Priorities in Christ Jesus

Galatians 1:10 “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Right now our society seems to be edging closer to an implosion as fears are propelling people react in anger and choosing sides without little, if any sense of trying to understand others who hold a different point of view, even when they’re friends or relatives. So many are refusing to listen to both sides, to attempt to grasp why the person holds to their persuasion, refusing to try to listen without preconceived prejudice.

Fear drives anger which feeds on self-righteous presumptions growing into selfish rage. We’re seeing this on many levels.

What is our response as Christians?
1) First and foremost: prayer! Serious, intentional prayer for God’s intervention and will to be manifest.
Prayer for God’s wisdom and discernment.
2) Remember we are called to love and be peacemakers. Jesus never advocated agitators.  He never called on His people to become embroiled in things of earth but to be Kingdom people.

Recap of last week Phil 2:12 – 30:
1) Desire to grow and mature in Him
2) Work out His good purpose
3) No Grumbling, no arguing
4) Blameless, innocent :  
Simplicity of character without corruption
5) Shine like stars
6) Hold firmly to the message of Life Hold on, don’t let go of God’s good news. The Gospel of Jesus Christ which will result in eternity with God.

Philippians 3:1 seems to conclude that passage since Paul writes, “Finally, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.”

Rejoice! When we focus on rejoicing fear subsides and we become more attuned to God.

Perhaps Paul was interrupted at this point, or maybe he just needed a break for verse 2 seems to be an abrupt change in tone and focus:

Beware the dogs! Watch out for the dogs! To call anyone a dog was highly insulting. The Jewish people viewed dogs as contemptable, unclean, scavengers. They referred to Gentiles as dogs. Paul uses the term as a shock factor directed at Jewish Christians who were demanding the Gentile Christians to become circumcised. Instead of writing the word for circumcision he deliberately uses the word that means “Mutilate the flesh” “cutting the flesh” which was expressly forbidden in the Mosaic Law.

We need to be on guard against believers who call for action that is contrary to what Jesus calls us to, instead being people who shine like stars in this dark world, holding out hope as peacemakers and people of prayer.

verse 3 Paul goes on to clarify that rather than people of circumcision of the flesh, we are people of God’s work:

1) people who worship by the Spirit of God
2) people who boast in Christ Jesus – boast in this case means “to glory in”, “to exult in”
3) people who have no confidence in the flesh – in external privileges

4-6 Paul lists his inherited privileges of birth, of education, of his merits – including his zeal as a Pharisee who kept the legalistic points of the law to such a degree that he was blameless!

By virtual of his birth, of his mastery of the Hebrew language, his educations and achievements he lets them know that he has the right to praise, acclaim, and authority.

7 He counts them as rubbish, as filthy garbage, even as dung – as some translations put it. All these earthly achievements and privilege of birth are nothing compared to Jesus!

8-11 The surpassing value of Jesus, and worth of personally knowing God! To live for Jesus is our highest calling. It must be our aim and goal in life.

13 – 16 Forgetting the past, reaching forward to what lies ahead! Press to the goal of the prize of Jesus Christ – eternal life! The past is behind us, we can’t change a thing about it so it does no good to dwell on it or to fixate on the way things were but to look ahead, to press into, the Kingdom of God.

As believers we need to be praying, seriously praying for God’s will, wisdom and intervention. Not only in our nation and between people but for ourselves. We must pray for clarity of God’s discernment and will in our individual lives. We must hold each other up in prayer. The temptations to become embroiled in the world’s polarizations are strong at times. We need to focus on Jesus, on rejoicing in Him. Rejoice in Jesus, let go of fear and turmoil.

Don’t try to be a people pleaser, you can never please everyone.
Instead, please Jesus Christ!

Shine Like Stars

Philippians 2:12 – 30
There’s a big red bag that was purchase for a specific purpose. It contained a 1st aid kit, yellow gloves, a couple of potato peelers and two spare aprons. The other day that bag was emptied out, the aprons put into the laundry – even though they hadn’t been used.

Sadness hit while folding the freshly dried aprons. The red bag had stayed full, in the hope and expectation that things would return to normal sooner than later. Six months have passed. The bag is no longer needed, the last Wednesday community dinner was served on March 11th. That last dinner neither Ed nor Lloyd, or any of the other long time helpers, had any idea that this would be the last time to serve food to hungry people and those simply desiring a welcoming community and someone to talk with.

We have no idea when life will resume what used to be normal. But we take great comfort and peace knowing that God knows all things. And His love is everlasting!

While the Apostle Paul sat in prison there were most likely many moments when doubt would start to assail him, and discouragement threaten to drown him. Instead he chose to focus on the reality of Jesus Christ and to rejoice and praise Him. Perhaps is was during a time of despair that he focused on the immeasurable work of Jesus Christ on the cross, suffering and dying for us that caused him to write this amazing letter of hope, encouragement and love!

Paul had just finished writing of Jesus’ obedience and willingness to die for our sins, and the reality that He is reigning in heaven where one day every single one of us will bow and worship Him that he reminds the Philippians, and all believers forward in time of the importance of our obedience!

12 “So then, my dear friends, my beloved friends” Paul has deep affection for the Philipppian community of believers. He connected with them on a heart level through the unifying relationship, worship and love of Jesus.

“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling”
Salvation is from the Latin “Salve” an ointment for healing and preservation  “Healed and preserved!”
Fear and trembling was an idiomatic expression for a humble frame of mind. Out of reverence and knowing that we are dependent on God.

13 God doesn’t take away our free will! He is at work enabling us to:
1) Desire to grow and mature in Him:
We have to desire God’s good purpose in my life.
2) Work out His good purpose
: We have to do our part in working: putting aside ourselves.

14  No Grumbling, no arguing (in the sense of litigation) so we may:

15) Blameless, innocent :  Simplicity of character. No fault. No corruption in this crooked and perverse generation which is a result of moral and intellectual distortion!
Shine like stars!! Look at the sky. Have you ever seen the night sky in a desert?
Hold fast. Hold on to the message of LIFE! Shine in this dark world for Jesus!

16) Hold firmly to the message of Life Hold on, don’t let go of God’s good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ which will result in eternity with God.

17) Poured out like a sacrificial offering.
Paul experienced anxiety, hardship, beatings, false accusations which landed him in jail. Yet he kept his eyes on Jesus

19 – 30 Paul understands the Philippians’ need to see Epaphroditus and Timothy.  Paul understands what it’s like to be anxious about those we love. God created us for relationship, with Him and with each other.  We need each other to encourage, support and lift each other up. We need each other to help us live victorious lives as Christians, blameless and with simplicity of character so the world will see the Light of Jesus, the Hope of the World, the One who knows our future.

Relinquished Entitlement

Jesus exemplified the opposite of having a sense of entitlement as a self-sacrificing servant.
Yet, He is the only one who deserved entitlement.

Philippians 2:6-11 This passage is often considered to be the greatest declaration of Jesus Christ. In a nutshell it describes Jesus’ pre-existence with God, His willingness to leave His position and glory in heaven to come to earth as a human, His humility and obedience which culminates in complete victory, triumph and total acknowledgement of who He is in His glory and authority. It is also a call to us to follow Jesus’ example of selfless living.

This passage was most likely a hymn sung by the original followers of Jesus Christ. To sing these verses together every Sunday would be a wonderful reminder of who Christ is, and affirmation of who we are in Jesus Christ

6-8 Emptied Self-abandonment to the love of God, and the love of other.
The call of God to have the mind set of Jesus to let go of entitlements and became a servant.

Let’s look at these verse by verse:
6 Christ, who, being in the form of God… “being” – “huparchein”: this form of “being” depicts the very essence of a person – that which can’t be changed; the innate, unchangeable characteristics of a person.  Jesus, who at his very essence is God – His divinity didn’t change!
He did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped could be better understood as “asserted” or “utilized” to His advantage. Jesus didn’t forcibly retain His position.

 7 Jesus’ essence didn’t change. What He emptied Himself of was His position of status, privilege and glory. He willingly, of his own accord out of love for His Father and for humanity, relinquished His glory (John 17;5). He submitted to the humiliation of becoming a man; God/man but without the radiating glory and honor. Jesus allowed Himself to experience all the trials and pains, the bodily functions and needs of a human.

Fully God, fully human.
 This is one of those truths that we mortals have a very hard time trying to wrap our finite minds around.
One analogy: take resin, warm it up to the point that it can be poured into a mold. The resin is still resin – its character, its properties don’t change but it is contained in a specific form, molded for a specific purpose. In order to serve us by dying for us and setting us free from the wretched condition of sin.
Jesus gave up His entitlement in order to be a servant. To die for us, setting us free from the power of Satan. Matthew 20:28 “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to give His life a ransom for many.”
He allowed himself to be completely molded into a human form, yet, in essence God, at the same time, submissive to the Father’s will.

8 Humbled Himself
Heb 5:7-8
“During His earthly life, He offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. 8 Though He was God’s son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. After He was perfected, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.”
Jesus gave up all His rights and entitlements, in complete surrender and obedience to God’s will, because of LOVE.
The totality & climax of Jesus’ obedience: dying on the cross – as someone cursed Gal 3:13

Our entitlement?
Mark 10:43-45 But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”

9-11 Exhalted
Hebrews 2:1415 Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the Devil— 15 and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.

Jesus paid the price of our sins with His blood claiming us from the dark domain as He defeated Satan! The Messiah, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings triumphed over all the principalities and powers of evil.

Glory, power, position, honor, acclaim – the utmost superiority and authority over all of creation. Acknowledgement and exaltation given by God the Father!

The name above all names: This is not referring to His earthly name, “Jesus” but to His real name, the name that encapsulates who He is, the name He is known by in Heaven. When we get to heaven we will know His true name for we will know His full identity.
Just as we’ll know God’s name for Jesus, we’ll also know our personal name by which we were created.

The full revelation of Jesus — as well as ourselves, our true & complete identity — will compel every single person throughout the scope and breadth of time and space to fall on our knees and worship Him.

Every. Single. Person who has lived will confess – acknowledge, proclaim – Jesus as Messiah, Lord, Savior and Ruler over me. We will bow and worship Him. No hesitation, no argument, no pride.

Our only sense of entitlement will be an aching desire to serve Him. For now, here on earth, most of us struggle with a sense of self-entitlement. “I deserve.” “My rights.” Jesus humbled Himself and came to serve – this is what He desires from us. Forego pride and be humble servant followers of Him.

Psalm 138:6 ”Though the Lord is exalted, He takes note of the humble.”

Isaiah 57:15“For the High and Exalted One who lives forever (who inhabits eternity), whose name is Holy says: ‘I live in a high and holy place, and also with the oppressed and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed’
God reviving our hearts and spirits will be our eternal reward.

Have the Attitude of Jesus

Last week Ed and I watched “Gone with the Wind”
“There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South… Here in this pretty world Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and Slave… Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered. A Civilization gone with the wind… “
We were struck by Scarlett’s self-centered, claw her way to “success” no-matter-who-gets-trampled attitude. I’m appalled at the blatant racism, the depiction the black people as inferior, happy to serve, love-the-master. I’m appalled at the fact that this was a beloved movie for decades and that there were Christians who enjoyed watching it, and the reality that there were many who had the same mindset – which still continues.

Though far more veiled, and skilled at masking today, the attitudes of racism, hostility, anger, and prejudice are still here. We need to honestly examine the mind-set of that era and diligently look for the parallels in thinking and attitude today. We have to do better.

We humans are not good at changing generations of thinking and behaviors. We need Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit to instruct, to pull back the scales from our eyes and reveal the truth of our attitude, posturing and self-centeredness. We, as believers need to repent, and have a change attitude – taking on the attitude of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 2 addresses how to have a change of mindset, perspective and life, in Christ.

2:1 If there is any encouragement in Christ… NEB “If then our common life in Christ yields anything to stir the heart… then there will be a harvest.
Gardening metaphor: careful preparation, diligent tending including pulling weeds before they get big, faithful appropriate watering, wise about conditions and seasons.
A garden is more successful when people work together in unity of vision and purpose.

God used Paul to express the unity that we ought to be sharing as people of Jesus. When we cultivate our life together in Chris our lives will yield a harvest of:
1) Consolation of love / encouragement  “paraklesis”
translated in other NT passages as “comfort” “exhortation” Jesus used this word for the Holy Spirit. Our guide, comforter, supporter, helper.
The idea Paul is conveying is the strong, upholding support within the Christian community.

2) Fellowship of the Spirit “
koinonia” also translated as participation, communion, or sharing. This is the word that Paul uses in 1 Cor 10:16 “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a sharing/participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a sharing/participation in the body of Christ?”
Fellowship of the Holy Spirit is to participate and share.

Example of the Scotts Mills 4th of July Parade One person in the Scotts Mills FB page suggested a parade in town on the morning of the 4th. She wanted her children to enjoy this one traditional celebration. Would it be possible? Immediately people commented: “I’ll bring the old fire truck” another “My kids can lead their goat pulling a wagon with patriotic music playing and my husband playing his drum to the music.” “My kids want to decorate their bikes” “We can form down by the school” And on it went, the enthusiasm building a type of koinonia, each person contributing to the paraklesis. And within one week the community pulled off a wonderful parade that brought joy and happiness to the town.
Most remarkable was the fact that no one person organized it. There was no committee, no person in charge. No drama. People enthusiastically grabbed the opportunity to participate and stepping up with their skill and vision.
Think of how we followers of Jesus could change our corner of the world by having a vision then taking the initiative, jumping in and taking charge!

   3) Affection and mercy/compassion Paul is referring to matters of heart, but with far more power and meaning that we normally attribute to affection. This affection is active expressive love – fully loving with the love of Jesus.
J.B. Lightfoot puts it this way: “I should rather have said that in the heart of Christ Jesus I long for you. This is a powerful metaphor describing perfect union. The believer has no yearnings apart from Jesus; his pulse beats with the pulse of Christ; her heart throbs with the heart of Christ.
Affection and mercy: the deepest and most tender of feelings for each another which are manifest in compassion and action.

2:2  Harmony in relationship NEB “Fill up my cup of happiness by thinking and feeling alike, with the same love for one another, the same turn of mind, and a common care for unity.”

The SM 4th of July parade is a great example of this. Watching the parade filled many people with joy and happiness.

2: 3 – 4 capture the uniqueness of our common life in Jesus Christ. To do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride. With humility consider each other as more important than yourself!
Not looking out for my own interests but the interests of others.

Abraham Maslow caused a radical shift in the field of psychology when he took an entirely different approach to Freud’s practice which studied sick, dysfunctional people.
Maslow decided to study people who were vitally alive, fully functioning, radiantly happy people. In the process he developed a theory called self-actualization and described a composite person whom he designated self-actualized. “Without exception, I found that every person who was sincerely happy, radiantly alive, was living for a purpose or a cause beyond himself.1

2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.
Matthew 11:29 Attitude of Jesus
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Don’t be a Scarlette O’Hara! Be like Jesus. He calls us to be gentle and humble in heart just as He is.

1 Maxie Dunham “Communicator’s Commentary, Vol 8 pg 279

Position and Privilege in Christ, part 3

Our Position and Privilege in Christ pt 3                      August 2, 2020
Complete Trust and Focus: Life or death in Christ Jesus      Philippians 1:18 – 30

Opening prayer
Worship in Song: #48 I will Sing of the Mercies, #50 God is So Good
Reading of Psalm 89:1 – 18
Sharing and Prayer
Worship in Song:   #560 Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus

Phil 1:18 What does it matter? Just that in every way, whether out of false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed. And in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice

Paul has one focus in life – that Jesus Christ is proclaimed. Because Christ is being proclaimed Paul is resolute that no matter the circumstances or situation he is in he will rejoice.

Psalm 89:16 In Your name they rejoice all day long,
by Your righteousness they are exalted
                          17a  For You are the glory of their strength

19 because I know this will lead to my deliverance through your prayers and help from the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

When believers pray, the Holy Spirit provides!

Spirit of Jesus Christ is the Holy Spirit, Paul doesn’t mean that having a Christ-like spirit, the attitude of Christ, is what will deliver him. There are those who practice being Christ-like without actually surrendering, or believing in Jesus. They believe it is in their own power to exercise peace, humbleness, and love. Their actions and devotion are commendable but the missing key is the fact that we can’t save ourselves from our sin nature. We need Jesus!

20 My earnest/eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all boldness, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

Paul may have coined the word “Apokaradokia” which translates “earnest” or “eager expectation”.
Literall “to look intently into the distance with outstretched hand”
We picture the young child who sees a beloved parent coming from a long way down the block. The child eagerly stretches out arms and hands in eager anticipation.

 For me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me; and I don’t know which one I should choose. 23 I am pressured by both. I have the desire to depart and be with Christ—which is far better—

Paul feels the pulling tension of two opposing realities, “hemmed in and under pressure from both sides.” There was a strong, equal pull from both desires: release or the sword.

“To depart” Paul uses a soldier’s term which means to weigh anchor or break camp. There is no going back. It’s time to press forward, to move ahead to the next phase.

24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25 Since I am persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that, because of me, your confidence may grow in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Paul’s life was literally in the hands of the magistrate – whither he lived or died was entirely out of his control. He had no say in the matter, other than to clearly and truthfully state his case on the authority he had due to his Roman citizenship and his position as a citizen in Christ’s kingdom. He certainly didn’t have a death wish,  he viewed his life as completely in God’s hands. His trust and confidence in his position in Jesus Christ was secure and complete.

Don’t mistake his attitude for indifference, but for determinations that in either life or death Jesus would be honored.

Paul knew people were praying for his deliverance and he had confidence that their prayers, along with the Holy Spirit would bring about the outcome that God desired.

He was able to be at peace since his focus was completely on glorifying Jesus Christ. If he lives he’s thrilled to continue to share Jesus. His life was not precious for its own sake but centered on Jesus. Whole-hearted devotion is not focused on self but on glorying Jesus Christ.

Every time our prayers are answered we grow in confidence and trust in God’s goodness.

27 Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

In the original language Paul uses the term “politeuomai” “To live as a citizen”. In other Epistles he often writes of the Christian’s walk here he deliberately used the term to live as a citizen. The people of Philippi, a major Roman colony understand the responsibilities and expectations of being a citizen of a specific country. The believers understand that they’re no longer participants in a pagan society but were now citizens of heaven, bought with the blood and redemption of Jesus.

… Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel, 28  not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance—and this is from God.

Paul is encouraging them to not depend on him, or his presence – he wants them to be strong in the Spirit of the Lord God. He uses terms of gladiator combat in these verses:
Don’t be frightened; Take a firm stand; Join in combat; One spirit – a unified offensive: One soul – unity extending to inward disposition.

29 For it has been given to you (Literal: it has been graciously conferred – grace) on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, 30 having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I have.

Jesus said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

Jesus didn’t promise us a life of ease and wealth. He knew his followers would be persecuted and suffer in his name. In the face of suffering Christians are to be joyful knowing that they’re following Christ, with confidence and trust that our lives are in God’s hands.