Philippians 3:12-21

Divine Discontentment.

Philippians 3:12-21

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. – Philippians 3:12 NLT

Paul is the one who wrote, “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6 NIV). He knew that discontentment was a dangerous thing in the life of a believer. The context of that verse is important to understanding what Paul was saying. He was addressing the love of money and the mistaken understanding of some in the church who believed that a life of godliness was going to bring them financial gain. Paul was telling Timothy that godliness should produce contentment in the life of a believer, not an insatiable desire for worldly goods. If you have something to wear and food to eat, that should be enough to keep you content and satisfied.

But there was also a part of Paul that was constantly dissatisfied. He displayed a divine discontentment, but it had nothing to do with material things. His discontentment was spiritual in nature. Paul was never willing to rest on his laurels or grow content with and complacent about his spiritual maturity. He was always striving toward a deeper and greater relationship with Christ. He wanted to know Him more intimately, conform to Him more completely, and reflect His holiness more readily. Paul was far from content when it came to his spiritual life, and he expected other believers to share his passion for ever-increasing perfection. Paul knew he had been justified completely by Christ and would one day be glorified with Christ. But in the meantime, his attitude was, “I press on to possess the perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me” (Philippians 3:12b NLT). The Greek word Paul uses that is translated “press on” is dioko, and it means “to pursue, to seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavor to acquire.” It is an active verb that was used of a runner competing in a race who runs swiftly to reach a goal. Paul knew that he would one day be made perfect in Christ when he experienced glorification with Christ. But that was a future event that would take place at his death or with the Lord’s return. So in the meantime, Paul pursued perfection. He was not content to remain as he was. The goal for Paul was always Christ-likeness – ever-increasing conformity to the character and nature of Christ. He knew that the goal would only be achieved at the end of his life or at the return of Christ, but he kept his eyes focused on the end line.

Paul says, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14 ESV). The Greek word for goal is skopos, and it means “goal marker, the object at the end of the course on which the runner fixes his gaze.” For Paul the goal was not heaven, but complete knowledge of Christ and conformity to His image. Paul wanted all believers to share that same goal. He didn’t want them to get distracted by the things of this world. His desire was that their lives would be possessed by a holy discontentment, not a worldly one. That’s why he described some “whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth” (Philippians 3:18-19 NLT). There were a growing number of individuals outside and inside the early church who were “anti-law.” They believed that it really didn’t matter how a Christian lived their life because they were saved. There was no law. They took the idea of freedom from the law to an unhealthy extreme. These people were driven by their passions. They were shameless and obsessed with the things of this life. Their satisfaction was based on earthly, temporal things. Any discontentment they experienced was only because they wanted more of what this world had to offer.

But Paul reminds his readers, “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior” (Philippians 3:20 NLT). Paul reminded them to remember who they were and what the real goal was. They were to never forget about their future glorification and perfection. And in the meantime, they were to live with a healthy sense of divine discontentment, keeping their eyes on the goal and running towards it with everything they had in them.

Father, it is so easy to make this life and all that it offers, the goal. We can so easily become transfixed by the things of this world and end up seeking them more than we do our relationship with Christ. Paul was never content to stay where he was spiritually. He was always striving, pursuing, eagerly seeking, and working his way toward the final goal. He was not content to wait for his future glorification, but made knowing Christ and conforming to His image, his lifelong obsession. May that be true of me as well. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Philippians 3:1-11

Knowing Christ.

Philippians 3:1-11

I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! – Philippians 3:10-11 NLT

What a fascinating and somewhat confusing series of verses these are. In verses 10 and 11, Paul actually stresses three things that he has made it his aim to know. In the Greek, the sentence would literally read, “to know him, the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings.” So Paul wanted to know all three. The Greek word he uses is not just intellectual or “head” knowledge. It conveys an intimacy and experiential aspect to it. The Jews actually used this same word to refer to sexual intercourse between a woman and a man. There is no question that Paul knew Christ. He had come to know Him years ago on the road to Damascus. But Paul had a desire to grow in his knowledge of God, and he seems to link the three things he mentions in these verses together. Knowing Christ, the power that raised Him from the dead, and sharing in His sufferings. For Paul, they all went together and were essential elements for a vibrant relationship with Christ.

Intimacy with Christ will include a ever-increasing replication of the character and qualities of Christ. Paul wanted it all. He was not content to have a surface-level awareness of Christ. He wanted to truly know Him. He wanted to experience the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. He knew he had that power available within him in the form of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you” (Romans 8:11 NLT). Paul wanted to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in his life on a daily basis. He wanted to know what it was like to be raised from death to life, from not just at the resurrection from the dead, but here and now – in this life. And Paul wanted to know and experience the same kind of suffering Jesus had experienced. He wanted to share in the sufferings of Christ, learning first-hand what it was like to undergo trials and tribulations all for the sake of obedience to the Father.

It’s interesting that Paul makes this statement at the end of a section where he addresses the false hope of human effort. As he has had to do elsewhere in his ministry, Paul was addressing the problem of circumcision. The believers in Philippi were being hounded by converted Jews, known as Judaizers, who were trying to convince them that they had to become “card-carrying” Jews if they wanted to truly be saved. This meant that all males had to be circumcised, and everyone had to keep all the Jewish laws and rituals. Paul stood vehemently against all of this. He would stand for nothing that added to the simplicity of the Gospel message of faith alone in Christ alone. There was absolutely no place for works or human effort. If merit or achievement were the standard, then he had a resume like no other. He was a Jew, a Pharisee, a keeper of the law, and even a persecutor of the church. But as far as Paul was concerned, all of that was literal garbage compared with knowing Christ as His Savior. Paul was no longer a law-keeper, attempting to make himself right with God through self-effort. He was a Christ-follower, relying on the work that Christ completed on the cross for his sake. “For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9 NLT).

So for Paul, human achievement was dead-end street. It achieved nothing and provided a false sense of hope. Knowing Christ was everything. Growing in his awareness and understanding of His Savior was the highest priority for Paul. He wanted to know in his own life the same kind of power that had raised Jesus from death to life. Paul wasn’t interested in some kind of sterile, intellectual knowledge. He wanted to experience the power of God in his life, even if that meant having to suffer. As Paul stated earlier in chapter two, “When he appeared in human form,he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names” (Philippians 2:7-9 NLT). For Jesus, humility, suffering and obedience preceded glorification and honor. The same should be true for us as His followers. Paul wanted to experience what Jesus had experienced. He wanted his life to be marked by the same qualities and attitudes that Jesus had. The power of God showed up in Jesus’ life at the worst possible moment – in His death. Jesus experienced the presence of the Spirit even in His greatest times of suffering. It was how He survived the ordeals surrounding His trials and crucifixion. Paul wanted to know what it meant to experience those same things. So should we. Suffering as a result of our faith lends our walk a sense of legitimacy. It is proof of our fellowship with Christ. It also provides an opportunity for the power of God to show up in our lives. When we are weak, He is strong. God shows up in our darkest moments. His light illuminates our darkest days. Paul wanted to know Christ. He wanted to experience the power of God in his life. And he wanted to share in the sufferings of Christ in order to understand and appreciate what Christ had done for him. Every other goal or achievement is worthless in comparison. But how odd these words sound in our happiness-obsessed, comfort-at-all-costs society. What a difference it would make in our lives and in our world if the words of Paul became our daily prayer: “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!”

Father, these are hard words. I want to know Your Son better, but I am not fond of suffering. I want to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in my life, but I am not always willing to let go of my own power and rely completely on His. I want all that a relationship with Christ offers, but I still hold on tightly to what I think this world has to offer as well. Continue to work on my life, giving me the capacity to view life the way Paul did. So that one day I might be able to express his words with equal enthusiasm. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Philippians 2:19-30

Real Men.

Philippians 2:19-30

I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. – Philippians 2:20-21 NLT

What does a real Christian look like? How do they behave? What are the characteristics of their life? In these verses, Paul gives a glimpse into the lives of two men who meant a great deal to him. They were his brothers in Christ and his fellow workers in the mission to which God had called him. Timothy and Epaphroditus, while not household names to most of us, were icons of spiritual virtue in Paul’s mind. He couldn’t have done what he did without them. And he commends both of them to the believers in Philippi as men whom they could not only trust, but emulate. Both were evidently young men, but that didn’t stop Paul from praising their value and virtues as men of God.

Paul described Timothy as one of a kind, who showed genuine care for the people in Philippi. He didn’t view his efforts on their behalf as work, but legitimately cared for their spiritual, emotional and physical well-being. Paul then describes what appears to be a consistent problem among leadership within the early church at that time. “All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:21 NLT). I don’t think Paul is saying that there is no one else who cares, but that there is a prevailing presence of self-centeredness among many within the church, especially among the leadership. Sadly, It was a rare thing to find a believer who puts the interests of Christ before his own. Timothy was such a man. Timothy had served Paul well, and had become like a son to him. Paul even referred to Timothy as “my true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2 NLT). He was a faithful, loving, reliable, godly young man who modeled Christ-likeness and ministered faithfully alongside Paul even at his darkest moments. He was a real man.

Paul describes Epaphroditus as “a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier” (Philippians 2:25 NLT). He had visited Paul while he was under house arrest in Rome, bringing a financial gift on behalf of the Philippian believers. Paul was sending Epaphroditus back to them because he was anxious to see his friends and fellow believers back home. And Epaphroditus wanted to put to rest any concerns over his physical well-being, because he had been ill, but had now fully recovered. Upon Epaphroditus’ return home, Paul encourages the believers in Philippi to “welcome him with Christian love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve” (Philippians 2:29 NLT). Obviously, Paul thought highly of Epaphroditus. He had risked his life for the cause of Christ, having been close to death, all in order to serve Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome. Paul appreciated and valued men like Timothy and Epaphroditus. He knew that he could not accomplish the ministry without them. He was under house arrest, unable to travel, and restricted from ministering to the various churches he had helped plant around the world. He had to depend on faithful men like Timothy and Epaphroditus to be his hands, feet, eyes, and voice; delivering his messages and expressing his love for the body of Christ.

The church today needs men and women of character like Timothy and Epaphroditus. There is a shortage of reliable, faithful, loving and selfless individuals who put the needs of the body of Christ ahead of their own. Paul knew that men like Timothy were going to be constantly tempted to compromise their character, and the same thing is true in our day. So Paul warned this young man, “But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:11-12 NLT). The church needs men and women like that today, who have that same attitude and focus. The church needs to raise up and recognize those kinds of leaders, men and women who are willing to risk their reputations, careers, comfort and even their lives for the cause of Christ. While men like Paul were vital to the church in those early days, the spread of the Gospel was dependent upon men like Timothy and Epaphroditus for its long-term survival and success. They were the faithful foot soldiers in the battle for the lives of men. And we need more like them today.

Father, raise up more men and women like Timothy and Epaphroditus today. Show us who they are. Help us to find those who have the selfless, sacrificial attitudes like those men had. Too often, we look for the wrong things in our leaders. Give us the insight that Paul had, so that we might recognize those men and women who have the true heart of a leader – like that of Christ Himself. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Philippians 2:12-18

Shining Brighter Together.

Philippians 2:12-18

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world. – Philippians 2:14-15 NET

According to Paul, our lives should reflect the reality of our salvation. Jesus didn’t just reserve us a permanent place in the life to come. He provided a means by which we can experience abundant life in this life – right here, right now. He has placed His Spirit within us so that we have no excuse if our lives fail to reflect our new nature. But some of us are a bit surprised when we learn that living the Christian life is hard work. I’m not quite sure where we got the impression that becoming a Christ-follower was going to be easy. It certainly wasn’t for the disciples, Paul, or any of the members of the early church. Paul was brutally honest about the high call to commitment required of all believers. He told the Philippians, “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear” (Philippians 2:12b NLT). A more familiar translation of that passage might be, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Either way you look at it, there is a clear responsibility given to the believer to do his or her part in the process of sanctification. While it is true that we can no more sanctify ourselves than we can save ourselves, there is still a vital part that we are to play in the process of our transformation into Christ-likeness.

One of the key words left out in the New Living Translation’s reading of this passage is the word, “therefore” that appears at the very beginning of verse 12. It is the Greek word hoste, a word of transition that means, “now then.” It ties the verses to come with the ones that just preceded it. Paul had just finished talking about the mind of Christ. His was an attitude of humility, service and sacrifice. And as a result of His life of obedience, even unto death, God elevated Him to the place of highest honor. He is worthy of honor and glory. His name is above all other names. He is the Lord of all – the one who all will eventually recognize and kneel before. As a result of that fact, Paul tells the Philippians, their behavior should be different. They should want to put every effort into seeing to it that their salvation, placing their trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior, will produce fruit. Paul tells them to work out their salvation, not work for it. There’s a huge difference between those two phrases. Believers are to eagerly put effort into the cultivation of their new life in Christ. Paul told Titus, “all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good” (Titus 3:8 NLT). As always when reading the letters of Paul, we must constantly remind ourselves to keep the content within its context. Paul is writing to the church – the corporate body of believers in Philippi. He has been telling them to not live selfishly, focusing on their own interests, but instead they were to focus on the needs of one another. They were to love one another and work together with one mind and purpose. Paul is still addressing the body of believers. He is calling the church to display the reality of their salvation through tangible acts of kindness, compassion and love.

When Paul tells them to “do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world,” he is speaking to the entire body, not just to individuals. This passage is a call to Christ-like community. We shine the brightest as believers when we do so together, not alone. The Christian life is to be a corporate experience, not a solitary one. We are children of God together, not just individually. How sad it is when our earthly children can’t get along. Think about how much it saddens you as a parent when your own children can’t seem to get along. How much more so for God when His adopted children, who have been given so much, fail to love another and live in harmony with one another.

Paul tells his readers to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. There should be a real sense of awe, reverence and legitimate fear in the lives of all believers when they consider what Christ has done for them. Paul describes Christ as being in the place of highest honor. He has the name that is above all other names. One day all men will kneel before Him, acknowledging His Lordship. The day is coming when every tongue in heaven and on earth will confess that He is the Lord. As believers, because of what has happened in our lives as a result of Christ’s work on the cross, we know exactly who He is right now. So we should pursue our own personal sanctification and that of the corporate body of Christ with a sense of awe, reverence and fear – for what He has done and what He is doing in our midst. Our lack of love and unity is a slap in the face of Christ Himself, reflecting our disdain for His sacrificial death on our behalf. Our failure to live as lights in the world discredit His redemptive work on the cross, giving the world the impression that His death was ineffectual. So because of who Christ is and what He has done, we should work out, pursue, and make as our highest priority, our ongoing transformation into His likeness. And nowhere does our Christ-like character show up best than in the community of fellow believers.

Father, Your Son has done so much for us, the least we can do for Him is to pursue our transformation into His likeness with a vengeance. Forgive us for making our transformation into His image a low priority, allowing too many other things to distract us. You have called us to be lights in this world, shining out and illuminating the darkness around us as we live out our lives in love and unity. We shine so much brighter when we shine together. Show us how to work out our salvation together. Show us how we can continue to grow in Christ-likeness together, not just alone. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Philippians 1:27-2:11

The Mind of Christ.

Philippians 1:27-2:11

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. – Philippians 2:3-5 NLT

Paul starts out this section with a reminder to “live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ” (Philippians 1:27 NLT). But because this statement could be taken in a thousand different ways, Paul clarifies what he means. For one thing, it entails “standing together with one spirit and one purpose fighting together for the faith” (Philippians 1:27b NLT). Living as a citizen of heaven involves living in unity as part of a community and sharing a common cause. There is to be a mutual care for and dependence upon one another as together we do battle against those forces that would oppose the Good News of Jesus Christ. And because we are in a war for the faith, Paul tells us not to allow ourselves to be intimidated by our enemies. They are real, but so is our God, who will stand beside us, fight for us, and ultimately save us. The battle in which we find ourselves is proof that our faith is real. Jesus Himself told us that we would suffer in this life. He also told us that the world would hate us. The battle is part of the cost and the privilege of following Christ. But we are to do it together, not alone.

Paul asks a series of rhetorical questions designed to accentuate the value of our relationship with Christ. “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate?” (Philippians 2:1 NLT). The obvious answer to each of these questions is, “Yes!” But we experience the encouragement, love, fellowship, and tender compassion in the midst of community. That is how God has chosen for this to work. The body of Christ is the context in which the love of Christ is lived out. It is the environment in which we are to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News. And Paul gives us a very vivid description of just what that should look like. It is to be characterized by a single-minded, unified expression of love, focus and purpose. While the local church is a unique blend of different individuals from diverse backgrounds, with a variety of gifts, talents, and personality types, it is to reflect a Spirit-enabled unity that is not of this world. To conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News is to live together in such a way that our actions and attitudes toward one another reflect the change that has taken place within us. Our new lives are to be characterized by selflessness rather than selfishness, humility rather than pride, a senses of mutual care rather than individual concern. The attitude or mindset that we are to have is the same one Jesus Himself displayed when He walked this earth. And Paul carefully and eloquently describes just what that mind of Christ was like.

Jesus, though God, willingly demoted Himself to the position of a man by taking on human flesh. He did not become any less God, but He left His place at the right hand of the Father and allowed Himself to be born as a human baby, the most helpless, dependent, weak and non-influential form He could have taken. Not only that, when Jesus was born, His whole intent was to become a slave to all men, to serve all men by giving His life as payment for their sins. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NLT). He came in order to take “the humble position of a slave.” And in His human form, His life was characterized by complete and total obedience to the will of His Father. “For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will” (John 6:38 NLT). “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work” (John 4:34 NLT). And the obedience of Jesus was so complete that it resulted in His death on the cross as a substitute payment for the sins of men. That was God’s plan and Jesus fulfilled it willingly and completely. Humility, selflessness, obedience. Those attributes represent the mindset that Jesus had and are to present in the lives of those who call themselves His followers. Paul tells us we are to have the same attitude or mindset. We are to reflect His character, and the most logical place for this to show up is within the body of Christ, the church. We are to live as citizens of heaven, which is where we will all spend eternity together. But we are to live that way here and now, conducting ourselves in a way that is in keeping with the life-changing, heart-altering power of the Gospel. We have been saved by Christ in order that we might live like Christ. Our greatest testimony is not just what He has done for us, but what He is doing through us as we live out our salvation in mutual love, selflessness, sacrifice, humility and unity. We truly are the hands, feet, heart, and voice of Christ on this earth. May we live as He did. May we love as He did. May we impact lives as He did. Together.

Father, give us the mind of Christ. May we learn to live our lives in such a way that they reflect His presence within us. Oh, that we would allow His Spirit to empower and direct us, causing us to live increasingly more selflessly, instead of selfishly. Show us how to live as citizens of heaven, where we will one day spend eternity together. Bring these verses alive in our daily lives in a real and tangible way. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Philippians 1:12-26

Motivated to Make a Difference.

Philippians 1:12-26

And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear. – Philippians 1:14 NLT

So much of life is about perspective. How we view the circumstances of life will strongly influence the way in which we react to them. And I’m not just talking about having a positive mental attitude. For Christians, there is a need for us to understand and view the world in which we live from a God-centered perspective. We must learn to see life from His vantage point and not our own. As human beings, we have a very limited perspective that tends to be short-sighted and happiness-focused. We struggle seeing and appreciating the longer-term benefits of what we may be going through at a given moment. Instead, we focus on the here-and-now discomfort or pain we may be experiencing at the time. And because we long to be happy and view happiness as some kind of inalienable right, anything that puts a crimp on our happiness quotient is seen as undesirable and, ultimately, unhelpful.

But Paul provides us with a different perspective. He paints a starkly different image of what it means to be a Christian in a fallen world. Paul was writing his letter to the Philippian believers while under house arrest in Rome, awaiting his trial. He gives us the background of his situation in Acts 28. “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain” (Acts 28:17-20 NLT). Paul is under arrest, not for breaking any civil law, but for preaching the Good News. His efforts to spread the message of salvation made available through Jesus Christ have caused him to end up in chains, under the constant eye of a Roman guard. But rather than respond in bitterness or anger over his circumstances, Paul responds with joy. He wrote, “everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News” (Philippians 1:12 NLT). Instead of bemoaning his lot in life, Paul took full advantage of it, writing many of his letters while under house arrest. He made the most of his time while in Rome, continuing to share the Gospel and holding meetings with the believers there in order to encourage them in their faith. Paul viewed his imprisonment as a blessing, a God-ordained opportunity to spread the Gospel in a nation that desperately needed to hear it. “For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ” (Philippians 1:13 NLT). I have no doubt in my mind that Paul was sharing the Gospel with each Roman guard assigned to keep an eye on him. They were HIS captive audience.

The book of Acts tells us, “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!” (Acts 28:30-31 NLT). Paul may have been confined, but he was far from constrained. He was bold in his witness for Christ, taking full advantage of his circumstances, and viewing them as God-ordained opportunities to trust and grow. Which is why he could write, “I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die” (Philippians 1:20b NLT). Paul had no idea when his trial would take place or what the outcome might be. He knew that death was a real possibility. But he didn’t fear death, because he had full confidence in where he was going. Paul’s whole motivation for life was to serve God and to spread the Gospel. He was driven to help others come to know Christ and to show them how to live lives that honored Christ. He knew that God had more for him to do and that it would be better for him to live so that he could continue his work. So he trusted that God would protect him and provide him with more opportunities to share the Gospel, whether there in Rome under house arrest, or as a result of eventually being acquitted of his crimes and set free. He told the Philippians, “I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith” (Philippians 1:25 NLT).

Paul had a refreshingly different outlook on life and the ability to see his circumstances from a God-focused perspective. As far as he was concerned, his life was in God’s hands. His circumstances were God-ordained. Like Joseph, Paul could have said to those Jews who had arranged for his arrest, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20 NLT). Paul was confident that his life was in God’s hands, regardless of his circumstances. He was right where God wanted him to be, so he was going to take full advantage of each and every opportunity – eagerly and joyfully.

Father, help me to have the perspective that Paul had. Too often I allow the circumstances surrounding my life to dictate my outlook on life. I want to see You first. I want to trust You more. Give me the capacity to view my life from Your vantage point. You are in control. You love me. And You can and will use each and every circumstance of my life to make me increasingly more like Your Son. Help me to see them as opportunities to watch You work. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Philippians 1:1-11

Lives of Distinction.

Philippians 1:1-11

May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation — the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ — for this will bring much glory and praise to God. – Philippians 1:11 NLT

As Paul writes this letter to the believers in Philippi, he is under house arrest in Rome, awaiting his coming trial. But rather than complain about his circumstances or his lot in life, Paul is joyful, grateful, and full of words of encouragement to his brothers and sisters in Christ living in this Roman colony. Paul is far from self-focused, dwelling on his own situation. Instead, he is obsessed with the well-being and ongoing spiritual development of the church in Philippi. He is confident that God is going to complete what He started there. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ returns” (Philippians 1:6 NLT). God was not done yet. He had more to do among the people of Philippi, continuing His transformative work in their lives and within the church.

So as Paul is prone to do in all of his letters, he offers up a prayer on behalf of the local congregation there. He shares that it is his ongoing request that their love will continue to grow unchecked – made possible by God’s work in their midst and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. He also prays that their knowledge and understanding will grow as well. Specifically, he wants them to understand what is really important in God’s grand scheme of things – what really matters most to God. Knowing and understanding what God wants will always result in lives that are pure and blameless. Comprehending God’s holy standard and understanding that He has equipped us with His Holy Spirit as a power source to enable to live according to that standard are major requests on Paul’s prayer list. Paul wants them to grow. He wants their lives to produce fruit that reflects the reality of their salvation in Christ. That fruit will appear as righteous character, or a Spirit-produced change in behavior. Paul describes the nature of this fruit in his letter to the Gatatians: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT). That list is extensive, but it should also be expressed in our daily lives. Each one of those characteristics is a visible expression of the invisible presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. They are evidence of His power and presence, reflecting that He is doing a work in our lives.

Paul was not angry about being in prison. He was not upset about having to suffer for Christ. Instead, he saw it as an opportunity to serve Christ and to minister to the body of Christ by using the opportunity to write letters to the believers in Philippi, Galatia, Ephesus, and Colossae. Paul stayed busy, not having a pity party, but using every available moment to minister to the body of Christ and to continue spreading the Gospel every moment of every day. His greatest desire, expressed in the words of his prayer, was that the people of God in Philippi would continue to grow, mature, and exhibit the character of Christ in every area of their lives. And that would be his prayer for us as well. Overflowing love, ever-increasing knowledge and understanding, pure and blameless lives, and Spirit-produced fruit that is both visible and tangible – all these things are needed in our lives today. May we pray as Paul did, asking God to make these things a reality among His people today.

Father, may Paul’s prayer become our ongoing prayer for one another. We need for our love to increase. We need to grow in our knowledge and understanding – comprehending what really matters to You. We need your Spirit to produce fruit in our lives that clearly reflects His activity in our lives – transforming us from the inside out. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Ephesians 6:10-24

Brothers In Arms.

Ephesians 6:10-24

Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemesof the devil. – Ephesians 6:10-11 NET

This is one of those passages in Scripture that we tend to particularize and personalize to such an extent that we end up missing the whole point of its meaning. For six chapters, Paul has been addressing the corporate body of Christ in Ephesus. His emphasis has been on the unity of the body and the relationships they share with one another. He has gone out of his way to drive home their shared experience in Christ and the unifying presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, who provides them with a capacity to live lives of mutual submission and love. Now he turns his attention to the spiritual battle in which these believers find themselves. Together, they are lights shining in a dark and desperate world. And as Jesus promised, that world hates them. So Paul warns them to be prepared.

But this is where we do this passage a disservice. In our me-centered, modern mindsets, we attempt to take every passage and make it a personal statement for our benefit only. In doing so, we miss out on the community context of these verses and the corporate nature of the Christian life. At the end of his letter, Paul is not suddenly changing his emphasis to the individual. But that is the way we typically read these verses. We see every personal pronoun as an opportunity to insert our name and make the passage about us. For instance, it would be so easy to read this passage as “Ken is to put on all of God’s armor so that he will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For Ken is not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities in the unseen world, against might powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” There is no doubt that this would be a true statement for every believer. But Paul’s message throughout this letter has been on the unity of the body of Christ. He has been speaking to believers as a whole, not to individuals. If I read this passage as a personal charge to me as an individual believer, I miss the whole point of Paul’s message, and I set myself up for failure. The spiritual battle in which we are engaged is not meant to be fought alone. This is not about me strapping on my spiritual armor and marching off into battle by myself. But that is how most of us read this passage and how many of us attempt to live the Christian life. We attempt to wage war with the enemy alone. We try to go mono y mono with Satan and then wonder why we come back bloodied and battered far too often. Spiritual warfare was never meant to be a solo sport. But in our individualized, it’s-all-about-me mentality, we end up battling all alone, with no one to watch our back or to help us when we fall.

The New English Translation is the only one that seems to keep the gist of Paul’s message. “Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Yes, each individual is to put on their individual armor, but we do battle together, not alone. When Paul refers to the struggle in which we are engaged, he refers to it as “our struggle.” When we strap our armor and stand to fight the enemy, we do so as an army, not as individuals. We stand out ground together, not alone. We fight side by side, using our shields of faith to protect one another. Together, equipped with the weapons God has provided and standing side by side, we make a formidable army. There is strength in numbers. We are to fight together. Stand together. Pray together. And experience the joys of victory together. The body of Christ is an army. It is made up of individuals who have been chosen by God and placed into His service and equipped with all the resources they need to do battle in His name. We fight for a common cause and against a common enemy. We are not individual gladiators doing battle by ourselves in an arena, but members of the King’s army, waging war together.

And lest we believe that victory is up to us, we must always remember that ultimately, the battle and the victory are His. Even as an army of many, we are helpless and hopeless apart from God. So even as we strap on our armor and prepare for battle, it pays to remind one another of this very important reality: “This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15 NLT).

Father, remove the curse of individualism from our midst. The enemy’s greatest weapon against us is to divide and conquer us. We are far too self-centered and prone to fight alone. Our arrogance and pride cause us to run off and do battle alone. We want to experience individual victories. We want the glory. But the battle is Yours, and the victory is only possible because of You. Give us a mindset that allows us to see ourselves as members of an army with a common enemy and a common cause. Together, we can stand firm and resist the enemy in these evil times. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Ephesians 5:21-6:9

Redeemed Relationships.

Ephesians 5:21-6:9

And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. – Ephesians 5:21 NLT

Our relationship with Jesus Christ should change everything – especially our relationships with others. Saving faith is practical and applicable. It should make a difference in the way we relate to and interact with others in our lives. Paul uses the term “submit,” which was typically used in a military context. It referred to the attitude of a soldier who was expected to have  “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.” It carried with it the sense of being part of a larger whole, and serving within a unit that shared a common cause and answered to a higher authority. So Paul tells us to “submit to one another.” Notice that this is a command to any and all within the body of Christ. Too often we skip this verse and go right to the next verse where wives are told to submit to their husbands. This verse has caused much confusion, anger and anxiety over the years, especially within the minds of modern Christians. Many women find the idea of submission as antiquated and outdated. Some find it outright demeaning. But to understand what Paul is saying, we must keep all of the verses within their context. Paul is calling ALL believers to submit and he gives various examples of what that submission will look like for each of them.

Remember, Paul has just finished talking about being filled or controlled by the Spirit. Now he provides us with submission as a result of that filling. When we are living under the influence of the Spirit, we will submit to one another as to the Lord. Paul is going to deal with three pairs of people: husbands and wives, children and parents, and slaves and masters. The primary subject when talking about each is submission, made possible by the filling of the Spirit. It is critical to understand that each example is an illustration of submission. Women are told to submit to their husbands. This is not a command to subservience and is not meant to communicate that women have a lesser value or worth. It reflects a Spirit-empowered willingness on the part of wives to serve their husbands as they would Jesus Christ. This is not a call to passivity or a command to become a doormat. It is a call to Christ-like servanthood and submission. The key phrase here is “as to the Lord.” That theme runs throughout these verses. God has established an order and a structure to the family. He has made the husband the head of the home, just as Christ is the head of the church. Headship comes with authority, but also responsibility. The husband will answer to God for how he lead and cared for his family, including his wife. When a wife submits to her husband, she is simply coming under God’s ordained structure for the home. The wife’s ability to submit is directly tied to the next verses that deal with the husband’s responsibility to love. Paul tells husbands that for them, submission takes the form of selfless, sacrificial love. They are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Christ gave His life for the church. He placed the needs of the body of Christ above His own. He loved the church so much that He was willing to die for it. And that is the degree to which husbands are to “submit” to their wives. They are to love them so much that they are willing to sacrifice everything for their holiness. The kind of love husbands are called to express toward their wives was not to be based on her performance or merit, but was an unconditional acceptance based on her intrinsic worth as God’s gift to her husband. That kind of love will create an atmosphere where willing submission is easy.

Paul now turns his attention to parents and children. Children are commanded to obey and honor their parents. Again, this is an illustration of Spirit-empowered submission within the home. And it’s important to recognize that Paul tells children that their obedience stems from their relationship to the Lord. All of these relationships are to be God-centered and Spirit-filled. But there’s a second half to this equation. Fathers, as the head of the home, are commanded not to exasperate and frustrate their children by unloving and inconsistent parenting. Lack of loving leadership on the part of the father and an absence of structure and protective rules can end up causing children to become angry and, ultimately, rebellious. Love masquerading as license and leniency, can be damaging and destructive. Fathers are to provide an environment that is loving and disciplined, creating an atmosphere where obedience and honor come naturally.

Finally, Paul takes on a somewhat awkward topic of slave and masters. As modern-day Christians, we find this discussion distasteful and outdated. After all, we live in a nation that outlawed slavery a long time ago. But in Paul’s day it was alive and well. In fact, the local churches typically had members who were slaves, and oftentimes they attended the same church their masters did. Becoming a believer did not set slaves free from slavery. It did not change their circumstance, but it did radically alter the way in which they were to relate within that circumstance. Because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, slaves were expected to do their jobs differently. They were expected to relate to their masters differently. They were to obey with “deep respect and fear.” And they were to do it as they would serve Christ. Their subservience was now to become willing submission, performed for the Lord, not for their earthly masters. Their work ethic was to be motivated by their love for the Lord. They were still slaves, but they were slaves who had been changed by Christ and had a new capacity to love – even within the context of their slavery. And those masters who happened to be believers, were to treat their slaves with dignity and respect, knowing that they would be held accountable for their actions to God some day. Paul makes a significant statement regarding God’s view of slaves and masters. He says, “remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites” (Ephesians 6:9 NLT). God doesn’t see as man sees. While He has ordained there to be order, structure and degrees of authority in the world, He sees all men as equal. He sees husbands and wives as equal. He sees parents and children as equal. And He sees slaves and masters as equal. The key issue is how His Spirit can radically change those relationships and give them a new capacity to interact and interrelate in such as way that He is honored. Spirit-filled, Spirit-controlled believers bring a whole new meaning to their relationships. They view their roles and responsibilities differently. They see their positions as opportunities to serve others and honor God. They do their work as unto the Lord. They serve others as they would serve Christ. They submit to others as they would submit to Him. They love as He would love. They obey as if He were the one giving the command. Living under the influence of the Spirit is a life-changing, relationship-altering experience.

Father, may we learn to live under the influence of the Spirit more and more. We can’t always change our circumstances, but we can change the way we relate in the midst of them. Our marriages need to be Spirit-controlled. Our homes need to be Spirit-filled. Our work relationships need to be Spirit-empowered. Show us how to make our faith practical and applicable to each and every one of our relationships. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Ephesians 5:15-20

A Matter of Control.

Ephesians 5:15-20

Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit. – Ephesians 5:18 NLT

In these closing verses of chapter 5, Paul is continuing his encouragement of the believers in Ephesus that they might life lives that are markedly different from the way they used to live. He wants them to be distinct and different from the world around them. He wants them to imitate God and to live lives filled with love, following the example of Christ Himself. He warns them to “carefully determine what pleases the Lord” and to “take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness” (Ephesians 5:10-11 NLT). They are to live as people of the light, influencing others and exposing the darkness around them.

But how were they supposed to pull this off? What would make this kind of life possible? Paul warned them to be careful about how they conducted their daily lives, and to make sure they lived wisely and not like fools. But it all sounds so impossible. So Paul gives them the only possible way to live the lives they’ve been called to live. And he uses a very interesting comparison to make his point. After all this talk about light and darkness, Paul uses the imagery of drunkenness to illustrate the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. I don’t think he wrote these words because the believers in Ephesus were struggling with drunkenness. He used this imagery because it was one with which they were all familiar. They had all seen the affects of alcohol and knew from first-hand experience what drunkenness looked like. So Paul used this very down-to-earth analogy to help them understand that the Christ-life required submission to a power outside of themselves. It was all about control. Paul makes a direct comparison between being drunk and being filled.

drunk = filled

To be drunk with wine is to be controlled by or under the influence of wine. To be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by or under the influence of the Spirit. Control has to do with submission to someone or something else. It is to submit to the influence of another. In the case of alcohol, to become drunk is to place yourself under its influence and control. When drunk, people say things they normally wouldn’t say. They do things they wouldn’t normally do. They allow themselves to be controlled by a substance that influences their behavior and their thinking. So Paul says, rather than allow yourself to be drunk with and controlled by wine, you should be filled with the Spirit. He wants them to live controlled by the Spirit, not their own sinful flesh. Over in his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you (Romans 8:9 NLT). It is a matter of control. As believers, we are to live under the influence of the Spirit of God. And when Paul writes, “if you have the Spirit of God living in you,” he is not questioning their salvation. He is making a point about a positional truth. They DID have the Spirit living within them, so they should have been living under His influence. Just like a drunk person can’t help but be influenced by alcohol, a believer can’t help but be influenced by the Spirit of God. For Paul, the power of the Spirit in the life of the believer was non-negotiable and non-debatable.

And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. – Romans 8:10-11 NLT

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters,you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. – Romans 8:12-13 NLT

We have a power available to us that is beyond our wildest imaginations. It is the very same power that raised Jesus back to life after having been dead for three days. That power resides within us and is available to us. It is designed to control and empower us. The Spirit of God is to fill us and flow from us, influencing our thoughts and actions. He makes it possible for you to “make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” (Ephesians 5:16 NLT). He allows you to “understand what the Lord wants you to do” (Ephesians 5:17 NLT).

But we must choose to live under His influence. Just as we can choose to get drunk with wine, we can choose to be filled with the Spirit by submitting to Him on a daily basis. We must seek Him. We must desire Him. We must obey Him. We must live under the influence of the Spirit of God if we want to have an influence in this world. And it’s all about submission and control.

Father, You have given me all the power I need to live the life You’ve called me to live. But it requires that I live under the Spirit’s influence and control. I must learn to continually live in His power and not mine. I must submit to His will instead of mine. I want Him to influence everything I say and do. Show me how to live filled by the Spirit, completely submitted to His control. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org