Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Philippians--Joy in Service

This is lesson 8 in a study of Philippians. To start at the beginning, click here.

Do small actions matter?

Let me begin a different way. Who got to you today? Who got under your skin? Who did you talk to about this irritation? What people brought their relational gripes to you? Where did the conversation go?

Such small things. Such a small attitude. It's common.

Do such things matter all that much? Paul would say, "Yes!"

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)

"Do all things without grumbling or disputing" Why?

  • It is proves that we are innocent and blameless.
  • It shows that we are children of God.
  • It is the way that we appear as lights in the world of a crooked and perverse generation.
  • It shows that the word of life actually has had an effect on the way that we conduct ourselves

It would seem that small things can matter in a big way. It would seem that the choice before us is to "Be a grumbler" or "Be a light." When we grumble and dispute among ourselves we damage the message we are hear to proclaim.

The correction to this is to take Paul's words in reverse order:

  • Learn and hold fast to the word of life. This is the gospel message of salvation by faith and walking by the Holy Spirit so that His fruit becomes manifest in out life. Hold fast the word of life, walk by the Spirit, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and many other New Testament phrases communicate this principle.
  • This will lead to our living increasingly blameless and innocent lives. We will not be burdened and made irritable by guilt and regret. We will have more open and direct fellowship with God. We will become quick forgivers, because we will increasingly know that for which we have been forgiven.
  • Our tendency to be cheerful will lift the mood of others. As more do the same, our labors will be characterized by unity of purpose and harmony. Grumbling and disputes will not dominate our relationships with each other.
  • The world will then know that we our Jesus' disciples by the love that we manifestly show each other and we will be like lights in a crooked and perverse world.

This is such a fitting conclusion to this section of Philippians that began with "If there is any encouragement in Christ," moved through "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus," challenged with "work out your salvation with fear and trembling," and now shows the fruit to cast light in a dark world.

Surely this is enough to make us want to do better. What disputes are you willing to drop? Who can you forgive for the sake of peace? What restitution can you bring to someone you have wronged? Paul is not talking about heresy or exhortation or such things as will build up the body. Paul is talking about the everyday stuff that we let get between us.

So please take the time to read and grasp all that Paul has said in these short 18 verses:

  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
    • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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 2:1-18)

This is a good path.

Thursday: Note bearers

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

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