Friday, January 29, 2010

Philippians 4

Philippians 4 - Passage Lookup - New American Standard Bible -

Paul ends the epistle with gentle, but pointed, encouragement in the faith. I suppose this is the very definition of the word encouragement. It 1) has a point. There is a goal--the other's benefit. Paul wants to stimulate a positive behavior in the Philippians. And 2) it is gentle. True encouragement is all about the relationship. Paul knows his audience. It becomes very clear as you read this chapter that Paul truly knows the Philippians. Hence, he knows what tone of voice will work for them. Too many times believers instruct one another without taking into account the personality of the other person, so it is taken wrong. People end up offended and hurt. That is not true encouragement, that is chastisement and there certainly is a place for that. But Paul here wants to encourage the Philippians in a few areas.

1. Be of one mind. The KJV uses the term yokefellow here, bringing to mind the image of 2 beasts united together with one purpose--to serve a master. Paul states that divisions and strife should not be the norm in the assembly. They should be rare. The two ladies had previously been united in their work for the Gospel, but something happened. Paul makes it clear, to be united with Christ invariably leads to unity with one another. Trivial matters fade and real issues can be resolved. Remember the seven unities of the Spirit.

2. Be joyful. It is no wonder that the joy has gone from this assembly. Where there are strivings and discord, where is the room for joy? There is none. We cannot be joyful until we find ourselves right with Christ and then right with our brothers. After that, joy should flow through us. Remember the fruit of the Spirit includes joy.

3. happy. That comes after "Don't worry..." Paul says, "Be anxious for nothing." We have the mightiest power in the universe bending over to hear our requests and take care of us. Why should we worry and be anxious? Just let Him handle it! Obviously, we can never be freed from our natural tendencies to be concerned over certain issues as long as we are in these mortal circumstances. But when concern begins to impair us, we know that we have held it too far. Remember that peace is also a fruit of the Spirit.

4. Be holy. We have been called apart. We have been given special favor and with this favor we have also been commanded to live up to our high calling. Throughout the book we find little pointers on dealing with our mind, here Paul states it outright. He tells us what the litmus test is for our thoughts. What kinds of things should be entertaining our minds? What should we meditate / dwell on? Let the Spirit exercise self-control.

Paul ends the book by giving his personal thank-yous to the Philippians. He acknowledges their concern for him as well as their actions on his behalf. The church in Philippi was the only one to give Paul financial / physical support at one point in time! Way too often we are with a cause in sentiment, but not with our wallets. What greater cause to join than the Gospel of Christ? May we be able to put our money where our mouth is like the Philippians, and store up treasures in heaven.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Day that the Lord has Made. Psalm 118.

A major question in this Psalm is this: Who do you place your trust in? Is it the true God? Is it man? Or is it some abstraction of your mind? Let us explore Psalm 118 and see what it has to say.

Verses 1-7
The writer urges his audience to give thanks to the Lord. Why? because his lovingkindness endures forever. I have heard it said that his love is so great that simply love could not describe it; love had to be merged with kindness. Love has the ultimate best interest in mind, kindness looks more to the present state of things. But God love also considers the present state of affairs and affords some comfort to where one is right now. I love the progression of this passage. The writer targets Israel as the people of the promise. God's goodness to the nation as a whole is evident in the covenant made between Himself and the people. Then the writer targets the house of Aaron, the high priestly line. The family within the tribe, within the nation, within the World that God chose to be direct intercessors between the people and Himself. He urges them to give thanks for His goodness. They, of all people, should give most thanks for they have seen more of God's goodness. Finally, God targets those who fear Him. These are the culmination because not only have these people been shown great favor, but they understand the significance of this favor. There are those of the House of Israel who did not realize the favor God has shown them, so they do not fear the Lord. There are those of the House of Aaron who did not realize the favor God has shown to them, so they did not fear the Lord. But to those who realize God's favor--to whatever extent it has been revealed--those will recognize and give thanks. May we give thanks for the favor God has shown to us.

Verses 8-13
Here the writer turns his attention to mortals and declared how much greater it is to trust God than them. Again, he describes 3 forms of man. The first is simply the common man. This is any ordinary person, perhaps an equal. Perhaps one who is stronger or more noble. But to trust in a mere mortal is not as desirable as trusting in the Lord, for He is above man. The next form is of  prince. A nobleman. One who has authority over other men. One who can turn men towards or against another. This man is more to fear earthly-wise than the common man. But God still trumps the prince. In His eyes, the prince is still merely mortal, and the mere mortal is always below Him. The final form is of the mob. Scripture uses the term: Nations. While a prince may be feared, an angry mob the size of many nations is most frightfull. But God still reigns over them, and they are subject to His will. God's will is steady and sure. He will always cause things to turn out just right. So long as you are in His will, He will help you.

Verses 14-21
How do I know the writer is in God's will? Because of the next passage. Not only does the writer make it clear that he relies on the Lord, but he uses one specific word repeatedly: salvation. There are two things that occur when someone is saved. 1) The person realizes that they are in trouble. One must acknowledge the need for a savior before they can be saved. Even those who were unconscious when they were saved, by identifying themselves as saved from something they admit that they were helpless and 2) completely subject to the will and mercy of someone else. Not only subject to the will and mercy of another, but one who is in a much better situation than they are. One who is greater. The writer has just established the fact that his God is in a different league than all of mankind. He is the author's salvation. The author has submitted himself to his God's will. And that's a good place to be--though he had to endure discipline in the process.

Verses 22 & 23
These are the famous Messianic verses embedded in this passage. And, being a Christian, I cannot help but interpret the cornerstone as the only begotten Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. And look at this situation as yet another example of misplaced trust. The Pharisees of the New Testament placed their hope in God. The God of wrath. The God of judgement. The God of the Law. Their view of God was one-dimensional. Their God was influenced by their theology. This is a very dangerous predicament to be found in becuase while they claimed to trust God, they trusted a false god and bypassed Christ, who is the true Messiah. They followed after their imagination of what God would be like and in the process they took God's true form and nailed it to a cross. But, in doing so Christ was exalted and now draws all men to Him. He came to the Jews, and as a result of His interaction with the Jews He was introduced to the entire world. It is a marvelous thing. His will truly is greater than our imagination. Let us always be mindful of that.

Verse 24
And now the text and title of this post. Now that we know the context, we can rejoice in the day the Lord has made. He made the literal day. We rejoice in His power over the entire natural realm because He is creator of all He made you alive in this day, because of His lovingkindness you are conscious to smell, see, taste, hear and feel. Because of His sacrifice this day can be truly enjoyed without fear of future judgement, because of our great salvation. We trust in the True God, the God of every day.

Verses 25-29
Notice the change in person that occurs in this last section. The author begins with the third person 'we' and ends with the first person 'I.' Here is the last person who has tasted and seen the Lord's goodness and feared Him. The writer personally owns God's salvation and praises Him with his lips. May we always do the same.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Emancipation to Christ's Yoke (Galatians 5:1-8)

[Points from last night's message.]

I began last evening's message by reading the second part of the Emancipation Proclamation. This is a powerful, famous declaration made by the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. In it, he declared that (almost) all slaves living in Rebellious states were free. He did so using the authority granted to him as Commander-in-chief of the US Army and Navy.

In Galatians 5:1, we are encouraged by Paul to stand boldly in the Liberty which Christ has established for us. We are no longer slaves. He has come to set us free. We know from John 10 that if the Son set us free, we are free indeed. This freedom is established by the Lord God Almighty. While Lincoln used his Authority as Commander of a great Army, Christ's authority is that of the Creator of all things. His power is unlimited. He chose to use His power to ensure that we can be set free.

One major criticism of Abraham Lincoln's proclamation was that it was not a legal document. By using the military as his authority he bypassed an opportunity to make a more powerful statement--he could have used Congressional power. By using congressional authority, he could have set a real legal precedent which could have been followed by more Congressional sanctions against Slavery as an institution. Christ's declaration of our freedom does not stand only on the merit of His Omnipotence, is also stands on the legal footing of God's justice. In Christ, the legal requirement of the Law has been satisfied. He is the perfect substitution. He has taken the punishment that our Sin demanded. Scripture calls this Justification. Hence, we are set free based on both Christ's power and His representation.

Throughout the New Testament we find the word "Yoke." The yoke is a symbol of bondage. And animal is fitted with a yoke that is set up with a cart or sometimes with another animal. The yoke requires that the animal carry a burden. What yokes are we saved from? Which yokes do we like to try on for size? The rest of the message covers these topics.

There are at least 4 yokes that scripture speaks of. When I discuss these yokes I will use the format, "The yoke of association with..." I chose this format because the yoke always links one with something else. The yoke will be linked with another beast and/or a cart or plow of some kind. In essence then, the question is: who are you associated with. Who is your master?

1) The yoke of association with the Flesh. Galatians 4:21-31. In the direct context of Christ's pronouncement of our Liberty, Paul used a picture from Jewish history. God's promises and blessing resided with the Freewoman, not with the woman of bondage. This is a black-and-white issue. Everyone has been born under this yoke. There is no escaping it. We are born in the Flesh. We are born Children of the Bondwoman. We had to satisfy the requirements of the Law. That was the burden we bear. The Wrath of God was looming over our heads. Praise God, He created a way to make us His own Children in Christ. Now we are born Free. We need not carry the yoke of association with the Flesh. We do not need to satisfy the lusts and impulses of the Flesh any longer. Note that this is a yoke for unbelievers, the rest refer to believers.

2) The yoke of association with the Sinful. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. This is one of the two passages that most people think of when a yoke is mentioned. Notice my title for this yoke is different than the above. This passage, as mentioned earlier, was written to believers urging them not to associate with sinners. Paul tells the believers to come out from among them and be separate. He tells them not to establish bonds with sinful people. Why is that? Because their yoke is hard to bear. Their yoke is designed to weigh you down and make it impossible to please God. The burden linked with this yoke is guilt.

3) The yoke of association with the Legalist. Galatians 5:1-4. As one studies the Pauline epistles, they cannot help but notice that the issue of Legalism seems to always raise it's head. In fact, the Judaisers were a major problem that the early Church councils dealt with. This can be read in Acts 15. Their conclusion can be found in verse 10. The Church decided, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, that the Law had been fulfilled. The purpose of the law has been achieved. We are now under grace--freed from it's obligations. But there are people who would put us back under the Law. Perhaps they choose a different law. Maybe their law sounds more Christian like: go to every Bible Study, Payer meeting, Youth Group Session, etc... Maybe it's about taking role. Maybe it's about having a certain stance on politics or fringe doctrines. These are man-made lists and they are burdens we were never called to bear.

4) The yoke of association with Christ. Matthew 11:28-30. These are the blessed verses that everyone thinks of. Christ's yoke. Notice that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. This is a definite contrast with the previous three yokes. This is not a threatening taskmaster. This is a loving Lord. Notice also that he does not only remove a burden, He places one. But the burden is light. It is light because he assists you.

Philippians 4:1-9 illustrates how this works. Of the many themes of Philippians, two stand out from this passage. 1) Unity. 2) Joy. After reading the book, one cannot help but notice the great deficiency the Philippians had in joy. Paul urges them over and again to Rejoice. The reason for their lack of joy is because they were not united in their focus on Christ. The Yokefellows were not focused on their Master, so they were traveling different paths and straining their relationship -- unity. Maybe they tried on the yoke of Sinfulness. Maybe the yoke of Legalism. They were being pulled in different directions. The discord brought strife. When the focus is on Christ, most problems simply melt away. The problems that remain are the truly serious ones. Those problems can be resolved as long as both parties are truly focused on Christ.

Hence, we have been set free. Free from the burden of the Wrath of God. Free from the Burden of Guilt. Free from the Burden of Our Own Creation. Let us be faithful to the Lord and his light burden. To focus on Him always and strive to please Him.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Philippians 1-3 (From Previous Blog)

Phil. 1
This beloved book begins with a greeting from Paul. In this greeting we see that the assembly at Philippi is well organized with a 1) body of believers, 2) Overseers an 3) Deacons. Everyone has a place and everyone knows their place. The structure of the assembly is very important, and the fact that everyone respects the leadership is crucial. This initially stands in contrast to the first known converts in Philipi according to Acts 16. Namely, Lydia and the Philippian Jailer. However, upon further review, we see that these two characters may have actually pointed to strength in the assembly.

Lydia attended the Women's prayer group by the river. She was spiritual and Paul deemed her to be faithful. She was a businesswoman (a seller of purple fabric), so it may be assumed that she had a good sense of leadership and how to run things. Further, she was able to lead spiritually, as she led her entire family to a saving knowledge of Christ. It is a controversial thing to mention a woman as a leader, but that need not be. A simple study of Priests and Prophets will put this issue in proper perspective. Both were ordained by God. However, Priests were to be only men, and were to function only in the Temple. Prophets (or Judges) could be both man and woman, and were useful vessels for God in other settings. Hence, Lydia was a leader in the Church at Philippi, though not necessarily a vocal leader in the assembly.

Likewise, in the case of the Philippian Jailer, he lead his entire family to the foot of the cross and they believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. This shows that the strong assembly begins with a strong home. Then a strong home simply flows out into the assembly and, in turn, the Church. The Roman Soldier was also very well trained in the concepts of heirarchy and the virtue of good leadership. Hence, was both willing and able to lead and to be submissive.
Perhaps the assembly needs more leaders in submission. Remember that submission is never synonymous with supression. When submitting, one must clearly pronounce what they believe, but humbly respect the authority of the person God has placed over them. And so we should let the Deacons and Elders know how we feel concerning a situation, and reassure them that we will honor their decision.
Paul continues by explaining to the Philippians how he is greatly encouraged by them. Everyone needs encouragement in the Lord. He lays out 1) the joy of being with godly people, 2) the unification believers with in the gospel, 3) the promise that God is fashioning us, and 4) the affection that Christ teaches us to use on one another. He expounds on these points through the example of his emprisonment, which God used for the furthering of the gospel message.

Paul, in verse 15, tackles the issue of those who preach the gospel with selfish ambitions. He, in short, argues against the censorship of such persons. Obviously, he is not promoting the practice of any strife within the assembly of God's people. What he is arguing against is the silencing of solid gospel messages based solely on the assumption of the preacher's intent. He would prefer that the preacher be sincere in his message. But as long as the preacher presents an accurate message to lost souls. What good would quieting the speaker do? God controls the effectiveness of His Word, not the man. Many times a preacher may give an eloquent, fruitful message and become a believer many years later. If being a Christian is not even a criteria for fruitfulness, why would correct motives?
What Paul's argument boils down to is confidence in Christ to work all things out according to His plan. Christ is the center of Paul's joy. Christ is why he advises not to silence any preaching of the Gospel on any gray-area grounds. Paul also touches on the 1) efficacy of prayer, 2) reinforces te faithfullness of Christ, 3) the attainability of joy in a life devoted to Christ, and 4) a glimpse into the blessings God has in store for the believer once they depart this life.
Phil. 2
"Therefore," Paul begins this chapter, "if there be any encouragement in Christ." He says so because in the previous chapter he expressed what great discomfort he has gone through in Christ's service. Paul is able to find all of his encouragement in Christ. Consider that this is the apostle who was in jail (in Philippi no less) with Silas, and found a way to express his joy in Christ by singing hymns unto the Lord (Acts 16). The IF in this passage can also be read as SINCE.

Note the operative words in the first verse: encouragement, consolation, fellowship, compassion. Each of these has one things in common, listen to how these words work in real life. X encourages Y. X consoles Y. X & Y fellowship with each other. X has compassion on Y. The commonality is community. We need one another to make it through this life. Paul goes on to explain this dynamic through the chapter.

Note verse 2, Paul's joy will be complete when the believers are of one mind. He then explains what being of one mind means, namely: 1) acting out on the same love, 2) communing with the same God and 3) focusing on the same goal. These are the steps, Paul says, to being of one mind in the assembly.
The product of following these steps is humility. By (1) loving one another, we are to humble ourselves in favor of our brethren. We are not to look out for our own interests only, but factor in the best interests of others in every decision we make. By (2) cultivating a close relationship with God, we humble ourselves in His presence and should submit ourselves to His service. If everyone in the assembly were to draw closer to God, we would naturally draw closer to one another. By (3) focusing on the same goals, we become united in purpose, and humble ourselves to achieve the ultimate prize. In fact, we have a holy mandate to reach the lost, baptize them, disciple them & Remember the Lord. When we focus on the main goals, we leave ourselves with more things held in common and less to argue about.

Paul brings up the example of our Lord Jesus Christ and demonstrates how He humbled Himself in His incarnation. He is the ultimate example for those who claim to be little images of Him. It is clear that Christ met these three criteria in His mission to earth. He came to earth in love, in unity with the Triune Godhead & focused on the goal of the redemption of mankind. All of this produced Humilty in the Lord Jesus.
Lest we begin to feel that this process is simple, Paul reminds us that the exercize of our Salvation is laborious. We need to work, because God is working in us. Therefore, we should not grumble because whatever occurs in our lives is orchestrated by God. Everything that happens is full of Divine purpose. While at the present time the refining process seems excrutiating, the end result will be worth the work--because the one working on us is the Perfect Artisan. He will not be mocked. He never makes a mistake. The final product will be both useful and asthetically pleasing to Him. You can rest assured about that.

Paul closes the chapter anticipating to send a living example to the Philippians in th person of Timothy. His intentions are identical to Pauls. Timothy displays love for the Saints, close communion with Christ and a clear vision of the goal of the Christian life. Epaphroditus, again, is a living example of the humility resulting in like-minded unity given the fact that he came close to giving the ultimate sacrifice of love: his life.

Phil. 3
Paul again encourages the believers to rejoice in the Lord. He would not urge them to rejoice if they already experienced joy in the Lord. Hence, he pleads for them to find their joy in God. A literal interpretation of agape (the word commonly translated as Godly love in the scriptures) is, "to fing joy in the pleasure of others." In other words, it is a conscious act of determination. Further, you are determined to be pleased only when joy is found in another--Paul suggests that we be pleased in God's joy. This opens interpretation of this passage up to a host of answers to the question: what brings joy to our Lord?

The first of which is worship. We, as believers, can worship God as He wants to be worshipped. We can please Him fully by giving Him the devotion He deserves in the manner He desires. These are two distinct points when discussing worship. 1) We worship Him because He deserves to be worshipped. He is Almighty God and demands worship. He is All-Loving, and request only your devotion. He has both inherited and earned our worship. 2) We worship Him in the manner that He desires. The manner is, namely, humility. That manner, by the way, has always been the same. He has always required humility in worship. However, as Paul so eloquently describes from his own experience, that which God had set up quickly became about the capacity of man and confidence in his own ability. This is not the spirit in which we are to worship. Only the spirit of humility truly pleases God and allows us to experience full joy.

A third theme in this chapter is that of purity. Pauls urges the Philippians to beware of dogs, evil workers and the false circumcision. He wants to make sure that we are not conforming to the world. He instructs us not to set our mind on earthly things because that is what those whose end is destruction do. (Naturally, he means for us to set our minds on things above.) He wants us to keep unspotted from the world. To remain pure. To be holy, as God is holy. In short, to immitate Christ. To make our goals the same as His goals. In the end, our humility and purity will be realized and traded in for glory--the glory of Christ Himself. It will happen on the day that Christ subjects all things to Himself.

In short, when His pride and joy are revealed complete.

His pride and joy = us.
Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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