Category: Philippians (Page 1 of 11)

Costly Imitation

“The humble person is not one who thinks meanly of himself; he simply does not think of himself at all.” ~Andrew Murray

We are disciples of Christ knowing that, when we sign up to imitate the Son of God, it’s going to cost us. His grace is free. His love and forgiveness is a gift mercifully given to all of humanity. But in order to accept that gift, we must humbly submit to his lordship and follow in his steps of sacrifice and service.

And that’s not easy. In fact, it’s quite costly.

According to the beautiful passage in Philippians 2, the One we imitate gave up everything that was rightfully his: deity, equality with God, eternal power, heavenly glory. He gave all that up in order to serve humans. Jesus’ outlook was shaped by unselfish concern for others. His attitude was one of deep humility. Jesus willingly traded heaven for earth, glory for shame, a royal scepter for a slave’s water bowl, life for death — “even death on a cross!” This is the true expression of his innermost character, the nature of our Father.

To fully imitate the Christ is to humbly consider others better than ourselves, to look to the interests of others. And that will mean willingly sacrificing our very lives, dying to ourselves to meet the needs of those around us. That sometimes means giving up our pew. Occasionally, it means giving up our preferences, It always means giving up our position.

What is it costing you to be an imitator of Christ?

Peace,

Allan

Actual Leadership

Today is Opening Day and this is the year the Texas Rangers win 90-games and lay the groundwork for a World Series Championship in 2024! They have the best team they’ve ever had in their miserable history, the best starting rotation in the Major Leagues, an All-Star duo up the middle, and the best pitcher in the world in Jacob deGrom. Bochy-Ball begins today. And it’s going to be a whole lot of fun.

Yes. I know. I’m drinking in every bit of it. I’m swallowing it whole. Hook, line, and sinker. I’m in.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When a baseball team is picking its captain, they don’t choose a rookie. Has a rookie ever been made the captain of a sports team? Healthy teams pick the ones who’ve won championships and played in All-Star Games. They select as captains those who’ve been doing it at a high level for a long time. They choose the ones who arrive early and stay late and live in the weight room. They don’t pick a guy because he’s all blinged-out and he drives a million dollar car and he just filmed a really funny commercial for Nissan. They pick a man with experience. A man who goes above and beyond.

They look around the locker room and say, “Who do we want to be like? Who can we imitate? Who’s already been there and might be able to get us there with him?”

That’s the guy they choose as their leader.

It’s very similar to selecting shepherds to lead your church family. We look around the congregation and ask, “Who do we want to be like? Who can we imitate? Who looks the most like Jesus?¬† Who’s acting and thinking and living like the Christ?” Let’s pick that guy.

You’re not looking for men who CAN be shepherds; you’re looking for men who already ARE shepherds. You just need to make it official.

“Respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord, and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Designate the ones who are acting like shepherds. The ones who are working hard to serve the saints. Submit to them (1 Corinthians 16:16). The ones who are already teaching, praying, and encouraging; the ones  who are already making the visits and volunteering and leading small groups and pouring themselves into the relationships and the mission of your congregation. Follow them.

“Take note of those who live according to the pattern.” ~Philippians 3:17

Those who live according to the Gospel. Those who live in the name and manner of our crucified and coming Lord Jesus. Take note of them. Recognize them. Point them out. And follow them.

These church leaders are selected because of their work; they don’t start working because they get selected. The Bible says look at the people who are already serving the Lord and his Church and acknowledge them. These people are surfacing as spiritual leaders, so recognize it officially. Does he act like Jesus? Does he sacrifice and serve? Does he consider the needs of others more important than his own? Does he dwell in the Word and pass on the faith? Is his life being visibly transformed by the Holy Spirit?

Then he’d probably make a good elder.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Our Worship Minister here at GCR, Cory Legg, and I are heading to Abilene today for the now twice-annual ACU Summit. The highlight of the day will be the keynote dinner with and presentation by Kristin Kobes Du Mez, the history professor at Calvin University and author of “Jesus and John Wayne.” Her 2020 book articulates so well the problem the American Church has with credibility and Christian influence because of our ties with national politics. She connects the dots so clearly between the Church’s grab for power by using the ways and means of the world as opposed to transforming the world by Christ Jesus’ ways of sacrifice and service. She says so well in this book what I’ve been trying to say clumsily and without much effect for almost twenty years. I can’t wait to hear her this evening.

And if you’ve been thinking deep down in your gut for a while now that there’s something wrong with Christians asserting their rights, demanding their positions become everybody’s positions, and using power, threat, and violence to accomplish it, then I urge you to read her book. There’s a reason the Church is dying in the United States. And we have nobody to blame but ourselves. Lord, have mercy on us.

Peace,

Allan

In the Lord

“I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.” ~Philippians 4:2

Paul wants these two Christians at that church in Philippi to end their dispute with each other. He wants them to reconcile, to patch up their differences, to fix their relationship. But he doesn’t expect them to kiss and makeup by sheer will power or human grit. They won’t be able to reconcile on their own. This kind of reconciliation only happens in the Lord.

Paul’s asking Euodia and Syntyche to put into practice with each other what they know and experience in Christ. They should recognize their fellowship that’s forged by the blood of Jesus. They should acknowledge their mutual love that springs from God’s Holy Spirit. They should affirm their unity of purpose as co-ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. And that’s only going to happen in the Lord. That’s why Paul sounds so sure that it’s going to work. Because when people are in the Lord, surprising things happen. Those who live under the lordship of Jesus are different. We act in surprising ways.

We always forgive the one who wronged us. Not because she said she was sorry, not because he paid me back – we always forgive each other because God in Christ always forgives us. We make sacrifices for each other. Not so we can get what we want, but because the Lord made the ultimate sacrifice for us. We always serve one another. Not so we can look good, but because the Lord served us. We always give to one another, we submit to one another, we defer to one another, because Christ Jesus went to the cross for us.

He died for the sake of our relationship to him. Whatever humility, sacrifice, and service was needed to fix our relationship with God, Jesus did it. Willingly. Obediently.

Remember that love and sacrifice, Euodia. Remember that grace and mercy and forgiveness, Syntyche. And put into practice what you know and believe about Jesus.

Peace,

Allan

Taking Hold

“I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” ~Philippians 3:12

The holy Son of God came to this earth and put on your flesh and blood. He put on your humanity and he took on your sins. He became your sin for you. He lived here just like you so he could suffer and die for you. He gave up everything to save you and reconcile you back to God. He set aside his glory, his position, his power – he gave up everything because he loves you.

He did all of that for you. He loves you that much. Doesn’t that grab you?

If you’re just showing up at church on Sundays to sing the songs and say the ‘amens’ and eat and drink the Lord’s Supper and then you’re out the door and in your car and back home and nothing changes… If you come to church “just as I am” and you leave “just as you were” and nothing changes…

That is NOT the life Jesus died on the cross to give you. Christ Jesus did not leave his home in glory and die on Calvary to influence a couple of hours of your week. He gave himself to change your whole life. He died and lives now and forever to radically and dramatically alter every minute of every hour of your existence.

The love of Christ takes hold of you. It grabs you. It seizes you. It grips you and controls you. It squeezes you and shakes you and it will not let you go. So, yes, you want to know Christ. You want to become Christ-like. You want to be so much like Jesus that when a mosquito bites you, he flies away singing, “There is Power in the Blood!”

The love of Jesus rules us. It completely controls us. We’re held by his love like we’re in a vice. We can’t break free. So we don’t live for ourselves, we live for the Lord and for others. We conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. We consider others better than ourselves. We look to the interests of others. We work diligently to make our attitudes the same as that of Christ Jesus. We work out this salvation with fear and trembling, we demonstrate it, we make it real. And we recognize in all humility and gratitude that it is God who works in us, God who is shaping our will and renewing our minds, and transforming our image according to his good purpose.

Christ Jesus did not take hold of you so you could improve your golf game. Jesus did not take hold of you so you could buy a second home or win a soccer scholarship or become the president of your company. He took hold of you to transform you. He did it so you could live in a righteous relationship with him and in sacrificial service to others. His love for you compels you to take hold of it, too.

Peace,

Allan

All Who Are Mature

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made complete, but I press on… I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.” ~Philippians 3:12-15

Only those who understand their own lack of completion have reached a spiritual maturity. In other words, you have arrived only when you understand you’ve got a long way to go. Being saved means straining, pushing, pressing, adding to, attaining, striving. Our feet hit the floor every morning and we say, “How can I become more like my Lord today? How can I grow in humility, sacrifice, and service?” Because I have not yet arrived. None of us has arrived. And all of us who are mature should understand that.

I’m afraid we sometimes act like we’ve already arrived. We can act like there’s nothing else to learn or nothing else to do. I don’t have to study that. I already know what I believe about that. I don’t need to do this. I’ve already done my time. I’ll never change my mind about that. I’ll never try that. And curse those who might.

The Bible says that’s the immature view. The mature view is: I’ve got a long way to go. I’ve got a lot to learn. I’ve got newer and deeper things to experience. And while Paul says that mature Christians will agree with him on this, he doesn’t lash out against those might disagree. He trusts that God will make the truth clear to them at some other time (Phil. 3:15).

That tells me we shouldn’t expect every Christian to be mature. As long as the church is made up of humans, it’ll include people who don’t always think or act like adults. Paul says we trust those people to God’s care and we don’t let our disagreements disrupt our unity.

We strain toward what is ahead. We press on toward the goal to win the prize. That’s the ‘one thing.’ And that means, at some point, you’re going to have to do something you’ve never done before. Seriously. This requires exploring the new and experiencing the different. If your walk with Christ has stayed pretty much the same for the past several years, you’re going to have to do something different. If you’re no more sacrificial or no more a servant to others than you were a few years ago, you’re going to have to try something new. If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

You want to become more like Christ. You know God’s will is that you be transformed into his image. And if it’s not happening, are you telling me you’re just going to keep doing the same thing? What’s the definition of ‘insanity?’ Doing the same things in the same ways and expecting different results. That doesn’t work! Just ask Jerry Jones! It’s clinical!

So you strain ahead and you press on toward that goal of completion, of transformation into Christ’s image. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how long you’ve been around, or how long ago you were baptized.

Can I read Scripture in a new way? Can I engage God in prayer in a different way that will result in more humility and deeper dependence on him? What can my small group do differently that will make us more sacrificial? What new thing can my Bible class do that will grow us into better servants? What new ministry can I explore that will shape me into Christ-likeness?

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.

Peace,

Allan

One Thing

“One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 3:13-14

This righteousness from God, this knowledge of Christ and his resurrection, I’m straining for it, Paul writes. I’m pushing for it. I press on, Paul says, because I have not yet arrived. I have not yet obtained it all or been made perfect. I’m not there yet.

The call is to keep moving forward. Our tendency, though, is to stay put. I think our tendency is to get to a good place and just kinda stay there. But that is never God’s plan.

Angels never appear to anyone in the Bible and say, “Greetings! I am an angel of the Lord! God is calling you to do nothing. Thank you.” and then disappear.

“Gideon!”
“Yes!”
“I am an angel of the Lord. Stay put. God bless.”

Staying put is never God’s plan for his people. Holding our own can be a flat-out sin.

“How’s your church?”
“Oh, you know, we’re holding our own.”

No! Being saved means straining, pressing, pushing; adding to and attaining to and striving toward. Our feet hit the floor every morning and we say, “How can I become more like my my Lord today? How can I grow in humility, sacrifice, and service?” Because I know I have not arrived. None of us has arrived.

Peace,

Allan

« Older posts