Bars or Stars? What Do You see?

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Phil. 1:18 (ESV)

Paul was obviously trying to encourage the Philippian believers about his imprisonment. They may have been upset, or had become disheartened by the apostle’s situation.

But, Paul was a man who had tremendous difficulty trying to see the bad side of things.

No matter how hard he looked, he always seemed to see the bright side of everything.

A Pollyanna-ish type of faith? I don’t think so. He always admitted to what was happening, admitted to the difficulties the circumstances might be causing; but he always knew that “God causes all things to work together for good for them that love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

Unlike me, or most folks I have dealt with, Paul wasn’t thinking that verse about the future. No. He found the good right NOW.

Notice the verse we are dealing with. He didn’t say something like, “Well, even though they have got it all wrong, at least somebody might get saved through their ministry.”

No.

He said, “Christ is being preached.” This is what he saw and heard.

[Was he saying that about the Judaizers? Probably not, because they were preaching “another gospel.” (Gal. 1:8-9)]

Are there people out there who preach the Gospel differently than you? Of course. Does that make them wrong? Of course, not.

Please be able to make the distinction between preaching the Gospel differently and preaching a different gospel.

The Gospel is that Jesus died for our sins and was raised for our justification.

Everything else is addenda:

  • How I came to the Lord–free will or election.
  • When I was baptized–infant or believer’s baptism.
  • How I was baptized–sprinkled, dunked, or plunked.
  • Backsliding–secure or unsecure.
  • Jesus’ return–rapture or rupture.

We may base our ability to have fellowship on these things (it is still a character weakness to make these a basis of fellowship), but one can hold to a different opinion and still preach a pure Gospel.

I believe that is what Paul saw.

Even though there were impure motives for their preaching, it didn’t matter, because Christ was being preached.

But, this goes to the heart of Paul’s character. It was his depth of character that allowed him to do this, to see things in this light.

Apparently, he had forgotten how to take his eyes off Jesus. (Heb. 12:2)

As we go through this letter to the Philippians, we will encounter this more than once.

Paul is the one who is in dire circumstances, but he is the one who is doing the encouraging. Have you ever visited the sick and dying to be an encouragement, and you end up coming away encouraged by them?

Paul was in prison, but he looked through the bars and saw the stars.

What are you looking at? What do you see?

NOTE: This is the first in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Philippians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter one of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put the following link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.

Spiritual Weaponry

Last week we looked at “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” from Ephesians 5:10.

One thing that we know is pleasing to the Lord is when we live according to His Word.

Psa 138:2 ESV – I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.

In this sixth chapter of Ephesians, we have a clear statement of the Word that most Christians give assent to, but do not realize its outworking.

Eph 6:12 ESV – For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

 We readily admit that we are at war with an unseen enemy. We readily admit that “though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”
(2 Cor. 10:3-4)

But, what is our practice?

We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but we will picket a store of ill-repute.

The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but we will march against abortion.

We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but we will quickly sue for justice in a court of law.

The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but we will start a campaign against the pastor.

We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but we readily accept a diagnosis of some sort of “disorder.”

The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but we will join in every e-mail or letter-writing campaign against something offensive.

Am I saying that these things do no good? Not at all!

But, do they really change things? Hardly at all.

What are the weapons of our warfare? How are we to defeat the schemes of the enemy?

Only through personal discipline.

The weapons of our warfare require that we be a disciplined people; that individually we are each a disciplined person.

Returning to 2 Corinthians, lest us consider what Paul says about how we are to defeat the spiritual powers in high places: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (ESV).

While this may be considered a proof for the necessity of apologetics, it is a word for all believers–not just those skilled in logic and rhetoric. We each–YOU–are to destroy arguments and opinions in your own mind and life that come against the knowledge of God.

That means you must have a discipline of, for, and in the Word of God.

This “Blogged Bible Study“, for which I am writing, is being sponsored by some brothers who emphasize this aspect of our relationship with the Lord. Their theme is Philippians 4:8–“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (ESV)

The major emphasis from this verse  is think about these things. What do you allow your mind to entertain? It takes personal discipline to keep your mind focused, to keep it on the things listed in verse 8.

It is in that place where you will begin to experience some of the power of using your spiritual weaponry.

 NOTE: This is the sixth in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Ephesians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter six of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put the following link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.

Pleasing The Lord

Eph 5:10 ESV – and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

KJV – Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

NKJV – finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.

NLT – Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord

NIV – and find out what pleases the Lord.

NASB – trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

 Paul tells us in this verse that we are to spend time trying to learn something; spend time trying to discern something.

We are to discover what it is that pleases the Lord.

Do you know what that is?

Surely you have at least an inkling of an idea. Surely you have discovered some things in your walk with the Lord that are pleasing to Him.

We know that it is to the one who is humble and contrite in spirit and who trembles at His word that the Lord looks (Isa. 66:2). Those things are pleasing to God: humility, contriteness, and respect for His Word.

We also know that the one who can stand in the Holy Place with the Lord must have clean hands and a pure heart (Ps. 24:4). 

So…why does Paul urge us to “try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord”?

Within the context of this exhortation, he has been talking about everyday life as it was for the Ephesians. The Ephesian believers were to live a life different from that to which they had been accustomed. They are now living a new life, a life completely foreign to their experience.

Whereas once it was expected to go into a prostitute to worship their god, now that is not to occur.

Fortunately, we don’t have that particular habit to overcome. However, the same principle applies. We have come to the Lord from various backgrounds and experiences. Many of us have recently made a newer, firmer, deeper commitment to walk more closely with Him.

In that place we are still learning what it means to please the Lord. Actually, we should ever be learning this.

Please allow me a weak, but hopefully effective, illustration: we tend to think it is cute when a baby goes streaking across the room in nothing but its birthday suit. It is not cute when that is done by a 40-year-old.

I think that the Lord views us much the same way. There are some things we did in our early days of service that He may have thought sort of “cute,” but now that we have been around awhile, they are not so cute–not pleasing.

The point is–we are ever growing, ever learning, ever maturing.

Never stop trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Make it your ambition to always be found pleasing in His sight.

May He then say to you: This is my beloved one in whom I am well-pleased.

NOTE: This is the fifth in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Ephesians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter five of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put the following link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.

Eager for Peace

The fourth chapter of Ephesians is a difficult section from which to extract only one meaningful section upon which to comment. Every section is loaded with meat and worthy of a long discourse. Indeed, every sentence in this chapter speaks to my heart and begs my further reflection.

But, that is not the purpose of this exercise so I will content myself to constrain the words to only one of the many beautiful thoughts in this chapter.

Eph 4:1-3  – I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (ESV)

 A few weeks ago in the blogosphere, there was a strong word on the need for and necessity of confrontation. It was a good word. Confrontation of sin and hypocrisy is necessary now more than ever in our sin-sick, new-age-influenced churches. But, it is easy to go overboard with this. It is easy to spot “what is wrong” especially when all we do is look for that which is out of order.

We are not God’s policemen. That job belongs to the Holy Spirit. (John 16:8-11)

Paul tempers that sort of mentality here as he tells us to be eager to maintain peace.

He also mentions this necessity in another place where he writes:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Rom 12:18 ESV)

The application of this verse may best be served by using a paraphrase: Refuse to touch the bone of contention.

This is what we need to operate by in our lives, and I’ve seen some bloggers who are beginning to make this shift in their thinking. I’m hoping that they will begin to have good testimony as to its effectiveness.

By effectiveness, I mean that if we can get off the issues that cause controversy, we may very well have a chance to bring someone to the truth we have been trying unsuccessfully to beat them over the head with.

 It is worthy of our calling if we can learn to live at peace, to maintain unity through our humility, gentleness, and patience.

Yes, it is true that this has been pushed to an extreme where now, all things are tolerated in the name of peace. And, yes, the pendulum MUST swing in the other direction. However, I do not believe that it is necessary for us to go to the other extreme of picking a fight over every little thing that we think is wrong.

Make peace and harmony the goal.

Harmony means that there is agreement.

Let us learn to differentiate between the absolutely necessary, that is, the primary, things and those that are not.

Earnestly contend for that which is necessary.

Enjoy the debates over that which is not, but do not allow fellowship to be broken. And if someone is about to break fellowship over something that is debatable, then it is up to you to take the higher road, drop the debate, restore peace and maintain unity.

That is the Word of the Lord to us in this passage.

NOTE: This is the fourth in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Ephesians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter four of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put the following link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.