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
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.