2/21/20

Philippians 2:2

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... then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. ~ Philippians 2:2


Relationships take a lot of work. And every person in this world is incompatible with every other person. Enough time together reveals this truth. Every friendship, marriage, family, and organization has relational challenges. This is due to the fact that we are defined by our flesh more so than we are by God. This is why the Apostle Paul mentions the four truths in Philippians 2:1.

Most of our problems in life come from our interaction with people resulting in our joy being disrupted. People can rob us of our joy. And the book of Philippians is dubbed the epistle of joy. Paul uses a joyful tone throughout the entire book, even though he's in prison. He reminds us that our circumstances cannot rob us of our joy. 

Whereas in Philippians 1, our prisons are our joy-stealers, in Philippians 2, people are the next biggest challenge to our joy. Having said that, we must also quickly turn the page and realize that we're part of the problem. Because we're people too.

According to v.2 our joy is made complete by: "being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind." The unifying force for all of these is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And, if we are experiencing His "encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion," for ourselves, we will be united for the cause of the gospel.

In Philippians 2:1, the Apostle gives us four identifying truths which come out of our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In addition, in Philippians 2:2, the Apostle gives us four essentials of unity which precede the experience of joy. And these four essentials of unity are preceded by us being defined by God through the four truths in v.1. Also, the four essentials providing unity among us precedes our joy being made complete.

The first essential toward unity is: “being like-minded.” The Greek verb phrone is used here which means “to think the same way.” The first key to unity is thinking alike. Of course, this is why the Lord has given us His word. And, when God is clear, when He is black and white, we are black and white. And, when He is gray, when He doesn't spell it out clearly, we are gray. In other words, we think God's way. 
Unity is evidenced among us when we are controlled by a deep knowledge of the Word of God that is energized in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The second essential toward unity is: "having the same love."  It serves to reason that if we are of the same mind we will experience the same love. The Lord has told us, "Have no other gods before me." He knows that due to the fact that we are fallen, we will have other gods. But, we must not have any gods before Him. What we give our heart to is what we love. And, when His love is defining us, we will love others as we ought. Love acts on behalf of someone else's need. “God so loved the world that He gave," He gave what we so desperately needed. Unity is evidenced among us when we love each other, when we don't hold grudges, and we're not bitter toward one another.

The third essential toward unity is: being one in spirit .” This Greek word, transliterated being one in spirit,” is used only one time in the whole New Testament. It means “one-souled.” It means to be knit deeply down in the harmony of the soul. This is talking about passion and desire. If we all have the same passions and desires, we're going to be “one in spirit.” Note that this word spirit doesn't come with a capitalized "S." It is speaking of our spirit which is one third of our being. The other two parts are our soul and our body. And, our souls are made up of three parts; our mind, our wills, and our emotions.

The fourth essential toward unity is: "
of one mind."  Here, Paul uses a participle when translated reads “being of the same mind.” Literally this means “minding one thing.” The one thing that we mind is the gospel which is the magnet which holds all of this together.

Finally, the Lord's way of thinking leads us to His way of living which leads to soul connection among His people which leads to being focused on one thing: the advancement of His Gospel in this world. The greatest part of the gospel is not forgiveness, justification, or eternal life. The greatest part of the gospel is God Himself, enjoyed by His redeemed people. The gospel is the good news that God bought for our everlasting enjoyment of God.


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2/20/20

Philippians 2:1

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Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion. ~ Philippians 2:1

As we transition into Philippians 2, we discover in v.1 four first class conditional statements that each begin with the word “if.” Since these are first class conditional sentences, the better translation is "since." The Apostle is really saying, “If these things are true (and they are!), then make my joy complete.

Now, these four truths for the believer in Christ are very important because they counteract the prisons that we all have. These four enable us to realize the joy of the Lord in a practical way, rendering freedom from our prisons.

These four truths are: "encouragement from being united with Christ, comfort from his love, common sharing in the Spirit, tenderness and compassion." These are the results of coming into a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. These four things are the definers of the believer in Christ. Like a solar system circling a sun, the community believers should be drawn together by one single thing at our center, the Lord Jesus Himself. 

Notice that the Apostle Paul doesn’t say, "find people that are similar to you." He doesn’t say, "figure out the most important issues and agree on them." He doesn’t say, "create some kind of cultural or theological or political boundary and only experience unity within that." No, believers in Christ come together because we share in the same Savior who brings us to Himself where His joy is authentically experienced as we give ourselves to Him and gives Himself to us.

In v.1 the Apostle writes, "since you have encouragement from being united with Christ." This word “encouragement,” means “to come alongside someone and help them.” So, first, since we are in Christ and we have experienced His help, we should come alongside others in order to help them. In this way, we are defined by Christ.

Second, "since we have comfort from Christ's love," we should comfort one anotherThe word here for “comfort” carries with it the idea of “tender counsel.” This is a friendship word. Since we have been constantly encouraged in our relationship with Christ; because we have experienced His tender counsel, speaking words of friendship , we should reciprocate this to other believers.

The third result of being in Christ is this "common sharing in the Spirit." The Apostle uses the Greek word koinonia which means partnership, communion, sharing to help us understand and experience the life of God further.  Because we have experienced the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we should minister to one another. 

The first two results of coming into a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus are directly from the Lord Jesus. Whereas the second two come from the Holy Spirit. And it is the Holy Spirit who is the source of believer's unity.  We will be unified with one another as we are defined by the Holy Spirit who teaches us the meaning of what it means to be defined by these four results of coming into a personal relationship with Christ.

The fourth result is "the tenderness and compassion we have received from the Holy Spirit. He plunges us deeper into His ministry to us. The word used here for tenderness in the Greek is, splanchna, which means “gut, viscera, or bowels.” It has to do with affection. Love is sort of a cognitive thing, whereas affection is a feeling. Tenderness is a longing.  It's more than a cognitive appreciation; it's a longing. The Apostle is saying, “you have received the longings of the Spirit,” deeply felt affections.  The bowels were seen by the Jews as the seat of emotions.  It's where one felt things. Believers have received the longings of the Spirit.  What He longs for, He gives to us. What He longs for, if we let it, will define us.

Then, there's the word “compassion.” It's used four times by Paul. Two of those times it's translated “the tender mercies of God.”  We've received the longings of the Spirit, and the tender, compassionate sympathy of God through the Spirit.  God has been sympathetic to us. God gives us way more than we deserve. He has poured out to us grace upon grace, and mercy upon mercy. He has a heart of pity and tenderness toward us. 

Finally, if we do not experience a personal relationship with God, these four truths will not define us. And, as a result, we will be inauthentic in our relationships with others, be they believers or not. This is do to the fact that we will be motivated to do those things that we are commanded by the Lord from the wrong posture. We will be seen as inauthentic due to our insecurities. You see, these four things fill us up to the point of not needing anything from anyone one else. When we are not experiencing Him, we will insecurely look to others to meet our deepest needs. Something that they can not do. This is something that only He can do. And, when we are drawing upon Him for these needs, we will grow in security and authenticity.

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2/19/20

Philippians 1:25-30

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25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. 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. ~ Philippians 1:25-30

As we have mentioned before, in every chapter in Philippians, there is a built in prevention of joy in our lives. Joy stealers, if you will. In addition, as mentioned before, in each chapter of Philippians, there is a unique feature of the Lord Jesus that enables us to see the joy preventer as a means to growing in His joy.

The joy stealer in Philippians 1 is our prisons. Most of our prisons are the result of any form of rejection from others particularly during our first six years of lives. There are prisons which come into our lives after age six, however since we have no filters during our first six years of our life, these tend to be the most debilitating. 

The unique feature of the Lord Jesus in Philippians 1is the life of Christ. Christianity is an exchanged life experience with the Lord Jesus. Christianity happens in our lives when we give to Him our existence, prisons and all, and He gradually gives us His way of thinking and living. With His new view on life which He calls eternal life, we are granted the ability to see how our prisons serve us in living this new life that He is giving us. And, as a result, we are positioned to help others do the same. The result is that we begin seeing how our prisons are stepping stones to the type of life the Lord Jesus died to give us.

The Apostle Paul begins our text for today with the reason why we experience our prisons. Paul writes that he continued through his hardships so that his hearers will progress in the faith and that faith will produce a greater degree of joy in their progression. Joy is essential for our advancement in the faith. And, it is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that grants us the inertia to progress. In fact, the gospel is the power of God to save us in every possible way. 

In v.27, the Apostle writes, "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."  Living in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ presupposes that we have found worth in the gospel. Our capacity to live worthy of the gospel of Christ is commensurate to the worth we ourselves have found in it. 

In v.27-28, the Apostle Paul proceeds to describe what it means to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ: 1) Standing firm in one Spirit, 2) Contending as one man for the faith of the gospel, 3) Not being frightened in any way by those who oppose us. 

The word translated “stand firm” in v.27, was used of solders who stood their ground no matter how severe the battle. The battle is for the gospel. "To stand firm in one Spirit" is to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit to make us one as we fight for the gospel.

The word translated “striving together” means to contend with others, side by side, as athletes do on a team. In v.17, Paul uses the word “one,” calling for unity. The image is that of a team that works so well together that it appears to function as one man. The team goal is the “faith of the gospel.” The goal is the advancement of the gospel. 

Beginning with the word translated “for” in v.29, Paul gives further incentive for living in a manner worthy of the gospel. When we continue to advance the gospel, we will suffer. Paul reminds us that such suffering is a gift. It has been “granted” to us. We can only appreciate suffering this way if we see it as a gift “on behalf of Christ” and “for him.”

Our willingness to suffer demonstrates the worth of the gospel and our love for others. When others see that we’re willing to suffer for them to give them something we think is priceless, they’ll be more likely to see it as priceless as well.

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2/18/20

Philippians 1:19-24

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19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. ~ Philippians 1:19-24

In every chapter in this book of Philippians, there is a joy stealer. In every chapter there is a unique feature of the Lord Jesus accentuated. You guessed it, the unique feature of the Lord counteracts that which would naturally rob us of our joy. The joy stealer in Philippians 1 is our prisons. Our prisons can be a variety of things, they are anything which would rob us of our joy in the Lord.

The Apostle Paul reminds the Philippians in v.18, despite the fact that he is in prison, he will rejoice because the Gospel was being proclaimed. He tells them in v.19-20, he will continue to rejoice. He explains the reason for his ongoing disposition in v.19-20. He is continuing to rejoice because Christ literally will be “exalted.” His source of joy, once again, is the fact that the Gospel of Christ is being preached. And, he recognizes that those things in life which happen to us which would daunt our progress in the faith are useful to God for the advancement of a personal relationship with God through the Lord Jesus.

In spite of all of the difficulty the Apostle Paul encountered, he never lost his joy.  He summed it up in 2 Corinthians 6:10, where he says, “Sorrowing yet always rejoicing.” The worst the circumstances, the greater the joy. This is so because as our circumstances begin to collapse around us, we are pushed into deeper trust of the Lord Jesus. The soil of our faith is broken and turned up, and we begin to extract our joy out of our relationship with the Lord. It really is His joy. When our conditions are negative and difficult and burdensome and troublesome and we have anxiety, it presses us in to the joy of faith in Him.

The joy of the Lord contains in it a confidence that is given to the believer who accesses His joy. This joy is accessed by the bowing of our will to His will. This is the same note of confidence that breathed so strongly in those five young men who went down in Ecuador in 1954 to laid down their lives under the spears of the Auca Indians. Here is a link to the trailer for the movie which chronicled those events. 

Even though there was fear in their contemplation of the savage unknown, and though they realized anything could happen, and they went in with a great deal of fear and uncertainty, nevertheless they had a confidence that regardless of what happened, whether they lived or died, Christ would be exalted. It was the joy of the Lord that led those young missionaries to run that risk.

In v.21, we discover the unique feature of the Lord Jesus: His life. Paul writes, "For to me, to live is Christ." This is the key throughout all of Scriptures, the life of God in the life of a man or woman. This is the “salvation” that Paul expects in v.20. It is not his release from prison. It is the exaltation of the life of Christ in his life. You see, when Christ's life becomes our life our prisons become our pulpits.

The Apostle Paul knows that what has happened to him will turn out for his salvation that Christ will be exalted. This will happen as the prayers of the Philippians and the subsequent provision of the Spirit strengthen him so that he trusts God and courageously defends the Gospel. Thus, Christ will be exalted in his body, whether he lives or dies. 

The verb “exalted” means “to make large” or “to magnify.” When Christ is exalted, He is shown to be large and seen to be large. His magnificence is revealed and becomes evident. 

It’s important to note that v.21 begins with the word “For.” Paul is explaining how Christ will be exalted in his body. His explanation is offered in two lines that are succinct in their poetic structure. He says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Transliterated, it looks like this: to live Christ, to die gain. There is no verb, demonstrating clarity of purpose.

The Apostle Paul goes on to explain what this means in v.22-24. “To live Christ” means fruitful labor. The fruit is the Philippians’  and his “progress and joy in the faith.” “To die gain” means departing and being with Christ. Paul expected to gain Christ in death which means being with Christ on earth or in heaven. This anticipated joy is defining the Apostle.

Finally, notice in v.23 the Christian view of death. In just two words, "with Christ," it is summed up. Facing the possibility of death does not mean we are tired of life on this earth, it translates into a deeper companionship with Him. This is what makes life worth living, a deeper intimacy with Him. 

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2/17/20

Philippians 1:15-18

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15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 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. ~ Philippians 1:15-18

As we mentioned in yesterday's blog, joy is the theme of the book of Philippians. And, since joy is one measure of our spiritual strength, we should never be surprised that it will be the target of the attack of the enemy.

The Apostle Paul writes in v.15, "It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry."  But, even those who preach the gospel out of envy and rivalry couldn't steal the Apostle Paul's joy. There were those who belittled the reputation of the Apostle Paul. Yet, he was full of joy as long as the gospel was being preached. He felt this way because he understood that the power was and is in the proclaiming of the gospel. Despite the fact that there are those who really do not know one thing about the gospel, as long as they preach forgiveness of sin through Christ, the Apostle is happy.

Someone apply once said, "we are not serving until others get the credit and God gets the glory." This is the posture which yields the disposition of joy for it is in this mindset that Christ is most highly lifted up in and through our lives.

These who were preaching the gospel from envy and rivalry were not attacking Paul's theology. They are not proclaiming another Jesus, their's was the same gospel as Paul's. The difference between them and Paul was discovered in their motive. These people were  jealous, so jealous of Paul's giftedness and success that they belittled him. They were jealous that Paul was so loved.   

As a result of being jealous they were “stirring up trouble for the Apostle Paul.” There are people who focus their whole life on trying to discredit other people. They preach the true gospel but they have such an impure heart.  They seek to be more prominent than they ought to be. They see themselves as important. And, they are angry that someone else is more successful than they.  And so they are producers of rivalry, strife, and conflict. 

The Apostle Paul doesn't tell us specifically how these people were attacking him.  He doesn't want to focus on himself, so he doesn't mention what they were doing to him. Perhaps, they were accusing him of doing something wrong since he was in prison. They probably were accusing Paul of not knowing how to access certain divine resources, or else he'd be able to burst out of his chains and walk out of that prison.  

But on the other hand, in v.15 we read, "Some preach Christ out of good will."  Their motive is pure. Paul describes them a little bit more in v.16, "the latter do it out of love."  The implication is that the ones preaching Christ out of envy and strife aren't motivated by love. This underscores the fact that the most essential element of effective ministry is love. People do not care what we know until they know that we care.

In v.16 we read, "knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel." The Apostle had a big view of God. For Paul, God was big enough to control the events in his life. He had walked with God long enough to recognize that be it good or bad, God uses all things for our good and His glory. And, since the glory of God was Paul's ultimate goal, he was fine with being in prison.

The word used here for "I am put here for," is a military term, meaning “I am set.”  It's used for a soldier on duty.  He was as much on duty set by God to defend the gospel as a Roman soldier was on duty being chained to him. The Apostle was in prison not because he failed but because he succeeded. And, the goal was the advancement of the Gospel.

That word "defense" in v.16, is the Greek word, apologia. We get our word "apologetic" from it.  When you and I are in the center of God's will for our lives, we are His apologia. We are God's defenders of the gospel. 

In v.17-18, the Apostle Paul redirects our attention to the insincere group. Again the Apostle reminds us for the second time, they “preach Christ out of selfish ambition.” They don't have the right motives. Their motive is selfish ambition. Their message is right but their motive is wrong.  

The word here translated "selfish ambition" is "erithia" in the Greek. It means “to work for pay.”  But someone who works only for pay, works out of a very small view of God. He's out to benefit himself and that's all he sees, and so he only wants to advance himself. This they did, according to v.17, "supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains."

Their goal wasn't to evangelize the lost.  Their goal wasn't to defend the Word of God.  Their goal was to irritate the man of whom they were jealous. They wanted to pull him down in the eyes of the people so the people wouldn't believe him, trust him, and follow him.

This didn't steal Paul's joy. Imprisonment and the insincere couldn't steal the Apostle Paul's joy. To the contrary, Paul writes in v.18, "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."

Only one thing mattered, the preaching of the gospel. This is what happens when we have committed ourselves to the Lord, His fame becomes our priority. Paul didn't care who got the credit, as long as God got the glory.

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2/14/20

Philippians 1:12-14

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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. ~ Philippians 1:12-14

As we come back into Philippians 1, we must underscore the main theme in the book of Philippians which is joy. The Apostle uses the words rejoice or joy fifteen times throughout this book of 104 verses. 

In v.12-14 we see that the gospel is advancing through Paul’s imprisonment. Although it would seem that imprisoning Paul would impede the advance of the gospel, it had the opposite effect. The gospel advances as the word of God is spoken. 

In v.13, we read, "it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ." The Apostle Paul is a prisoner because of Christ. He wasn't a prisoner because he committed a crime. He was a prisoner because he preached Christ, because he believed in Christ, because he represented Christ.

Despite the fact that I have never been jailed like Paul, I still have my own prisons. And, God has always been good at using our prisons to advance the gospel. I have learned that the design behind our suffering is that it causes us to seek Christ more ardently. When we seek Him and find Him for ourselves, we will have discovered the lessons that when shared with others will help them in discovering a personal relationship with the Lord for themselves. 

In v.13, we see the content of the gospel is the person of “Christ” which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Messiah.” Paul’s imprisonment is literally “for Christ,” the Messiah, the Jewish king. Caesar, who claimed the titles king and lord of the whole world, imprisoned the primary preacher of the Gospel, but the Gospel advances in and out of the palace.

The measure of a person's spiritual strength is best measured by what it takes to steal our joy.  We can find out how spiritually mature we are by finding out the breaking point where our joy is lost and negativism begins to creep in and take over.  The measure of our joy is how we react not to things the way we would like them to be but to things the way we wouldn't like them to be.

According to Galatians 5, Joy is the fruit of the Spirit-controlled life. There should be no point in the life of a believer where joy is forfeited to a victim's mentality because of some things that aren't the way we'd like them to be.  

We know, according to John 16:33, "in this world we will have trouble" and we must expect that God has profound purposes for our troubles. In the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul is our example because he is a man whose joy knew no breaking point. There is never a time in the New Testament when the circumstances in Paul's life impacted his joy.  In fact, the greater the struggle for the Apostle, the greater the trial, the more insistent he was to articulate his joy.  

So, here is a man who has negative circumstances beyond his ability to understand them, chained to a Roman soldier.  And yet he's a model of joy, because his joy isn't related to his comfort. His joy isn't related to his freedoms. His joy isn't related to his success. His joy is strictly tied to the advance of the gospel, so he has joy in his ministry, in spite of trouble.  

When we fix our hearts on the progress of the gospel, it will not matter what happens to us as long as we can see God's kingdom being furthered. If this is our passion, we're going to find that our joy will increase. When Christ's life becomes our life then our prisons will become our pulpits.

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2/13/20

Philippians 1:9-11


9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may 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. ~ Philippians 1:9-11

When we enter into a relationship with the Lord Jesus, what is dear to Him begins to become dear to us. This is why the Apostle Paul prays that the Philippians would experience a deeper and meaningful love for each other. He describes this love in v.9-11. 

In v.9, the Apostle prays that our "love may abound more and more." The Greek word translated ‘abound’ describes the bubbling up and flowing over of a spring of water. A natural spring should never run dry, even in the driest of summers, because of its source. In our case the source is the Lord Jesus Himself. As long as we walk with Him, the sky is the limit. His love constantly flows, and He loves enough for our benefit and the benefits of others. This spring keeps none of its water to itself. So, true love flows out of the Christian to others. God loved and gave. Christ loved sinners and gave Himself for us. We love and so we give. 

In v.10, he prays for the kind of love that results "more in knowledge and depth of insight," "so that they may be able to discern what is best." Love acts like hate when it refuses to think correctly. This kind of love must come with knowledge out of our relationship with the Lord Jesus which lead to wholeness that Paul describes as "pure and blameless for the day of Christ." 

This word "pure" in the Greek means "without wax." In the ancient world oftentimes they made little statutes which would develop cracks. In order to pass these off as perfect, some of the merchants would fill the cracks with wax so the crack was not observable. There was a way of find out if the statute was imperfect. They would put the item out in the hot sun for a while. If there was wax, the sun would melt it and the crack would become visible. In this case, it was "sun tested". Paul is saying that the Christian life when motivated by God's love will be pure, without hypocrisy, without wax. 

Love can make us whole, but it is not automatic. His love can make us whole in the context of our relationship with Him. We do not supply what's missing, God is the only one who can do this. And, He does this through the way He relates to us and we Him. Then we are in the position to love others as we ought, as He loves us.

But love doesn’t just make us whole. Love orients us outward toward Him and toward other people. Paul says the final result is that we are "filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ." This fruit is not just for us. It's also for others. Fruit doesn't serve the fruit tree. It brings life outside of itself.

Love gives us something to make the lives of the people around us better. When we choose to love someone, we help to bring life to them. Our fruitfulness is for their benefit. This is the love that orients us toward others. And, it’s a powerful kind of love.

When we are connected to God and one another by the eternal work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are brought together to be a part of the body. Once we have experienced His love for ourselves, once we are in the family, we discover that we belong to each other since God is our Father and Jesus is our brother. We are loved and drawn together by our common purpose which God makes happen. We belong because we are loved by the author of love, and He is addressing our brokenness and the brokenness of the world round us through us.

The fruits of righteousness mentioned in v.11 are the fruit of the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 5:22 we read, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." These fruits are not produced by the believer. The Holy Spirit produces these. The believer yields these fruits as the Holy Spirit produces them. 

God is always looking for our willingness to be the vessels of His expression. In 2 Chronicles 16:9, we read, "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." Our hearts must be defined by Him and none other. When this is the case, we can love others as we ought, "purely and blamelessly," not expecting anything in return.

Finally, at the end of v.11 we read, “to the glory and praise of God." This is the goal of the one who is himself being loved by the God of all creation. As this prayer of the Apostle is realized in our lives, as our knowledge and depths of insight increases, we naturally give credit where credit is due. As Cicero once said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

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2/12/20

Philippians 1:1-8

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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. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 1:1-8


Today, we begin a study of the book of Philippians which is one of Paul's "prison epistles" written while he was a prisoner in Rome. Philippi was the first place Paul preached the gospel in Europe. 
Acts 16 records the story of how Paul was used of God to start the church in the city of Philippi. The first believer there was Lydia, a wealthy business woman. Then a slave girl was freed from demons. Then Paul and Silas were miraculously freed from prison, and the Roman jailer put his faith in Christ. 

In v.2, the Apostle Paul greets this diverse church with, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." This exact phrase is found in Romans, First and Second Corinthian, Galatians, and Ephesians. In this phrase we discover the first element that unites these people around what makes them a community: "God is our father. Jesus Christ is Lord."

The primary subject of the book of Philippians is the Lord Jesus. Philippians boasts the highest percentage of verses that reference the Lord Jesus in the New Testament. Thirty four percent of the verses in Philippians are about the Lord Jesus. It's the only book where over a third of the verses reference Christ. 

In v.2, the Apostle Paul highlights "grace and peace" without which the Christian life does not work. 
Grace is God's favor made accessible to the undeserving. Peace is the inevitable result of the activity of God's grace in our lives.


The Lord Jesus is our brother who connects us to the same father. We do not belong to the  family without the person and work of Christ. Because of the person and work of the Lord Jesus, we who believe in Him, belong to Him and to one another.

This is the grace that God our father offers us. We do not earn our belonging. We don’t deserve it. We just receive it. We don’t have to do anything to belong here. We just belong to God. He is our Father. Christ is our brother. This is our family.

In v.3-8, the Apostle Paul writes, "I thank," "I always pray with joy," "being confident of this," "It is right for me to feel this way about all of you," "since I have you in my heart," "I long for all of you." Six times in six verses Paul uses the word “all.”

Paul is making it abundantly clear that he feels an intense emotion toward everyone in the community. Everyone belongs. He loves everyone deeply. There is a deep relational connection in the body of Christ. 

In v.5-8, there are three things that draw us together with one another. In v.5 Paul writes, "because of your partnership in the gospel."  There is nothing like sharing in the ministry of the Gospel that unites us with one another. Have you ever noticed that great things never come from comfort zones.

In v.6 Paul gives us the second thing that provides cohesion and it is "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.The best part about this statement is we know it will succeed. The “good work” that was begun is the work of the Gospel. And it’s this partnership in the work of the Gospel that God will bring to completion. What God starts, God finishes.

In v.7 Paul writes, "It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me." In this verse he gives us the third element which causes us to stick together. Paul is saying, "the family that suffers together, stays together." 

When we go through pain together, something supernatural happens. Pain serves to bring the fibers of our souls together in the context of hardship. When we are going through something difficult, we must not go through it alone. We belong together. We share a purpose together for the sake of the Gospel that God guarantees will come about. This path is a hard one, it’s full of pain and struggle. However, when we deal with the pain together, we discover the kind of deep relationship that Paul is describing here and we all long for.

Adversity is the first path to truth and the truth has a name: the Lord Jesus Christ. Like the spokes in a bicycle tire, it is the Lord Jesus holds us together. Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it. The key is seeking Him together through the pain, suffering and trials.

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2/11/20

John 21:18-25

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18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” 20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” 22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” 24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. 25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. ~ John 21:18-25

In our text, we jump back into a conversation between the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Peter. You will remember that in John 13:36, just before Peter announced his determination to die for the Lord Jesus, the Lord Jesus told him, "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward." 

Peter couldn’t follow the Lord Jesus to death then, because he thought following meant taking up the sword. Now, he can follow the Lord Jesus because he now knows that following means putting away the sword and dying to self. 

In v.18-19, the Lord Jesus is saying to Peter, “In the future, Peter, you’re going to be taken prisoner. You’re going to be bound and hauled off to a place you don’t want to go. Thenyou’re going to stretch out your handsyou are going to be crucified." 

Peter is getting the idea that the coming kingdom of God is now ushered in not by the power of the sword but by the power of love. Instead of being a soldier who would take lives for the kingdom, Peter will be a shepherd who will lay down his life for the sheep. 

It is clear that John wrote his gospel after the death of Peter, as John records in v.18-19 the way Peter would die. Again, history tells us that Peter was crucified in Rome. At his own request he was crucified upside down because he did not feel he was worthy to die like the Lord Jesus.

According to v.20-21, the Apostle Peter falls into the trap of comparison. It was Theodore Roosevelt who once said, Comparison is the thief of joy.” Whether it is comparing our accomplishments, status or looks to others, we do poorly to enter the comparison game. When we enter the comparison game, we reject the will of God for our lives for that given moment. No matter the type of comparison, it can cause resentment towards others and ourselves and God; it always deprives us of our joy and adds no value or fulfillment to our lives.

According to v.22-23, the Lord Jesus reminds us that doing God's will for our lives is the focus we should have. The Lord Jesus tells Peter, If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? Then the Lord Jesus says John’s fate is not Peter’s concern. The Lord Jesus knew that if Peter begins comparing his path to that of other disciples, his focus will be off from what the Lord Jesus has called him to do. Jesus again tells Peter, You must follow me.

The Lord Jesus is always refining our love for Him. As in the case of Peter, very often He uses our failures and misunderstandings to accomplish this. So, the Lord Jesus tells us to stop comparing ourselves or lives to others because, in so doing, we are being distracted by what someone else is doing rather than what God is doing and how we fit into what He is doing around us.

John 21:24-25 brings us to the end of our study of John. These closing words were obviously written partly by John and partly by those who were associated with him, probably believers in the town of Ephesus. It is John who writes, "This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true." This was his last word, his own eyewitness account of what the Lord Jesus had said and done. 

Subtly, the Apostle John is underscoring what Christianity is really all about: a personal relationship with God. God’s greatest creation is not the flung stars or the gorged canyons, it’s His eternal plan to reach His rebellious children. Behind his pursuit of us is the same brilliance behind the rotating seasons and the orbiting planets. Heaven and earth knows no greater passion than God’s personal passion for us and our relationship with Him.

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2/10/20

John 21:15-17

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15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.  ~ John 21:15-17

Today's text parallels the scene of Peter's three-time denial of the Lord Jesus. There are several details that are involved in today's story that are common to both accounts: both took place beside a charcoal fire. Both refer to Peter as "Simon Peter."  Both involve a three-fold statement: three times Peter denied his Lord, and three times he is asked to affirm his love. 

In this exchange between the Lord Jesus and Peter about love, there are two words used for love: "agape," or unconditional love, and "phileo," which is brotherly love. Phileo is the word Peter uses on all three occasions, whereas agape is used of the Lord Jesus the first two times, then phileó the third.

In the middle of v.15, the Lord Jesus asks, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" Before, Peter had denied knowing the Lord Jesus. Now, in answer to this question, Simon Peter says he loved Jesus more than the other disciples. At the end of v.15, Peter responds. "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." I find it very instructive that Peter makes no mention of the other disciples this time. After his failure, Peter is now not involved in the comparison game which is the robber of joy. 

In addition, Peter has learned to read the Lord's mind better. In the Garden of Gethsemane he felt that his love for Jesus required that he attack the enemies of the Lord Jesus, but here he learns that he is responsible to feed the sheep of the Lord Jesus. 

This is the primary work of a shepherd. The Lord Jesus says to Peter, "Feed my lambs;" "Take care of my sheep"; "Feed my sheep," meaning, "Do not wait for them to grow up. Teach them from the Word what life is all about. Watch over them. Anticipate the coming dangers, warn and guard them."

The primary way this is done is by opening the sheets minds to the thoughts of God. Mankind does not naturally think the thoughts of God. We do not look at life the way God sees it, but we blindly follow after the illusions of our natural inclination (the flesh). 

We all love Peter because he is just like us. He has all the failures that we are so familiar within our own lives. He overestimates himself and underestimates temptation. He thinks he’s more than he is, he thinks he loves the Lord more than he does. He thinks he can face any trial triumphantly. By the time he gets to this point, even though he has seen the risen Lord Jesus, he is really a broken man.

This is how the Lord Jesus forges His love into the life of the believer. His love is powerful. It is so powerful it draws out the best in us. It is what makes us sacrifice everything for the benefit of others. 

In John 15:13, the Lord Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” When we move love into the spiritual dimension, it causes us to serve the Lord in extreme ways. But His life changing love must first be forged deeply into our souls for this to happen. We must, like Peter, be the ones who go out and weep deeply. 

In our text, the Lord Jesus asks Peter one question, “Do you love Me?," three times. The first time the Lord Jesus actually asked, "Peter, do you agape me, do you love me unconditionally?" To this question, Peter responds honestly, "Lord, you know I phileó you, you know I love you like a brother." Peter does not say, Lord I agape you for he knows that he has failed miserably in that arena. The second time the Lord Jesus asks Peter this question, it is asked and answered in the same way as the first.

But, the third time the Lord Jesus asks Peter this question, He asked, "Peter, do you phileó me, do you love me like a brother?" This hurt Peter deeply because the Lord Jesus questioned what Peter knew to be true. Peter loved the Lord Jesus like a brother. And, it is one thing for the Lord Jesus to question Peter's agape love but it is another for Him to question Peter's Phileó love.

You've heard the old saying, "sometimes you must be cruel to be kind." I think that saying is appropriate here. Sometimes God has to either hurt us or allow us to be hurt in order for us to get the deeper lessons that we must experience in life in order to be useful at ministering to people. This, I believe, is our highest calling. Loving people.

Often the love we need most is the love we want least. This love feels so harsh, so blunt, so unpleasant in the moment, that we often don’t even recognize it as love. In Hebrews 12:5-6, we read, 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” 

The word "discipline" can also be translated "trained." When God is disciplining or training us in His ways, we think that we have done something wrong, and although that may be the case, God disciplines us or trains us in His ways because we do not naturally walk in His ways. Sometimes the Lord’s love for us feels like the opposite of love, but that’s only because we can’t see everything He sees. Behind the real pain He allows, is an even more real love. A love that He gives us for Him and for those whom we influence for Him.

Finally, history teaches us that the Apostle Peter died upside down on a Roman cross. This is evidence that we can get to the place where we can be the forwarders of agape.