Philippians 3 Part 1–Bragging Rights

Paul was the super pharisee.  If one wanted a poster child for how to “do religion” Paul was easily that guy. He was circumcised, Part of the tribe of Benjamin, trained by Gamaliel the ultimate Rabbi.  He knew all the traditions, all the law and exactly what to do.  He attacked the Christians with zeal and complete abandon. Any Jewish leader would be proud of Paul’s record.  Paul, however, realized that it was not his knowledge or performance that made him righteous.  Paul went as far as to say that stuff was bio-waste compared to the surpassing greatness of Christ,  Paul no longer needed to flaunt a resume–He simply needed to trust God and allow God to transform him into the image of Christ.
 
We are the same.  We are not a product of our accomplishments.  We can never “DO” Christianity to a level that our actions bring us justification.  In fact, as Paul so elegantly articulated it, our efforts to earn salvation look, smell and feel like bio-waste! We need to know Christ! As we get to know him we quickly see that it is His grace and His mercy, not our background or performance that brings us salvation. If we will simply trust and follow His lead–He will restore our relationship with God, and he will prepare us for the journey that lies ahead.  In addition, the Lord will change our hearts and our desires to conform to His image.  There is simply no greater gift than the salvation we receive by trusting Christ alone.
 
God Bless You
 

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

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[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 2 Part 2–What Being Like Christ Really Means!!!

One would think it an easy command–have the same attitude as Jesus. After all, are God’s chosen called “Little Christs”? That is what Christian means. So when Paul tells the Philippians to have the same attitude as Christ, it does not seem like a big change. Well, at least until you realize what Jesus actually did to save His folks.  Jesus was God! He emptied Himself of all His Godly traits and became human. Imagine His power, His authority and His immortality and became a simple human. As a human, Jesus humbled Himself further by taking on the selfless attitude of a servant and took on life and ultimately chose to die for our sinfulness. Not just any death but the heinous death of flogging and crucifixion.  
 
Since Christ was willing to pay that price, God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him a name that was above every name. At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and all will confess that Jesus is Lord to God’s glory.  That is the attitude we are to have.  We are called to be selfless and humble. God asks us to be obedient to His leading. We must be willing to die for Christ, but also willing to live with a servant’s heart.  If we will live as Jesus lived, we will enjoy the rewards of being His chosen.  We will not have to worry about what happens after we die, We can focus on Christ and His mission.  He will take care of us, lift us up and allow us to walk with Him.  What an amazing promise! What a great God we serve!
 
God Bless You

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 1 Part 3–To Live is Christ and to Die is Gain

As Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians, He was in prison in Rome. He lived chained between two guards. The one-time world traveler now was awaiting his final fate from Rome. In the midst of the hopeless situation he faced, Paul was able to continue to preach the Gospel through his letters. What’s more, others were preaching the Gospel loudly and spreading the message even beyond where Paul had reached. But, at the end of the day, Paul knew that life on earth was not comparable to eternity in Heaven.   As he languished in prison;  beaten, broken and blind—Paul longed to be home with Lord.  Amazingly, it was that longing that drove Paul to preach the Gospel all day every day.
 
Paul, more than most, understood the deception of a rules-based religion. As a Jew of Jews, Paul learned from the best and performed religion as well as anyone. But, when he had his encounter with Christ, It changed Him. He realized he would never be worthy in his own power. He also learned that God’s grace was sufficient to meet his needs. From there, God brought him to a place that made him a true ambassador for God and showed him that Christ alone was all anyone needed to have a relationship with God.  Paul was driven to get that message out to everyone. So until God brought him home, Paul would spread that message to all who would listen and all who would read the letters he drafted.  Paul Had come to a place that valued Christ above all. So wherever he was Christ was the most important thing.
 
In our lives we have to come to a place where we also can say to live is Christ and to die is gain. Each of us faces trials of various types. In those trials, we can become distracted from what is important and what is not.  If we can move forward with a grateful heart and follow His leading, then no matter the circumstances we face our response can remain grateful and hopeful. Only with a grateful heart is this life bearable. Otherwise, we become like the Israelites in the desert;  complaining when God is in their presence literally dropping food from heaven each day.  Treasure the joys of our life here–but, know to live is Christ and to die is gain.
 
God Bless You

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[b] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[c] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[d] 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

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 6 Final–The Full Armor of God

Many Christians have heard of the full armor of God.  They know they have to rely upon God to stand firm in the spiritual war each of us as Christians face. Paul was speaking to the Ephesians using very culturally relevant terms. Rome was in its glory days,  the empire stretched around most of the known world. So, when Paul spoke of the full armor of God, it was not only easy for the people to visualize it, but it was equally easy to grasp its form and function. Paul wanted the people to consider how to be strong when support for the faith was so weak. He wanted them to consider their functions as The Lord’s warriors. He wanted them to remember it was not the Romans they were fighting, but Satan and his force of demons.  So Paul said, mount up, dress up and let’s go to war. 
 
1st Belt of truth–the utility belt that holds everything together and carries the weapons. Truth does that! you can attack supposition and speculation, but, truth stands on its own and can hold everything else in place!
2nd Breast Plate of righteousness–It is hard to come at someone head-on with accusation and grumbling if they remain above reproach. Take your best shots and righteousness wins out.
3rd Feet fitted with the readiness of the Gospel–In a word, you are given the message of Salvation and nothing will keep you from stepping out, no finer shoe, no more impervious sole than the true message of salvation.
4th Shield of faith–Sometimes you have to move forward without being able to see what is ahead. Faith is that shield that blocks the enemy’s deadly shots and allows forward motion in extreme situations!!!
5th Helmet of Salvation–Our salvation protects the very most important part of us–our Minds (Hearts in Jewish culture). It is the helmet to protect against fear, hate, lies, and evil. We can never forget it is a gift, not an earned commodity. it is the critical piece of armor!
6th Sword of the Spirit–God’s word. It was the weapon Satan twisted to strike God’s people down from the famous line in the Garden, “Did God really say you would die?” God’s word is more powerful than a two-edged sword. It truly cuts to the heart of things. Jesus wielded it masterfully as the enemy tempted him in the desert. He was an artist as he fenced with the religious leaders. He changed the world from a sermon on the mount and set into play the restoration of mankind with the great commission. It is a masterful love letter that has drawn men back from a hopeless end and into a journey of peace and purpose. We must learn to wield it with the confidence and artfulness that our Lord intended. We study and rest in its truth. Then we can truly battle the forces that would destroy us.
 
The Full Armor of God is all we need to stand firm in this life and battle our way along until He calls us home or returns for us! Thanks, Lord for your protection, provision, and preparation of us, your children, to face the battles you have set before us!
 
God Bless You

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

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 5 Part 2–You Gotta Serve Somebody

Bob Dylan produced an album in the late 1970s that was a tribute to his recent conversion to Christianity.  The album was called “Slow Train Coming” one song that became very popular at the time was called “You Gotta Serve Somebody!” As a young teenager, that song stuck with me.  The reality is that we do have to serve somebody.  That is what Paul was reminding the Ephesians in this chapter.  Paul laid it out. Live as children of the light. Live as though all things we do and say will be held up to the light for all to see.  Do not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit. Live as wise people, not like those who are unwise. Paul could not have been more direct.
 
In our times, each day we still get to choose how we live.  We control our choices, our attitudes, and our lifestyles.  We can live secret lives, do shameful acts and think like this is all there is. But, as Bob Dylan so aptly said, “It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but, you gotta serve somebody!” Paul encourages us to serve God, Live as if we are living in the light, walking in public. He encourages us to be filled with His spirit–not the world’s cheap substitutes! We need to live our lives in a manner that is worthy of the Gospel. If we will, we will taste the fruit of freedom and will have love, Joy Peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. A life led by God’s Holy Spirit will bring freedom and purpose. One that has meaning and leaves a legacy! No matter, what we choose, however, in the end, You Gotta Serve Somebody!
 
God Bless You

Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.14 This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.