Saturday, April 15, 2017

God will reveal - Philippians 3:15-16

"Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained." (Philippians 3:15-16)
One of the occupational hazards of being a teacher is the feeling that you have to always correct people when they are wrong, or at least wrong in your estimation of what is right. The same can be said for anyone who is an expert in their field; the sense that it is your responsibility to make sure everyone sees truth and the world as you see it. Paul faced this same temptation. He had received the Gospel directly from Jesus and he was called to preach the Gospel with authority, an authority that was his as an apostle. However, not everyone received his authority or accepted his teaching as truth and as a certainty. There were some that believed differently and were not wholeheartedly convinced of what Paul was saying. How was Paul, and us, to respond to such people?

While I would have pressed harder to make them understand my position and to convince them of their error, Paul was content to leave them in God's hands; to let Him teach them what they needed to know. One time, while in worship, I heard the Lord say to me, "Let me pastor my people first." What I understood God to say was that we should not be quick to interject ourselves into other people's life with Christ. If we are a pastor, we should remember that God is their pastor first. If we are a teacher, we should remember that God is their teacher first. It is hard to see people "missing the mark" and not want to immediately jump in and try to "help" them or to correct them in whatever way we can. Sometimes it is better to back off and let God work in their lives rather than always seeing it as our responsibility to fix things in other people. Paul was content to trust God and he trusted God more than he trusted himself. He knew that God was far better able to even correct people's misunderstandings and errors than he was and that it was better to leave them in God's hands rather than his hands. There is a time to step in, but there is also a time to live and let live.

Sometimes, the one we are always trying to correct is ourselves. We become so absorbed in what we don't know or on what we might be missing that we forget to live by what we do know and understand. This does not mean that we should look down on study, searching out truth, or striving to grow and attain to the more that is in Christ, but we must not do these things in a way as to miss living in the here and now. Paul reminds us to live and continue in the revelation and understanding we have now; to continue in what we have already attained while trusting God to lead us into new revelation and new attainments in His own timing. Life is meant to be lived, not fretted over by what we might not know or what we have not attained. Live where you are now, and trust God for your future,

David Robison

Thursday, April 06, 2017

I press on - Philippians 3:12-14

"Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14)
Paul views our Christian walk, not as a dichotomy between perfect and imperfect, but as a race where we are running from where we used to be to where God wants is to be. Our call "to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48) is not a judgment against us as to where we are or not perfect, but an invitation to a life where we move from imperfection to perfection as we labor with the spirit of God who indwells us. The idea here is not so much "be perfect" as it is to "become perfect". The goal is perfection, just as God is perfect, and the process is this life we live with God, allowing Him to teach us, guide us, and empower us to become perfect, just as He is perfect.

Paul admits that he had not already been made perfect and that there were still things God was working into his life, as well as things God was working out of his life. However, this realization that he was not already perfect did not discourage him or cause him to give up, rather, it motivated him to remain committed to God's process of sanctification in his life. His realization that he has not already arrived motivated him to continue in the process of growing in Christ and in the race towards perfection.

Paul understood that there was a reason and a purpose for which God had reached out to him, and all mankind, to invite them into reconciliation with Himself, a reconciliation that was provided for us by Christ. God had laid hold of Paul for a reason and it was now for Paul to lay hold of that very purpose for which God had laid hold of him. And what was that purpose? Paul writes, "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren." (Romans 8:29) We have been laid hold of by God that, through the work of His Spirit in our life, we might be conformed into the image and likeness of His Son. None of us are there yet, but it is to this end that we ought to press forward in our walk with God.

One of the keys to pressing forward to apprehend those things for which Christ has saved us for is to learn to forget those things that are behind us. There are two important categories of those things behind us that we ought to forget and leave behind. First is our former identity. Some people struggle in their walk with God because they are ashamed of their past or see themselves limited by who they used to be. We must realize that our former sins do not define us for all our sins have been forgiven and covered in Christ. Furthermore, who we were before we came to Christ has no bearing on who we may become in Christ. Our future destiny is not determined by our past identity. Paul reminds us that often God uses those who seem insignificant in their former identity to confound the world by their redefined destiny in Christ. "For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God." (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

Secondly, we must learn a new way of living and that means that some of our old thought patterns and behaviors need to be replaced with new ways of thinking and new patterns of living. Peter reminds us that, "the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries." (1 Peter 4:3) Such a process requires a retraining of our mind to apprehend and approve new thinking and new acting. It was for this very reason that the grace of  God has appeared to us. "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age." (Titus 2:11-12) God's grace has come to us to instruct us in a new way of thinking and a new way of living.

This goal that Christ has called us to cannot be obtained on our own. It will require strength, instruction, and grace that only God can provide, but if we yield to His Sprit in our lives, we will steadily and gracefully move ever closer to that perfection that is God's and ours in Him.

David Robison

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Suffered the loss - Philippians 3:8-11

"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:8-11)
Paul is not talking about voluntary poverty here but rather is speaking of those things that keep us from Christ and His will in our lives.For Paul, it was the trappings of false religion; a religion that rewarded self-effort and fostered self-righteousness. For others, it might be material possessions. Remember the rich young ruler who came to Jesus seeking eternal life. Jesus said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Mark 10:21) However, this young man was very rich and was saddened at these words and "went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property." (Mark 10:22) Another impediment to Christ and His Gospel is our love for this life and this world. In telling the parable of the sower and the seeds, Jesus described the seed that fell among the thorns. "And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful." (Matthew 13:22) Furthermore, John warns of us loving the world and its consequences in our lives. "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15) All these things can hinder us from coming to Christ and from living in His will and purpose for our lives.

Paul said that he had "suffered the loss of all things" for the sake of Christ. Paul had not merely given up all things, but he suffered the loss, meaning he felt the loss within himself. There is a cost to count when we consider a life in the Kingdom of  God. We cannot accept new life in Christ and expect to continue living our old life in this world. A life in Christ demands all of us, it requires our surrender of all we are and all we have, and it requires our death to this life in order to gain new life in Christ. So what would possess a person to surrender all? By counting the cost and comparing what we have to lose versus what we have to gain. So what did Paul hope to gain?

First was the knowledge of God. This is not merely knowing about God, but knowing God. When we come to know God then all things begin to make sense. David was conflicted by what he saw around him; good people suffering and bad people prospering, but he came to his senses when he saw and understood God. "When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end." (Psalms 73:16-17) It was only in knowing God that David was able to make sense of all he was going through.

Secondly, he hoped to gain Christ. If we have Christ, then we have everything: God, the Kingdom, everlasting life, etc. If we have Christ then nothing is impossible for us and no trial, temptation, or difficulty in life is beyond His ability to cause us to overcome. Paul boldly stated, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

Thirdly, that he would find a righteousness that was not his own; a righteousness that did not depend upon his own works, will, and strength to produce. In Christ, we find a righteousness that is by faith and not by law or works. We are righteous not because we work, but because we believe. Remember what was said about Abraham who was the father of faith, "Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15:6)

Fourthly, that he might know the power of the resurrection in his life. What can be more powerful than that power that raised Jesus from the dead! If we have resurrection power within us, then what can defeat us? No sickness, hardship, deficiency, or sin is stronger than resurrection power. If we live in resurrection power then there is no need to fear our present, our past, or our future for all is swallowed up in resurrection.

Fifthly, the fellowship of His suffering. While we might not think of this as a benefit, it unites us and draws us into fellowship with Him. In Christ, when we suffer, we do not suffer alone but in our suffering, God is near us in a real and vital way. In our suffering, we experience His comfort, love, and sustaining power that enables us to endure under it. Paul, speaking of suffering and weakness, said, "Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Sixthly, Paul hoped to be conformed to Christ death. It is only when we are conformed to Christ's death that we can be raised to newness of life. Jesus came that we might "have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) However, this life is only possible when we have come to be conformed to His death. Speaking of baptism, Paul writes, "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4)

Finally, Paul believed in eternal life. Jesus asked, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36) What use is this life if not to prepare us for eternity? Why strive to live a godly life if there is no hope of a life after this one? If this life is all we have, why not "eat, drink and be merry" (Luke 12:19)? Our hope in Christ is an eternity spent with Him; and eternity spent with the one who is not just loving but who is love. What more could anyone hope to find? What more could motivate someone to suffer the loss of all things for the unimaginable richness of Christ offers us to gain?

David Robison

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Counted as loss - Philippians 3:4-7

"although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ." (Philippians 3:4-7)
This is a difficult thing. We all have things we are proud of; things that we hold as evidence of our value, specialty, and worth in this world. Things by which we measure ourselves against others. Paul too had things in which he could boast. He could point to his ancestry, his adherence to his Jewish laws and customs, and his zeal for God as he understood Him to be. All these things are that for which he could boast in himself and find confidence in his own existence and importance in the world.

We too, like Paul, can find things in ourselves to boast and have confidence in. Perhaps it is our education, our upbringing, our good deeds towards other, our personal wealth, or even our self-determination and grit. However, do any of these things really matter? Do any of these things really count as a source of confidence in our lives?

It is hard to look at our lives and see the things we take pride in and to count them as loss; to look at all the good we see and yet count it as less than nothing for the sake of Christ. However, this is precisely what Paul is asking us to do; to weigh in a balance who we are and what we've done compared to who Christ is and what He has done on our behalf. As long as we look to ourselves for our confidence and assurance in life, we will never be benefited by the work and provisions of Christ. It is only when we count what we have as nothing in comparison to what Christ has to offer that we will receive and become those things that are of true value. It is only in giving up what we used to value as gold that we might find true gold at the hands of Christ. Look at your life with all the things you have accomplished on your own. Now, look at Christ and all the things He has done and accomplished for you. Which reality will you choose? One choice leads to poverty and the other leads to eternal riches. The choice is yours.

David Robison

Monday, March 06, 2017

Beware - Philippians 3:2-3

"Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:2-3)
In reading this, we must remember that Paul is speaking of those who were seeking to infiltrate the church, to pervert the Gospel of Christ, and to lead people astray from the purity of their life in Christ. There are many dogs and evil workers in the world today, but Paul is speaking specifically of those who oppose the church and our freedom in Christ.

The Greek word for "beware" means to see, look at, and perceive. It does not carry with it any connotation of fear or worry but merely means to be aware; to live life with our eyes wide open, We must no accept everything that comes claiming to be spiritual, godly, or Christian. We must look at it, examine it, to see if it has any worth, benefit, or support in the Gospel of Christ. The truth is that there are some people to whom we must not extend the right hand of fellowship. While we should love them, we must not embrace them. It says of Jesus, "But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man." (John 2:24-25) While Jesus loved the whole world, there were those whom he kept at arms-length, not trusting Himself to then, because He knew what was in their hearts. The same should be with us. There are some whom we must love, but whom we should not embrace and invite into close fellowship with ourselves. Paul writes to us, "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ." (Philippians 1:9-10) Love is not to be blind nor is it to be ignorant. Our love ought to be grounded in true knowledge and discernment. Loving everyone, but not always approving everyone.

In speaking of dogs, Paul is referring to those worthless people who are unfit for the Kingdom of God. In the scriptures, dogs are often depicted as those who devour what is unholy. "The one belonging to Ahab, who dies in the city, the dogs will eat, and the one who dies in the field the birds of heaven will eat." (1 Kings 21:24) They are those who revel in the dark. "they return at evening, they howl like a dog, and go around the city." (Psalms 59:6) And they are those who, after repenting, always return to their sin. "Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly." (Proverbs 26:11)

In speaking of the "false circumcision," Pual does not actually use the word "circumcision" but "concision" which means to cut around and to mutilate. These are those who believe godliness can be obtained by mutilating the flesh. Paul reminds us that, "These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence." (Colossians 2:23) Concision of the flesh has no power to make us holy or righteous. Mere religion cannot make us Godly and it cannot deal with the true source of our sin which is inward and not outward. Circumcision of the flesh buys us nothing, What we need is a circumcision of the heart. Paul writes, "But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God." (Romans 2:29) We must not yield to those who trust in the flesh or value religion over relationship with God.

David Robison

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

To write the same things - Philippians 3:1

"Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you." (Philippians 3:1)
Two things strike me as important in this verse. First is that Paul finds it important, even necessary, to command us to rejoice in the lord. Secondly, that he finds it important and necessary to keep reminding us of his command. Paul relates our joy in the Lord with our safety in life and in the kingdom. What is so important about joy and why does it ensure our safety? The scriptures give us two specific reasons.

First, we are told that the "joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10) The context of this verse is that the people of Israel had recently started returning from captivity. Upon their return, Ezra, the priest, ascended the platform built for him and began to read to the people from the Law. The people upon hearing what God had commanded in the Law were convicted and grieved in their heart for all the ways they had failed to keep God's commands. They began to weep and mourn, but Nehemiah and those with him encouraged the people to stop weeping and to rejoice instead. "Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, 'This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.' For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, 'Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'" (Nehemiah 8:9-10) I find it interesting that, while the people were weeping in repentance, the leaders of the people told them to stop weeping. Why was this? Because, while repentance is important, we must pass through repentance on into joy for the process of repentance to bear any fruit. Repentance is not our strength, joy is. Repentance is the doorway through which we enter into joy but we must not tarry in the doorway. We must proceed onto joy. Only then will we find strength to live the life God has called us to live,

Secondly, joy is a strong motivator and enabler for us to endure and bear under times of trials and tribulations. It is said of Jesus that, "for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame." (Hebrews 12:2) Here, the joy the writer is speaking of was the joy Jesus saw when, as a result of His sufferings, there would be many who would come into salvation and would become, with Him, sons and daughters of God. Jesus knew the agony that awaited Him, yet He was willing to endure it for the joy that was to be His on the other side. Life is not always easy and there is bound to be trials and difficulties along the way. In those times, it is our joy in the Lord that will become our strength to see us through. It is our joy that helps us not to lose heart and to endure in doing good. The joy of knowing that "in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary" (Galatians 6:9)

Joy is essential for our Christian life. It is one of the three hallmarks of the Kingdom of God. Paul wrote, "for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17) We must never forget to rejoice in the Lord, to remain cheerful and joyful, for it is our strength, endurance, and safety.

David Robison

Sunday, February 19, 2017

But I thought it necessary - Philippians 2:25-30

"But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you. Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me." (Philippians 2:25-30)
I find it odd that Paul would refer to Epaphroditus as both his fellow worker and a fellow soldier. While many fought against Paul, it's hard to imagine Paul, who spoke so elegantly about the virtues of love, to be one who was militant in his ministry of the Gospel. However, the Greek word used here for "fellow soldier" comes from a root word that could also mean a fellow "camper-outer". The idea of this term is not so much meant to convey a militancy but to refer to those who have gone out on a campaign or who have entered into a cause. Both Paul and Epaphroditus had gone out for the cause of the Gospel.

It is important to note the connection between Epaphroditus and the church at Philippi. The sending out of Epaphroditus was not something the leaders thought us, nor was it something Epaphroditus devised himself, but it was a decision that the church made together. They were all vested in the decision to send Epaphroditus just as they were all invested in Epaphroditus. In sending Epaphroditus they were sending themselves. In receiving Epaphroditus, Paul refers to him as "your messenger". The Greek word is literally "apostle". Epaphroditus was sent as an apostle from Philippi to Paul to deliver support to him for which the church as a whole was unable to do because of their distance from Paul.

At first read, it almost seems arrogant that Paul would speak of the deficiency of the service that the Philippians owed to Paul. However, this idea of a deficiency Paul spoke of in other places. To the Corinthian church, he spoke of their deficiency of support that was met by the sending of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, "I rejoice over the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have supplied what was lacking on your part. For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men." (1 Corinthians 16:17-18) Paul also speaks of his desire to go to Thessalonica to provide what was lacking, or deficient, in their faith. "as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith." (1 Thessalonians 3:10) Moreover, Paul saw it as his mission and calling to fill up what was lacking in the sufferings of Christ as they pertained to the benefit of the church. "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions. Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God." (Colossians 1:24-25)

It seems to me that it is the work of an apostle to fill up what is lacking in the faith, lives, and support of others, be they Paul, Epaphroditus, or anyone else sent out as a messenger of love and care. For just as Paul was sent by God, Epaphroditus was sent by the Philippians. This idea of an apostle helps us to understand what Paul wrote when he said, "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ." (Ephesians 4:11-12) Here, the word "equipping" means to fully furnish. God has sent people into our lives and into the church to fill up what is lacking in us; to finish in us the work that God has begun. Just as Epaphroditus was sent to Paul to finish the work that the Philippians had started in their care for Paul, so God sent Paul to finish in us the work He stated in our lives. This is the true work of an apostle.

David Robison

Saturday, February 18, 2017

will genuinely be concerned - Philippians 2:19-24

"But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father. Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me; and I trust in the Lord that I myself also will be coming shortly." (Philippians 2:19-24)
It's hard to imagine who Paul is referring to when he speaks of "they all", Certainly he is not including in "they all" people like Barnabus, Titus, and Silas is he? Perhaps he is speaking of those false apostles that Jesus referred to in the vision to John, "you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false," (Revelation 2:2) or maybe he is referring to those who preached the Gospel out of spite, those of whom he said, "Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment." (Philippians 1:15-17)  Whoever these people were, Timothy proved to be of a different and superior character.

Paul and Timothy had a special bond. Paul found Timothy while visiting Lystra. After meeting him and hearing of his faith, it was Paul's desire that Timothy should join him in his work. We read, "Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek." (Acts 16:1-3) It says that Paul wanted Timothy to go with him. Much the same is said of Jesus when he selected his disciples. "And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach." (Mark 3:14) To Paul and Jesus, discipleship was more than instructing others, it requires relationships with those with whom you were disciplining. Discipleship involves more than sharing what you know, it requires sharing your life; to allow people to come close enough to see you in your good times and bad and to learn of your faith through the quality of the life you live.

Paul saw Timothy as his true son. He wrote of him, "For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church." (1 Corinthians 4:17) Similarly, Timothy regarded Paul as his father, and it is said that he served him as a son serves his father. This idea of a disciple serving his teacher as a son would serve his father is found throughout the Christian scriptures. We read how Joshua used to serve Moses before Joshua became the leader of Israel. "So Moses arose with Joshua his servant." (Exodus 24:13) We also read of how Elisha served Elijah and, in the end, called him his father. "Elisha saw it and cried out, 'My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!'" (2 Kings 2:12) Today we have many people who want their own ministry, but few who are willing to learn to serve in ministry before they get a ministry of their own.

What set Timothy apart from the others, and what distinguished his character compared to the others, was the way in which he genuinely cared for the needs of people. With Timothy, there was no hidden agendas, no pretense, no angling to his own advantage. He just loved and cared for people. Two things are key to learning to love and care for others. First, we must learn to want for nothing. When we are content in this life then we feel no need to fight and scratch for everything we want. We no longer are forced to think of ourselves and what we want. We become free to think of other's needs and what they want. The second key is to learn to love ourselves less. Love finds its fulfillment when it loves others. In John's revelation, he sees a multitude of those who, "did not love their life even when faced with death." (Revelation 12:11) To be truly fulfilled in love, we must learn to let God love us while we, in turn, love others. This is the secret to having a character like that of Timothy; one that genuinely cares.

David Robison


Friday, February 03, 2017

without grumbling or disputing - Philippians 2:14-18

"Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me." (Philippians 2:14-18)
Paul had just exhorted the Galatians to obey him, not only when he was present, but "but now much more in my absence." (Philippians 2:12) Here Paul gives some examples of the things he had commanded them to obey: do not grumble, stop fighting with each other, etc. The things Paul commanded the Galatians to obey are the same kinds of things a parent would instruct their children to do: do not lie, play nice with each other, don't fight, etc. Paul's relationship with the Galatians was not as an overload but as a father.

It is interesting that the way we prove ourselves to be children of God not through the purity of belief or our fidelity to a statement of faith but through our actions that show we have learned to conform our lives to the pattern set for us by our heavenly Father. Our conformance to creeds proves ourselves to be children of religion but our obedient behavior to our Father proves ourselves to be children of God.

It was said of Jesus that, "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men." (John 1:4) The light of Jesus was not His creed or statement of faith but it was the life He lived. The life Jesus lived showed us a new reality, a new way to live. It showed us that it was possible, through God's help, to live a righteous life, a life that was new, abundant, and free of sin. The same is true today of our lives. If we live as children of God, then our lives will be the light of men; showing them the new life that is possible in Christ. This is why Jesus described us saying, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)

Paul's mission in life was not to teach people but to deliver them to God as children of their heavenly Father. This meant not only seeing them united with the Father but also being conformed into His image and into the image of His Son. The proof of this transformation was to be evident in how they lived their lives. In Galatians, Paul speaks of running in vain regarding his gospel, "I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain." (Galatians 2:2) However, here he speaks of having run in vain in regards to his mission, the mission of seeing those he ministered to becoming transformed into the image of Christ.

Paul found the secret to joy, even when faced with personal challenges and difficulties. Paul's joy was in seeing the positive effect of his ministry happen in the lives of other people. Paul did not live for his own benefit but found joy when his life brought benefit to others. When we live for ourselves, it is easy to become angered when circumstances do not turn out the way we had hoped and when difficulties and disappointments flood our lives. Our anger robs us of our joy and saps the strength of our life. However, when we live for the benefit of others, then even our circumstances are seen as opportunities to benefit others by allowing God to show Himself strong in the midst of our difficulties that others may take hope and increase in faith. Paul encourages us that this approach to life ought also to be ours; that in living for others we too might share in the same joy that Paul found in his service to others. Such a life is contrary to the world, but is rewarding in Christ.

David Robison


Sunday, January 22, 2017

In my absence - Philippians 2:12-13

"So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13)
The true mark of maturity is not how you live on Sunday, but how you live on Monday when no one from church is watching you. As parents, we teach our children how to behave through instruction and commands; watching them to ensure that their behavior lines up and conforms to what we have taught and commanded them. When they do the things we command, we praise them. When they do not, we discipline them that they might learn to follow our instructions and commands. The goal of all this is so that, when they are grown and out of our sight, they will continue to live by what we taught them and trained them to do. Our fundamental hope is that, if we "train up a child in the way he should go, [then] even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) If we succeed in this, then we will have succeeded in raising our children to be mature adults.

Paul viewed those in the churches to which he ministered as his children. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church saying, "For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel." (1 Corinthians 4:15) As a father, Paul was concerned with their growth towards maturity. To this end, he desired, not only that they would obey him when present, but even in his absence, the things he taught and commanded them would continue to guide their lives, conversations, and behavior. Only when they were able to live a righteous and moral live in his absence, would he have succeeded in raising them unto maturity.

The working out of our salvation is our own personal responsibility. Having been taught and trained, it is up to us to put that training into practice. Others can instruct us, others can command us how we ought to live, but it is up to us to decide how we will actually live our lives and put to use those things we have been taught and commanded. Even the very faith we have in Christ, it is up to us to put that faith into action; to allow it to become active in our lives and to allow it to dictate and control every aspect of our daily walk and life. It is not enough to hear, learn, and understand the Gospel of God, we must actually learn to live by what we have learned, heard, and have understood. We must take what we know and put it into action.

The great paradox in all of this is that, even though we are responsible for working out our own salvation, it is not really us who are working, but God who is working within us. While our salvation is our own personal responsibility, we do not do it alone. Prior to grace, we were left to the Law and the Law commanded us what it willed but give us no help or power to do the things it commanded. We were left to our own willingness to obey and our own power to follow through on that willingness. However, now that grace has come, we are no longer left to ourselves but God Himself aids us in living the life He commands. Paul, writing of himself, speaks to our new life in Christ. "For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Galatians 2:19-20) In Christ, we have died and have been given a new life. In this new life, we find that it is Christ who is living in us and who is working both to give us the willingness and the strength to live the new life we have been given and commanded. We have the very resurrected life in Christ empowering us to do the very things Paul commands; that we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Augustine of Hippo used to say, "Lord command what you will and grant what you command!" How great is the good news of Christ, that those things which God commands, He also gives in abundance.

David Robison