Philippians

Tuesday Devotional: Philippians 2

bibleRead Philippians 2:1-11

This is not about you.  Unity with Christ means that the spirit of extreme selflessness has taken up residence in your life and in your spirit.  This is the frontline in the battle between your sinful nature and the spirit of the living God.  We would rather talk about the things we want to talk about.  We would rather engage in the activities that we are most interested in.  We would rather eat the food that most pleases our palate.  We would rather put our self first–all the time, every time.

But this is not about you.  Counting the cost of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ means that you have signed your name on the spiritual dotted line of the New Covenant that agrees and declares this is no longer about you.

The blessings of Jesus follow after complete submission to the name of Jesus.  How can we think that we can receive the blessings of Jesus while living completely in contradiction of the spirit of the very same Jesus?  Delusional.  Deceived.  This is not about you.

Jesus did not come as a conquering King to rescue you.  He came low and disgraced so that he could pay the debt of your sin to forgive you.  Jesus is the living embodiment of selflessness and submission.  This is Jesus and this is his Gospel.  This is not about you.

HE forgave you. HE dwells in you. It is all about him.  He is the Christ.  He is the Lamb.  He is Jesus.  Jesus is now your meaning of life.  Jesus is now your passion.  Jesus is now your prize.  Jesus is now the center of your everything.  This is not about you.

Beware of the spirit in you that attempts to credit, glorify or promote the self.  This is not of God and this is not worthy of Jesus.  There is nothing about the Christian life that elevates the self.  He must become greater and we must become less.  Anything different is not the Gospel and must be revealed and rebuked for what it is.  A lie.  Your life is now hidden in Christ, the light of the world.  Hidden.  Unseen.  Unnoticed.  This is not about you.

 

Spiritual Gifts: Healing

gifts

For the next four weeks, we will examine the role of spiritual gifts in our Christian walk. Just as the baptism of the Holy Spirit has been debated throughout church history, the nature of spiritual gifts has also been a topic of much debate. This reflection series will outline four of the most debated spiritual gifts that often follow a baptism by the Holy Spirit. There are other gifts, such as prayer; however, for the moment we will only discuss four. The four spiritual gifts are:

  • Teaching
  • Tongues
  • Prophecy and Vision
  • Healing

All four of these gifts have a core purpose in common but as we will see they are unique from each other in the way they are used. This week, we reflect on healing.

In the same way that Prophecy and Vision come with stereotypes and judgments on the part of those outside of the Church, the idea of “healing” has also gone quite misunderstood. The gift of healing, like Prophecy and Vision, was a major part of Jesus’ ministry and the Apostles’ teaching and was well represented in the early Church. For us to dismiss it as something done in the past but not available to our present Church is illogical.

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. -Matthew 10:7-8

The gift of healing is for us in the Church to possess now, not simply to reflect back to in nostalgia as something done by our forefathers. While some are gifted with the gift of healing in dramatically physical ways, most people go their entire lives without seeing an actual physical healing in person and assume the absence of frequent resurrections and blind-to-sight healings as proof that the gift of healing simply does not exist anymore.

To assume this is to completely misunderstand the purpose of healing taught by Jesus for His Church to exercise. The purpose of the gift of healing is to express the impact of God. This impact is a visible, public transformation from old to new. However, this transformation from old to new cannot be reduced to simply the transformation of the physical body. In fact, Jesus Christ was adamant that our physical body means very little. The purpose of the numerous physical healings that Jesus conducted in the Gospels was not to discourage or intimidate by comparison. Those healings were conducted for Christ’s ministry and the people of that time, to fulfill the prophecies that illustrated the nature of the Messiah’s return, which would be characterized by physical transformation:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor. -Isaiah 61:1-29

While physical healing and transformation is still present in the Church today and some are gifted in this area, the true healing available to all those professing faith in Jesus Christ is of a different nature.

Jesus Christ was clear that healing is impossible without his presence and his word. In his Word lies the power of God to transform and save the lost.

2When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” -Mark 9:25-29

While most will never see a dead body raised physically, the sharing of God’s Word to someone outside of the presence of God is more powerful than physical resurrection. Anyone raised from the dead in this world still faces the challenge of sin. However, sharing the Word of God that results in a life born anew and a new creation in Jesus Christ represents the ultimate healing. There is joy in this world when a dead body is raised. However, according to Jesus, there is immeasurable rejoicing in Heaven at the resurrection of a life dead in sin, reborn and resurrected with Christ and transformed in his image.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. -Luke 15:1-7

Physical healing means absolutely nothing as long as the sin within the body is unaddressed. The priority of Jesus’ healing targeted sin, not the body. Finding God in the words of Jesus Christ and His gospel is the true pearl, the true prize, the true goal. In this way, the Church today has been blessed with the privilege of spiritually raising the dead to life through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. -Philippians 1:18-26 

Previews of Heaven: Wanting More

This reflection series is about Heaven. To download this reflection series, go here.

Open Door

A good movie preview will be so impressive that it will almost distract you from enjoying the movie that brought you to the theater in the first place. The preview will be tattooed in your mind and the daily countdown to the release date will move slowly. A good movie preview will always leave us wanting more.

The life of a disciple of Jesus Christ is a process of daily transformation. We often do not see ourselves progress, but, at various moments in our walk, we realize that something in us is changing or has already changed. There comes a point where reading the Sermon on the Mount no longer feels like a list of impossible demands placed upon our limited human hearts, but rather realistic expectations of a renewed heart. The more one becomes recreated in Christ through his sacrifice and grace the more one begins to reflect his nature.

The more we let Jesus into our lives, the more he is revealed in and through us. We are born again in him, and therefore we find unity in our character with his.  At this point we no longer view certain things in the same light as we used to. To begin with, troubles no longer seem like the end of the world. Our jobs cease to define us.  Our relationships cease to guide us.  Our money ceases to control us. The more we become privy to the foretastes of heaven, the more we realize that all earthly things do pass away but the joys of heaven are ongoing, without end. As we walk deeper into this new life and existence in the Holy Spirit, there emerges a push and pull on the heart of two very different worlds.  While we value the time and opportunities God has prepared for us in this world, we anxiously anticipate finally seeing and being with the Lord. Paul puts it perfectly in his letter to the Philippians:

22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. (Philippians 1:22-26)

The words “death” and “the end” loom over our lives, applying pressure in one direction or another. We know how fragile this life is, and how with each passing day we inch closer to the end and further from the beginning. Many people are scared of death. This fear is completely understandable. Life is enjoyable, but more than that, it is known. Death is an end we know nothing about.  We never like to see the end of something familiar and good and death signals such an end. With the knowledge of death constantly looming overhead, we feel pressure to achieve or become something in the time we have left. It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ that breaks that chain.

Jesus proclaims that to believe in him is to have life, not death. And in his words we come to the understanding that this life is simply a preview for something else, something wonderful, something confidently promised and assured. Whenever Jesus speaks about heaven in the Gospels, he always says that it is “like” something. The reason he teaches about heaven in this way is because to describe heaven accurately to a human mind is impossible. A human mind cannot fully understand it. He uses the word “like” because heaven is “like” nothing else we totally know of yet.  There exists no true comparison for us to appropriately use.

In his brief, powerful dialogue with the thief hanging next to him on the Cross, Jesus clearly believed in the place he so confidently promised to lead the man after their suffering was to end.  Jesus described it as “paradise,” and so we must believe it to be, a place of life in Jesus that does not come to an end. Forever enjoying the presence of the Savior. For the Christian, this desire for Heaven isn’t about what we will get or see or do there, but about knowing Jesus completely. This process begins here in this life, but not until Heaven will all the work of God in us be made complete.

Tuesday Devotional: Philippians 2

bibleRead Philippians 2:1-11

The nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is displacement.  It is shifts and redirection.  There is nothing stationary or static about the Gospel, nor the life of one overcome by it.  The gospel moves and initiates movement.  This motion begins with the radical dislocation and displacement displayed by Jesus Christ.  The Gospel is anchored in the fact that God himself was dislocated from his rightful place of dominion to a place of disgrace, humiliation and suffering.  Jesus Christ came into this world as a servant. It is then impossible and contradictory for any who profess faith in him to model a character different from his.  As Christians, our lives are anchored by the fact that God humbled himself to be what others needed him to be, and rather than what he knew he deserved. It runs in the face of the Gospel to expect anything different in our own lives.  As Christians, the source of our faith begins with Christ’s service.  It is then reproduced in our lives in service to others.  This service then unites us with Christ and his character, fueling us with daily perseverance to overcome the suffering in this world by knowing that we are of one mind with him.  If division or disunity exists in a fellowship of believers as a result of selfish ambition or vain conceit, Christ no longer has a place in that fellowship and it can no longer rightfully claim to bear his name with any integrity to the Gospel.  The church cannot disconnect itself from the life of Christ nor can it survive without him.  The church ceases to exist if the spirit and character of Christ ceases to exist within it.  One cannot enter into fellowship with Christ or other believers and remain unchanged or unmoved.  At the heart of Christianity is the shift from what we feel we deserve, to what we know he deserves.  It is complete submission to his character and the power of the Holy Spirit to recreate that character within us.  This submission requires the willingness to be dislocated from places to which we have so firmly planted ourselves in the past.  Service to others essentially has nothing to do with whom you are serving and everything to do with why you are serving.  You are serving each day because the God of Heaven and Earth came into this world and served in a way we could never serve.  Therefore, service is not humility to what is being served.  Service is humble acceptance of the truth of Christ’s service and the need for service to be present in our lives if we expect God to be present in our lives.

Previews and Promises: Confident Claims

For the rest of this series, go here and here.

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Movie previews are great at making the particular featured movie seem like the best movie ever made, ever. It doesn’t matter if the actors in the movie have a track record of box office busts or if the director has “lost his touch.”  During those two minutes, anyone can look like a genius. I remember a few years ago there was a lot of hype about two movies. The first movie was a science fiction movie, “Cloverfield.” The preview for this movie had a lot of people talking and the hype was impossible to avoid. The other was a movie called, “The Happening.” This movie was from the director M. Knight Shyamalan, of such box office hits as “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs.”  Many people were talking about how great this movie looked and how excited they were to see it. However, when both movies were released, audiences were largely disappointed. Moviegoers felt taken by the timeless “preview” illusion.

Throughout our lives we will all experience setbacks, obstacles that try our patience, strength and character. As time progresses, many often resign to the particular belief that, “thus is life.” There is a resignation to a belief that some things just go wrong. People get hurt, things don’t work out and there is ultimately nothing we can do about it. But the Bible says otherwise. In the Bible we read that we all can experience the fruit of the Spirit during our time on Earth, and that in Heaven, suffering, pain, sadness and injustice will be reversed and undone.

Heaven promises a reemergence or renewal of the original state of existence, an existence void of all of the things unwelcome in this life like pain and suffering. There is a reason why, regardless of our differing religious beliefs, we all are so uncomfortable with crimes against the innocent and the breaking of a heart. The Bible explains that this inner distaste for such things lies at the heart of our original state within the original creation. We are troubled because we were not made for this place. We are troubled because this “preview life” is only a preview with foretastes, but not the actual full-length feature. Paul expands on this point in his letter to the Philippians:

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, the apostle John is given visions of this final recreation and return to the original creation.  The visions of John support the claims of Jesus in regards to the final act of “recreation” and “regeneration.” 

Revelation 5:9-13

And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,  and they will reign[a] on the earth.” 11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

Revelation 21:4

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 Revelation 22:1-5

 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

These scriptures describe a place that, regardless of your religion or spirituality, all of us desire. Death, sickness, heartbreak, tears and pain are universally despised. These Scriptures offer a glimpse of a place that seems far too good to be true. The Word of God makes truly radical, yet confident claims about what awaits those who “die in the Lord.” Heaven, therefore, is the ultimate good, and is a reality to all of us that seek a place where such things cease to exist.