This ain’t easy, and wasn’t meant to be …

As described in the post for the outline, this chapter is rich with verses that impact your daily living. Let’s take them out into the light for a closer look. We will use the outline as a guide and add some meat to its bones.

Just a heads up, Paul is dealing with some real life issues in chapter four. And, he doesn’t line it with lace and velvet. He is writing while in prison and suffering for his faith. This chapter has stout lyrics set to a terse tune. You might feel a couple of “ouches” along the way. There are on purpose. So, to reflect the tone of the chapter, I have written with a serious disposition as well.

Each Christian should be:

Seeking unity in Christ: verses 1-5

Where two or three are gathered together … someone will fuss. Paul implored two ladies in the church at Philippi to bury the hatchet, and not in each other’s back. They were feuding and it was time to stop. He longed for them to walk in unity, and he admonished them to do so.

Paul does not instruct them to be of the same opinion, or “perspective,” (I am so tired of that word, it seems like a $52 word for opinion or personal preference). He told them to be “of the same mind.” This more than just agreeing. This means that they are to agree in thought AND attitude. This is a commitment to God’s Truth and submitting to it to direct their thoughts and actions. It is a surrender of self and determination to be like Christ.

Also, the Philippian believers were to rejoice “in the Lord.” Genuine joy does not bubble up from warm, fuzzy circumstances. It comes from knowing, trusting, and relying upon God and His promises. The way verse four is constructed means that the rejoicing is to be continual, or a deliberate ongoing action.

Knowing peace in Christ: verses 6-9

Here are eight critical words: God does not want you to be anxious! He wants you to have peace. You thoughts and attitudes will be determined by what you focus your mind on. If you focus on yourself, your situation, or your ability to take care of yourself, you actually should be worrisome and anxious. We cannot take care of our lives. God can, and must. Verse six shows us how to avoid worry and anxiety:

1. Follow His command. God grants us the power obey. You must commit to changing the way you think and what you think about. God does not magically change it. You must work on it. He will provide grace, strength, and wisdom. But, you must work at it. Memorizing key Bible verses is a great way to catalyze, then augment this. Did I mention that you must be disciplined in your thinking and work at it? Pause here for some self-examination … then work at it.

2. Pray. Duh! When you begin to fret or fume, you can stop it, quit focusing on self or the situation, and pray. Pray through your memory verses. Pray about the situation. Pray for power to overcome your anxiety. Then, move on. Remember Philippians 3:13-14 — forget the past and press on. Did I mention to work at it?

3. Be disciplined. Here’s the itchy reality: if you do not commit to changing the way you think or what you focus on, do not memorize verses, decide to focus on self rather than praying, and keep going back to whatever bothers you, then you do not want God’s peace. He doesn’t magically change all of this for you. You have to want it. You have to be disciplined in pursuing His peace. It’s a process, not an event. It requires focused effort, not hoping and waiting. Did I mention that this takes work?

Notice what His peace does for us in verse 7: it guards our hearts and minds. It doesn’t zap our hearts and minds, or put sprinkle magical, Heaven dust on them. It guards your mind and heart; it stands guard as you do what you are supposed to: fill your heart and mind with Scripture, pray, forget the past, focus on God’s word, and press on. Speaking of what we should focus on, verses eight and nine follow up on seeking God’s peace by telling us what to focus our minds on:

  • Things that are true (God’s Word); not things that exist in our mind and might not exist in reality. Have you ever kept track of things you worry about. It has been stated that 90% of the things that we worry about never actually happen.
  • Things that are noble, reverent, dignified; not things that are irreverent, or profane, or folly
  • Things that are fair and morally pure; not immoral or unfair things
  • Things that are pleasing and grace-based, not things that are upsetting or un-winsome
  • Things that are worthy of honor and praise.

If you memorize God’s Word, focus on these types of things (not on, ahem, Netflix or Facebook), commit to turning away from worry/anxiety when it springs up, and to praying, you will come to know the peace of God. If you don’t do these things, well, then you are asking for what you will get — frustration, worry, and fretfulness.

Before we leave this section, it is important to see that unity among believers comes through:

  • Having the same mindset in Christ. 3
  • Having ongoing joy in Christ. 4
  • Culitivating and demonstrating gentleness toward others. 5 (Note: developing gentleness is an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, and discipline.)
  • Developing a non-anxious, peaceful mind. 6-7
  • Focusing on things that honor God and are wholesome.

Growing in strength in Christ: verses 10-13

Growing in Christ means pushing through our own emotions, thoughts, and motives. We must press on. Notice that Paul says in verse 11 that to be content in whatever circumstance required him learning to do so. Again, there is not a one time balm that God rubs on our minds for this. Paul said that “I have learned in whatever state I am in, to be content.” He learned it! Cringe alert: even though he had a hard life and was treated unfairly, Paul never felt sorry for himself or played the victim. He kept pressing on (Chapter 3:13-14). Did I mention that he worked at it?

So, the context for verse 13, which is often quoted, is one of learning to endure and gaining strength from Christ as we learn to press on and be content. I once saw a coffee mug in a Christian book store in Memphis that had a picture of a man playing golf along with Philippians 4:13 quoted on it. I laughed out loud when I saw it. Composing from a prison cell, Paul was not writing to the Philippians to say that Jesus would give us strength to improve at our hobbies, or be more successful in our leisure, or have an easier time with our easy lives. Paul was saying, “Hey, I am in prison for Christ, but I have learned to be content in whatever situation am I in because I draw strength from Him as I suffer for Him.” Jesus doesn’t care about anyone’s golf game. Really. He’s bigger than that. We should be too.

Receiving provision from Christ: verses 14-20

It is through fellow believers that God often provides. Notice how the Philippian believers had helped Paul by encouraging him, serving alongside him, and supporting him financially. We should do the same for other believers.

I will save a summary and wrap up for the post on Friday on application for chapter four. In the meantime, as a way to tie chapter four together I offer these wise words shared by a saint from years ago regarding living the Christian: God will provide the fish. But, you have dig the worms, bait the hook, and go fishing!

Well said. When it comes to developing unity in Christ, knowing peace from Christ, and growing in strength in Christ, did I mention that … you have to work at it?

It’s within reach …

As I peck on the keyboard for this post it is raining and thundering. Rain pattering on the roof is a calming sound. It always makes me smile. If you listen closely, rain never sounds quite the same way twice. It is a wonder each time.

Reading through Philippians is new each time as well. With each read, and re-read, there is something new to discover and apply. God’s Word is that way. It is a living and active Word (Hebrews 4:12). In Philippians chapter four you will find that truth re-affirmed.

In the final chapter of Philippians you will be encouraged, helped, and offered hope. See if you can spot where each those elements emerge. To aid you, here is an outline that divides the chapter into its main parts:

Each Christian should be:

  • Seeking unity in Christ: verses 1-5
  • Knowing peace in Christ: verses 6-9
  • Growing in strength in Christ: verses 10-13
  • Receiving provision from Christ: verses 14-20

This chapter has top-notch memory verses that offer blue-ribbon insight for daily living. Among them are:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

As you stroll trough the aisles of chapter four you will discover an abundance of truths ready to be taken in, pored over, and acted upon.

In the post on Tuesday, we will unpack some key verses in the chapter and begin applying what this great chapter shows us.

On a different note, as this is the last chapter in Philippians, and a new month begins soon, do you have suggestions as to what we might study together in March? We can study another short book in March, or spread a longer one over March and April. Please post your thoughts in the comment section and let’s find another book to walk through together.

I’m going to log off and listen to the rain now …

His Light shrinks the shadow of the past …

As we have ventured through chapter 3 with the outline and commentary from this week, we can now take specific points for application. Sometimes application comes through further explanation. In this case I think it comes best through questions generated by the text. Let’s use our outline for chapter three and face some serious questions freshly squeezed from the text of the chapter to aid us in applying its truths.

Believers should be:

  • Rejoicing: verse 1

Is your mindset or attitude determined by your circumstances, or worse your mood, or do you exhibit joy and contentment in any situation? Keep in mind that the Bible shows God’s most faithful people having plenty of precarious times. Rarely do we find a hero of the faith whistling while walking down easy street.

James 1:2-3 reminds us that we are to trust God and His Word and exhibit joy in anything we face.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3

  • Counting accurately: verses 2-11

Are you counting on your religion, religious experiences, or religious traditions for security and stability? They are wobbly legs at best. What is one thing that is keeping you from relying on Christ alone? (You know the answer in general here, it’s pride, but think on what some specific barriers might be).

“And he (Jesus) said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” Mark 7:6-9

  • Pressing on: verses 12-16

Growing in Christ is not an experience; it is a daily discipline. It is not a passive process; it is an active, ongoing process.

Are there things in your past that hinder you? Are you holding onto something from your past and marinating in it so that you can feel sorry for yourself? God grants us freedom from the past and our mistakes by grace in Christ. Why hold on to something that He has forgiven and wants to remove from your mind, heart, and life? God promises freedom and joy, please do not forsake it and continue to soak in the past. I have to ask a hard question here: do you hold on to something from the past so that I can serve as an excuse?

Jesus did no go to the cross so that we could ignore what He has purchased and provided for us. He died so that we could forget the past (an ongoing process) and press on to the future by holding on to His promises. Go on, be free!

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

Jesus wasn’t kidding then, He isn’t now either. You can be free.

  • Watching: verses 17-19

Who are you looking to for motivation to grow in Christ? Look to Him. Also, take time to read biographies of great Christians of the past. An untapped resource that we have nowadays is the biographies of our spiritual ancestors such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Bunyan, John Owen, C.S. Lewis, etc. Check out John Piper’s book entitled 21 Servants of Sovereign Joy. It is a collection of short biographies of 21 faithful believers throughout the ages.

  • Waiting: verses 20-21

As we anticipate our Lord’s return, we should do so expectantly, while exacting in our growth in Him.

Soak in these truths, not the past. Let Him help you to move forward, and to keep pressing on. Jesus came to us, taught, died, and rose again so that we can be free from the past and ourselves, and to be free to pursue Him earnestly and persistently.

Shedding the past, pursuing the future …

We are at the midpoint of the book. The road we are on makes a sharp right, and uphill. Chapters one and two offered generic instruction and admonition. Chapters three and four shifts to specifics. The first word in chapter three, “finally,” begins that transition and cranks the steering wheel firmly to the right onto and by creating a higher road toward more specific principles for believers to grasp and grow in. For an exploration of this higher territory, we will use our outline for a map:

Believers should be:

Rejoicing: verse 1

We are to rejoice “in the Lord,” not in fleeting things such as ourselves, our stuff, or our situation. It is important to note that the Bible almost never mentions happiness. When it does it refers to a “blessedness,” or “blessed happiness,” that comes from knowing God and His Word, not from easy and fun times. Instead, the Bible focuses on joy and contentment. Both of those are rooted in Christ, trusting His promises, and walking with Him. Both of them endure, and they overcome circumstances.

Counting accurately: verses 2-11

  • Don’t count on yourself – 2-6

Paul describes for us that even through he was well-qualified to look inward for help or stability; he did not trust in his heritage, reputation, or himself. He counted on Christ. Before becoming a Christian Paul had an impeccable and impressive reputation as a zealous Pharisee and religious leader of his day, but apart from Christ it meant nothing. We cannot trust our religious heritage, or religious traditions, we must trust Christ. Do you have a religious tradition or experience that you hold onto more firmly than to Christ?

  • Do count on Christ – 7-11

There are some fascinating terms in these verses used to illustrate what Paul is saying in this section. While not present in English translations, the original language that Paul wrote in (Greek) uses accounting terms in verses 7. The term in verse seven for “gain” refers to a sizable profit by a businessman, and “loss” refers to a business that lost it profits, or ruin.

Paul knew that his reputation and religion apart from Christ equaled zero on the God’s spiritual ledger.

Paul could count his losses as gain because he saw what he had lost as something that could have been a barrier to knowing Christ and walking with him more intimately. The term for “knowing Christ” in verse 8 means more than having knowledge of (head knowledge), it means a relationship with experiential, intimate knowledge.

The word for rubbish is very specific, but not palpable term. It means manure or human waste. So, Paul was saying that he counted all that he left and lost as crap. Literally. He removed “crap” from his life so that he could know Christ better.

In verses 8 and 9 we see that we have more that forgiveness in Christ, we also have righteousness from and in Christ. The great news is that the righteousness of Christ is attributed to all who are in HIm by faith. This imputed righteousness is not one that we can attain or earn, it is granted to us in Christ by God’s grace. So, when God views you, He sees you as forgiven because of Jesus and clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. That demonstrates why we can have an eternal relationship and standing with God in Christ — it is all because of Who Jesus is and what He has done on our behalf!

Pressing on: verses 12-16

In these verses Paul uses specific Greek terms to make his point. He paints the picture of a sprinter exerting great effort and doing his best to reach the finish line. The word used by Paul for “pressing on,” has the idea of running hard and then stretching for the finish line.

In verse 13 he reminds us again not to rely upon ourselves, but to rely upon Christ and His Spirit for our growth.

One key to becoming more like Christ is outlined in verses 13. It has a two parts. First, we must forget the past. Those in Christ who are chained by their past are so because they choose to be (that sounds harsh, but it is biblical accurate). Christ sets us free completely from our past. To say that He does not is to say that He cannot. He offers forgiveness for and freedom from our past, all of it! Second, we must press on, which takes daily effort. Effort that is focused on reading His Word, praying, and living out what He teaches and directs us toward.

Watching: verses 17-19

Paul was an example, though he would admit, an imperfect one. We sometimes look to Christ who is perfect and can grow frustrated by our lack of growth. On the other hand, we can be encouraged to press on by the growth of a fellow flaw-ridden follower of Christ. We are to watch and learn from both.

Waiting: verses 20-21

All of this is possible because our Lord and Savior has made us children of God and citizens of His Kingdom. We look forward to the day when forgetting the past and pressing on toward growth in Him is no longer needed because we are with Him. As the old hymn says, “what a day that will be!”

Your past will fade and your shackles will weaken …

In chapter three of Philippians Paul is opening the vault revealing his innermost moviations. What Paul shares divides the chapter into five small sections. Each section contains just a few verses, but each of them are industrial grade in strength.

Chapter two instructed us to look beyond ourselves, love others, and sacrifically serve others; that prepares us precisely for chapter three. Chapter three points us to Christ. — knowing Him now and looking for His return.

Outline: Believers should be:

  • Rejoicing: verse 1
  • Counting accurately: verses 2-11
    • Don’t count on yourself – 2-6
    • Do count on Christ – 7-11
  • Pressing on: verses 12-16
  • Watching: verses 17-19
  • Waiting: verses 20-21
  • As this chapter holds many high caliber verses, please take special note of verses 8-10 and 13-14. Each of those verses set us free from clinging to trivial things, relying upon ourselves, and aiming for the wrong things. They move us from fancying trinkets and replaying the past to loving Christ enough to forsake anything for Him and finding our freedom in Him.

    “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” Philippians 3:8-10

    “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

    Using the outline provided, take several, slow, measured reads through this chapter. It is a volcano of truth, ready to erupt.

    What is that sound?

    After reading, and re-reading, the second chapter of Philippians with a deliberate mind and at a slow pace you have likely felt the weight of what is being said. The 30 verses land hard on our pride, selfishness, and lack of concern for others. Let’s be honest about it. Those unbecoming qualities exist in all of our lives. All of us.

    Rich in meaning, fiercely pressing in on us, those 30 verses can alter your day, week, or life.

    Rather than pecking out three or four hundred words about those 30 verses. Please review our working outline for the chapter, go back and read chapter two again, then ask yourself the questions at the end of this post:

    The Outline:

    Being like Christ requires:

    • Looking out for others – verses 1-11
    • Surrendering to God’s work in us – verses 12-16
    • Pouring ourselves out for Him and others – verses 17-30

    The sound you are about to hear is your pride tripping, tumbling down a long flight of stairs, landing with a dull thud, and whimpering on the floor on a crumpled rug.

    The Questions:

    1. Do you really want to be like Christ? What are you willing to do to become more like Him? Are you ready for less TV, less social media, more quiet time reading the Bible, more time serving others, and more sacrifice for others? Take a moment, write down whatever comes to mind. Then, take some more time and ask God to show you what needs to decrease and what must increase for you to become more like His Son.

    2. Are you actively struggling against God’s work in you or surrendering fully — by the way, partial surrender is well-camouflaged rebellion — to Him and His desires for you? Will you read His Word actively looking for ways to yield to Him and fight against self, self-sufficiency, and self-preservation?

    3. How will you pour yourself out for someone else this week for Christ?

    The 30 verses of Philippians chapter two and the questions they require are awaiting an answer. That sound you hear now is the text standing beside you, tapping it’s foot …

    Bow low to reach high …

    I hope the outline of chapter two set the tone for your exploration of it. There are riches of truth in it. But one must bend low to grasp them.

    A quote by the great Bible teacher of yesterday, F.B. Meyer, points to this:

    “I used to think that God’s gifts were on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian character the more easily we could reach them. I now find that God’s gifts are on shelves one beneath the other and that it is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower.”

    Following our outline for this chapter we see that being like Christ requires:

    Looking out for others – verses 1-11

    “Therefore” in verse one links the beginning of chapter two to the end of chapter one. Rewind a few verses into the end of chapter one to see the point that Paul is making in the beginning of chapter two.

    There is an interesting series of similar statements in succession in verses 3, 4, and 5. Notice the three “let” statements in these verses:

    • Let nothing be done in selfish ambition or conceit – verse 3
    • Let each look out for him/herself AND for others – verse 4
    • Let the mind of Christ be in each believer – verse 5

    In coming to live and die for our sins, Jesus, our Lord, took the role of bondservant or slave. Jesus showed His grace and glory through humility, not force or self-exaltation. Exaltation should come from others, and it follows humility; it does not precede it.

    Verse 8 shows us that Jesus did not hold on to being exalted as the Son of God in Heaven. Rather, He emptied Himself of exaltation, took on the form of a servant (even though He is a ruler and King of Kings), became like us (a radical, un-get-a-hold-able truth), and humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross (the most horrible and humiliating way to die). He is our example.

    Surrendering to God’s work in us – verses 12-16

    Verse 12b can easily be misread, misinterpreted, and misapplied. To be clear: we DO NOT work for our salvation, we work because we have been saved. Our “works” do not save us or contribute to saving us from our sins and sinfulness. If one good work of ours contributed to us being saved then Christ, His death, and resurrection were not enough to redeem us. Re-read that, slowly. If we ever think that we did anything to contribute to us being saved, then we are demonstrating that we think that Jesus isn’t enough. Period.

    Here is one — of the many — passages that drive this home for us:

    “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:4-9

    Any good works from us are produced by the new birth in Christ and the Holy Spirit, now a resident in us. The working is the outflow of inward change caused by His grace and sanctifying work.

    Verse 13 contains a precious truth, one that encourages and stabilizes us: God is the one willing and working in us. He changes the heart, mind, and will to align with HIs work and purposes. He is working in us to His own satisfaction. This stings our pride. We like to think that we generate and complete good works. No, He does. This verse shows that He continues his sanctifying work out to the finish, and for His pleasure and satisfaction. He does not work in us for our satisfaction, He does so to His. His work is effective work, it always accomplishes the goal, for His glory.

    Verse 13 is a great memory verse! Tuck that one away for later.

    Verse 14 hurts. Youch! Bite down and chew on it. Insert the opposite of what is stated for further impact: when we are complaining and disputing (that one really hits me) we are harmful to others and blame-laden.

    The original word for “crooked” is the root word for scoliosis. The word for “perverse” refers to twisted, abnormal character that is at the point of being twisted in two.

    Pouring ourselves out for Him and others – verses 17-30

    We are to pour out our lives for others. Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus model this for us.

    Take note of verse 21 and how it is the opposite of verse 4.

    Paul writes of pouring his life out, like a drink offering. He also commends two fellow Christ-followers for living for others:

    • Timothy was one whose character had been proven through service, he was a fellow servant in Christ and like a son to Paul.
    • Epaphroditus was like a brother and fellow servant — even fellow “soldier” during hard times — to Paul.

    Paul modeled sacrificing his life for others. Those who learned from him did the same. What are others learning from our lives? Service and sacrifice, or selfishness and self-preservation?

    Some application points from chapter two are on their way to you on Thursday night.

    Moving beyond ourselves, or away from ourselves.

    Penetrating. Humbling. Although those words do not usually reside side-by-side, they reveal the tone and direction of Philippians chapter two. In this chapter, Paul describes a way of life — the Christ life — that directly contradicts the one promoted by our society nowadays.

    As you saunter into chapter two — whistling, hands in your pockets, content from chapter one’s truths of joy and God at work in your life — you enter, unaware, into a small chamber. As your pupils dilate and pulse increases you realize that you are no longer in the comfy, couch-laden parlor of chapter one. You have meandered into a hall that seems to be shrinking with each step. Soon, the hall seems to be constricting, suffocating. As you move toward the room at the end you have to bend at the waist, then take to your hands and knees, and then resort to a belly-crawl. You finally make it to a small opening that allows you to peek through a portal. Through the pane-less opening you find yourself looking into the past. You are looking into the upper room scene from John 13. Jesus is on His knees, towel-draped, wash basin in front of him; He is washing the feet of His disciples, and of His betrayer.

    As I pecked out those words on the keyboard a lump formed in my throat. The image in my mind of Jesus on His knees, taking on the task of the lowliest servant in a household, placing His hands on the feet of His followers, to teach them, and to serve as the Model for them, moistens my eyes. I do not know why. But, it does. Every time.

    With that scene of Jesus as foot-washing servant dialed into our minds. We are ready to settle into chapter two. Here is a working outline for breaking it down into manageable bits.

    Being like Christ requires:

    • Looking out for others – verses 1-11
    • Surrendering to God’s work in us – verses 12-16
    • Pouring ourselves out for Him and others – verses 17-30
  • There is little else to say here. Go ahead and ease into chapter two. Go unhurriedly. May I offer a suggestion? Read the entire chapter slowly, perhaps out loud. Then, read verses 1-11 slowly a few times, take some notes, ponder, let it seep in. Do the same for the second section in verses 12-16, then the same for verses 17-30. There is much to marvel at there. There is much to learn. There is much truth to take in down deep, and allow it to do its work of sparking repentance, scraping away pride and selfishness, then developing humility and a focus on others.

    This chapter of Philippians cuts my feet out of from under each time that I read it. It might yours as well, unless, you breeze through it and miss what is being whispered.

    Where spark touches paper …

    One of the many benefits of reading the Bible chapter by chapter — as we did in Proverbs and are now doing in Philippians — is that you are teaching yourself to read the Bible better. How is it better? Glad you asked.

    1. Reading the Bible chapter by chapter through an entire book gives logical and rhythmic view of the book. Most books of the Bible — including Philippians, but not as much Proverbs, is written in a logical form. It has a message, along with subtopics, that unfold as you read. You are training yourself to pick up that message as you read chapter by chapter. This cannot be done by reading portions of a chapter or book, or random places in the Bible.
    2. Reading the Bible chapter by chapter places what you read in the proper context. The message is framed by the book, not by random or topical readings of it.
    3. Reading the Bible chapter by chapter, several times over, helps you to discern what is being said, and how it is being said. This can provide historical and grammatical (or syntactical) context that can yield insights that might have otherwise remained out of reach of casual reading.
    4. Reading the Bible chapter by chapter, perhaps several times over, can coax application points out of their warm resting places within the text.

    With those things in mind, here are some application points, and things to pray about from, chapter one:

    • Verse 3 – Which fellow believers are you thankful for? Hopefully, some will come to mind. If not, wow, you must be a crusty old … (insert uncouth noun of your choice here). When fellow believers that are dear to you come to mind jot their names down, send them a card or email of encouragement, or call them. Let them know that you are thankful for them. Be specific. Generic encouragement means little. It might be a bit awkward at first. But, their pounds of joy from it will outweigh your ounces of nervousness about it.
    • Verse 5 – Who are you currently “partnering with” in the gospel? You can support folks serving Christ with prayer, encouragement, and money. Consider taking your pastor out for coffee, or lunch. Send a small donation to a mission organization, or go volunteer at a Christian ministry. Consider sharing some spare hundred dollar bills with your favorite Bible study blogger. Hehe. On second thought, twenty dollar bills will do. Seriously, make it a point this week to encourage someone working hard for the Lord.
    • Verse 6 – Trust God to complete His sanctifying work in you and cooperate with Him. As He is doing the work in us, we must cooperate by submitting to His Word and Holy Spirit through Bible study and prayer.
    • Verse 7 – We are all in Christ because of God’s grace, there is no status or hierarchy among believers. Treat your fellow believers as better than yourself.
    • Verses 9-11 – Pray to grow in love (an informed and wise love), to learn to approve and follow what is excellent (see Philippians 4:8), to foster purity and blamelessness, and to bear fruit for Christ.
    • Verses 12-14 – View your situation through the wide angle lens of God’s vantage point and purposes, not through your keyhole-sized point of view.
    • Verse 21 – What/who are you living for? What needs to be thinned out or removed to unclutter your spiritual life?
    • Verse 27 – Pray for a life and walk worthy of the Gospel and Christ.
    • Verse 29 – As you grow in Christ anticipate hardship as the norm from today’s world — it does not honor or want to follow God — expect some persecution.

    As you prayerfully consider these points of application God will show you areas of your life for living them out more faithfully. Take some time. Sit still. Re-read the verses listed above. Listen. God takes delight in nudging and directing His children through His Word.

    Adding muscle to bone …

    Having read the chapter we can begin to add muscle to the skeleton of the outline. A tip for reading your Bible is to read a chapter with an outline of it close at hand. Many good study Bibles have an outline for the book and its chapters at the beginning of it. Having an outline for the chapter serves as a road map for you reading; it keeps you between the ditches. Once you have read through the chapter with an outline in mind, you can then go back and read the chapter again and allow the text to emerge. This is where you begin to gather meaning from the text. So, let’s do it.


    Paul’s fellow believers: 1-11

    A key to Bible study is letting the text show you what is there, not you inserting your meaning or thoughts into the text. Knowing the context of what is being said  — an outline helps this — keeps you from getting off the road and into the weeds with odd interpretations or applications.

    So, remember that the context for these verses is Paul writing to fellow believers. Let’s see what he had to say to them.

    In verse one he makes a distinction in the officers of the church. He addressed two different types of church offices: overseers/bishops and deacons. Overseers are also referred to as elders and bishops in some translations. The idea is that they are the leaders in the church set apart for leading and teaching. The second group was “deacons.” In the original language of the New Testament the word deacon means “servant” or “table-waiter.” (See Acts 6:1-7 for background on how deacons came to exist in the church.) This differentiation is one of office and role. Overseers lead and teach; deacons serve and assist. For you dyed-in-wool Baptists this might come as a shock, but, deacons are not the leaders or overseers of the church. They are to be servants.

    Verse two is a greeting used often by Paul. You see it in most of his letters. Notice that “grace” and “peace” are linked. Apart from grace in Christ we cannot know the peace of God.

    Verse six contains a great promise to us. Once a person has been born again in Christ, God initiates and continues the work of making him/her more like Christ. This is an ongoing process, not a series of singular events. This process is called sanctification. This process is God at work in our lives through His Word and Spirit to develop Christ-likeness and Christ-like character in us. It is not dependent upon us, it is dependent upon Him, but we must cooperate with Him for it to bear the proper fruit.

    In verse six the security of our salvation in Christ is heartily implied here.

    Paul prays for the believers of Philippi in verses 9-11. He specifically prayed for

    • Their love to grow and abound. How would it? Through knowledge and discernment. Biblical love is not sentimentalism or emotion, it is affection anchored in truth.
    • Their discernment to grow. He wanted them to discern and approve and hold to what is excellent (no room for a negative or fussy attitude here). He wanted them to grow in testing and determining what is right, and then following it.
    • The genuineness of their faith to grow. We wanted them to become more sincere and genuine. The word for sincere here comes from two words in the original language. In Paul’s day shady pottery merchants would fill in cracks in the pottery with wax. Wise customers would hold the clay pots up to the sunlight to check for wax filling. The pots that were solid and honestly made were called “sine cera” — without wax. Do you have wax-filled cracks in your life and faith. Or, are you sine cera?
    • Their lives to be bearing fruit for Christ. See also Galatians 5:22-23 and John 15:1-5


    Paul’s circumstances: 12-18

    We must keep in mind that every detail of life is ordained and directed by God. He is overseeing all things. Whatever situation you find yourself in does not surprise God. He allowed or directed it. We cannot let the short-sightedness of our perspective — often selfish or self-sustaining — to shape us, we must look at our situation from God’s wide-angle, eternal viewpoint. A lesson here is that hard times can produce great things — greater faith, growth, etc.

    Paul hadn’t experienced the best of times in Philippi, and he didn’t complain. See Acts 16 for more details.


    Paul’s future: 19-26

    From verses 19-20 we see that Paul believed that he would be delivered from the Roman prison.

    Verse 21 is a great statement of faith, and of Paul’s life focus. Knowing and serving Christ was his reason for living. His love for and service for Christ was his singular purpose. What are you living for? Are you singular in your life or spread out across many lanes?


    Paul’s advice: 27-30

    Paul issues a set of exhortations in these verses. He longs for the Philippians to

    • Have conduct worthy of the gospel. Likewise we are to have integrity with what we belief, teach, and live. This. Is. Hard. All of us trip and fall. The idea is not a life of perfection, but a life of increasing growth in grace in Christ.
    • Stand in unity for the truth of the gospel. They were to be united together and in their defense of the gospel against false teachers (more on this in later chapters).
    • Be courageous.
    • Believing in Christ will lead to challenges, some hardship, and perhaps, persecution.

    I hope that this fuels your reading and studying of chapter one. It’s a great chapter. Soak in it, splash around and see what all is there.

    On Thursday, I will post some points for application and prayer from chapter one. Happy Reading!