Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Shine As Lights (Philippians 2:12-16)

Therefore, my beloved, obey as you have always done, not only when I am with you, but even more so when I can’t be. Continue to work out your salvation with great fear and trembling, because God is energizing you, enabling you to desire and do what always pleases Him.Do all things without complaining or bickering with each other,[1] so you may become innocent (unmixed or pure) and blameless (above reproach); you are God’s children called to live without a single stain on your reputations among this perverted and crooked generation[2]. Then you will shine like stars across the land as you hold to (or hold forth) the word of life. 

I remember DC Talk singing, “I want to be in the light as you are in the light – I want to shine like the stars in the heavens.” Who doesn’t? Wouldn’t it be awesome to illuminate the spiritual darkness in the world with the light of our life as Jesus shines through?

You might be thinking, “There is no way I can do this. Do you even know my personality? My past? My situation right now?” Well, Paul says that if certain things characterized the lives of the Christians in Phiippi, they would “shine like lights” in their generation (or nation, in some commentaries). As we have seen throughout this book, Paul will not leave us wondering. He tells us how to shine for Christ.

We need to back up first and talk about “working out our salvation.”
Paul does not mean that the Christians at Philippi must work to earn their salvation. That is a free gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). Paul’s uses an image that is also found in the writings of a Greek named Strabo, a contemporary of Jesus. Strabo said the Romans ‘worked out’ the great silver mines of Spain, getting all they could from the depths of the mines.

Paul seems to be saying that Christians must ‘mine’ the riches of salvation’ – not casually or flippantly, but with a sense of what’s at stake. "Fear and trembling” doesn’t mean terrified – it’s the same phrase Paul uses to describe how the church in Corinth received Titus (2 Corinthians 7:25) and how Paul himself approached the Corinthian church when he preached Christ (1 Corinthians 2:3). It seems to have something to do with taking it seriously, with recognizing that magnitude of the task.[3]

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

True and Worthy Citizens of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27-29)

So here is what I want you to do: conduct yourselves as true and worthy citizens of the Anointed’s gospel, so that whether I make it or don’t make it to see you, I will at least hear that you continue to stand, united in one spirit, single-minded in purpose as you struggle together for the faith in the gospel. Don’t be alarmed in any way by what your opponents are doing. Your steadfast faith in the face of opposition is a sign that they are doomed and that you have been graced with God’s salvation. And now, you have been given the privilege of not only believing in Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, but being chosen to suffer for Him as well." (Philippians 1:27-29)
Being a true and worthy citizen of the gospel sounds daunting to me. Why? Because I know me. “Worthy” is not a word that comes to mind in describing myself in relation to the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven. There are plenty of days in which unworthy seems like the best fit. Yet Paul calls on the Christians in Philippi to conduct themselves as worthy citizens of the gospel, so this must be something we can accomplish with God’s help. God won’t ask us to do what His Spirit won’t empower us to do.

I realized that one reason this sounded daunting was that I was thinking I had to be worthy enough to become a citizen, but that is clearly not what Paul is saying. My righteousness – my self-earned worthiness – has been and always will be garbage (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-9). I am a citizen of the gospel because Jesus is worthy and He has covered my unworthiness on the cross. Paul is talking about what it looks like for a citizen to live in a way that ascribes worth to the one who granted us this citizenship. So this is not a question of salvation. It’s a question of discipleship, of following Jesus in an honoring way.

When Paul said, “To live is Christ,” hd didn't just leave a vague phrase hanging in the air. He made it specific: serving Jesus through fruitful labor (1:22) for the growth and joy of others in their life with Christ (1:25). Fortunately, Paul does the same thing again when describing what it means to be a true and worthy citizen of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

To Live Is Christ (Philippians 1:19 – 26)

I will continue to rejoice because I know that through your encouragement and prayers and through the help of the Spirit of Jesus the Anointed, I will soon be released from this dark place. I don’t expect that dishonor and shame will plague me in any way, but I do hope that I will continue to be able to speak freely and courageously about Jesus, and that now and forever the Anointed One will be glorified and placed above all else through this body of mine—whether I live or die. For my life is about the Anointed and Him alone. And my death, when that comes, will mean great gain for me. 
So, if it’s His will that I go on serving here, my work will be fruitful for the message. I honestly wouldn’t know how or what to choose; I would be hard-pressed to decide. I lean toward leaving this world to be with the Anointed One because I can only think that would be much better. To stay in this body of flesh—even with all its pains and weaknesses—would best serve your needs. Now that I think of it, I am sure of this: I would prefer to remain to share in the progress and joy of your growing belief. When I return to you, we will celebrate Jesus the Anointed even more. (Philippians 1: 19-26, The Voice)
 Paul is using a metaphor featuring the commander of a vessel in a foreign port who feels a strong desire to set sail and go home; this desire is balance by his belief that he needs to stay longer in the port in order to fulfill the mission. Paul was not ‘at home’; he wishes to return (to his heavenly home), but he has not received his final orders, so he waits faithfully and productively. The NIV says the same thing with the classic usage we often hear: 
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 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! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 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, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me." ( 21-26, NIV)
There are two words for "life" in the Greek: bios, from which we get our word ‘biology’ (or "the affairs of everyday life" - 2 Timothy 2:4) and zoe, which is the essence of life. It's the fuel on which our life runs. What gets us up in the morning? What motivates us? What brings us satisfaction and comfort? What inspires us and gives us hope? These ideas are all captured in this concept of life.