Sunday, January 24, 2010

Philippians 4:8 -- Characteristics of the glory of God seen in Jesus Christ

Texts : John 1:14 (opens in new window)
Philippians 4:8 (opens in new window)

The first chapter of John is well-known as an explanation and description of how The Word (Jesus Christ) became a man and came to live upon this world.  John 1:14 describes how Christ “dwelt among” the disciples and how His glory was evident and “full of grace and truth”.

What is this glory?  We often say that our objective is to “bring glory to God”.  What does that mean?

John is saying that Jesus Christ is the glory of God.  And that Jesus was making known God in all His glory.  Some aspects of the glory of God – or of glory in general—are:

  1. Glory must be revealed.  It does not exist until it is seen and made known.
  2. Glory is excellent.  Things that are glorious are not humdrum, not ordinary.
  3. Glory is victorious.  In Jesus, we see the victory of Life over death, of mercy over misery, and of grace over sin.

This brings us to the well-known passage in Philippians 4:8.  In this verse, Paul defines a number of wonderful things to think upon.  Although one can think upon what is true, honorable, just, etc., without thinking directly of Christ, these characteristics are most perfectly embodied in the Lord Jesus.  As John put it in John 1:14, Jesus is the glory of God.  The glory of God in Jesus Christ is displayed in each of these attributes.  Let’s consider them:

  1. Whatever things are true – this word means “not hidden”, “unconcealed”, “manifested”.  Something that is true is an actual occurrence, an event that can be trusted.
  2. Whatever things are honorable – synonyms: “venerable:”, “revered”.  This indicates something that is deep, substantial, weighty, grave.  This is in contrast to the shallow, even flippant, examples of Christianity we see around today.
  3. Whatever things are just – This word means “is as it should be, always.”  Christ is what he should be, always, as He ever lives to make intercession for us.
  4. Whatever things are pure – The idea of this word is things that excite reverence, things that are free from carnality, modest, immaculate, and unmixed with error.  Christ exemplified purity, in that He was “holy, harmless, and undefiled”.
  5. Whatever things are lovely or loveable – This word is not found elsewhere in the Bible.  It is a completely subjective idea – what is lovely to one may not be to another.  But Paul was certain the Christians in Philippi would know what is truly lovely, and would know that true loveliness starts with the loveliness of Christ.
  6. Whatever is of good repute – These are things that sound well, that are words of a good omen, or words of good will toward others.  The “good news” of the gospel of Christ is the ultimate word of good repute.
  7. If there be and virtue – Moral goodness, excellence in thought, feelings, and actions.  Again, Jesus is our Example of virtuous life.
  8. If anything is worthy of praise – or commendable.  Who is more worthy of our praise than our Lord and Savior?

As we consider these things, let us strive to consider Christ and to think upon Him – the glory of God – in the days ahead.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Philippians 4:10-19 The discipline of Christian contentment

Text:  Philippians 4:10-19 (opens in new window)

This section of Philippians deals with the concept of Christian contentment.  But this section should not be considered in isolation from its chapter.  Contentment is not possible without rejoicing in the Lord.

Three key factors are required for Christian contentment.  Each is intertwined with the others, and cannot really be had without the others.

First, gratitude, or thankfulness to others.  Primarily, we should be thankful to God Himself.  We have much to be thankful to Him for both in our current physical condition, and in the vast spiritual blessings He has given us.  Secondarily, we should have gratitude towards other people.  We are needy.  Each of us is not an island; we need others.  We must be willing to give to others and have the humility to recognize our own needs and make them known so that we may receive from others.  Paul, clearly, was thankful for the Philippians and how they shared with him (v. 15 and 16).

Second, we must be able to content ourselves with our current circumstances.  Are we worrying and doubtful?  Is our level of contentment based on our circumstances?  Contentment requires self-discipline.  We are responsible for our own state of mind and can control it by what we think upon.  We must rise above comparing our situation with what others have, and rest in the knowledge that God gives us what is good for us.

Paul says in verse 12 that “I have learned the secret” of contentment.  Contentment is a discipline that may be learned, that may be reached in greater degrees.  It is something we all are working on.

The Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs, in his book, “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment” outlined a number of items for consideration in pursuing the discipline of Christian contentment:

  1. Subtraction – Subtract our desires (the “I want this”) from what God has given us.
  2. Addition – Consider our sin.  Is God teaching us something through the difficulty we are in?
  3. Change the evil of our circumstances into good – Afflictions create growth.  Change the “bad times” into “good times” – times of being closer to our Savior.
  4. Always do what is required of you – Continue doing what we know we should do: having devotional times, praying, etc.  This requires discipline.
  5. Make God’s will your own will – Not a begrudging acceptance of what God has for you, but a joyful embracing of it.
  6. Purge out the root of bitterness – Eliminate contentions that cause jealousy, envy, and discontent

Finally, look to Christ for contentment.  Paul said “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”.  We can say the same.  God has enabled us to do all that He has called us to do.  He has given us the strength to triumph in whatever circumstances we are in!  As a final encouragement, remember that “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:5)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Philippians 4:6-9 (Part 3) – Four Qualities of True Christians

Text: Philippians 4:6-9

In this section of Philippians, Paul discusses four qualities of all Christians.  God expects to find these qualities in His children, and in response, He promises that all He is will be upon us.

First, Christians are always rejoicing in the Lord.  As Paul puts it in Verse 4: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”  In Christ, we have no reason to have a disposition other than that of rejoicing.  He has given us a purpose and has revealed Himself to us.  Is there anything in our lives where we find satisfaction other than Christ?  Is there anything we are rejoicing in more than in Him?

Second, a Christian is always in prayer.  Several things about prayer are mentioned in this passage:

  1. Be anxious for nothing.  Don’t be full of worry, eaten up with anxiety.
  2. Prayer means coming into the presence of God, communing with His, meditating, and thinking about Him.
  3. Make supplications.  A “supplication” means you are coming to God based on no merit of your own, instead relying completely on His mercy.
  4. Pray with thanksgiving.  There is always something to be thankful for.  In context, Paul seems to be saying to be thankful for the very thing that is bothering you.

Third, a Christian guards his mind.  He is thinking on the proper things, as listed in verse 8.  Note that the world around us rejects all these things.  The world wants to say there is no objective truth, no standards of rightness, or purity, or excellence.  But these things do exist.  They exist because of God, and they exist in Him.  We should guard our thoughts and improve our minds by “thinking God’s thoughts after Him”.

Fourth, “do these things”.  A Christian does not merely have knowledge of the truth.  His knowledge is worked out in reality.  We are called to conform our lives to what has been revealed in God’s authoritative Word.  God has promised His peace – His very presence – to be with us when we do.