good quote

" In my opinion, the great single need of the moment is that light-hearted superficial religionists be struck down with a vision of God high and lifted up, with His train filling the temple. The holy art of worship seems to have passed away like the Shekinah glory from the tabernacle. As a result, we are left to our own devices and forced to make up the lack of spontaneous worship by ...bringing in countless cheap and tawdry activities to hold the attention of the church people." ~ A.W. Tozer

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Joyful Life: Study on Philippians Chapter 4

Philippians 1: 27-30
    " Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; And in nothing terrified by your adversaries; which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me."

Chapter 4 Good Citizenship
  Christians should live as citizens of Heaven
Alexander Graham Bell
             March 3, 1847
           A Citizen of the U.S.A.
   For his epitaph, Mr. Bell could have selected a few of his numerous honors. He was, after all, an extraordinary inventor. Just place a phone call or answer one, and you are in debt to his inventive genius. But Alexander Graham Bell considered U.S. citizenship his most cherished accomplishment; so he chose to have that identification engraved on his tombstone.
  Likely you are proud of your national citizenship. But, as a Christian, you are also a citizen of Heaven. How important is that citizenship to you? Is it more important than any of your accomplishments? Is citizenship in Heaven so important to you that it affects the way you live? It should be. Paul reminded the Philippian Christians that they were citizens of Heaven and should live accordingly.

Live it!
  After Paul informed the Philippians about his confinement and shared his triumphant attitude with them, he addressed the specific needs of the church at Philippi. "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ," he exhorted (Philippians 1:27). Although the Philippians needed exhortations about retaining sound doctrine and about getting along together, Paul gave top priority to the important matter of representing Christ well by living in a Christlike manner.
  "Let your conversation be" translates one Greek word meaning to live as a citizen. The Philippian believers must have immediately perceived the relevancy of this exhortation. Philippi, their home, was a Roman colony. So they possessed both the privileges and responsibilities of Roman citizens.
   Because Philippi was a "little Rome," every resident was expected to live as a Roman citizen. However, Rome didn't have to coerce residents of Philippi to conform to Roman ways. Most Philippians eagerly copied the customs and styles of their counterparts in Rome. It was, after all, the "in thing" around town to live like a Roman.
  Picking up on the familiar theme of citizenship, Paul urged the Philippian Christians to live as citizens of Heaven. Just as Philippi served as a model community for the spread of Roman culture, so the Christians at Philippi needed to function as a model community for the spread of the gospel.
  Like the residents of Philippi, Christians hold citizenship in a distant place. We are citizens of Heaven. And just as the Philippians were expected to live like Romans, so we ought to live like citizens of Heaven.
   How should citizens of Heaven live? "As it becometh the gospel of Christ" (verse 27). "Becometh" means in a manner worthy of or in accord with. Paul wanted the Philippians to live in a manner worthy of the gospel or in accord with the gospel.
  We all live according to some standard, whether we realize it or not. Paul urged the Philippians to live according to the standard of the gospel. The gospel, of course, includes more than salvation; it includes sanctification. It tells Christians how God wants them to live. Paul wanted the Philippians to live as God wanted them to live. He wanted them to live worthy of the gospel. He wanted them to live as Christ lived.
  One star in our northern sky never sets, and for thousands of years it has shone the brightest and been the most reliable guide for travelers, especially for sailors. It is Polaris, or the Pole Star. Better known as the North Star, it is located directly above the North Pole. You can find it readily on a clear night by following with your eye an imaginary line through the pointers of the Great Dipper. Long ago, Phoenicians and Vikings and sailors of the North used this method to find Polaris when they started to sail the seven seas. Since the first century, the gospel has given flawless direction for the Christian life. If a believer's life fails to reflect his heavenly citizenship, the fault lies with him and not with the gospel.
  It is easy to slip into the habit of looking at life from a worldly viewpoint instead of getting our direction from the gospel-- the Polaris of our faith. In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God " (Romans 12:2). The world's philosophy condones-- sometimes advises-- self-seeking. The gospel instructs the believer to seek first the kingdom of Heaven, to honor God and put others' interest ahead of his own interests (Philippians 2:3,4). The world's philosophy stipulates that wealth and possessions offer security and happiness.  The gospel teaches the "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Timothy 6:6). The world's philosophy targets sinful pleasure as the ultimate thrill. The gospel declares that true and lasting joy is found only in Christ (John 16:22-24). The world's philosophy insists that "you only go 'round once in this life, so reach for all the gusto you can." The gospel cautions that judgment follows death (Hebrews 9:27), and affirms that "he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever" (1John 2:17).
   Knowing the truth of the gospel, the Christian ought to live it!

    Occasionally we wonder how a professional sports team cam have so much talent bot so few wins. Then we learn that many of those gifted athletes lack teamwork. Success demands teamwork. Paul was in Rome, and his readers were in Philippi. But, whether he was absent from them or present with them, he wanted to hear that they were working as a team, standing fast in one spirit (Philippians 1:27).
    The words "stand fast" probably brought to the Philippians' minds the picture of soldiers refusing to desert their posts and standing firm in the heart of battle. Of course, soldiers see no reason to hold their ground unless they share common values and a common goal. Why would they stand firm without a cause? Paul urged the Philippians to stand firm "in one spirit"; that is, having the same attitude.
   Standing fast demands not only unity but also a willingness to join in a struggle. Paul advised the Philippians to strive together "with one mind" for the faith of the gospel (verse 27). Striving together is synonymous with "struggling together."  The Philippians were engaged in a contest as they did the work of the gospel. The goal of their struggle was "the faith of the gospel"-- the doctrinal truths of the gospel.
  At the end of a Sunday morning service, a choir began the recessional, singing as they marched in perfect unison up the center aisle to the back of the church.
  The last young lady in the women's section was wearing a pair of shoes with spike heels. In the aisle lay a grating that covered the hot-air register.
  Without a thought for her heels, the young woman sang and marched. One heel sank right through a hole in the register grate. Instantly she realized her predicament. She knew she couldn't hold up the whole recessional while she back-stepped to pull out her heel. She did the next best thing in the emergency. Without missing a step she slipped her foot out of her shoe and continued up the aisle. There wasn't a break in the recessional. Everything moved liked clockwork.
  The man following that young woman noted the situation and, without losing a beat, reached down and picked up her shoe. The entire grate came with it. Startled but still singing, the man continued up the aisle bearing in his hand the grate and the trapped shoe.
  Just like that choir, the Philippians needed to move in unison in the ministry of the gospel and not let anything distract them.
   Standing fast involves steadfastness. Not only did the Philippians need to be united, they needed to steadfastly resist their opponents. Standing fast, they would not be terrified by their adversaries (verse 28). As the Philippians worked together in the ministry of the gospel, they faced opposition. Friends might come and go, but adversaries would only increase. Paul did not want the Philippians to be frightened or intimidated by these opponents. If the Philippians stood fast against them, their steadfastness would be a sign of destruction to the opponents and a sign of salvation to the Philippians (verse 28b). Both sides would recognize the ultimate results of the conflict. The adversaries would be destroyed; the Philippians would be delivered.
   The world has many religions, but it has only one gospel. These religions oppose the gospel. Recently, when someone attempted to share the gospel with an unbeliever, he was told that the unbeliever had their own religion and if the Christian continued to tell them of the gospel, then their friendship would suffer. As you do the work of the gospel, you will meet opposition, and you need to stand fast in attitude and purpose. You and your fellow church-members need to be united as you spread the message of the gospel. You need to stand fast against opposition. United, Christians stand fast; divided we fall fast.

A Reminder
   Some Christian leaders teach that the truly spiritual life is trouble-free. "Believe in Jesus Christ and your troubles will be over," they insist. However their prosperity message is foreign to the Scriptures. Every Christian suffers in one way of another. In fact, sometimes "troubles" increase when one becomes a Christian. When we suffer, though, we need to recognize that suffering can be viewed either as a misfortune or as a discipline. God uses suffering to make us strong. He uses trials to build us up, not to tear us down.
  Paul reminded the Philippians that suffering because of the opposition they faced was "given" by God (verse 29). It came as a gracious gift from Him. They were suffering for Christ's sake. They were not suffering because of who they were but because of what they were. They were suffering because they were Christians. Suffering accompanied their salvation. They were given the opportunity to believe on Christ and to suffer for Him (verse 29b).

  The Philippians' experience with suffering was similar to Paul's. They experienced "the same conflict" (verse 30). The word "conflict" denotes an athletic contest. It emphasizes struggling. paul struggled as he did the work of the gospel, and the Philippians struggled as they did the work of the gospel. They both needed to remain steadfast in the struggle in spite of the suffering.
   You are a partner in the work of the gospel. You are involved in a struggle. When you go to work, to the store, to a ball game, you meet opposition as you do the work of the gospel. You engage in a struggle, and you suffer. However, you need to stand firm. You need to unite with your fellow church members and stand against the opposition. You need to live as a good citizen-- a citizen of Heaven. Are you a good citizen?

More to come in my study of Philippians...

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