 (NIV): And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

What are the chains that are holding you back from being what God has called you to be or do?

  • Is it the chains of fear? Fear of what others will think about you or say about you?
  • Are you shackled with chains of doubt? Do you doubt that God can work miracles when it seems all hope is lost?
  • Is it chains of dependency upon something other than God?
  • Are you chained to an addiction and doubt the power of God to help you overcome your addition?

If you read the Bible, you will find that God’s greatest power and work is displayed when human beings are at their weakest point. God prefers to work in this way, so that you and I, and the world will know, the true power behind the miracle. Only God has the power to transform lives in such a way that everyone will know that is only by the power of God that such a drastic change has taken place. I wonder if even Paul could have imagined how even his imprisonment could not stop the spread of the gospel.

Think for a moment about Paul’s followers. They have heard that Paul is in prison and what did it cause them to do? Did they become afraid to proclaim the gospel? No! Our text tells us that “because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” Notice that the text reads, “most of the brothers.” Not everyone had the necessary faith and trust in God to continue proclaiming the gospel. These were people who were still battling their chains of fear and doubt.

What chains do you need to break free from today? Pray that God will give you the courage, and the trust and faith in him, to break free from whatever chains are preventing you from being all that God created you to be. Remember that God does his best work when we are at our weakest point.

 

Philippians: Pure and Blameless

Philippians 1:9-11(ESV): 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

As I continue my daily reading of Philippians, I find myself confronted with these challenging questions:

  • How do we gain “knowledge” and “discernment?”
  • How can we keep ourselves “pure” and “blameless” in anticipation of Christ’s return?
  • How can we be filled with the “fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ?”

For me, knowledge and discernment is found by making time for God, by having a quiet time to read His word and to pray. This time for me is in the morning, while it is still quiet and before my mind begins to wander in many different directions. I have to focus and be very intentional about making God a priority as I begin my day. It never ceases to amaze me how I will open up my Bible to a certain passage that I wouldn’t normally go to and how that passage can be used by God to give me knowledge and discernment. Quite often, God gives me a certain knowledge and discernment that I will need for that specific day.

Paul expressed this same idea in his letter to the church at Colosse: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9).

Why did Paul want the church to gain spiritual wisdom and understanding? He answers that question in the next verse: “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light” (Colossians 1:10-12).  

We live in a sinful, fallen world! That statement should not come as a surprise to you. For us who are believers, we must recognize that fact and we must constantly be on guard for anything that will cause us to stumble on our daily walk with God. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), however, we can certainly repent of our sins and ask God for help in overcoming sin, especially those sins that we seem more prone to repeat. We can pray that God will work within us to help us discern the best choices to make so that we can be an example to others of how to live a life that is pleasing to God.

What does a life look like that is led by the Holy Spirit and has been “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ?” Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, answers this very question. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (Galatians 5:22-26).

God has been so merciful to me and he continues to show me mercy even though I am not worthy of His mercy and love. As the song below so beautifully exclaims, because of your (God’s) mercy, I’m overwhelmed by you!

 

 

Philippians: It Is Well With My Soul

Philippians 1:1-6 (NIV)

1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

I have been reading a lot from the book of Philippians lately and have rediscovered many important truths that can be applied to my daily walk with God. I hope to share some of these with you in the days ahead. My hope is that you will be led to read this letter from the Apostle Paul more closely and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you as well.

So often we go through life in search of our true purpose and identity.  We search for truth and meaning for our lives and we often struggle to correctly identify our true calling and purpose. Mistakenly, we try to live up to the expectations of others and we often lose sight of where our true identity exists. For the Christian, our true identity and calling is found in the saving grace of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. As a Christ follower, we can truly say that no matter what we experience in life, that, “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  

  • Do you have the courage to speak the word of God in your daily walk with God?
  • Are you willing to share the gospel with others?
  • Do you fear what they might think of you or say about you because of your faith in God and in Christ?

The promise and the hope for me in these first six verses of Philippians is that the same God who began to work through me, and through you, “will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God doesn’t leave anything incomplete. If God starts something you can be assured that He will carry it through to completion. This good work is a continuing transformation of our character and our behavior, and it serves to strengthen our faith and trust in God. Like the Apostle Paul, we will begin to understand that no matter what direction life takes us, no matter what disappointment life brings our way, no matter what obstacles we face, no matter the amount of suffering we must endure for the sake of the gospel, we can trust in the fact that God is faithful to the end, and that whatever work He began in our lives, He is faithful to carry it through to completion. And then we can finally begin to understand and sing the words to that great song of faith, “It is well, it is well, with my soul!”