Sunday, June 25, 2017

Love yourself? What's wrong with that?

This is the third part of a multi-part series. You can find the first part here, or the entire series here. I hope you enjoy our discussion.

What is wrong with self-love?

Before we answer this question, we must clearly understand that nowhere in the scriptures are we commanded to love ourselves. Similarly, while we are told that “the Father loves the Son” (John 5:20) and that, as Jesus said of himself, “I love the Father,” (John 14:31) nowhere are we told that Jesus loved himself or that the Father loved himself. Furthermore, none of the apostles or any of the anti-Nicene writers ever spoke of our need to love ourselves before we can love our neighbor. The idea of the need to love ourselves before we can love others is completely foreign to the scriptures and the writings of the early church. In contrast to this idea, Paul describes the wickedness of the end of the age as a time when people will be lovers of self. “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:1-4) The end times will be characterized by self-love that robs love from God and others. Even today we see myriads of people who love themselves to the exclusion of others and the pain and sin that proceeds from such self-love.

The problems with self-love are twofold. First, it focusses our intention inward rather than outward as Jesus commands us. Paul, speaking of many of the so-called “ministers” of his day, says, “they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:21) Self-love can cause us to become so self-absorbed in our own interests that we lose sight of the interests of Christ and others. Paul speaks of our need to break away from our own self-absorption and self-love to care about the needs and interests of others. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4) Our love is to be directed outwardly not inwardly. When love becomes self-focused, we not only lose sight of other people but we fail at the very command of God, the command to love others.

Secondly, when we believe that we can only love others to the same degree that we love ourselves, then we will never prefer others before ourselves or treat them above ourselves. As best we will treat them as we treat ourselves, but no greater. Paul writes to us saying, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.” (Romans 12:10) To prefer one another over ourselves, we must first love them more than ourselves. This is the great call of God; to leave behind self-love and to embrace love for God and love for others.

More to come...
David Robison

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Love yourself? What did Jesus mean?

This is the second part of a multi-part article. You can read the first post here or all posts here. Hope you enjoy this series.

What then did Jesus mean by, “as yourself”?

This doctrine, that we must first love ourselves before we can love others, hinges on how we interpret the phrase, “as yourself.” Some interpret this to mean, “in the same way” or “to the same degree,” but is this the only plausible interpretation of this scripture? Is there another interpretation that is more plausible and in better keeping with the scriptures as a whole?

One other possible interpretation of this command by Jesus is that we should love others as if they were ourselves. In other words, we are not to love others in the same way, or to the same degree, as we love ourselves, but we are to love others as if they were ourselves. Loving others as ourselves would then mean to love them the way we would want to be loved or to love them as we would love ourselves.

This interpretation is more in line with the rest of Jesus’ teaching on how we ought to relate to other people. Consider Jesus’ words when he says, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) Here, the command is not to treat people to the same degree we treat ourselves, but rather to treat them the way we would want to be treated. If we interpret the command to love others in the same light by which we interpret this verse, then we see that Jesus is not saying that we should love others as we love ourselves, but that we should love them the way we would want to be loved. Note that here too, as well as in the scripture commanding us to love our neighbor, Jesus refers to treating others as we would have them treat us as being the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets. Treating these two scriptures as being essentially the same command, we realize that Jesus is in no way intimating that we must first love ourselves before we can love others, simply that we should love and treat them in the same way we would want to be loved and treated. This seems to be the more plausible and natural interpretation of what Jesus meant by “as yourself.”

More to come...
David Robison

Friday, June 23, 2017

Love yourself? An introduction

This is the start of a new multi-post article. I am very interested in hearing your thoughts on this popular topic. I hope this series is a blessing to you.

But did not Jesus tell me to love myself?

There is a popular theology today that states that we can only love others to the degree to which we love ourselves. This theology is based upon the words of Jesus when, in quoting the Old Testament scripture (Leviticus 19:18), he says, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39) Some contend that, in saying we should love our neighbor as ourselves, Jesus was saying that we can only love others if we first love ourselves. They interpret the words of Jesus to mean that we ought to love others with the same degree and in the same way that we love ourselves. Therefore, if that is a true interpretation of Jesus’s words, then we must first love ourselves if we are ever going to love our neighbor according to the command of Christ.

While this message strikes a chord of comfort and hope for those who find within them self-loathing and self-hatred, we must ask ourselves if this is what Jesus really meant when he uttered these words? The answer to this question has great import to our lives and our relationships with those around us.

While, according to this particular scripture, Jesus tells us to love our neighbor “as ourselves,” (Leviticus 19:18)  there are other places where Jesus simply commands us to love others without any reference to ourselves. In speaking of our enemies, Jesus commands us, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” (Luke 6:35) Here, Jesus commands us to love our enemies with no reference to how we love ourselves. Similarly, when it comes to loving others, John records Jesus’ command is simply, “This I command you, that you love one another,” (John 15:17) again with no reference to ourselves. Finally, when leaving us a new commandment to love one another, Jesus raises the bar from the command laid down by the Law, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)  While the Old Testament tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves, here we are told to love each other as Christ has loved us. Truly this is a much greater requirement that was previously stated by the Law.

Given the progression of the scriptures from loving our neighbor as ourselves, to loving our enemies with no qualifications, and to loving each other as Christ has loved us, we must ask ourselves if we have properly understood the scriptures when we interpret them to mean that we must first love ourselves before we can love our neighbor.

More to come...
David Robison

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Live in harmony - Philippians 4:1-3

"Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life." (Philippians 4:1-3)
Paul loved people. His love was not just for the church, but for the people of the church. Paul took no pride in structure, programs, or church size. His pride was in the people who were being transformed by the message of the Gospel. Paul' reward was not in his notoriety, but in seeing Christ formed in the lives he touched, Paul rejoiced not only in their changed life but also in the love they had one for another and for him. Far too often we appraise our spiritual lives by our accomplishments and our works instead of our relationships with others. It is of little account to have preached to thousands if we fail at forming Christian relationships one with another.

Paul, as he begins to close his letter, exhorts the Philippians to stand firm in the Lord. This Greek word means to remain stationary. The idea is that we might remain stationary in Christ, not moved by our circumstances, our fears, and our concerns. Not only can external concerns disturb us, but we can also be troubled by a need to prove ourselves or to justify ourselves by works and religion. God has called us to a place of peace; peace where we are confident in the love of God for us and our position in His kingdom. We are to stand in peace knowing that God loves us, that we are secure in His kingdom, and that no matter what comes our way, God is watching over us. It is only from this place of rest that we can find our purpose in God and move forward in those good works for which "God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)

Finally, Paul addresses and issue that arose between two godly saints; believers who had both labored and struggled for the Gospel. These two women had given much and yet, for some reason, they ended up sideways in their relationship with one another. We don't know why but it had come to the point where Paul felt that he needed to address the issue. While death and taxes are inevitable, so are offenses and, sometimes, we need the help of others to walk through a healing process with those by whom we have been offended. What is interesting here is that we begin to see the church at Philippi, not as simple a collection of individuals, but as a community of believers that were bound together by relationships, so much so, that the difficulty that existed between these two women was felt by the entire community. It is as Paul said, "And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it." (1 Corinthians 12:26) This is not to say that the church ought to be a group of meddling individuals but that as the Body of Christ we are called to do life together and, sometimes, that means helping one another through the difficulties of life. None of us are an island unto ourselves. We have been called into community; into the family of Christ.

David Robison

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Who will transform - Philippians 3:20-21

"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself." (Philippians 3:20-21)
The scriptures use many metaphors to describe our corporate relationship with each other and with the Lord. For example, to the Ephesians, Paul describes us as the "the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12) and Peter, in his letter, describes us as "a chosen race" (1 Peter 2:9) and "a royal priesthood." (1 Peter 2:9) Here, Paul refers to us as citizens of a heavenly kingdom. What is important to understand from these metaphors is that our life in Christ is not singular but corporate. We cannot separate our individual relationship with Christ from our corporate relationship with one another.

We presently live in a culture that views government as the supply of all we need. Many people look to government to provide cradle-to-grave care and protection for their lives. They have become dependents of the government rather than citizens of the commonwealth. Their participation in the union is only for what it can provide for them, not what they can provide back to the union. As citizens of God's kingdom, we must realize that it has become incumbent upon us to see, not only the rights and privileges of our citizenship, but also the duty that citizenship lays upon us. Our citizenship defines our duty towards God and each other. This is the same sense of duty which Paul refers to when he references the body of Christ, "the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:16) In our citizenship, we have a part to play in building up and strengthing the greater whole that is the holy nation of God.

Paul says that we are awaiting a savior from heaven. However, this ought to cause us to ask, "has he not already come? Was not Jesus our savior from heaven?" To understand this we must realize that salvation is a process that has a past, a present, and a future. Our initial salvation comes when we repent, believe the Gospel, and receive Jesus as our savior. At that moment, we are born from above and our spirit is made alive unto God. We are brought into relationship with God through the forgiveness and reconciliation of Christ. Next, God works in our lives to bring transformation in our souls. This saving work transforms our minds and teaches us new patterns of thinking and behaving, We learn to leave behind the past and to grow into the people we were created to be, Finally, one day, Jesus will return and save our physical bodies. Paul refers to this as our adoption. "And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." (Romans 8:23) One day, we will be done with these weak and temptable bodies and will receive a glorified and heavenly body just as Jesus did in his death and resurrection. Our glorified bodies will bo longer be subject to death, disease, want, and physical limitation. In that day, our salvation will be complete and we will have come to realize the hope that, "we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

It is through God's power that this transformation of our bodies will take place. In other places, Paul describes this power as that which raised Jesus from the dead. However, here he describes it as that power that is able to bring all things into submission unto himself. This should cause us to consider, "what are those things that are holding us back? What are those things that are hindering and oppressing us? What are those things that are keeping us from fulfilling our new life in Christ?" Whatever they may be, they must all come into submission before the ultimate power of God. In that day, when our salvation is brought to completion, there will be nothing to stand in our way or to hinder us from our final adoption as sons and daughter of Christ. All our enemies will be subdued, all our demons vanquished, and all that oppose us will be silenced. In the end, there will only be victory and the victory will be God's.

David Robison

Sunday, May 07, 2017

According to the pattern - Philippians 3:17-19

"Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things." (Philippians 3:17-19)
There is a difference between imitation and emulation. Imitation attempts to arrive at an exact copy of someone else while emulation seeks to achieve what someone else has achieved and to surpass it. We are not called to imitate other people. We frustrate the destiny of our lives when we try to live other peoples' destinies. As long as we are trying to be a copy of someone else, we will never become the person we are called to be. How often do we say to ourselves, "I wish I was like that person? I wish I had their gifts and talents? I wish I could minister like them?" However, when we think this way, we end up striving to be who we are not and loose the joy of finding out who God created us to be. We not only rob ourselves of the joy of being ourselves, but the world loses the benefit that comes from the uniqueness with which God has created us. We cannot be someone else, we must be ourselves.

Having said this, there can be value in emulating other people. The difference is that we are not trying to be them but rather trying to learn what they have learned, trying to understand what they have understood, and trying to decern the patterns that they have employed to make them successful in their endeavors. For example, if you are looking to strengthen your marriage, then it is prudent to look to emulate the patterns and wisdom employed by those whose marriage you would like to emulate. You're not trying to be them, but you recognize that they have found things that work and which may also work for you in growing your marriage. In the context of Paul's letter, he is saying, take note of those who have the faith and character which you desire for yourselves and follow their pattern of life. If we pattern our life after the world, then we will be like the world, but if we pattern our lives after those whose faith is exemplary, then we too will come to have exemplary faith and will become patterns for others to follow.

To this end, Paul describes those who are the antithesis of who we are to become. Here Paul speaks of those who are enemies of the cross. Perhaps a better translation of this Greek word would be haters of the cross. The intent of the Greek word is not so much that they are antagonistic against the cross as it is that they the hate it. They are not out to destroy the cross, but they reject its influence in their lives. Paul describes four characteristics of such people, of which, we will look at each in reverse order.

First, they set their minds on early things. Their lives are spent on the here and now, They have no interest or concern about anything transcendent, anything eternal, and anything relating to God or his Kingdom. Their lives are lived for themselves and their present wants and desires. They take no thought of God or of anyone else's need. Their needs reign supreme and it is after those needs that they earnestly seek.

Secondly, they glory in their shame. It seems tragic to me that we live in a time that glorifies, rewards, and congratulates those who sin has become public; whose sin we used to consider sinful and shameful. When people come forward with their open shame, we laud them as courageous and examples for others to follow. Is there any sin left for which our culture has not set about to exalt and to erase the shame of its stain? We live in a world that wants to throw off all vestiges of guilt, not realizing that the reason we often fell guilty is because we truly are guilty.

Thirdly, their god is their belly. Their only thought is for themselves. They are driven by their needs and desires. They lack the kind of self-control that would allow them to see others and the appetites that are higher than our flesh, such as an appetite for righteousness, goodness, and love. They know nothing of serving others. They serve only those things that serve themselves. They are truly lovers of self and lovers of nothing and no one else. Theirs is a lonely existence of self-indulgence.

Finally, their end is destruction. This destruction is not only and end in their life, but a daily process of corruption and decay brought about by their self-absorption in themselves. Not only will they one day find themselves in eternal destruction, but they live that destruction every day. Just as our resurrection is both future and an everyday reality, so is their destruction. Herein, is the key to discerning those lives we wish to pattern our own after, are they living a life of daily resurrection or are they living in daily corruption? Those whose life reflects the present and future reality of resurrection ought to be those lives we seek to emulate and the life we chose to live each and every day for ourselves. In the end, our emulation ought to produce in us a life that may also be emulated by others.

David Robison

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