Pastor's Corner - April 23rd, 2021
I've been studying through the book of Philippians this week, and spending time meditating on and considering the mind of God and His dwelling in us, and what that means for us as believers in a world that is growing ever more challenging.
The book of Philippians is believed be the last of the epistles that Paul wrote to congregations, being written while he was imprisoned in Rome in probably 62 AD. In the book, Paul writes of the joy which the brethren bring him, and the confidence he has in his chains - and the confidence his chains have inspired in the brethren in Rome. That the imprisonment which he received furthered the Gospel of Christ.
He writes an incredible statement in Philippians 1:19-26
"For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again."
Paul had come to the realization that in the end - Christ would be magnified whether he lived, or whether he died. Whether he spent the rest of his days in chains, or gave his life for the Gospel of God, the glory of God would be magnified either by his death or in the release from his chains and the furtherance of the gospel. Paul was torn between the two in his own mind - desiring to depart this physical life and await the resurrection, but recognizing the nature of his role here at this time.
But what is incredible to me as I read the book of Philippians is how Paul concluded - either way, it will work out in the end.
All too often in our human lives - we become so insistent on controlling events and when life is outside of our control, we respond in a variety of different ways. Sometimes we do everything we can to control the situation through our own efforts, strong-arming people, relationships, or situations in order to force them to work like we had it planned in our heads... or perhaps we get upset and angry because we have little to no direct control over the situation, and lash out at others in the process. Sometimes we just get bitter and upset, complaining and growing ever more resentful of the situation as a result. None of these options are ideal for the relationships that we have with others.
Paul sets an incredible example as he faces circumstances outside of his control, writing encouragement to the Church at Philippi, and to Philemon, Titus and Timothy during those years he was imprisoned.
In Philippians 2:3-8, he encourages the readers to:
"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."
Encouraging the readers not to focus on themselves - not to focus on their own wants and desires, but to focus on the needs of those around them. To get out of the mindset of focusing inward, and focusing outward instead. Framing each interaction with "how can I serve this person today?" humbly yielding to, and obeying the Spirit of God within us.
He goes on in verses 14-16 to sum up the idea of what the mind of Christ looks like in us, even today:
"Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain."
Complaints and disputing is one of the first signs of a focus that is inward, instead of a focus that is outward. A situation in which we are overly concerned with ourselves, and our feelings, comfort, position, opinions, and the like will result in a situation with complaints and disputes.
Paul's example - as recorded in Philippians - where he sits in his chains in a Roman jail and concludes that whatever happens, will be for the glory of God is a bright example for us all as we experience situations outside of our control. The mind of God, and focusing on that mind of God dwelling in us through His holy spirit - enables us to have an humble attitude of lowliness of mind, esteeming others better than ourselves. It enables us to focus on the interests of others, over our own. It helps us to become obedient children of God, with our minds fully girded, sober and resting our hope on the grace God has given us as Peter describes in 1st Peter 1:13-14.
But most importantly - that mindset and that focus draws us ever nearer to our great God.
I hope you all have a wonderful Sabbath!