November 3oth – Les Kovacs Philemon 1
Observe: Paul’s letter to Philemon is his shortest, and the most personal of his epistles, and was written while he was a prisoner in Rome. He greets Philemon warmly as a dear friend and fellow worker in the church, as well as the other members of the church that meet in his house. He praises Philemon for the loving good works he is doing among the Lord’s people.
Paul then appeals to him on the basis of love to receive back his run-away slave, Onesimus, whose name means “useful”. After running away, somehow, Onesimus had found himself in Rome and came to know Paul, who then led him to know Christ. More than that, Paul grew so fond of him, that he came to regard Onesimus as a son and would have wanted him to remain with him as a helper. But, Paul recognized that the right thing to do was to return him to Philemon. He encouraged Philemon to take him back, not as a slave, but as brother in Christ. Paul even offered to personally make recompense for any debt owed by Onesimus, although he hoped Philemon will excuse it because of his previous service to him. Optimistically, Paul ends his letter by asking Philemon to prepare a guest room for him in hopes of a possible future visit.
Interpret: Even though he was in a Roman jail, Paul nonetheless had considerable freedom to have visitors and guests. Somehow, Onesimus found his way to Paul, and Paul told him about Jesus, and he became a believer. Over time, Paul became his spiritual father, teaching him and loving him as a Christian son. Onesimus learned to love Jesus and received a renewed heart.
As much as Paul wanted this young man to stay with him, he knew that Onesimus should return to Philemon, his owner, and seek forgiveness for running away. This was difficult for him to do, knowing that any slave who ran away could be put to death and Paul certainly didn’t want that to happen to his “son”, Onesimus. Paul had to trust Jesus with Onesimus’ safety. Paul even makes a little word play by saying that although Philemon had considered him “useless”, Onesimus was now “useful” to them both.
Since Philemon was a Christian brother and a leader of the church in Colossae, Paul trusted that Jesus had renewed his heart from being a sinner separated from God to being completely forgiven. And, since Onesimus was also now a Christian, Philemon, the slave owner, and Onesimus, the runaway slave, were Christian brothers.
Notice how Paul says he was in prison and that Onesimus was his spiritual son and a fellow believer. By not ordering Philemon to forgive Onesimus, but rather appealing to his sense of compassion and love that marks the renewed Christian life, Paul made him think about these new circumstances and their changed relationships. That, in turn, allowed Philemon the opportunity to demonstrate his renewed heart in Christ in a practical and meaningful way.
Application: Paul’s basic theme in Philemon is the same as it is in Galatians 3:28: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”.
This short letter also helps us understand that the calling of the church is not only to speak out against injustice, but to actually live out the justice and peace that Jesus taught. We are to live in relationships of equality, justice, and love regardless of how the broader society says we should relate to each other. We are to share our resources with those in need, and welcome the stranger, whatever status they may hold within the culture.
In his letter, Paul reminded Philemon, and us, that Christ is the renewer of hearts. Christ had renewed Paul’s heart many years earlier on the road to Damascus. Christ had renewed Philemon’s heart when he heard the gospel message and believed. And Christ had renewed Onesimus’ heart in Paul’s jail cell. A renewed heart is grateful for the forgiveness received through God’s grace and wants to be a “grace giver” to others.
Questions: Think about a time when someone wronged you. How long did you stay wounded? What did it take (or would it take) to bring about reconciliation?
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for the renewal of our hearts through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. May we always see your image reflected in our brothers and sisters, and offer them the forgiveness of any perceived wrongs just as you offered us forgiveness of our many wrongs and sins. In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Song - No Longer Slaves - Zach Williams
OBSERVE: This letter to Titus opens with a greeting, which identifies the writer as Paul. Paul indicates that Titus is to appoint elders in the towns of Crete and lists qualifications for the office of bishop. These instructions lead into a description of the corrupt people whom the bishops will need to refute. The letter then provides a moving summary of the gospel and its consequences for human behavior. Titus is encouraged by Paul to declare these things in a manner that is both authoritative and tactful. This leads to a second summary of the gospel message, one that provides a personal testimony to the salvation that Paul and Titus share in Christ. Titus is to insist on this message and avoid anything that causes division.
INTERPRET: Titus is never mentioned in the book of Acts, but his name does appear in the letter to the Galatians and the second letter to the Corinthians. Titus was one of the first gentiles to be attracted to the Christian faith. Like Timothy, Titus became one of Paul’s emissaries, visiting churches as his representative and serving as something of a troubleshooter; dealing with difficult situations. Paul entrusted both Timothy and Titus with significant roles in shaping and leading the early church.
This Letter from Paul to Titus is the third of the Pastoral letters. It presumes that Paul and Titus had been ministering together in Crete but that Paul has left, entrusting in Titus to continue the work. Paul knew that in order for the church to grow; he would need to place trusted leaders in strategic places in order to grow the common faith for the common good of everyone.
APPLICATION: Titus was a gentile Christian, possibly from Antioch. Paul regarded him a traveling companion and his trusted co-worker. Titus was the man for the job in Crete to complete the task at hand; by setting a Godly standard and appointing faithful leaders. In doing so, Titus needed to be strong in leading how the church remained faithful to the gospel and wise in leading how the church connected with the world around them.
The church today also needs to be strong and wise. We are to be strong in remaining faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Without this unshakeable foundation; we too will be overcome by the ways of this world. However, we are also to be wise and tactful with how we approach the world around us. We are not to be fully against; nor fully alike. We are not to wage culture wars; nor are we to assimilate. We are to allow the gospel to transform our lives so that the gospel can then transform the lives and communities around us. We are to be in the world; but not of the world. The church should never be an isolated fortress or a defenseless sand castle. The church is to be a lighthouse to the nations; in both word (truth) and deed (love).
PRAYER: Heavenly Father; empower and guide your church with your Spirit; so that we will not be conformed to this world. Transform us by the renewing of our minds; so that we may be wise and tactful in sharing your glorious truth to the world around us. AMEN.
1 Timothy 3-4.
Paul, writing to Timothy here, lays out plain-as-day instruction as to how certain leaders in the church should behave, what they should pursue, and what they ought to avoid. The third chapter touches on overseers of a church and on deacons as well. In both cases, they are to be above reproach, blameless, thought well of outsiders, not lovers of wine or greedy among other things. They must be good managers of their household as well if they are to be trusted with managing a congregation. It then concludes with what Paul calls the Mystery of Godliness: “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”
The fourth chapter begins with a sobering reminder that some who believe would depart the faith and pursue deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, forbidding that which God has given to be received with thanksgiving and allowing that which God has said is off limits. Paul then instructs Timothy to lay these teachings out before the brothers having been “trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.” He warns to steer clear of silly myths and other distractions. While bodily training is of some value, Paul writes, godliness is of value in every way. Lastly, Paul instructs Timothy not only to practice these things but become immersed in them, all the while persisting in the faith, “for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
What is godliness? How would you define it? What would it look like in the day-to-day? Paul lays out what behaviours, actions, and attributes are fruits of godliness, but I think it’s fair to say that it is more than a list of traits that can be ticked off a list; it is something more, something magnetic and obvious and aromatic to the souls of others. It’s worth pointing out that Paul was not writing such instruction only for Timothy so many centuries ago, but for me and you today. He also touches not only on practical, human aspects but on divine mystery as well, linking the two together as parts of a whole. It is for this reason that we know godliness is not merely a set of actions to be performed but the intangible presence of a heart in love with God, immersed in the Holy Spirit.
Remember, godliness is not restricted for a certain few “really good” Christians (whatever that means) who might play music on Sundays or serve communion or whatever – it is something in which every single Christian must live if we truly are what we say we are and believe what we say we believe. Godliness isn’t some sort of Christianity Plus Members Club where only a few are invited to participate, rather it is the foundational proof of one whose life really has been given over to Christ. It isn’t acquired through striving, rather it is developed through immersion: in community, fellowship, prayer, worship, and so much more. Very likely others will spot it in you before you spot it in yourself.
The fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), these marks of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, develop slowly and steadily and will always always always bring about a real change in our real lives, pointing towards our real God. Paul tells us to “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
So let’s circle back and answer our initial question. Godliness is the mark of any sinner who has truly, truly given themselves, their heart, their very body and soul over to God to do with what He pleases. It is the working out of stubborn sin and the working in of patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, selflessness, true love of one’s neighbour, and most of all true love of God. If we have been claiming to have followed Jesus for some time now, it isn’t unreasonable for me or anyone else to ask, “is godliness evident in your life?”
There is no close second or alternative to godliness but plenty of counterfeits. We as Christians are obliged to become trained in the words of the faith so that we may be able to discern between that which is from God and that which is mere imitation, the teachings of demons, or silly and irreverent myths. Here in North America especially we have unending resources in this area, Bibles and studies and groups to fit any schedule and all learning styles. For those who say they want to know Christ but don’t put any effort into training, there are no excuses.
This isn’t some ethereal, philosophical, out-of-reach theological topic. Godliness is the very mark of salvation. We are meant to pursue it with everything we have, and that means pursuing God Himself. What could be more valuable than Him? Nothing in the entire world, seen or unseen. It is of the utmost value, and upon Him each one of us can confidently stake our very souls. Paul says it best – “godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”
Brothers and sisters, we are either in or out. We either get serious about Christ or walk away, for lukewarm faith is worst of all. He is either worth everything to you or nothing at all. C.S. Lewis says it well:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Thank you, Lord God, for your saving grace and patient instruction. Please keep us from lukewarm faith – set a fire in our hearts to know you with everything we have! Teach us to search diligently for you no matter our circumstance, that we might live godly lives that bring light and hope to others. Amen!
Song: Knowing You - Shane & Shane
1 Timothy 1-2 (Ps 19) Lynne McCarthy 11/25/21
Observe Paul’s pastoral epistle to Timothy addresses a persistent problem of false teaching in the church at Ephesus. Idle speculation replacing true advancement of God’s Kingdom, Paul tasks him with correcting teachers and teaching. (1:3-4) Paul’s goal: love arising from pure, guiltless and unpretentious desire (5) -- for the Lord.
For the disobedient, Paul lists sins against each commandment of the Law in their order (8-10). He gives a ‘resume’ of his past life, thanking God for His grace and mercy. The once “foremost of sinners” is now His servant (13,16). The last verses bookend Paul’s charge to Timothy, assuring him that God will strengthen him in his calling to ‘fight the good fight’ (18). Lastly, Paul shares a sadness: two men have abandoned the faith.
Gospel-shaped living is the focus of chapter two. Prayer for all sorts of people, from governors down the ladder, results in quiet, Godly life (2:2; 1:5[LM1] ); in His desire to save all people.
Ephesian men have a problem: anger. They should lift their hands in prayer, not use them as fists. Women: over-the-top clothing and bling. They need worship sense, less fashion sense. Women not speaking in church or teaching men had a reason…
Interpret Sound teaching versus false teaching in the Ephesian church -- Timothy has a big job, but early childhood spiritual training and Paul’s mentoring fitted him for the task. It’s a slog for him to keep going with all the Stuff happening, but Paul encourages him: “Fight the good fight!” By prayer and perseverance, he does more than just stick out a tough job.
Excommunication was all Paul could do to stop Alexander and Hymenaeus from their unnamed malevolence. Satan’s domain, the godless world, was where he sent these men, to protect the church. They made their choice.
Touchy verses about women in chapter 2: In that culture, (and in some today), men and women sat in separate sections. In this church, women apparently interrupted sermons by shouting questions and comments to their husbands during the service; disconcerting for husbands and preachers!
Biblical headship for men in church and family life may raise eyebrows (or ire). Eve was the first to sin, but Adam lunged for that apple, too, with results we still suffer under. Women married for protection, arranged without romantic illusions, a business exchange. Children enlarged family lines (this is the only reference to ‘salvation’ in having children, and not a norm). Christian marriage and parenthood, though, are entirely different. (Eph. 5).
Apply Increasing anti-authority starting in the 60s turned the unique roles of men and women upside down. Not all women have children; salvation doesn’t depend on this, but nurturing blesses mothers called to this role. Singleness limits, but not in what Christ has done for all who follow and love Him -- the best ‘gender equality’ going. It’s a tough verse!
“Submit” = “respect” for all authority, despite social hubris. Respect and courtesy are rarities now but we work against the trafficking of present cultural norms. As the world becomes more rude, selfish, angry, immoral, unethical, and downright confused, this is our training ground, and even with our children must fight the good fight. Prayer. Prayer. It’s hard slogging sometimes. We have God, we have each other. We have qualities of respect and love through Jesus. It’s more than enough!
Ask Do we recognize the priorities of our spiritual leaders? Do we encourage, love, pray for them as they do us, or go negative when things don’t please us? How do we fight the good fight with them and not fight against them? What equipment do we need? (Eph 6 has a good list.)
Pray We praise You, Lord God, that You bless us with sound teaching and committed teachers. Thank You for the holy challenge of reading Your Word in its entirety this year by Your Holy Spirit. As we hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest what is true and good through Your appointed ministers, please fit us[LM2] to pass these on to others so they too may meet, love, and obey You. In Jesus’ name.
Song https://youtu.be/5fWcGe7wzd4- Michael Joncas
https://youtu.be/-TIgfoH_mzk Fernando Ortega
2 Thessalonians 1-3 (Psalm 18)
I encourage you to watch the video summary of this book, (click here).
To understand these New Testament letters, when they describe and consider Christ’s return, it is good to remember what we learnt from the prophets of the Old Testament. The Day of the Lord will come suddenly (unexpectedly), it will be cosmic and unmistakable, and it will be a time of judgement. The Thessalonians are under persecution and are being subjected to speculation that this Day has already come. Paul clearly tells them the contrary and explains how their suffering for Christ will prove worthwhile; they will be worthy of God’s Kingdom whereas those who refuse God, and persecute the Church, will face eternal punishment.
Paul goes on to describe what will occur before and at Christ’s return. Evil, delusions and lawlessness will increase and culminate in the arrival of the ‘man of lawlessness,’ (see further under application). Jesus will defeat all, true judgement will arrive, and God’s Kingdom will come in full.
Finally there is a warning against idleness which leads to problems and sin. This may be simply a practical warning but may also refer to a way of life in the culture of the day.
These big and serious topics are wonderfully interlaced with prayers of encouragement, words of grace and reasons for hope (1: 3-4, 11-2; 2: 13-17; & 3: 1-5, 16). The Church is to endure and preserve in the certain hope of Christ. Peace and grace are their foundation on which they are to stand firm. They are encouraged to be a thankful Church whose faith grows strong and whose love increases.
End times writings and prophecies often cause speculation and concern. In some ways that is what they are meant to do; we should be concerned about and ready for Christ’s return, we should be reading the times that we are in and acting accordingly (Matt. 16:3).
The ‘man of lawlessness’ has been understood in differing ways. To name two: a cycle of growing evil that Jesus will completely overcome on His return (Bible Project Video for example); or as an actual individual, worse than those seen before (an antichrist 1 John 2: 18, 22; 4:3). Personally I remain open to what it may mean but favour the growing cycle of evil as that is what I see in our history and it fits with Christ’s words on this matter (Matt. 24 esp. vs. 33). Speculation and fretfulness over end times and application to current context can be harmful or beneficial. Negatively it can lead to false prophecies, division, unrest of hearts and minds, and an incorrect and unhealthy focus; we can forget our hope in Christ and purpose as a Church. In a positive way it can cause us to fix our eyes on Jesus, strengthen our faith in His hope, live in readiness and reassure us that God is Sovereign.
Truth to aid us in the positive: the time is only known to God the Father (Matt. 24: 36); there is purpose in this situation and it’s delay (2 Peter 3: 9-11); there is evil in the world but Jesus in us is greater than anything (1 John 4: 4); God is Sovereign (Eph. 1: 11b); and His Victory is assured (2 Thess. 2: 8).
The Question of Application
There is much in our readings today about false truths, delusions, counterfeit signs and deception. In our current situation what may be deceiving you and causing anxiety? How might a right focus on the truth of Christ reassure you and grow your faith?
May our God make us worthy of His calling, that by His power He may bring to fruition our every desire for goodness and our every deed prompted by faith. May the Lord Jesus guide our hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. All this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in us, and us in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
From 1 Thess. 11-12 & 3: 5
Days of Elijah by Robin Mark
The Lion and the Lamb by Bethel Music
November 23th – 1 Thessalonians 5
Observe: In Chapter 5, reminds the Thessalonians that when Jesus returns, it will be suddenly and without warning. In the previous chapters, Paul had spoken to them about the resurrection and the second coming of Christ, so he says how pointless it is to wonder about the particular time of Christ’s coming, which will be sudden and terrible for the wicked, but comfortable for the saints. They should, therefore, live their lives in a constant state of readiness to greet Him. Paul encourages them to continue living as children of the light, doing all the things they have been doing as true followers of Jesus. They must not allow themselves to be like those who still live in darkness, doing the sinful things they do in the dark. Paul again uses the metaphor of the armour of God similar to his letter to the Ephesians (Eph 5:13-17), when he tells them to put on their faith and love as a breastplate and their hope of salvation as a helmet.
Paul closes his letter to the church with a number of exhortations. First, he gives them a general list: they are to acknowledge and support God’s workers among them; to remain in unity; to provide each other with what they need; and to be patient and kind to all. Then he lists a trio of exhortations related to a worshipful heart: to always rejoice; to continue in prayer; and to give thanks in every situation. Finally, Paul turns his attention to an exhortation designed to ensure they do not “quench” the Spirit. They must not despise prophecies, but rather, they are to evaluate them and embrace what is good and reject what is evil.
Paul ends his letter with a directive to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.
Interpret: Paul was with the Thessalonians only for a few short weeks (Acts 17:2), but in that time he taught them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ including the end times and His glorious return. Paul tells them that they have nothing to fear from the coming of the day of the Lord. Therefore, they should live their lives in harmony with all that that day stands for. Such an approach to life demonstrates faith in God who guides our lives. No one knows the exact hour a thief will come, but we must live in a general preparation against thieves. Those who are not in darkness, Christians, who live as the people of the light and of the day, they are ready for the return of Jesus. Because we do not belong to the night nor to the darkness, their spiritual condition should never be marked by “sleep” like other people. Spiritually speaking, we need to be active and aware, to “watch and be sober.”(v6)
Paul urges them to recognize and support their leaders, “who work hard among you” (v12). They are to be loved because of their work. Leaders are recognized not by their title but by their service. A title is fine, but only if the title is true and if the title describes what that person really is before God.
When Paul warns against quenching the Spirit (v19), he is referring to the work that the Spirit is doing in them and through them. One of the ways God was working in them was by pouring out the prophetic Spirit among them, which was widespread among the early churches (1 Cor. 14:1, 5, 26-31). The Old Testament often associated the Spirit with prophetic inspiration, so “Do not quench the Spirit” is admonition not to demean prophecy when it comes to them.
However, Paul understands that not all prophecies or messages are from God. Not only that, but, they may hear something that really is from God, yet misunderstand or miscommunicate it. In other words, “we know and prophesy in part (1 Cor. 13:9). Therefore, he tells them to “test all things” (v21) so that they may discern God’s will Then, after evaluating these messages, they should embrace what is good and reject what is evil (v21-22). Paul may have meant this final warning specifically for prophecy, but even so, they must be applied in a more general way to all situations and events.
Application: The exact timing of the return of Jesus Christ to gather His people to Himself will be a surprise to everybody, because no one knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36). But for faithful Christians, it will not be a complete surprise because we live in anticipation of His return. Just as no one knows the exact hour that a thief will come, we can live in a general preparation against thieves. Those who love the Lord, wear His armour and live as the sons and daughters of light. These followers of Christ will be the ones most ready for the return of Jesus. We prepare ourselves by spending time with the Lord in quietness and prayer. We prepare by reading and studying scripture. We prepare by following the Lord’s command to help those who are the least able to help themselves.
But if we are in darkness, as the world lives in darkness, perhaps caught up in some of the sins or idolatry that Paul warned against previously in this letter, then we will not be ready, and need to make ourselves ready for the return of Jesus through earnest repentance.
When Paul speaks of Christians being asleep, as the world is asleep, there is so much that belongs to the world, the non-believers, but should not belong to Christians. Sleep implies ignorance, but we know the truth of the Gospel. Sleep implies insensibility, but we are alive in Christ. Sleep implies defenselessness, but we have the armour of God. Sleep implies inactivity, but we have work that God has planned for us, and the Holy Spirit to guide and encourage us in that work.
We have what the world wants but doesn’t know it…Jesus.
Questions: Have you fallen asleep spiritually by preferring the old patterns of doing things over what God is doing now, or by deliberately being disobedient?
Prayer: Father God, we ask your forgiveness for all the times we have fallen asleep and followed the ways of the world. We thank you for your great mercy and patience with us, and for the unmatched joy and love we find when we enter into your presence, which is only possible through the sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in whose holy name we pray. Amen.
Song: Jesus – Chris Tomlin
Note – The Sermon focusing on the letters to the Thessalonians will be on Dec 12th. It comes at a later time in the sermon series due to the End Times content; which connects with Revelation.
OBSERVE: Within these two chapters we observe the following:
INTERPRET: When Timothy brought a report from his visit to the Thessalonians, he brought good news. This good news was that the Thessalonians were doing well in their faith and love. Paul expresses his joy that the Thessalonians are enduring persecution faithfully, and he prays that they will continue to grow in the faith.
The next chapter begins to address points that Paul wants to clarify. The first of these points is the need to grow in good works. The next point is to avoid living immorally. Paul is making these points because they are to be set apart by living in these ways. Paul then dispels some false gossip rumors about the resurrection. Paul emphasizes that no one who is in Christ will miss out on the resurrection; whether dead or alive.
APPLICATION: Paul’s reaction to the good news that Timothy brought back about the Thessalonians should be an example for us all. Paul felt great joy when hearing about the endurance of their faith; even providing encouragement to Paul in times of distress and persecution. This joy then expressed itself into prayer for their future well-being.
As members on one united body; we should all experience this same joy when one of our brothers and sisters are doing well in the faith. When someone in the family of believers grows in faith and love; it only helps the body as a whole. It is in this joy for others; that we can experience great joy in the presence of the Lord like Paul did. Our genuine hope should be that we will all experience the glorious resurrection on the Day of the Lord.
REFLECTION: Do you find great joy in the spiritual well-being of others? Do you often pray for the continued well-being of others?
PRAYER: Gracious Lord; thank you for all of my brothers and sisters in the faith. May you continue to do a great work in them; helping them all to grow in their faith and love. I ask that you fill me with more joy in all of their victories; and may this joy encourage myself in times of distress. In the wonderful name of Jesus I pray. AMEN
SONG: Thessalonians Song
Colossians 1-2 begin with an introduction by Paul during one of his many imprisonments to a group of people in Colossus whom he had never met. He rejoices in thanksgiving that this church has been growing in love of Christ and demonstrating that love to one another as they continue to hope in the life to come. This is followed by a prayer that they would continue to grow in wisdom and understanding, being strengthened with all power according to God’s glorious might, that they might joyfully endure whatever life throws at them.
Following this, Paul lays out a theologically dense and compact poem that tells all about the crucified and resurrected Christ. The first stanza tells how Jesus is first over all creation and is divine, how everything was made through Him and one day all things will bow before Him. He is also the head of a new body, the church, and it is in Him that we find the glorious presence of God as we are reconciled to Him by His death on the cross. Going on, Paul rejoices in his sufferings knowing that by them he is participating in the suffering Christ underwent. His punishment for proclaiming the Gospel is a badge of honour.
Paul then lays out warnings that these Colossians must not be drawn astray from the good news of Jesus Christ and follow after the pantheists and pagans, or those who seek to dilute the Gospel by following the now-obsolete Torah Law. He explains that Christ’s life and death and resurrection fulfilled the Law that we ought to trust in Him instead of the Law for our righteousness, that no following of the Law can save.
I know Philippians is Paul’s most joyful letter but I’ve found the letter to the Colossians just as uplifting. These two chapters alone are a great way to start each day, each week, and prove as a pattern after which we can model our minds and behaviour. Reading chapters one and two, we ourselves should start each day, each quiet time of prayer, or anything else with thanksgiving followed by acknowledging our need for wisdom and understanding. We ought to ask God routinely for the ability to understand His will and for increased humility and strength to obey it!
It is also of supreme worth to remind ourselves exactly who Christ is, “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Always keep one eye or more on the bigger picture during your prayers. It is of the utmost importance for our prayer life to keep Christ as the number one priority and, as much as we ought to be diligent in all things, not to get distracted and weighed down by the nitty gritty. So often we find ourselves putting God aside to focus on ourselves, but that is an unholy priority. God wants us to keep our eyes on Him in utmost trust and faith that HE will take care of us and bring us along. We gain nothing by shutting Him out and becoming self-centered. Colossians reminds us of the place in which we ought to put Christ.
Following this we have healthy reminder that suffering is not an alien experience to humanity but was indeed the means by which Christ reconciled us to God. It is not something to intentionally seek out or to run away from, but we must not be surprised when we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. That’s because Christ has overcome the world and has shared in our suffering. On top of that, we know that He uses all things to the good of those who love Him, and that whatever comes our way in life will be shed when we step from our fallen humanity into His glorious, eternal presence!
With this in mind, Paul reminds us not to go chasing after supplements to our faith or let in anything that would dilute our dependence on Christ. Here we find firm and reliable words of the utter and comprehensive salvation given to those who turn to Him and that nothing of the flesh can compete with having the power that raised Christ from the dead also working in you.
Finally, we must not think more of ourselves than we ought. Here we find another key reminder that we are to submit to Christ and that which He asks us to do, even though it goes against our flesh. We should be so sold out to Christ that whatever it is He requires of us should find no competition in our sinful selves. We must watch for those who have the appearance of wisdom but ultimately promote themselves, but seek that which comes from God and promotes the unity and health of His body, this Church.
I would encourage everyone who reads this to try this pattern of prayer and see how the Lord works with you in it!
Take another read of Colossians 1-2: What sort of prayer pattern can you see there? What sort of changes would you make and why?
Dear Father, thank you for providing so much for us not only in the words of this book but also the ultimate act of love and salvation. Please help us to engage more deeply in prayer and chase after you as our greatest desire, laying aside everything else and rejoicing in your presence. Amen!
Song: Goodness of God (Bethel Music)
Philippians 3-4 (Ps. 12) Lynne McCarthy 11/18/21
Observe: Written to a persecuted church and from Paul’s imprisonment, these chapters radiate God’s joy and glory. Paul insists that faith in Christ, not works, is righteousness (3:1-11). Rejoice in the Lord. (1) Always! Repeat! A watchword, a motto. But he also warns the Philippians about false teachers who would imprison them again in old ways of doing and being (3).
Paul’s credentials are impeccable, and he lays out his resume to prove it: Jewish to the core, strict in observing the Law, a Pharisee, even persecuting the church. Yet for him these (human) accomplishments are worth nothing compared to being in fellowship with Christ. He needs no further proving; Christ is his centre, and that’s everything (7-11). Again, he speaks of the coming of Jesus, transforming lowly bodies into Christ’s (20,21) – encouragement and future joy for citizens of His country. (20)
Then, final greetings and instructions in Chapter 4. After admonishing two women disciples to reconcile despite their differences comes another explosion – Rejoice in the Lord! Always! (7) Repeat! Again! I say, rejoice! Set the mind upward on things good, positive, beautiful, Godly. The promises of deep, incomprehensible peace refit minds and hearts to His love. (10)
Paul thanks the Philippian church for providing for his needs, expressing contentment in any situation (10-13) And as is his custom, his final greetings bless us, too.
Interpret: Paul’s Christ-centred, hard life brims over with rejoicing. Setting minds on what is good isn’t Oprah-feel-good, but the most healing, foundational, relationally sound way to live, because this is from God. Contentment is a rare character trait in our frenzied times; Paul shows us how to acquire it (4:11-13).
Themes of joy in hardship, humility, love, service, hope beyond suffering, and God's glory tie in to Pastor Dave’s sermon of October 17. Consistently living in Jesus, who gave Himself up in love for others, is witness beyond words. Heart and head work jointly to spread God’s love by knowing Him, loving others in the Spirit even if disagreeing. Paul endured much for the sake of Christ, but it was so worth it for him. It is and will be for us, too.
Apply: We need a firm grip on the Lord, coming daily to Him in prayer, repentance, thanks, not relying on emotions but intentionally looking to Him. We overlay the grid of our minds on God’s goodness even while struggling against old patterns – a real challenge in the confusion and discord around us. This takes practice, but the Spirit puts our minds and hearts into rejoicing mode.
Good thoughts! We look for these, especially when surrounded by negative cultural, spiritual, relational influences. The list in 4:8 describes character; imagine so describing our selves! But as the Spirit leads us to will and think newly, hearts and minds gradually re-form by grace and the Spirit’s action. It’s called, perhaps, ‘obedience’.
Ask: After months of separation from fellowship, am I ready for the Lord’s renewing work in and among us, or am I content with It’s How We Always Dunnit So Why Change? How will I remain in unity with others in His renewed church, full of His truth and love? How will I rejoice, always? What do I take away from this short, significant letter?
Pray: Lord Jesus, thank you that You are at hand – now and to come. There’s no cause for anxiety or panic even in these most confusing times because You are always near. I bring my prayers and requests to you with humble thanks, knowing Your unexplainable peace guards my heart and mind and life in the safe haven of Your presence. Help me by Your Spirit and Your grace to think upward thoughts, beginning and ending in You, to demonstrate the Real Joy that is Your extraordinary gift.
https://youtu.be/pTTlSx6zXio Graham Kendrick
https://youtu.be/x_Ch1gD7SkU Debra Arnott
https://youtu.be/GikC3W2ynjA Two Door Cinema Club
https://youtu.be/KIy3KBRoBaM Brentwood Benson
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”
Philippians 2: 1-2
Philippians 1-2 (Psalm 11)
This is a letter of encouragement and thanksgiving, coupled with a call to remain united. Paul had helped start the Church in Philippi, a town full of veteran Roman soldiers as this was a Roman colony. It was a commercial centre due to its history as a mining location. Paul had personally faced much persecution there and illegal imprisonment; the Church was now facing the same (Acts 16) (1: 29-30).
In this shared experience there clearly was a bond and good relationship with Paul; the Church had sent Epaphroditus to care for Paul. His letter overflows with love for them. And there is joy! In these opening chapters we see joy in: prayer; mercy; seeing the Gospel preached; faith; in news of a loved one; and even in suffering…..even joy that the gospel is preached by people with false motives, because it IS being preached. Paul then demonstrates an incredible conviction of mindset; for to him, to live is Christ, to die is gain (1: 21). Whilst imprisoned and possibly facing death he would be happy to live to serve Christ and bless others; or to die and be fully with Christ, WOW! He explains that, for the Church and himself, they both have been granted the privilege of belief in Christ and suffering for Him.
This should lead to a sense and reality of unity in Christ. Jesus being the source of comfort and encouragement, dwelling within them by His Spirit and so bringing about a oneness of mind and purpose (2: 1-4). The encouragement then is to imitate Christ’s attitude of obedience, humility, self-sacrifice and love (2: 5-11). In this unity and Christ-like living the signs of salvation will be present in witness and growth; the Church and individual must continually mature (2: 12-18).
Suffering is a reality of life. Often we are the cause of our own discomfort, sometimes it is others, and sometimes circumstances beyond our control. Whatever the situation, we have God’s reassurance that He will use it for our good (Romans 8: 28). In this letter we see Paul and the Church suffering because of their faith. This actually strengthens their faith, unity and amazingly promotes joy. They grasped the overriding priority and reality of eternity with Christ. They understood what they faced in light of this truth. The encouragement then for us is to mirror their attitude and mindset. In doing so we will be imitating Jesus Himself (as described above). Our motive is for unity with Christ, and one another, through and in His Spirit. If this seems a step to far or simply too hard, be encouraged; God will finish His work in us (1: 6), and God works in us to act according to His will and purpose (2: 13). Jesus has gone before us and will walk with us every step of the way AND we have each other.
The Question of Application
Read 2: 1-4. What false motives need surrendering to Christ (3-4) what genuine motives need enhancing (1-2)?
And this is our prayer: that our love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that we may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God. Amen
From Philippians 1: 9-11
The Servant King by Graham Kendrick
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.