God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December 17 - Philippians: The Prisoner Chooses Life to Focus on the Resurrection

Today’s Reading: Philippians

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Paul doesn't care why a person preaches Christ. All that matters is that they point to Christ. God will do the rest.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Paul and Timothy to Jesus-followers in Philippi:
I thank God because of your help. My imprisonment leads people to Jesus. Some preach for self-gain. So what? They preach Christ.
I desire a reunion with Christ but you need me more.
Just as Jesus became human for us, love each other sacrificially.
The usual: Believers live in God's Spirit. My religious credentials are rubbish. Focus on the Resurrection.
Euodia and Syntyche, get along. Syzygus, help them.
Celebrate God always! Fill your minds with good things.
I am always content. I have all I need—your help.
Receive and experience Jesus' Grace.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God used Paul's imprisonment to set relationships right.

In Daniel, God told Israel that they would be persecuted so the world would see an example of faithfulness. Paul is another fulfillment of that prophecy. His chains have not shaken his faith in Jesus as the Messiah ("Christ" is the Greek version of the Hebrew word "Messiah"). Because of Paul's faith, his guards know all about Jesus and Believers have had their faith assured. God uses persecution to show the world true faithfulness. If you feel persecuted and chained because of your faith, keep going. God may be showing the world how He works.

No one can preach Christ and point to themselves.

Paul's discussion of the people who preach for their own gain is interesting. He seems to think their motivations may be bad, but who cares! They preach Christ! God will have His Will done regardless of what they say. All they are doing is preventing their own reward, not the reward of people who are listening to them. No one can point to Christ and themselves at the same time. They either point to Christ and not themselves or to themselves and not Christ. Because of this Paul cheered them on. Better have more people know Jesus than bicker about someone's motivations.
Boy is this important for today! It almost seems the worst thing a preacher can be is popular and/or rich. Popular preachers get excoriated in every facet of their words, actions, lifestyles, incomes, and ministries. Rich theologians are considered an affront to the Gospel. We search for that one thing we disagree with and that blog post which becomes viral. We do such a great disservice to Christ when we discourage people from preaching the Gospel because they are afraid the platform will expose them to Christian snipers. Lighten up, people! Christ is being preached! I wonder what unchurched people think when they see Christians complain about preachers getting rich off of their teaching.
This brings me to the so-called "health and wealth gospel" I hear about. (Notice: Everything I write here will be ignorant and oversimplified. I have never sat down and listened to their programs for two reasons: 1. growing up I was indoctrinated that we do not watch other groups who teach the Bible in error—meaning anyone not "churches of Christ", and 2. I get bored easily watching sermons. Both of these are personal issues which limit my exposure to their teachings.) Unless they preach that their ministry/ministry head can save they point people to Christ. Do they have bad motives? Yes. Will they answer to God for those motives? Yes. But remember—we aren't their judge because we are not their master. Stop complaining about Christian preacher's motivations. They preach Christ!

In unity we defeat our real enemy—people who do not want to set things right.

The second reason Paul does not complain about the motivations of others is because we are to be united around Christ. We cannot defeat our enemy—this is war!—when we continue to wound each other. Paul uses Jesus as our example to emulate. He was God but died as a human to set our relationships right with God. By unifying the entire world behind His Sacrifice, He defeated our greatest enemy—death. When we are unified we can outlast our opposition. His humble obedience gave Him the Highest Seat where everyone in the world will one day bow before Him. One day, we can join Him if we humbly obey God.

Paul wants to be with Jesus but needs to stay with God's Chosen People instead.

Out of context, Paul's discussion of his want to die could sound like a person giving up. But instead it is a person who desperately wants to stay because he has more work to do. He exemplifies the Christian dilemma—living or dying are both great choices!

Real believers are those who live in God's Spirit.

Real believers are not the ones who worship God because they are God's Chosen People. Real believers are the ones who worship God because they see His Work in them and through them. It's not about baptism, church attendance, Bible memorization, or teaching ability. It's about living ability. Do you set things right? You are a real believer. Paul's religious upbringing and all he accomplished in the religious world he considered dog [censored]—the literal word used—because of Jesus. Don't hold on to the inferior brand of righteousness. Trust Christ, the embodiment of God's Righteousness!

We are citizens of Heaven waiting for God to take us home.

I love Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's famous quote, "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience" (The Phenomenon of Man, 1955). Our goal is not for people to have healthcare, good jobs, nice houses, a strong, healthy church, or the right beliefs on a myriad of subjects—although they are nice to have. Our goal is to help each other keep our eyes on the goal—a new body when Christ returns. We must be ready for that body when it comes.

Paul is content anywhere he is.

What gives Paul a sense of happiness is that God is still with him and that his work still gives glory to God. When we are working for God, no physical lack or physical blessing can phase our happiness.

What are your motivations for living a godly life?

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