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 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 Final–Living A Life Worthy of the Gospel

Paul was at the end of his life. He was imprisoned and awaiting final judgment from Rome and Nero.  It was hard to keep a stiff upper lip, as it were.  Still, Paul demonstrated to the Philippians the critical choice we each need to make each day. We have to choose to rise above our circumstance and live. We cannot give up on life when it is difficult. We must not only live but live in a manner that is worthy of the gospel. In Paul’s life, that meant that he was not afraid to share Christ with each of the palace guards that were chained to him each day.  Paul reminded the Philippians that their rising above the circumstances of each day showed their enemies that faith is stronger than anything life can throw at them.
 
In our lives, we have to live our lives in a manner that is worthy of the Gospel. We have to face each day with peace and faith. Knowing that ultimately, if we remain faithful we will stand firm and see His hand. He will meet our needs and help us to live above whatever the world throws at us. It is difficult to remain faithful through trials.  But, God does difficult better than anyone.  Like Paul, we have to decide to live and not only live–but live in a manner worthy of the Gospel.
 
God Bless You

If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

Life Worthy of the Gospel

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,[e] striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

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 2–God’s Refining Process

One of the great gifts of being a child of God is his ongoing transformation of our lives. Paul tells the Philippians that God does not simply provide an escape hatch from Hell, He works to transform us into His image.  Paul says in vs. 6, “He that has begun a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” When we understand that God’s gift of salvation not only justifies us from eternal death but, it also sanctifies us during our walk through this life; then we can treasure the trials and temptations we face daily in our walks with the Lord. 
  
In our current culture, we have come to expect instant gratification.  We do not want to wait, we simply want all things done now. We live as if we are happy to be saved, but, if the truth was known, we do not want to go through the sanctification process. It is like refining a precious metal. It is hot, hard and slow in coming. We have to face many things we would rather not. In the end, however, we will become the new creations God has promised and we will have a life of peace and purpose.  We must never regret the process of being refined.  We need to expect it to continue until the Lord calls us home. We need to accept the refining and understand that the end of the process produces a life that will be amazing.
 
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.

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.