Monday, March 21, 2016
Monday Morning Rewind: All, Always, and Only About Jesus
In the opening 11 verses of Philippians, Paul describes a number of things that unite us, but yesterday, we looked at the "one thing" under which our faith, service, love for each other and trust in each other must meet, and that is our common identity in Jesus. There are three ways this common identity empowers us to move forward together.
1. It Gives Us Perspective. Among the Philippians there was apparently a fear that Paul's imprisonment would slow down the forward progress of the Gospel. Paul counters that fear with some very bold words. He clams his imprisonment has actually been used by God to advance the Gospel!
I have to be honest here. I'm not sure if I was in prison whether I would have Paul's same outlook. But if that day ever comes and I'm unable to look at that circumstance the way Paul looked at his, it won't be because Paul didn't clearly tell me how here. This is a guy who, after leaving Philippi, had experienced a riot, threats on his life, a combined two years in jail, an appeal to Caesar, a shipwreck, and is not imprisoned again and awaiting trial. In the face of all that, a number of the correctional officers who were guarding him had come to faith in Christ, and that faith had spread to a number of others throughout the Praetorian guard. It's as if Paul is saying to the church; "You think I'm chained to these guys, but the reality is, they are chained to me!"
What's the point? Simply, that nothing can stop the advance of the Gospel! That perspective will give us something else.
2. It Gives Us Courage. No one likes to live through hard times. But the witness of Scripture (and if we are honest, the witness of people we know) tell us that hard times in the life of a believer usually results in a bold witness.
Think about it. What moves you the most? What motivates your faith the most? Is it watching a TV preacher who seems to "have it all together," flies around on a private jet and wears $1000 suits? Or is it that brother or sister in Christ you know is suffering, but remaining faithful to Jesus? I have never been more challenged in my own faith than when a member of my church family responds to suffering with the words of Psalm 73: "Whom have I in heaven but you? And on earth there is nothing I desire besides you. My heart and my flesh [i.e. my job, my family, my health] may fail, but you are the strength of my life and my portion forever!
There is nothing about a life of luxury promised in the false "prosperity Gospel" that builds courage. The World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker said it well. "Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you are scared."
Believing this is necessary because otherwise, when we are faced with bad situations, our temptation will be to think "when my situation changes I will be able to serve God again." The truth is we all have everything we need right here and right now! Our church doesn't need a bigger platform, more people, or more money to be faithful to Jesus. And if Paul can empower and coordinate the global communication of the Gospel from a prison cell, you and I have everything we need already.
The only thing lacking is courage.
3. It Gives Us Focus. Paul apparently had a number of fellow preachers who didn't like him very much. We are spared the details of why this is, but what we hear loud and clear from the Apostle is "whatever their motivation, I'm happy they are preaching the Gospel, and I don't have time to be bitter or think about retaliation."
This is a great example for us, especially when we are faced with brothers and sisters in the church that we don't always agree with, or people in our church family that rub us the wrong way. In those moments, if we can manage to lift our eyes above our differences and toward our common goal of making Jesus known, we get a wider understanding of what God is doing through us all!
A.W. Tozer said that if you have 100 pianos all tuned to the same fork, they are automatically tuned to each other.
We, as the body of Christ, are truly one body when we find our common identity in the person and work of Jesus. It is all, only, and always about Him!