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Monthly Archives: June 2014

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Truth With Love


Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, 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 ESV)


The word “Therefore” connects what Paul is about to say with what he had just reminded the Philippians. Just as Jesus had carried out the will of God in His life, Paul exhorted the Philippians to seek and do the will of God in their lives. To this point, Paul will rebuke the Philippians for some behavioral problems they are having in the next few verses.

But before he does he adds “my beloved”, a term of endearment, to remind them that he loves them and what he is about to tell them is not meant to be harsh, although it may seem that way. This is a good reminder to us that we need to speak the truth to each other in love.

God does not call on us to ignore sin in our lives or in the lives of other believers. We are to confront it and help each other conquer it. But we must be motivated by love when we do so. Our motivation should not be to hold other people down or to esteem ourselves.

This is also true of the world around us. The world does not care about its sin. In fact, the world even celebrates many things that God calls sin (e.g. homosexuality), without even realizing that it is sin. They don’t realize that their behavior is only separating them from God. They need to be told so they can hopefully repent, believe, and go to heaven. It is the responsibility of God’s adopted children (i.e. born-again believers) to tell the world this. But we must do so lovingly.

Many years ago when I was an atheist I started my first job out of college. On my second day of work one of my coworkers – who had no idea that I was an atheist – came up to me and said “Do you know you’re going to hell?”. This was his way of evangelizing. While his statement was true (although I didn’t know it at the time), his unloving approach was not very effective in getting me to believe in God. In fact, it only made me even more sure of my atheism.

People need to know the truth. But the truth is only effective when it is wrapped in love. When truth is presented lovingly it will draw people closer. When it is presented without love it will push people away.

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Everyone Will Know


Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:9-11 ESV)


Yesterday we read that Jesus is above everything in creation. He is God. While many people don’t yet believe that, someday they will. Someday every person – no matter where they are – will confess (i.e. openly acknowledge) that Jesus is Lord.

Someday even people in hell will have to admit that Jesus was exactly who He said He was – God. They will have no choice but to admit that what He said was true – that heaven was only available through Him [John 14:6]. Sadly, for them it will be too late to do anything about it. They will have to live with the result of their pride for eternity. If they had only believed the truth when they heard it – they could have been set free from the penalty of their sin [John 8:32].

The Greek word for Lord here is κυριοσ (pronounced: koo’-ree-os) and is commonly written in English as “kyrios”. It is a title of honor and is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Adonai, which means “The Lord”, and was used to refer to God Himself.

Interestingly, the word “Adonai” is plural in Hebrew, yet is used with singular verbs much like the word “Elohim” which is the fourth word in the entire Bible (“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” [Genesis 1:1]).

The use of a plural aubject with a singular verb helps us understand more clearly that God is not a single “person”. He is one God who has multiple “persons” yet He acts as one. Admittedly this is hard to comprehend. But just because something is difficult to understand doesn’t make it any less true. The clear teaching of the Bible is that God exists as a Trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit – who work in perfect unison and agreement.

Further proving that this verse is stating that Jesus is God is the fact that it is a quote of Isaiah 45:23 in which God speaks these very same words about Himself.

Yesterday we learned that we need to read the Bible carefully in order to glean all the truth from it. Today we see that using the original languages of Scripture – Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) – and cross-referencing Scripture with other Scripture gives us even more insight into God’s truth.

Paul wrote these truths to the Philippians to encourage them to use Jesus as a model of humility [Philippians 2:1-5]. Jesus went through the suffering He did [Philippians 2:6-8] and God used it for His glory. He will do the same for His children.

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Character Development


Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:9-11 ESV)


Not only has God exalted Jesus above all else, but God has given Jesus a name that exceeds every other name.

Since Jesus’ name is above every other name He must therefore be greater than any other being. That is, He must be God.

This is one of many places where the Bible tells us that Jesus is God. Critics of the Bible will often claim that the Bible does not say that Jesus is God. But this is not true. Its easy to miss many truths in the Bible when we read it quickly or with a conclusion already established in our mind. But when we read, think, (i.e. meditate on it), and pray [James 1:5] the truth is more easily seen [Psalm 119:97-99].

When we hear the name of a person we think not only of what they look like, but also what kind of person they are. When people hear the name Hitler they think of some specific character traits. When people hear the name Mother Theresa, they think of some very different character traits. A person’s name is not just how we identify them in a crowd. A person’s name encompasses all they are.

Jesus’ character is far and away above that of any other. In fact, it is becoming like Jesus that is God’s goal for us [Romans 8:29]. God wants us to become more loving, more peaceful, more patient, more kind, more selfless. These are just some character traits of Jesus that God is developing in His children.

When a person is born-again and is adopted into God’s eternal family He will begin to work in that person’s life to make him/her more like Jesus [Philippians 1:6]. He does that through our life experiences – notably the pain and suffering we go through on this earth.

No one develops their character through success and pain-free living. Our character is developed when we go through situations we don’t want to go through: the failures and suffering. This is not a message that the world embraces. Our world is hedonistic. The pursuit of pleasure and the elimination of pain is everyone’s goal. The consequence of that is a world where people are in a state of arrested development: immature and with major character flaws.

The child of God embraces pain and suffering with joy because he knows that it is the way to become better [Romans 8:28]

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The Consequence of Pride


Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:9-11 ESV)


As a result of Jesus’ obedience to God the Father’s command that He (Jesus) leave His position in heaven, go to earth as a human being, take on the sin of all humanity, and die a horrible, humiliating death on a cross [Philippians 2:6-8], God exalted Him. The Greek word translated “exalted” means “to raise supremely; to raise to the highest possible measure”.

The context of the passages we’ve been reading in Philippians 2 is humility. Paul is admonishing the Philippians (and us) to live humbly. Jesus humbled Himself and was exalted. If we humble ourselves, we will be exalted too. This is the clear teaching of Scripture [Matthew 18:4, 23:12; Luke 14:7-11, 18:9-14, et. al].

When we are humble God can bless us and steer us in the right direction – humble people are teachable [Psalm 25:9]. But God can do nothing with proud people [Proverbs 3:34].

When people are proud the only thing that can result is disaster [Proverbs 11:2, Proverbs 16:18, Proverbs 29:23]. Proud people will never accept outside teaching, especially not from God. They rely on their own abilities which may seem to bring success but will only bring failure.

We see this happening in the United States very clearly. The vast majority of our leaders in government, business, education, entertainment, etc have no reliance on God. They make decisions that affect millions of people by using their own human way of thinking. While the result of these decisions may seem to affirm the decision itself, the decisions are actually leading us to disaster.

Just look at how many decisions we make to correct previous decisions. But with God there would be no such a thing. God’s plans are perfect. They need no adjustments or tweaks. If we would just look to Him for guidance we would have far fewer problems on this earth; we’d spend far less time trying to make things better and much more time just enjoying life. But our pride prevents us from doing that.

Pride is a sin. In fact it is often referred to as the original sin as all other sins come from it [Proverbs 21:4]. As such, it must be punished by God [Proverbs 16:5]. Anyone who dies with their pride will have to spend eternity separated from God (we call that hell).

When we humble ourselves, on the other hand, God will bless us [Psalm 18:27] and crown us with eternal life [Psalm 149:4].

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The Unfair Thing


Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:5-8 ESV)


Paul has been urging the Philippians to be humble towards one another and to live for others not for self. The supreme example of this was Jesus. His incarnation, life, and death demonstrated His love for God and His love for people. He lived by example, showing us how to be humble.

In our day people demand their rights. If we suspect that our rights have been even the slightest bit violated we run to a lawyer or social media. We demand to be treated “fairly”. All that matters is us. Self is supreme. Albert Camus once said “To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.” This describes our world precisely. We chase after our own pleasure at the expense of those around us.

By contrast, Jesus did not put Himself first. He was God but for the sake of others temporarily gave up His position in heaven and became one of His own creations – a human being. He didn’t demand (“grasp”) His right to stay in heaven, although He certainly could have. He didn’t complain that it wasn’t fair for Him to have to “slum it” on earth and get nailed to a cross for sins He didn’t commit.

The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself [Mark 12:28-31]. Jesus demonstrated both of these by leaving heaven at God’s command (i.e. obedience) and by dying a horrible death on cross in our place.

The “fair” thing would be for each of us to pay the penalty for our own sins. But that would mean each of us would be eternally separated from God. While fair, that would not be what God wants. So He did the unfair thing. God the Father sent His Son to die in our place. And the Son obeyed.

Crucifixion was a form of Roman capital punishment reserved for the worst of criminals. Jesus was completely innocent of the charges against Him. Yet He willingly went to the cross because it was the only way to free us from the penalty of our sins. The second person in the Trinity – the Son – went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows not because He had anything to gain from doing so. He didn’t. He did it because we had everything to gain by His actions.

We are helpless to save ourselves so He did it for us. He put our welfare before His own rights. That is the definition of humility.

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The Cost of Unity


Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
(Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)


Yesterday Paul expressed the importance of unity among believers so that they can stand strong in the face of the certain hardships that will come as the world opposes their faith. As Paul stated, unity requires us to have tolerance and love for one another.

But unity has a cost. That cost is self. Any group of people cannot be unified if its members are acting on behalf of their own interests at the expense of the interests of the group.

This means we need to examine our motives. Having ambition is fine. But selfish ambition (achievement at the expense of others) is harmful. Nor should we think too highly of ourselves (“conceit”). Rather we are to practice humility.

Humility has two parts: thought and action. Paul tells us to think of others as being more worthy of service than ourselves. Then he tells us to actually behave that way. This order is significant. We can’t act with humility unless we first are thinking with humility.

We are all different. That is by God’s design. The only way we can have the same mind and be of one accord as God commanded [Philippians 2:1-2] is to clothe ourselves in humility. We need to view others are more important as ourselves. Notice we are not to think of ourselves as un-important – we are important to God. Humility is not self-loathing or thinking less of self. It is thinking of self less often.

Notice that humility has to be commanded. We are inherently selfish. Being humble does not come naturally to human beings. If it did, God would not have included this command in the Bible. Nor do we automatically become humble just because we believe in Jesus. The Philippians were believers. Yet Paul still felt the need to remind them how to behave.

It is not unintentional that God sent this message to believers, not non-believers. God commands His children to act with humility. He does not expect those who don’t belong to Him to act this way, because they can’t. The only way a human being can have humility is to be granted it from God through the Holy Spirit. One who does not have the Holy Spirit cannot be humble.

This is one reason why the United States is doomed to collapse, in my opinion. We have become a nation of factions where self-interest trumps what is best for the country. Furthermore, as our nation continues to remove God from our culture, one of the inevitable results will be an increase in selfish behavior. This will only create more disharmony.

In his last public speech in 1799, Patrick Henry uttered the phrase “United We Stand, Divided We Fall”. This is exactly what Jesus told us centuries before [Mark 3:25] and what Paul is saying in these verses.

Christians are to be united so we can stand strong in the face of persecution. As counter-intuitive as it seems, that strength comes from humility.

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The Message of Unity


So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
(Philippians 2:1-2 ESV)


Over the past two days we’ve read the beginning of Paul’s exhortation to the believer’s in Philippi to remain strong in the face of external opposition [Philippians 1:27-30]. Now Paul begins to tell them how to build the strength they need to do this.

There are four classes of conditional statements (“if… then” statements) in Greek. Here Paul uses the first-class conditional four times. A first-class condition assumes the condition is true for the sake of argument. Another way of stating what Paul says here is “Since there is…”.

Paul builds four rhetorical questions around these condition that are true not only of the Philippian believers, but all believers. As Paul states, the truth of these realities should result in us living in a certain way.

All believers in Christ have 1) encouragement from being united in spirit with Jesus, 2) comfort in knowing they are loved by God, 3) the Holy Spirit actively participating in their lives, and 4) a heart that cares for other believers. There is no doubt about any of this. All these things are 100% true of every born-again believer. We may not always feel encouraged or loved by God. But nevertheless, we are.

Since all believers all over the world have the four common gifts from God simply because we are His adopted children, then we should be united in the way we treat other believers. We should display tolerance and love (“same mind” and “same love”).

The context of this passage is the opposition we will face as believers [Philippians 1:29-30]. Believers cannot stand strong in the face of external opposition if we don’t have internal unity. If we don’t belong to a strong fraternity of believers who are united because of our faith in Christ and what he has done for us, we will crumble in the face of criticism and ridicule from the outside world.

Such harmony among believers is another great witness to an unbelieving world. We should demonstrate the same love, tolerance, and patience that God demonstrates for us. When we do the world around us will take notice.

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Suffering With Joy


For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
(Philippians 1:29-30 ESV)


Few people would consider it a privilege to suffer. But that is exactly what God tells believers in the Bible. Through this letter to the Philippians we learn that suffering for Christ’s sake comes from God (“been granted”). The Greek word for “granted”, χαρίζομαι (pronounced: khar-id’-zom-ahee), has the same root as the Greek word for “grace” (kharis). Suffering for Christ is graciously given to believers as a sign of God’s favor.

If you are a believer then hardship in response to your faith is a clear sign that you are right where God wants you to be. People hate the truth. They don’t hate lies. If non-believers aren’t against what you think and do then you are thinking and doing wrongly.

This is a hard concept for people to understand. Non believers ridicule passages like this in the Bible while many believers do not understand passages like this. Our natural way of thinking leads us to think suffering is punishment and that God will, and should, provide us with an easy life. But this is completely erroneous.

The Christian life is not meant to be a playground. It is meant to be a battleground. People’s eternal lives are at stake on this earth. God does not want His children to be seeking out comfort and self-satisfaction. He wants us to be concerned about whether our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even our enemies go to heaven. He wants us living for eternity, not for the temporary things of this world [Matthew 6:19-20].

This does not mean that our battle is against other human beings. It is not. Our battle is a spiritual one. Believers are part of God’s army fighting against the demonic forces of Satan [Ephesians 6:12] who trick human beings into believing spiritual lies.

When we live for Christ we will suffer. There is no doubt about it. The world is opposed to the message of Jesus Christ. But if we live in such a way as to hide our faith so that we can avoid hardship we are doing the world around us a great disservice.

Yet life does not have to be unpleasant. There is joy in serving God. And certainly Paul was an example. He faced many struggles as he spread the message of salvation through Jesus around the Mediterranean. Jews wanted to kill him for being a traitor. He was shipwrecked multiple times. He was beaten. He was often alone. He spent years in prison.

Despite all this Paul was full of joy. The entire letter to the Philippians is an expression of the joy he had despite the hardships he faced. He was able to have such joy because his sense of meaning came not from the world around him. The world gave him nothing but trouble. But he was never startled at this. He expected it. Instead he kept his focus on Jesus and his eternal reward.

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Opposition Is A Given


Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.
(Philippians 1:27-28 NIV)


When believers in Jesus live their lives in such a way as to stand out in the culture around them they will be noticed. But we will also face opposition and ridicule. This is a promise. None of us should be “frightened” when this happens. The Greek word used here refers to a startled horse who does not know how to react to an unexpected situation. Opposition to the gospel should not startle anyone.

Jesus, who was the very son of God, was opposed and ridiculed by many while He was on this earth. Only a few people actually believed what He had to say. If this was true of God’s own Son, then it will certainly be true of His followers. But we can rest assured – our God knows the very same suffering that we go through for His sake.

When we are opposed or ridiculed, no matter how strongly (“whatever happens”), we are to still conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus. Such spiritual strength in itself is “a sign” to those who oppose us. Responding in love to opposition is a great witness in itself.

We must remember that it is not really us people are rejecting – it is Jesus they are rejecting [Luke 10:16]. The prophets who lived before us were also ridiculed and rejected [Luke 6:23, 26]. We are in great company.

In fact, we are blessed when people reject us for our faith in Christ [Luke 6:22]. This should be of great encouragement. We should not be looking to the world for affirmation or fulfillment. The world can only affirm what it knows – sin. It cannot affirm what it does not know – it does not know Jesus.

Last year I blogged daily as I read through the Bible in one year. And I received much negative feedback including multiple death threats. I was not surprised or concerned. Believers should not be shy or scared to expose their faith before the world. No matter what happens to us, God can, and will, use it for good [Romans 8:28].

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Accountability


Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.
(Philippians 1:27-28 NIV)


Yesterday we read Paul’s reminder to the Philippians to live in a way that would honor Jesus Christ [Philippians 1:27]. He then holds them accountable for doing so.

Accountability is a big theme in the Bible. God will hold all believers accountable for how we lived from the moment we were saved until we die [Romans 14:12]. But God also demands that believers hold each other accountable during this life [Luke 17:3, James 5:16, et. al].

Paul wanted the Philippians to know that he would know about how they lived – either by witnessing it in-person or by hearing about it. When we know that we are being watched and evaluated we are more apt to behave the way we’re supposed to. This is true of us when we are children. And it continues to be true throughout adulthood.

Human beings are prone to sin. One way to overcome sin is to have an accountability partner or group. Accountability partners are transparent with each other, confess their sins to each other, pray for each other, and encourage each other.

Knowing that we are being held accountable will encourage us to “stand firm” and “strive together” for the gospel. The Greek word translated “strive together” is συνατηλεο (pronounced: soon-ath-leh’-o) which is derived from the word for “athletics”. The prefix, “soon”, means “together”. The word picture here is of an athletic team working together for a common goal. Paul wants the believers in Philippi to be united in their goal of promoting the gospel through their life style.

When Christians show love, patience, forgiveness, and encouragement to each other we are reflecting the love God has for all people. When the world sees us behave this way they will take notice and will want to be a part of God’s family too.

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