Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Philippians--Joy in Service

This is lesson 11 in a study of Philippians. To start at the beginning, click here.

How closely do these words describe you and your level of discipleship?

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 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 3:7-11)

Here I list what Paul has written:

  • There is nothing that can be gained in this world that is of greater value than knowing Jesus the Messiah as Lord.
  • For Paul this truth was real, because he had suffered the loss of all things and could say, "Good riddance, I have gained Jesus Christ."
  • The righteous that Paul talks of here is more an imparted righteousness rather than an imputed righteousness. Both concepts are present in the gospel. Imputed righteousness is where our faith enables God to see us as righteous. Imparted righteousness is a byproduct of our sanctification. 
  • Paul appreciates knowing both the power of Jesus' resurrection and being able to suffer for the sake of the gospel as Jesus had done.

This is a high calling indeed. I know many who like to talk about the power of the Holy Spirit, I find few who talk about suffering as being a good and desirable thing. As I write this, I fear, with good reason, that this is because many of us live in a time and place where being a Christian is still somewhat safe. As secular power waxes, being a Christian is becoming less safe and it is time that we Christians in America look forward to the benefits of this change. On the other side of losing everything is a more certain knowledge of Jesus the Messiah. 

I read what Paul has written and what I have just written. Part of me wishes it wasn't true: that there would not be such great cost coming our way. That inner failure is something I confess and I pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to change me and build me up and make me ready. I know that I belong to Him and that is my confidence. It is a far better thing to face weakness, confess it, and pray against it than to assume that I will be bold or not come to grips with this essential part of the life of faith.

Faith is a mystery and a challenge. Perhaps after Paul wrote these words above, he realized how high a bar he had raised and he moved to encouraged his readers and us:

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. 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 3:12-16)

Forget past sins, past failures, past slips, past foolishness, and such things. Let us live today at whatever level of maturity and courage that we have attained and press on to achieve more. It is Jesus who has His hands on us and He will not let go. 

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. 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 3:17-21)

I have a friend who sank lower and lower into alcoholism until the Lord saved Him. He still struggled until one day he realized that part of the answer was, as he puts it, "a different play ground with different friends." We can choose to focus on those ahead of us in the Christian life or we can look at those behind. We advance only as we look ahead.

Wednesday: Getting Practical

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


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