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

Monday, January 16, 2017

Every knee will bow - Philippians 2:9-11

"For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11)
For what reason was Christ highly exalted to the place where every knee will bow and every tongue confess? Because of what Paul had previously taught us, that Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped and that He emptied Himself, became a man, and was obedient even to death upon the cross. Jesus descended to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. For this reason, He has also ascended to become the Lord of all. In saving all of mankind, He became the Lord of all mankind. This is also what Paul meant when, after quoting David, "You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives," (Psalms 68:18) he writes, "Now this expression, 'He ascended,' what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things." (Ephesians 4:9-10)

What is interesting here is that Paul, in his teaching, refers to an ancient prophecy of Isaiah, "For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited), I am the Lord, and there is none else... Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. They will say of Me, 'Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.'" (Isaiah 45:18, 21-24) There are several things of interest here. First, that Paul is clearly linking this prophecy with his teaching. In so doing, he is telling us that the story of Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophesy. Secondly, we see clearly that Jesus' coming was prophesied and foretold long before His appearing. God purposefully did this so that we might believe upon Him when He came. Third, we see that Jesus was not only the Christ, the anointed one, but He was also prophesied to be our savior, the one who would save us from our sins. Fourthly, we see that God's intentions, which He prophesied through Isaiah, was that we would no longer find our righteousness in the law but in Christ who was to be our savior. No longer would our righteousness be by works but rather through faith. Finally, Paul teaches us that Jesus is in fact God. Isaiah is clearly prophesying about God, the one who created the heavens and the Earth. Furthermore, we see in Isaiah that is is this God before whom every knee will bow and everytongue confess. However, here in his letter to the Philippians, Paul affirms that Jesus' life, death, and resurrection were the fulfillment of this prophesy. In doing so it is clear that Paul was teaching us that Jesus, being the Son of God, is also, in truth, God Himself. How this could be and the exact nature of this union of God the Father and God the Son being one (along with the Holy Spirit) is a mystery, but Paul clearly declares it as being true, Jesus is God.

David Robison

Friday, January 13, 2017

a thing to be grasped - Philippians 2:5-8

"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:5-8)
Attitudes just don't happen, they are chosen and formed by a conscience act of our mind and will. This Greek word means to exercise the mind or to form and maintain an opinion or mental disposition. It speaks of an active undertaking not a passive acquiesce to a thought or idea. Paul is not calling us to an attitude but calling us to action to form such an attitude within us, an attitude which was also found in the person of Jesus Christ.

So what was this attitude that Jesus had? It was that, though He was God, He didn't grasp godness. When the situation required it, He was willing to lay aside His godness to come to Earth in the form and limitations of a man. I have known rich people who, when the opportunity called for giving, grasped their riches all the more. We have all heard stories of those who have been put into authority who, when delegation was in order, grasped ever tighter onto their authority. Furthermore, there are those who, when mercy is called for, refuse to let go of their right and their self-righteousness. All these people chose grasping over emptying. We need to understand that, just because God has blessed and gifted us, that does not mean that, at times, we should lay those things aside for the benefit of other people. Consider what Paul said to the Corinthian church, "Do we not have a right to eat and drink? Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? ... If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ." (1 Corinthians 9:4-6, 12) Paul had certain rights as an apostle but he was often willing to forgo those rights if it meant greater blessing for those to whom he was ministering.

When Jesus came down, He did not come as God in the fullness of who God is, but came humbly, in the form of a man. It is almost impossible for us to understand how great His condescension was. It would be like us condescending to become a worm; stripping ourselves of all that it means to be human, yet this is exactly what Jesus did for us. Having become a man, He did what all men and women ought to do, He humbled Himself and became obedient. This is the attitude that all men should take, especially before God; that we should be humble and obedient before the God who created us. How many earthly problems have been created by disobedient and proud men and women? If we would learn humbleness and obedience then our lives would be blessed, our relationships would be blessed, and our work would also be blessed. This should become our goal. This should become the attitude within us. That we might imitate Jesus as He imitated what we ought to do as men and women created by God.

David Robison

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Do nothing from selfishness - Philippians 2:3-4

"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)
How many churches have been destroyed through selfishness, strife, and empty conceit? How many marriages have been ruined by those same diabolical attitudes and behaviors? Strife and empty conceit not only hurt relationships but also destroys any attempt to unite people together either as a church, a marriage, or any other form of relational institution.

Other translators translate the Greek word for selfishness as "strife" (Darby) and "selfish admission" (NKJV). Thayer translates this word as "a courting distinction, a desire to put oneself forward, a partisan and factious spirit which does not disdain low arts; partisanship, factiousness." In any organization, including the church, there will always be people who have different ideas, different views of how things ought to be done, and different ways they would use to approach a common issue or problem. The problem is not so much the dissension of ideas, plans, and means but the striving for having your own idea, plan, and means adopted as the only approach to any project, problem, or mission. We may not always agree on the direction or plan taken, but when we resort to intrigue, courting others to our side, and waging intellectual war against our opponents then we have crossed the line into something that is bound to be destructive and divisive. We must, in the midst of our differences, find a way to work together as a whole; to place ourselves under a common yolk so that we might pull together in a common direction and towards a common purpose.

The truth of conceit is that all conceit is empty. Thayer describes this Greek word as "empty self-esteem." The reason conceit and self-esteem are empty is not because there is no reason to be conceited or to have self-esteem but because the source of those things for which we might have conceit or self-esteem is not from us but from God. There are many good qualities in each of us and many reasons to be proud and confident in who we are, but those traits and qualities are not from us but God given and God honed through His work in our lives. When we let ourselves think that who and what we are is a product of our own efforts and industry then we deceive ourselves and our estimation of ourselves is empty. However, when we realize that all the good things in us are gifts from God, then we are moved to thankfulness and our desire becomes to use those gifts for the benefit of others and for the glory of God. Then our purpose will not be to put ourself forward or to strive for our own way but to find how to use our gifts, talents, and abilities for a larger purpose than ourselves.

Why should we view one another more important than ourselves? Are we not important? Are we not at least as important as they are? Why should we consider them more important? Vine defines this Greek word as "to hold or have above." In other words, the sense in which they are "better" than us is not derived from some qualitative comparison of morality, aptitude, or ability. Rather is is a choise we make to voluntarily consider them first before ourselves.

There are two keys to being able to look at others as more important than ourselves. First, we must have a humble and realistic estimation of ourselves. The truth is that we are just like everyone else; we are no better or no worst. Paul reminds us that, "for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:22-23) In the things that really matter, we are just like everyone else. We have all sinned; we are all fallen; we all need a savior. Secondly, we need to be confident that God cares for us and that He is, and will continue, to look after our needs. David said, "The Lord will perfect that which concerns me." (Psalms 138:8 NKJV) It is only when we are confident in God's care for our lives that we can turn our attention to others.

Finally, Paul tells us to not be so consumed with or own interests that we lose site of the interests of others. In this statement, Paul assumes that our fellowship as Christian brothers and sisters is part of our everyday life. So much of what we call fellowship occurs in those brief moments we spend greeting one another at church. However, five minutes on a Sunday morning does not constitute fellowship. Our life together as the Body of Christ must extend beyond Sunday and must be a part of who we are. We need more than encounters with other believers, we need vital life-giving relationships with other brothers and sisters. It is in the context of these relationships that we can look to the interest of others as others look to our interests as well.

David Robison

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Make my joy complete - Philippians 2:1-2

"Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose." (Philippians 2:1-2)
Paul is asking the Philippians to stop and consider the benefits they have found in Christ. While Paul's words are stated as a question, the implied answer to each question is "Yes". In response to Paul's questions, here is what he is hoping we will realize.

There is encouragement in Christ. The Greek word for encouragement is a form of the same word that Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit as our comforter, "And I will beg the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever." (John 14:16 Darby) In Christ, there is comfort, encouragement, and consolation, even in times of trouble and loss. Our encouragement comes not from our own power of will, but because the one who is our comforter lives within us. We have comfort and encouragement because of our relationship with Christ and His very presence in our lives.

In Christ we have received the love of the Father and, through the Holy Spirit, our lives have been filled full with the love of God. "The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:5) This Greek word for consolation is translated by Vine as "to speak closely to anyone." Through the love of God, we experience not only His nearness but we also hear his expressions of love and feel His breath upon our spirit as He speaks His love to us.

In Christ, we have fellowship with His Spirit. Not only do we live in social intercourse with the Spirit, but we also participate with Him in His work in our lives and upon this Earth. Our fellowship with the Spirit goes beyond simply knowing Him, we also participate with Him in a purpose that is greater than ourselves. Through the Spirit, we become partners with God and partners in a mission that is extending His Kingdom throughout the whole Earth.

In Christ, our hard hearts have been made soft again; where there was once coldness there is now the ardent warmth of love. Instead of indifference towards others, our heart now burns with love, compassion, mercy, and empathy. Instead of self-love, we find a new motivating force within us that draws us to others, that causes us to take notice and consider other people, and that motivates us to share with them the same love of Christ that has been shared with us. Our love, that was once selfish, has been turned outward towards God and towards others.

In all of this, Paul is trying to get us to see all we have received in Christ and, in seeing this, to motivate us towards love and community with our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Message bible puts it this way, "If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ... then do me a favor..." (Philippians 2:1-2 The Message) We have been given so much in Christ that we ought not to keep it to ourselves or to use it only for our own purposes, interests, and benefit but we ought to share those benefits with others.

Paul's joy was the joy of a father; the joy a father feels when his children grow up to become mature, well constituted, men and women of character, fidelity, courage, and godliness. Paul's judgment of their maturity was based upon how they lived and interacted with others. It is not only an inward maturity that Paul was looking for but also an outward maturity that affects every aspect of our lives, speech, and conduct.

Paul's joy was not only for the individual but also for the whole church. Paul not only loved and cared for the individual but he also loved and cared for the church. To this end, Paul encourages the Philippians in how they should relate to one another. Specifically, he asks that they would live in unity with each other. That that they would have the same mind and that being the mind of Christ. That they would have the same love, the same love for each other with which God had loved them. That they would be co-spirited or to of kindred spirit, meaning that, though they differ outwardly, there would be a commonality in their souls that would draw them togther as one. Finally, that they would be intent on one purpose, meaning to be of one mind, to think the same, or to exercise their thoughts and intentions towards a common purpose. This common purpose is more than a common mission or activity but is our common purpose to be more like Christ and together to represent and reflect Christ to the world.

David Robison

Saturday, December 31, 2016

In no way alarmed - Philippians 1:28-30

"in no way alarmed by your opponents — which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me." (Philippians 1:28-30)
The early church was often under the constant threat of persecution. Waves of persecution would wash over the church bring imprisonment, torture, and martyrdom to many. Here, Paul is not talking about people who just don't like us, he is speaking of those who oppose us, and threaten us, because of our faith. Paul is urging the Philippian church to stand strong in the face of persecution; to not be quickly moved to fear by the oppressive forces around them. The way we respond to persecution and oppression has a lot to say about who we are and who they are who seek to persecute us. If we respond in fear or like aggression then we prove ourselves to be just as they are. However, if we respond in faith, showing the confidence and peace that faith brings to us in times of difficulty, then we demonstrate ourselves to better than them, not because we ourselves are better, but because the hope and foundation of our lives are better than that upon which their lives are built. Furthermore, we prove that our confession of Christ is real and His promise of salvation is true. Our faith and confidence are evidence that what God has spoken is true and that, no matter how great the persecution that awaits us, our hope of deliverance and eternal life is greater than any persecution that can come our way. In the end, our faith and confidence in Christ are evidence that those who seek to destroy us are not fighting against us but against God and, those who fight against God, do so to their own destruction.

In our own human understanding, it does not appear to be any great reward that we are granted the privilege to suffer for Christ's sake. However, when we suffer, it is not because we have done anything wrong, on the contrary, it is because God has found us worthy of His suffering. As such, it is an honor and a privilege to suffer for Christ. It is said of the Apostles, after having been beaten and released from Jail, that they rejoiced "that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name." (Acts 5:41) Persecution and suffering are not times for fretting, fear, or despondency but rather for rejoicing that God has found us worthy to suffer for Him. Jesus said, "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12) Persecution is evidence of the new creature, one who is worthy of this new life, that God has remade us to be.

Finally, Paul reminds them that he too has suffered, and is suffering, the same things as they are suffering. When facing trials, sufferings, and persecutions, it is tempting to think that we are the only ones who are suffering, It is easy to feal alone in our suffering, thinking that no one else knows or understands what we are going through. However, this is not the case. The sufferings we experience are common to all believers. Paul promised us that, "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Timothy 3:12) The truth that we are not alone in our suffering ought to encourage us and give us hope in our suffering, It also should cause us to consider how we endure our own suffering, knowing that others are watching. We ought to suffer in a way to give the same kind of hope and encouragement as Paul's confident suffering did for the Phillipian church. We all suffer, but let us suffer in a way that brings honor to God and hope to those around us,

David Robison

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Conduct yourselves - Philippians 1:27

"Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." (Philippians 1:27)
True integrity is found in how we behave when no one is looking. It is one thing to behave right when someone is watching over us, but it is another to live right when no one is watching and where no one can see. It is in these hidden places where the truth of who we are is revealed.

The grace of God has come to change us, not superficially, but at the very center of who we are. Jeremiah prophesied, "'But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the Lord, 'I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people'" (Jeremiah 31:33) Herein lies the difference between law and grace. The law can only affect us externally; it only controls us to the extent to which we remain in relationship to the law. Once we are out from under the law we revert to our old habits of sin and selfishness. How many times have we seen where young adults leave the domain of their parents for college only to give themselves to licentious and prodigal living? How many times have we seen where someone leaves a very legalistic church only to be found more bound to sin than ever before? The law tells us to be good on Sunday and when everyone else is watching, but when we are out from under the purview of the law, sin runs rampant.

The law can never change us in the secret place, that place where no one else sees us but God. Only the grace of God can change us and save us from ourselves. Paul wrote of God's grace, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age." (Titus 2:11-12 NKJV) When we listen to the law, we merely learn new external behaviors, but when we listen to the grace of God, we learn new ways of living. It is God's grace that not only instructs us how to live but also produces those changes within us as well.

The word Paul uses here that is translated as "conduct" is a derivative of the Greek word "polites" which is akin to our word "politics" and has reference to a citizen or town's person. This word for conduct has to do, not only with how we behave as an individual, but how we live as a citizen with other citizens. Our conduct is not merely a private matter but is also to be viewed in a larger corporate sense. It not only refers to our private thoughts and secret habits but also has bearing on how we related and live to others. Furthermore, it carries with it a sense of duty. Each of us has a duty, as citizens of God's kingdom, to live in right relationship and cooperation with other citizens of the Kingdom. Here, specifically, Paul mentions our duty to ensure the unity of faith, purpose, and love. As citizens, we have a corporate responsibility to one another and to the common purpose and faith that binds us together as fellow citizens. We no longer live to ourselves alone but also for the greater good of the Kingdom to which we belong. Our integrity is not only individual integrity but integrity to our duties as citizens. It requires a larger view of life that includes others besides ourselves.

David Robison