Philippians 2 Part 1–Unity and A Like-Minded Church

Two of the greatest gifts Christians can give to God are the gifts of selflessness and unity.  Paul told the Philippians that nothing would bring Him more joy to have them be a church filled with selfless and unified folks.  He had the Philippians to look deep within themselves to find the selfless nature within.  In that, he called them to look to gain the same purpose.  Be of one mind. Act selflessly and consider others interests more important than their own. Sadly, none of those traits come naturally.  Paul knew that the church would need to look at Christ and his nature to discover the need to be selfless.
 
In our culture, it is the same. Like the church in Philippi, we are surrounded by a culture that screams individuality. It tells us to look out for old number 1. It breeds conflict and drives churches apart. That is why the call to unity is as critical today as it was in Paul’s day. The world would love to see the end of the church and its antiquated ways. The world hates to see selflessness. It loathes unity. Those things are boring and tend to bring folks together and make them stronger.  Both strength and unity allow the Church to grow and to give hope in an otherwise hopeless life.  Paul knew it then and we know now that the three great gifts from God are faith, hope, and love. If the church becomes selfless and unified, those gifts will flourish. If unity is absent, those gifts wither and die. We must, therefore, follow Paul’s lead and seek to live united and selfless lives.
 
God Bless You
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 1 Part 1–Bond Servants for Christ

The book of Philippians has brought me more comfort and peace through the years than almost any book in the Bible.  Paul wrote the book from prison to a church that had been under pretty intense persecution.  It was a message of hope, of provision and of faith.  Paul begins the book with a standard opening, but not really. Paul and Timothy culture, –Bond Servants of Christ Jesus. What an amazing description of the unique relationship we have in Christ. When Christ died for our sin, we were freed from the law and the penalty sin exacted on all people.  But, in the Roman world, if a slave was given his freedom, the slave could choose to remain with his master. If such a choice was made, the master would mark the slave by piercing his earlobe and leaving the blood spot on the doorpost. That mark meant the servant was committed for the remainder of his life. It also meant that the owner would treat the bondservant as family. 
 
That is our relationship with Our Heavenly father. He freed us from the slavery we had in sin. We then asked for his forgiveness and asked to be in relationship with the Lord. We are then marked as a Child of God. One of his chosen. that mark is forever. As his bondservants, we enjoy the benefits of being a part of the family and are there by choice–not by force, like a slave.  Paul and Timothy understood their ministry was by choice. They were pleased to be bondservants.  We should live as bondservants, voluntarily bound to a master that loves us and truly wants to make us free.
 
God Bless You

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons[a]:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Ephesians 5 Final–Submitting in Marriage

Paul next addresses marriage.  Paul said it best, In marriage, we must submit to one another.  God calls husbands to love their wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.  To grasp the enormity of that, one needs to remember that Jesus was God. He did not have to do anything or achieve anything to become God. But, because of His love for us, Jesus emptied Himself of all of His Godly vestiges, became human. While in Human form He suffered greatly and died a humiliating and brutal death simply to redeem us. Phil 2:5-8.  As Husbands, we have to become like Jesus. We must be willing to completely empty ourselves of all self-interest and be willing to sacrifice ourselves for our wives.  That is no small task.
 
Wives must submit to their husband’s leadership. Like the president of a company, wives must follow the leading of the CEO. The president runs the day to day operations, and all that are employed follow the president’s direction (including the CEO). But if there is a decision to be made and the CEO makes it–the president honors the decision humbly and graciously.  Wives are to be the same. Few would argue that wives are masters of day to day survival.  They make their husband and kids a family and turn their houses into HOMES. They have to master all aspects of survival and social grace with little or no support from those they serve.  Wives are critical to the look and life of their families, and, if they are willing to submit to the leadership of a servant-leader husband, they will build an amazing legacy, no matter what circumstance befalls them.  Husbands and wives that are willing to submit to each others leadership and live sacrificial lives –will have the kind of marriage that most can only dream about.
 
God Bless You

 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body.31 “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Ephesians 4 Part 2–A Life of Unity, Peace, and Purpose

It was never God’s intention to create a clone nation.  He knew that, as in one’s personal body, the Church required individual giftings and cooperation to be effective.  God gifted some of His chosen to be the apostles, the prophets, the teachers, the givers, and the encouragers. No gift was intended to be any more important than the others. They were intended to round out the church and make it effective in its operation and in its mission. All were saved with a purpose; and, that purpose was to be in relationship with God and to introduce God to others.
 
In order to do that effectively, one must quit living like the world. One need not be self-absorbed, wicked or indecisive. Instead, we live a new life–one led by the Spirit of God to become like Him. We become selfless, purposeful and free from the need to please others or satisfy our momentary whims. Instead, we live humbly, purposefully and focused upon the freedom of living like Christ.  In that life, we are not indecisive, nor are we controlled by impulse–instead, we are focused on the eternal, and on living a life worthy of God’s call. Such life brings meaning and purpose. It also brings joy and peace. We work together to be the people the Lord has called us to be!
 
God Bless You

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Instructions for Christian Living

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4 Part 1–Living a Life Worthy of Our Calling

Paul realized how amazing the gift of Salvation was.  He laid it out simply to the Ephesians. One God, one faith and one baptism. As a people, We become one with Christ.  The Lord has saved us and through His sacrifice and upon His ascension, we became one again with God! What an amazing gift! 
 
So, Paul called the Ephesians to live a life worthy of that gift. How? By remaining humble and gentle. By being patient and bearing with each other.  By remaining unified by faith and not divided by petty differences. Finally, we remain worthy by simply remembering that it is all by God’s grace that we even have eternal life. It is not our behavior or station in life, it is Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection that has provided the amazing life we enjoy. It is that same resurrection that provides our eternal salvation. We should keep that in mind when tempted to be haughty or judgemental of others. All we deserve is death. But His grace was sufficient to give us life.  
 
That realization should provide us joy, hope, and a humble spirit to carry us through until we see Him face to face!
 
God Bless You

 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us, grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it[a] says:

“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”[b]

(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

Ephesians 2 Part 2–God Wants Our Hearts

 When you have been saved by grace and become part of God’s workmanship and family, the old distinctions that separate folks fade and disappear. In Ephesus, the Judaizer community wanted to hold on to their distinction of circumcision and keeping traditions and rules. But, as Paul clearly stated, those distinctions were unimportant when the people accepted and followed Christ.  As God said throughout His word, “Men look at the outside, but, God Looks at the heart!” I Samuel 16:7  God called folks to give their hearts to Him; from there, God would do the transformation.  God comes into people’s lives and through His spirit prepares them for an eternity with Him. The Lord wants his chosen’s devotion and attention, he is not interested in their checking off religious boxes to prove how “Good” they have become.

The same holds true with us. God simply does not concern himself with our rituals and achievements. He looks at our hearts. He loved David even after David did some heinous things–because David loved God with his whole heart. God Loved Paul, the church’s biggest persecutor because Paul’s heart was completely devoted to the Lord. God also wants that from us. Nothing fancy, just our complete devotion to Him. If we will simply trust and follow the Lord, He will do the rest. No lists, no formulas–we simply need to trust and follow Christ with a singular devotion!

God Bless You 

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Fatherby one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Galatians 5 Part 2–Living in Freedom Produces Spiritual Fruit

Next, Paul helped the Galatians to understand what freedom really looked like.  In the world view, freedom was the absence of rules. So to live free one could throw caution to the wind and commit any act they chose. No matter how evil, no matter how perverse–if one was free, they should have at it.  Paul was helping the people see that that freedom did not allow the benefits of freedom to work. Instead, it would simply install a new set of chains and enslavement.  
 
Instead, Paul says one becomes free to think, act and live selflessly. The freedom in Christ is the only freedom that is real.  When one walks freely in Christ, that person desires the joy of selflessness. they receive great joy in serving others. They see and feel a life that does not seem like a treadmill in a hamster cage. That life produces fruit–Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control.
 
As we examine our own lives, Our first question needs to be who is in charge. If the answer is ourselves, then we have not obtained the freedom we long for.  We may be able to act horribly without consequence, but, it will become obvious that that life is ultimately slavery to sin and our own selfish desire.  If conversely, we follow Christ and His leadership, we see glimpses of the fruit of the Spirit, and we see how selflessness is critical to living a fulfilled and happy life.  Take time today to spot Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. These should be common themes in our lives. If not, then we need to examine our lives to determine who is the master. Unless it is God, we will remain imprisoned in our own sin and selfishness.
 
God Bless You

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions21, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.