Lessons from the Book of Philippians
Greetings precious people, I do hope that you are doing well today and giving thanks to the Lord God Almighty for all of His goodness to you. Today we will be continuing our journey through the New Testament Book of Philippians. We are studying this book verse by verse. There is no better way to study the Word of God, the Bible.
We will begin our study today where we left off in the last few verses of chapter one in the Book of Philippians. In our studies so far we have seen the Apostle Paul addressing such important aspects of the Christian life as thankfulness, prayer, trials and joy in the midst of all circumstances and situations. In this little book of only four chapters, Paul points out not only the importance of joy in the Christian life, but also four thieves that can and will rip off the believer of this joy. The four thieves that are identified are circumstances, people, things, and worry which are comprised of doubt and unbelief.
Remember from our previous studies in this book Paul was in prison when he wrote this. He did not know if he would be sentenced to death, imprisoned for life, or miraculously set free. Yet he refused to allow his circumstances to steal the joy that was his in Christ Jesus. As a result, he was able to not only be at peace and retain his confidence in the Lord, but also able to encourage others to rejoice and keep the joy of the Lord.
The second thief of joy that Paul mentions is people. No doubt you have experienced on more than one occasion, as have I, that people can quickly ruin your day. It seems that some people feel that it is their calling to steal any joy that you may have. Because of this, we have the tendency to stay away from people and isolate ourselves. As appealing as this may be, it is not what God intends the Christian life to be.
People and how we get along with them is part of what the Christian life is all about and what the world looks at in our lives to see how real Christianity is. Look at the one sign that Jesus gave to us that the world would look at and in seeing it in our lives would know the reality of true Christianity. In John 13:34-35 we read, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
This you know is not always easy, in fact sometimes it seems downright impossible. Yet loving one another is an essential part of the Christian life. It is with this in mind that Paul writes the following, Philippians 1:27-30 says, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.”
In using the phase, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ”, Paul is drawing the picture of what it is to live every day life as a Christian. It is not to be a Sunday only thing. This term “conduct” that he uses comes form a Greek word that means citizenship. Being a Roman citizen as Paul was, held many privileges as well as responsibilities. Having this privilege of Roman citizenship meant that you were to act accordingly. If you acted contrary to what was expected, you not only brought reproach upon the entire Roman Empire but also stood in jeopardy of loosing your privileges. It is a shame that many of the leaders of the Roman Empire failed to follow the rules, for some of the leaders were the most reprobate of all men.
The conduct that the Christian is to possess is greater than that of a citizen of any country; it is that of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. It is to be marked by unity, steadfastness, and singleness of mind and purpose. This does not mean that every Christian is to walk, talk, and look the same. Christianity is not a cult where everyone is to look alike. In Christianity, we do not loose our individuality, God made us all different and He wants His children to retain their uniqueness. Just think how tragic it would be if everyone in the Church were to look like me or if everyone were to look like you. What God does desire is that we become one in Christ, that we become more and more like Jesus.
Paul also speaks of striving together for the sake of the Gospel. Too often we see Christians striving together but it is not for the sake of the Gospel. It is usually for their own sake and selfish ambitions. As the world looks at much of what is considered the “Church” they do not see unity and oneness, rather division and strife. This should not be! The most common cause for the existence of strife and division in the body of Christ is pride. Pride that shows itself by many different ways such as wanting things done MY way, like the new carpet or paint in the Church meeting with my approval; or being offended by something someone did or didn’t do that I think they should have done; or….the list could go on and on.
There are so many petty, minor, little things that people allow to cause strife and division in the Church. This I believe has been one of Satan’s biggest success stories in making the Church ineffective in the world today. He knows the stragedy well of Divide and Conquer. Satan knows that there is great strength in numbers and unity of the Spirit; this is why he works so hard to bring division in the body of Christ.
Paul speaks of “not in any way terrified by your adversaries” in Philippians 1:28. You know how it is when you are in a potentially terrifying situation, that it is always better to have others with you because somehow you gain strength and courage by their presence. But if you are in the same situation and alone, it becomes a very frightful experience.
What Paul says in the following verses causes problems for many that read and hear it. Philippians 1:29-30, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.”
The topic of suffering for Christ is far too vast to cover in the few short lines that remain in this article, so we will begin here in next week’s article. Let me leave you with this thought concerning suffering for Christ’s sake. Suffering for Christ’s sake identifies a person with Jesus Christ.
Look at what Jesus tells us in John 15:18-20, "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” And in 1 Peter 4:14 we read, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.”
If you consider yourself to be a Christian and are getting along quite well with the world, then either you are living a life of compromise, or you are not a Christian at all. Examine your life today by the Scriptures, not by your feelings or what others say about you. Let the light of the Gospel shine into the most darkest, deepest recesses of your heart and reveal His truth about your life.
I will leave you with the words of Paul the Apostle, in 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 he exhorts, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.”
Until next time may the Lord richly bless you beloved.
If you have any questions, comments, or prayer requests you can contact me at: Calvary Chapel of Alpine, P.O. Box 1528, Alpine, Ca. 91903 or call 619-445-2589, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Drew Macintyre is pastor of Calvary Chapel of Alpine