Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Rarest Attribute

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 2:19-21


What a surprising statement! Among all of Paul's associates at the time, Timothy alone seeks the interests of Christ?! In the present context this means showing genuine care for the welfare of the Philippian church. Another rendering of verse 20 could read that, "For I have no one like him, who is willing to be genuinely troubled with cares over your welfare." Timothy alone was willing to be troubled for this church. Everyone else was too busy seeking after their own interests to seek after the interest of the Lord. On second thought, maybe this isn't so surprising after all. Isn't this true of nearly everyone we know as well. 

How many people do you know who truly seek the interests of Christ and not their own? Not many I'd guess. You see, Paul presents it as though a person can't pursue their own interests and Christs. You see our natural interests oppose Christ's. None of naturally seek after being troubled with cares for other people. None of us naturally seek after suffer for the sake of the gospel. No! Our interests almost always run counter to the interests of Christ as He advances His kingdom on earth. 

What about you? Are you seeking after your own interests or Christs? What are your future plans? Do they lend themselves more to building your dreams, your legacy, your nest egg, or are they directed at building the kingdom of God? I suspect many believers would struggle to think of a single goal they are seeking after or a single plan they are working towards that truly advances God's interests. Instead we all make plans to advance our own kingdoms: plans to get a bigger house for our family, plans to get that next promotion or raise, plans to get in better shape. Notice none of these plans are wrong in themselves. But they are all focused on this world, not on the next. They are focused on making our lives and the lives of our families more comfortable. As long as we are focused on seeking after our own interests we will never be willing to place others ahead of ourselves, to go out of our way to bear their burdens, or to make sacrifices for the cause of Christ. 

Whose interests are you really seeking after, your own or Gods?

Let me drive this home a little more by clarifying what it looks like to seek after God's interests at the expense of your own. In 2:3 Paul introduces himself and Timothy as God's slaves or bond-servants. Not many of us think of ourselves this way on a regular basis. But this is exactly what we are. Paul puts it a little differently in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. He says, "You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."

Just eight verses before today's passage, in Philippians 2:4-11, Jesus is held up as the ultimate example of this type of living. Though He was equal to the Father in His divine nature, He willingly submitted Himself to seek God's interests, to be troubled with the cares of others and to suffer to advance the kingdom above Himself. Jesus came not to be served but to serve (Matthew 20:28). He became obedient to seeking after God's interests even to the point of dying on the cross. 

How far are you willing to go? How much are you willing to suffer? Will you spend your life advancing God's kingdom or will you spend it on your own ends? The truth is that your life is not your own anyway. You were purchased with a price. The world is full of people who are focused on their own needs, who are living for themselves. You want to distinguish yourself before the Lord? Live for Jesus! 

Father, work in our hearts so that one day we may honestly say with the Apostle Paul, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). May our lives be Christ and nothing else. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Determined Father

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6


My daughter is two and a half years old. She is amazingly well-behaved, but all two year-olds throw fits. That's why they call them the "terrible twos." And it really is amazing what sort of things result in screaming. Here is a short list: Where she sits in the car. Where Mommy sits in the car. Who gets to drive the car. (We have a car theme going here.) Also, nearly every night she doesn't want to brush her teeth. It's the same fight every night. It's like she forgot what happened last night and the night before that and the night before that. Often these tantrums lead me to say something like...
"Hallie, sweetheart, Daddy is going to brush your teeth. The only decision you need to make is how many spankings* you are going to get between now and then. You are not going to bed until they are brushed, so you tell me. How many spankings do you want before we brush them?" 
I have made up my mind that her teeth will be brushed because it is what is best for her. If she chooses to fight against me, then it will take that much longer and be that much more difficult for her, but you can be sure I will not give up until the end goal is accomplished.

Did you know that God has an end goal in mind for all of His children? And I believe He is dead set on reaching it. Each and every believer has been predestined to be conformed into the image of His Son Jesus (Romans 8:29).

Philippians 1:6 is written to believers in Philippi who want to be perfected in Christ. They are meant to take comfort in the knowledge that God is working with them to the same end. Their weaknesses will not disqualify or derail them. God is on their side and He will not give up. This is a truly encouraging thought!

But what of that believer who has accepted Christ but is not overly interested in living like Jesus? What of those believers who want to have their cake and eat it too? They want to be saints but continue to live like heathens. If this describes you, then you should know that God will not give up. I think He would speak to us today very much like I speak to my daughter. God wants you to know that He will accomplish His ends in your life. He will not allow Himself to be thwarted. The only decision you need to make is are you going to work with Him or against Him.

Hebrews 12:5-6 says,
Have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

So if you long to be like Christ, good news! God is working with you. He will never give up. And in the end He will accomplish His goal in your life. But if you are living in rebellion against God, then be warned. You have set yourself against God's express purposes for you life. You are fighting against the Almighty. He will win.


*A note on spankings- I realize that many disapprove of spanking nowadays. Allow me to allay your fears. My wife and I follow the carefully controlled spanking guidelines outlined in the book Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp. Spanking done improperly can be abusive. My wife and I are careful to avoid that at all costs.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fill in the Blank

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
Ephesians 3:1


Paul calls himself a "prisoner of Christ Jesus." He can say this because when he wrote these words he had been imprisoned for preaching the gospel, the good news, about Jesus. Like Jesus, Paul refused to be silenced. He spoke the truth about God's coming kingdom even when it made him an enemy of earthly kingdoms. Eventually this conviction made Jesus and Paul enemies of the state.

Paul suffered much as a result of his calling to take the good news about Jesus to the Gentiles. (A list of some of his sufferings can be found here 2 Cor. 11:22-33.) Paul once said,
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)

All of this got me thinking...how do I share in those sufferings. I'm not a prisoner of Christ. What am I for Christ?

If you had to be categorized right now as a _______ for Christ, what would be placed in the blank? What is your sacrifice? What is the role you are playing in the kingdom of God right now?

Make no mistake, you do have a role to play. All believers have been called to advance the kingdom through the great commission (Matt. 28:19). Moreover, God created you to do good works, which He has prepared in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). 

Maybe you are called to be a mom or dad for Christ. Sacrificially pouring into your children who will in turn affect the world for Jesus in big ways. Or perhaps you are called to be a Sunday School teacher or youth leader for Christ. We need more volunteer ministers like this who will not only put in the hours to skillfully explain God's Word to children but will also spend time sacrificially praying for and loving on children in the church. We are in need of more missionaries for Christ, Bible translators for Christ, and sacrificial givers for Christ. What's you role?

If you aren't 100% comfortable with how that blank would be filled in for you right now, then rest in this truth: God has a plan for your life. You have a part to play in the great unfolding drama of this world. The only questions that remain are:
  1. What were you created to do?  AND
  2. Are you doing it?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Understanding

The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.
Psalm 119:130


Over the past few weeks I have been working my way through Psalm 119. It is an acrostic poem in which the first letter of each stanza begins with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Now, I'm no poet. (Far from it, actually.) But if I were to sit down and write a poem, I can't imagine coming out with something as long as Psalm 119. With an astounding 176 verses, it is the longest chapter in the Bible. What muse could so inspire a poet that he could write a single poem this long and this beautiful? 

Answer: God's wonderful word.

Almost every one of this chapter's 176 verses is dedicated to declaring the goodness and glory of God's word. So today I wanted to skip all the fancy writing and simply remind you that God's word is incomparably wonderful. If you feel like your life is shrouded in darkness, or that you just don't understand God, or that you can't quite grasp what is happening in the world today or how you got to this place in your life- then God's word is exactly where you should turn. 

It gives light. It brings understanding. And the best news of all is that you don't have to have an advanced degree or be some smarty pants to understand it. It is God's gift to the simple! 

So don't leave it sitting on the shelf or riding in the floorboard of your car until next Sunday. Pick it up, open it, and read it. Ask God to give you insight so you can rightly interpret His words and gain precious understanding.