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Entries in Philippians (5)


Rejoice in the Lord always

That is Paul's command in Philippians 4:4.  He can say to rejoice always because our rejoicing is in the Lord, who never changes.  If we rejoice in circumstance, tomorrow, circumstance may change, and then where will our rejoicing be?

There is an overflow from being one who rejoices.  It will show in our conduct and our relationships.

D.A. Carson in his book Basics for Believers says this:

God well knows that a believer who conscientiously obeys this command cannot be a backbiter or a gossip. Such a believer cannot be spiritually proud or filled with conceit, cannot be stingy or prayerless, cannot be a chronic complainer or perpetually bitter. The cure for a crushed and bitter spirit is to see Christ Jesus the Lord and then to rejoice in him. Lurking and nourished sins are always a sign that our vision of Jesus is dim and that our joy in him has evaporated with the morning dew. By contrast, the believer who practices rejoicing in the Lord will increasingly discover balm in the midst of heartache, rest in the midst of exhausting tension, love in the midst of loneliness, and the presence of God in control of excruciating circumstances.  Such a believer never gives up the Christian walk. Resolve always to rejoice in the Lord.

This is such a crucial truth, and we're slow to learn it. Even in Christian circles, we look for the quick fix, the bail out, the "thing" that will make us feel better. We may think we're rejoicing in the Lord, but it could very well be in the situation, not in His person, in what He gives us daily.  This is something I'm learning more every day; to rejoice in Him, and Him alone.


With tears

In Philippians 3:17, Paul asks the church at Phillipi to imitate him.  He then goes on to tell them why:  because there are people out there that are not true to their faith, and he doesn't want the Philippians imitating them.

In verse  18, he says:

For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.

He goes on to say that their end is "destruction," their god is their "belly," and "they glory in their shame."

Yesterday, in our ladies' bible study, as we talked about this verse, one of the women in the group, with her soft, sympathetic voice, commented about Paul's tears and the demonstration of his compassion toward those who are enemies. Perhaps Paul was in tears because they were opponents and could frustrate his plans.  But he also saw the fact that their end was destruction, and that inspired compassion.

When we look around us at what is going on in the world, it can be tempting to be angry.  We see the sin.  We see those who glory in their sin. Sometimes, we want to figuratively shake the world and say, "Don't you see?" We cannot convince anyone of their sin.  All we can do is to share our faith in word and deed.

When we have teenagers, we may feel uncomfortable about our kids' friends.  We cannot micromanage their social lives forever, and the simple fact of the matter is they will befriend unbelieving people. They may even want to date an unbelieving person. Teaching our children does not automatically ensure that they will do everything we say.

When our children do have unbelieving friends, our attitude should be more like Paul's, and think of that friend with tears, with compassion.  It's so easy to look at our kids' friends and agonize about how our children are going to fall into ruin because of a particular friend.  We ought to look at the soul of that friend, and have compassion.

Of course compassion can be taken in a direction whereby we don't speak the truth for fear of being opposed.  I don't see how that is useful, either.  A lot of compassion without the gospel runs to sentimentality after a while.  No, I think we need to speak the truth in love.  But harsh words won't attract anyone.  To speak boldly does not require one to be harsh; some people have yet to learn that lesson.  I am likely one of them.

As Jesus walked among the crowds, Jesus had compassion on people.  In Matthew 9:35-38, we see him looking out at the people and feeling compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. He told his disciples that the harvest was plentiful, but the labourers were few.  Both Paul and Jesus showed compassion for the lost, and so must we.  

Do I look at the enemies of the cross with tears?  It's a good question to ponder.



From Basics For Believers, D.A. Carson:

Genuine spirituality cannot live long with an attitude that is homesick for heaven, that lives with eternity's values in view, that eagerly awaits Jesus' return, that anticipates the day when Christ himself will "bring everything under his control" and "will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body" ([Philippians] 3:21; a theme Paul treats more fully in 1 Corinthians 15).  Thoughtful Christians will not see themselves first of all as citizens of Great Britain or the U.S. or Canada or Pago Pago.  We are citizens of heaven.  Only that citizenship has enduring significance.


What he said

In his book Basics for Believers, D.A. Carson comments on Paul's words in Philippians 3:1-9, specifically considering what was gain as loss in comparison to knowing Christ:

In the flow of this chapter, then, Paul makes these points, at least in part, to insist that the Philippian believers emulate those whose constant confidence and boast is in Christ Jesus and in nothing else.  Most who read these pages, I suspect, will not be greatly tempted to boast about their Jewish ancestry and ancient rights of race and religious heritage.  But we may be tempted to brag about still less important things:  our wealth, our status, our education, or emotional stability, our families, our political or business success, our denominational alignments, or even about which version of the Bible we use.  Be careful of people like that.  They tend to regard everyone who is outside their little group as somehow inferior.  Somewhere along the way they inadvertently - or even intentionally and maliciously - imagine that faith in Christ and delight in him is a little less important than their personal accomplishments.

I would be tempted to add a few others to Carson's list of potential bragging fodder, as I'm sure you might as well.


Living in fear

I really apprciated R.C. Sproul, Jr.'s post Thirteen Things I Need to Get Better At.  My favourite one was his commitment to getting down to the level of small children while speaking to them.  I have learned the value in that while greeting and visiting the little ones in the foyer at church on a Sunday morning. We had a couple here for dinner over the holidays who have two small children, and when the little girl looked abjectly afraid of the charging Beagle who entered the room, we were all reminded how the view from that low can be scary.

While I tend to avoid too many "resolution" ideas, I have lately been thinking of areas I need to improve. I am often frustrated that at my age, I suspect I come across as no more grown up than the average 14 year old girl.  I mentioned on Facebook a few months ago that I wished my inner 14 year old girl who go away. My former 9th grade teacher, with whom I am friends commented:  "I remember her.  I liked her."  That was pretty kind, I thought.

When we evaluate how we are doing with our sanctification, it is tempting to wonder why we can't seem to shake things.  As we get into middle age, we do begin to think back to things undone or done badly.  I have had those thoughts lately, and one word has come repeatedly into my mind:  fear.  I know I have been ruled by fear for much of my life.

I was a shy child, and I wasn't the kind who retreated in her shyness.  I was the kind who told others to "stop looking at me." My poor grandmother; after the birth of five grandsons, when she was finally given a granddaughter, I disliked her.  At the age of three, there were few people who were "allowed" to look at me: my family and my mother's Aunt Anne.  When I was introduced to the woman who would become my second mother, older sister, and mentor all rolled into one, it was the weekend she was to marry my uncle.  I was three years old, and I took one look at her and said, "I don't like you."  Charming.  

It was thought that I was rude, but I think it was fear of meeting new people.  Being a child whose father's work took us to new cities every two or three years, I think that fear was compounded as time went on. Bad events in junior high sealed my fate of being a strange combination of frustrated extrovert and deformed introvert.  I think it was fear.

There's no point in over-analyzing things done and not done.  I know it has been my biggest weakness, and it's time to face it.  The fear of failure, the fear of rejection, the fear of doing things badly.  They are, of course, unnecessary fears.  I was reminded of this as I prepared for my lesson tomorrow, Philippians 1:1-11.  Paul's tremendous words:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (1:6)

Being bound by fear means I am not being heavenly minded.  The fear of man is evidence that I am too attached to this world.  Just like I can get too attached to this world with the accumulation of material possessions, I can become wrapped up in being "liked."  The desire to be liked is not entirely bad, but an undue fascination is an evidence of looking to the wrong things to be "complete."

As R.C. Sproul desires to be better at those thirteen things, I have a modest goal this year, and that is to live less with fear guiding me and remembering Paul's words in Philippians more.