Sunday, January 30, 2011

Approving What is Excellent

Life being what it has been recently, I haven’t had a lot of brain power left over for blogging. I have been continuing on with memorizing Philippians, however, but I have not been able to write out my reflections in a blog post each week as I had intended. I also have some blogs backing up in my reader because I want to wait until I’ve written out my thoughts before reading what others are saying regarding their study of Philippians as we go along.

So, rather than an in depth post on each section, I’m going to write one post on the past three weeks’ worth of memorizing and meditating on the passages I’ve been working to hide in my heart and try to share what I’m thinking, even before I get it completely fleshed out. And because I’m collapsing three weeks into a rather long post, I’m quite sure I won’t be able to adequately get all my thoughts out, but I don’t want to wait any longer to write this post.

Philippians 1:7-26

7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,

10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,

11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

What has really stuck with me the past several weeks of meditation on this section has been Paul’s prayer for the Philippians. As I’ve thought about it, it has just naturally found its way into my own prayers for myself and for others as I seek to become more intense and more intentional in my prayers. I want more than a ‘going through the motions’ kind of faith. I want to recognize my daily, hourly, momentary desperate need for God. I want to see Him move in a way I’ve never seen before. I want to have the courage to surrender to the belief that I am truly His slave. That’s a hard thing for an American to understand and get her mind wrapped around, I think. But I have been purchased with a hefty price, no less than the precious blood of Jesus, and I want to live a life worthy of the gospel. I want to truly be discerning and approve what is excellent: what is sound and true and right and biblical and honoring to my Lord and Savior, to discern truth from error and to flee from error and run to the truth. I don’t want to settle for the world’s wisdom, as I far too often do. I want to truly seek after what is excellent, what is holy, what is righteous.

I’ve done a lot of thinking in recent days about how the righteousness we are called to is not for us. It is for Him. It is to the glory and praise of God. Some time ago I memorized Psalm 23. I have thought about the verse there that says that He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. He does a work in His people who are called by His name, saved by His grace, trusting in His sacrifice on our behalf to lead us to be filled with the fruit of righteousness. And it is so that He will be glorified as His people live lives that are set apart and different from the world and its faulty wisdom. It is His working in us that allows us to even want to be righteous and to surrender to obedience to Him.

I want to love Christ more and more and to love the people He places in my sphere of influence enough to live a life of righteousness that will bring Him honor. May I be a lighthouse in a dark culture and seek after what is excellent, putting aside the things that make it hard to see Him, make it hard to live a life that brings praise and honor to God. I want to live a righteous life, not so that I will look good, but so that He will! It is only by His grace that I can be filled with the fruits of righteousness. May I live a life that will cause others to see that He is worthy of praise and glory.

Philippians 1:12-18

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,

13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.

14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.

16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.

17 The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.

18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,

I struggled a little with this section, wondering what it meant that some were preaching Christ from envy and rivalry and seeking to afflict Paul in his imprisonment. I finally resorted to checking the study notes in my MacArthur study Bible, where it says that these people really were preaching Christ but were jealous of Paul’s apostolic power and authority, his success and immense giftedness, and that his critics began discrediting him, seeking self-advancement, using Paul’s imprisonment to accuse him of being so sinful the Lord had chastened him, and thus advance themselves. That makes sense.

So what I have been thinking about from this passage is how, in the midst of all of that and his imprisonment, Paul’s main concern still is that Christ is preached. He doesn’t get all “woe is me” or complain about being imprisoned, or try to rescue his reputation from those who would seek to afflict him. He is humble and does not seek to right the wrong that others are doing in thinking to afflict him, he doesn’t try to set the record straight, so to speak. No, he is pleased to see Christ proclaimed, that is his main focus, not his own reputation or having others see him in a good light. He sees reason to rejoice in that the brothers are more confident, more bold to speak the word without fear.

This has led to another urgent thing I’m praying for myself. I want to be bold to speak the word without fear. I confess to you all that this is something I have not been. But I want to be. And also it has got me thinking a lot about how to see God moving in all circumstances, and rather than focusing on the circumstance, be seeking how to honor Christ in and among the circumstances and to recognize that God has a purpose in it all. For instance, when I first found that I would have to serve on jury duty for two months, I was griping about it. In the midst of the griping, we reached this passage, and I realize I need to be praying about opportunities to glorify God even as I serve on the jury. I need to obey Him even in that. Stop griping and look for opportunities to speak the word without fear. It has also helped me to begin praying for people I would never have been exposed to otherwise.

Philippians 1:19-26

19 For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,

20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always, Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

21 For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.

22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.

23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,

26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

I wrote in my little memory notebook under the reflections section here that even reciting these verses is convicting because I realize that I am still much too worldly minded. I’m not sure I can truly say that I would rather depart and be with Christ yet. Intellectually I know this is far better, but I still am very tied to this world and my loved ones here. I do, however, believe that when my time to depart comes He will grant the grace to be ready. Not sure I’m expressing this well, but what I mean is that I’m not sure I have enough of a heavenly mindset yet. I want to. I want to sincerely and deeply long for Christ’s return in such a way that it colors how I live each day, each moment. I’m not there yet. Far too often I get bogged down in the tyranny of the everyday stuff of life and forget to think about Him purposefully in the midst of all that fills the day. I do long to be with Him, but not yet as deeply and meaningfully as I want to.

Also, Paul’s genuine love for the believers at Philippi is inspiring. Do I have that kind of love for other believers? Am I truly partnering in the gospel with my fellow church family members, or am I just warming a pew? Hard thoughts. Necessary thoughts. Is anyone being given ample cause to glory in Christ because I am here and serving alongside them in the ministry of the gospel? Am I pointing anyone to Christ by my life and my words? How I want to be. I want to be so heavenly minded that I am of much earthly good.

This exercise of memorizing scripture is such a good thing. It is helping me to think more about Jesus throughout each day and to be more aware of approving what is excellent and laying aside the things that aren't throughout the day, because I come back and rehearse these scriptures over and over throughout the day. I’d love to encourage you to join in memorizing Philippians, too. If not Philippians, pick another scripture passage to hide in your heart. It does help to really make it a part of your thinking the more you work through the memorization process. I am really glad I was encouraged to join in this endeavor.

1 comment:

Mrs. H said...

"Is anyone being given ample cause to glory in Christ because I am here and serving alongside them in the ministry of the gospel? Am I pointing anyone to Christ by my life and my words?"

Ouch. Great, hard questions for reflection. May God allow us the boldness for change so that the answers may be "yes!"
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.