Women Embracing Faith

Thinking Through the Bible

Stand Firm Together April 23, 2010

Filed under: Philippians — womenembracingfaith @ 5:20 am

I hope you are profiting from your reading of Philippians.  Remember its not really a book.  It’s a letter to friends who have worked together to establish churches in Turkey and Greece, and now, have hopes of extending that into Spain.  Paul’s point is that joy comes from sticking together in this task.

Read Philippians 3-4::1

Paul is telling these people to stay committed, individually and corporately, to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Don’t waiver on what the gospel is.  Don’t give up on your own pursuit of intimacy with God because that is what brings joy and hope.  Remember this is not a psychological manuel on how to be happy.  It is a letter to fellow Christians to encourage and exhort them to be faithful.

Roger Ellsworth (OPENING UP PHIIIPPIANS, Day One Publishers, p. 55-63) has some helpful definitions:

 Flesh:  anything apart from Christ on which one bases his hope of salvation.  See 3:4,

 ”though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also.  If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:..”

righteousness:  standing before a holy God completely clean and pure in external behavior and internal desires. See 3:9,

…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God that depends on faith–

 Dogs: Teachers who deny the saving work of the Lord Jesus.  They do not rely totally on the person and work of the Lord Jesus.  They teach others to depend on something else besides the cross.  Paul uses his own life as an example of the asurdity of this.

When you sin, and you know it, turn from it in sorrow and heartbreak, and embrace the wonderful news that Jesus never sinned.  God our father covers our sin with Jesus’s purity. So His righteousness becomes ours and we are found “in Christ.”   God does not have to disregard His justice in order to accept us.  We are children and heirs.  Now that is good reason to stand firmly together to establish churches and tell others about Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

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Reading Philippians, Chapter April 6, 2010

Filed under: Philippians — womenembracingfaith @ 3:11 pm

Don’t forget you can hit “category” and scroll down to “Philippians” for all my articles on Philippians.  This is number 6.

A Quick Summary So Far

This letter was written to encourage a church in Greece to continue working together to spread the gospel–to keep on keeping on in spite of opposition, hardship, or persecution.  Paul was not writing a “how to” manual on being happy.  But, his own contentment and pursuit of godliness is evident.  He wanted them to continue on in knowing God and making him known, and to rejoice because of what they knew to be true of God, while, at the same time, keeping  their eyes on justification by faith alone.

With Eyes Wide Open

Paul doesn’t sugar-coat anything for these friends.  He warns them to expect opposition and persecution for the gospel of Christ Jesus.  Now he gets very specific.

“Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers… For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:2; 18-19).

The evildoers are those who want to add their own “something” to the gospel.  Some righteous deed (in this case, submitting to a Jewish ordinance); coming from the “right” family; being a part of the “right” group; having the “right” attitude; seeing self as doing what is “right.”  Paul tells us he had all of these, and he counted them all as nothing but rubbish, something to be tossed out.  He was not ashamed of the gospel and he was happy to be found covered in the righteousness of Christ Jesus—the “right” standing before God that depends on faith alone.

“If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:…and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, …that I may know him …” (Philippians 3:4;8;9;10).

Paul is all for cooperation.  But, he has zero tolerance for anyone who teaches a wrong gospel.

This kind of righteousness, added to faith, is just rubbish.  Toss it out.  Don’t tolerate that kind of teaching in your church or support those people in their gospel endeavors.

The Main Point For Us

 Be careful how you think about yourself.  Are you depending on your family or church or your moral life or anything else you could add to what Jesus Christ has done?  Our faith is to be in Jesus Christ’s righteousness, not our own, and in what He accomplished for us when He died on that cross.  He alone is our Savior.  Knowing that, thinking about it, helps us to rejoice in the Lord.  To think about what Jesus has done for us helps us to “rejoice, and again, I say, Rejoice.”  This is good theology, not psychology.  Some psychology hints can be very helpful to us, but sound theology should come first.  It makes for strong foundations on which to build our lives.  So Philippians is about theology, not a psychological treatise in how to be happy.  Rejoice IN THE LORD.

 

Reading Philippians:3:1 March 24, 2010

Filed under: Philippians — womenembracingfaith @ 10:15 am
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“Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 3:1).

How do we do that?  We know it is not the same as always focusing on the positive side of things.  Anyone can attempt that, no matter their religious views.  Neither is it  just an attempt to be happy in spite of life’s turns and twists, its ups and downs.  A support group can help with that.

Roger Ellsworth in Opening Up Philippians (Day One, 2004) reminds us that this letter from Paul to Greek Christians is not a manual on how to be joyful.  It is an exhortation to work together to spread the gospel.  Paul’s own joy in doing that, in spite of hardship and opposition, bubbles up frequently.  If he is not thinking positively, where does this joy come from?   No matter how much they “put on a happy face,” it will not earn them points with God. That’s what “justification by faith” means; Jesus’ perfect life is enough for us to be declared righteous.

Then how do we rejoice in the Lord?  It is letting your feelings be driven by how you are thinking about God.  We start with the mind;  remember the Bible’s teaching about God.   One way of doing this is to read the Psalms.  Look for Christ Jesus in them.  Take Psalm 22, for example. Or Psalm 90, written by Moses. “By your wrath we are dismayed.”  The Psalms are helpful because they bring forth truths about God and then show us an emotional response. Moses says, “Return, O Lord!…Have pity on your servants!”

Another way to rejoice in the Lord is to read a solid Confession of Faith with its biblical passages.  The Westminster Confession or the Baptist Confession of 1689 are my two favorites.  They devote whole sections to God and Christ Jesus.  They attempt to summarize the Bible’s teachings about God, then give you the biblical passages that teach about His sovereignty, trinity, love, justice etc.  The point is that as you are thinking about these characteristics of God, your heart will be moved and before you know it, you are rejoicing.

As you remember these basics, don’t forget to sing in your heart (even if you don’t feel like it).  Start with some songs you just like, then look up some of the old hymns about God.  “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” comes to mind.  “Jesus Loves Me,” and “Up From the Grave He Arose.”  Keep a favorite hymnbook handy just for this purpose:  to rejoice in the Lord.

And, of course, don’t forget the great value of talking about this with someone.  Cultivate friendships with those who will speak of God’s faithfulness, His love, His answering of their prayers.  Just hearing these things can help us to rejoice in the Lord over and over again.

See how these put how you are thinking about God first?  Then, your joy in knowing who God is and experiencing His love wells up within.  “And, again I say rejoice!”

 

Reading Philippians 2:12-3:1 March 12, 2010

Filed under: Philippians — womenembracingfaith @ 4:48 pm
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“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).

Following Jesus’ example of putting others before ourselves is really hard.  He was always able to do it; He never sinned once.  He was even able to die for people who didn’t deserve it: us.  “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). Now that is unselfish.

Because Christian love and humility is so difficult, Paul reminds us to CAREFULLY think about how we love and act toward others; especially since we are to shine like lights amid the ignorance of God all around us.  It is with awe we remember that God works in our lives as He wishes. Our salvation proves that!  And this awe, translated into “fear and trembling,”  is over God’s ability to do as He wishes, to even work within us mysteriously.  Paul’s command, then, so we can together be those lights, is to

“Do all things without grumbling or questioning…” (2:14).

Ah, that is the rub, isn’t it?  Working together to show and tell others about the good news of salvation; striving side by side for the faith of the gospel; without being afraid of opposition.  No grumbling or complaining about the way life or the struggle for the gospel goes. Instead, we are to rejoice in who God is–loving, in control, full of grace and truth (Philippians 3:1).

Joy is the emotion which comes from this certainty of what God is like and how He acts toward us. Rejoicing in the truth about God is what it means to strengthen yourself in God. (David did that when things went badly for him.)  It is to remember and be happy about God’s sovereignty in life events and in our salvation–and the way things may go as we work together to spread the gospel.

You know, this is not positive thinking.  That is mentally to set up how you want things to be or to look for the best in the hand you’ve been dealt.  Instead, this is being careful how you think about God. As Paul put it, “holding fast to the word of life..”  especially about what the Bible says about God, so that when Jesus our Lord and Savior comes again we, and our pastors and teachers, won’t be embarrassed at how we have been behaving.

 

Applying Paul’s Letter February 25, 2010

Filed under: Philippians — womenembracingfaith @ 6:15 am
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Applications always come down to this:  What will you suggest to your children and grandchildren about ——-?  What will you model before them?

Paul has been arrested in Rome.  This letter to the Philippians is written to a group of  believers in Christ who are organized into a local church, with leaders called overseers and deacons.  Paul has been their consultant and associate for 29 years. He visited them at least three times, living in their homes, staying for months perhaps with Lydia’s family or the jailer’s family.  This church has sent him money and supported him in his attempt to plant Christian churches in what is today Turkey and Greece.  They sent one of their members to help him as soon as they heard about his Roman imprisonment.  It has been a close and continuing relationship centered on spreading the good news that Jesus atoned for our sins by his death and rose again to demonstrate His deity and power.  Paul writes of his thankfulness, joy, hope, and expectations for them.  He loves these Greeks and tells them so (Philippians 1:1-11).

These people lived in the same city and organized themselves under two tiers of leaders to accomplish specific goals like worship and evangelism.  This  fact is the reason Christians have historically had local congregations.  Many have questioned the validity of that today because of our internet, facebook, telephone, transportation etc.  Why have a local church?  Why not just get together on the internet?  Why get together at all?

Whatever you decide in this controversy, just remember you must apply the word of God with rationality.  You can’t just toss out this historical fact of this particular church’s existence and organizational structure and the relationships that resulted.  Paul’s approval of their organization is a factor to consider as well. Nor can we forget about the years of experience of other Christians from Roman times until now who followed this example, organized themselves under leaders, and worked together for mutual encouragement and the salvation of others.  Paul also speaks of their unity around what they believe and their acting in loving ways with each other (2:2).  It seems a little unreasonable to toss out the local church organization and relationships, and just go with individuals or small groups, using modern technology and doing what you want without any accountability to anyone else.  Guarding the truth becomes an issue when there are no specific guardians to hold others accountable.

John and I drive 25 miles or so to associate with a  church whose beliefs and practice are things we believe and can live out in a similar manner.  It’s not as “local” as we would like.  It is harder to help one another, go to funerals, baby showers, reach out to those living near the church facility, serve on committees etc. Our emphasis has been on unity of doctrine, the two tier organizational structure, and being able to work together for the gospel.  The local part has been stretched.

Are you trying to figure this out for yourself?  Are you actively participating with a group to tell others about Christ Jesus and worship together, and try to live out the Christian life together?  If not, what is your thinking about Corinthians, Galatians, Colossans, Thessalonians, Romans?  They were all groups, organized under leaders for the purpose of worship, spreading the gospel and teaching the Bible. Are you involved in a structured group doing that?

This is the kind of  hard thinking we have to do if we ask our three questions:

What does this passage in the Bible say? What does it mean? How do I apply it?

I hope these thoughts help you as you read Philippians.  What will you suggest to your children and grandchildren about their involvement in a local church?  What are you modeling before them right now?  Do you need to make any changes in that?

(Roger Ellsworth’s book Opening Up Phlippians (Day One Publishers, 2004) is a great resource.  He has been preaching now for 60 years.  He has written more than 30 books.)

 

Real Stories February 3, 2010

Filed under: Bible Story For Children,Philippians — womenembracingfaith @ 4:25 pm
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Children love fantasy.  And it is hard even for those in early elementary grades to distinguish the difference between Mickey Mouse and Paul of  Taurus.  So in Bible lessons, tell them “this is REAL.”

Here is the story (for adults too)

Jesus died and rose up into heaven right in front of a lot of people. T hen, fifteen or so years later, Paul, a missionary, went to a country that was not his own. He could speak their language, Greek.  Some exciting things happened in this town of Philippi, in Macedonia.

Paul and some friends (Luke, Silas, Timothy) went to Philippi after dreaming a man called to them, asking for help.  God used this way of telling Paul to go to Europe instead of  to Asia. World history would have been a lot different if they had gone to Asia as planned.  Sometimes God changes our plans.

Paul and his friends met some women down by the river, praying.  One lady, Lydia, was a wealthy business woman in town to make some money.  She was so happy to hear that there was a way for her to be saved from her sin.  She and her family all believed what Paul taught about Jesus being the One who died so they could know God and be close to Him.

A young slave girl was controlled by an evil spirit.  Paul said to the demon, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to come out of her!”  And it did.  But now the girl couldn’t tell the future anymore, so her owners dragged Paul and Silas to the judge.  They were mad and lied, saying Paul and Silas were teaching others to disobey the law.  The  lie spread around town until  a mob formed and began beating Paul and Silas right there in front of the judge.  The judge threw them in prison to keep them safe from the mob.  They were chained way deep inside the prison.  Paul and Silas sang and prayed together.

It gets even more exciting.  An earthquake struck.  Their chains fell off.  The prison doors opened.  But, neither Paul or any of the other prisoners left.  I guess they were asking Paul questions or something.  The jailer was really scared because he knew the Roman Judge would have his neck for this big escape.  They told him to calm down, and then told him all about Jesus’ life, death, and going into heaven.  All to pay the price for this jailer’s sins.  He cleaned up their wounds (remember, they had been beaten by the mob) and then asked to be baptized as a sign of  his sins being washed away. Everyone in his family believed also.  Just like Lydia’s .

Now these two families and some other people became the church in Philippi.  They stayed friends with Paul and helped him plant churches in Greece and helped the Jewish Christians during a bad time.  Paul would visit them 2 more times, and then write them a letter from prison in Rome.  They helped bring the gospel to Europe.  Later, Europeans would sail across the Atlantic, bringing the good news of  Christ to America.

This is a wonderful story about how God showed Paul where to go, then helped him with an earthquake, and saved two families and a slave girl and helped a new church get started which then would help send the gospel along into the Roman Empire and Western Europe.  We never know what God will do!  (See Acts 16 for details)

Always Apply the story:

Do you go to church?  Do you have more than two families there? Do you believe Jesus died for your sins? Are you sorry for your sins?  Do you ever tell others about Jesus? Have you ever been in an earthquake?  Isn’t it wonderful to know God saves people–some rich like Lydia, some slaves like this girl, some working folks like this prison guard?  It doesn’t matter what our family is like, He can save anyone!

 

Reading Philippians February 1, 2010

Filed under: Philippians,Uncategorized — womenembracingfaith @ 4:29 am
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I hope you will join me in reading Philippians during these wintery days.

Bible Input is one of the spiritual disciplines.  Just making yourself do it.  Self-discipline in a spiritual arena.  Self-discipline fights self-indulgence, one of the empty pursuits to which we are all prone.  And it is something we must insist upon our children developing–discipline for the sake of  godliness.

“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. ” (Philippians 1:1-5)

From Self-Discipline To Joy

Every time Paul thinks about these people– remembering what happened, how they met, how the whole city got into an uproar over their work together, how he had to flee for his life, then come back later to teach and preach and strengthen them in the Christian faith and way of  living–he is flooded with joy.  He is so glad they met.  He is so happy these Greeks have joined with him– a strictly raised Jewish boy from a “Turkish-Syrian” city–to plant churches.

Remembering all this then causes him to pray.  He thanks God for the way they have worked together with him all these years to tell others the wonderful news about the Lord Jesus Christ.  He wants them to experience again the unmerited favor of God and the peace that brings.  He wants them to remember their work together for Christ Jesus’s Kingdom and to keep on, keeping on.

Take a few moments today and remember who you have partnered with to tell others how they may trust in Jesus for right-standing with God.  See if you don’t remember them with affection and joy and thankfulness.  Why not pray for them today–that they will continue to serve the Lord Jesus Christ whatever their circumstances and will discipline themselves to keep on chasing after knowing God and becoming more like Him? Maybe you should contact them someway.

There are many I remember with thankfulness and affection.  Some I’m able to see and be with, but many are miles away or already in heaven.  But, I’ll never forget Mr. Whitt and Ernie Reisinger who kindly and gently welcomed me as a Christian, then helped me along the way.  I’m sure it took self-discipline on their parts to take time out of busy South Florida ministries to visit a young girl and listen to a young mother’s problems.  We shared the grace and peace that comes from believing.

I hope you will be filled with joy in remembering those with whom you have worked and prayed.