Showing posts from February, 2024

Reorienting Our Focus Pt. 1

Reorienting our Focus Pt 1 “For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.” Phil. 2:19-24               Paul had a problem.  He deeply cared about the people in Philippi and was concerned about their welfare.  However, as much as he longed to visit with them to encourage them, he could not.  At this point, Paul was sitting in the confines of a jail cell.  He was facing an uncertain future where he did not know if he would be released.  While he was in prison, he could still enjoy the visits of fellow believers and their fellowship.  One of his companions was Timothy.  Timothy had become Paul’s protégé whom Paul was mentoring and preparing to take over the ministry when Paul’s ministry was complete.  Timothy was someone that Paul could rely upon and was a fellow laborer in his work.  He first encountered Timothy on his 2 nd missionary journey when Paul had come to Lystra and met him.  Timothy was part Jew and part Greek; thus, he would serve as the perfect bridg

The Age of Complaint

The Age of Complaint Philippians 2:14-18 “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”               It is easy to fall into its trap.  We don’t want to, but it just seems to come out.  We desire to be known as a positive person; it is just so hard to avoid complaining. The hardest thing to do is remain silent when we feel we have been mistreated, disrespected, or not given the service we think we deserve.  It does not matter what the circumstances are; we complain if we feel we are mistreated or our views are not given proper consideration.  If the service is poor, we complain.  If the product is faulty, somebody needs to pay.  If we are disrespected, we will make it known that our rights have been violated.  Fights break out in stadiums because someone feels that someone else has disrespected them or intruded into their territory.  As the poem “Complainin’ Jack” by Shel Silverstein recites, “Complain, complain, that is all he did, I finally had to shut the lid.”              In thi

Divine Initiative and Human Responsibility

The Divine Initiative and Human Responsibility Philippians 2:12-13 “For It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good Pleasure.”               Every sermon has an application.  Having outlined the wonder of the incarnation, Paul comes to the response.  In light of what Christ has done, the only appropriate response is to embrace the salvation he offers.  However, this response is not just a single act but a lifestyle.  The person and work of Christ demand complete surrender and obedience to his word.  The Christian life is not an event of faith but a life of faith.  Paul encourages us to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”  However, we must give careful attention to his wording.  Paul does not say, “Work  for  your salvation;” he states, “Work  out  your salvation.”  The difference is critical.  To work for your salvation makes salvation dependent upon our works and efforts, which undermines grace. When he states work out your salvation, he reminds us


The Name that is Above Every Name Phil. 2:9-11 “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.”               The mystery of Jesus’ incarnation concludes with an anthem of praise.  Having described the wonder of the ultimate display of self-denunciation, Paul now describes the wonder of Christ’s exaltation. In response to his redemptive work the Father highly exhated Christ.  The term “highly exalted” has the idea of hyper-exalted, that Father exalted him to the highest possible place.  This does not mean that the Father exalted Christ to a higher position than he was before the incarnation. Instead, it affirms that after his humiliation, he was again exalted to the highest position of being equal to the Father. He sat down at the right hand of the Father, where He now rules for all eternity (Hebrews 1:3). This super-exaltation is further seen by the fact that he is given the name above every name.  But what is this name?           

The Kenosis of Christ

The Kenosis of Christ Philippians 2:6-8 “Although he existed in the form of God, did not regard quality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself.”                          Philippians 2:5-11 is often called the Kenosis Passage. This passage is described as the greatest revelation and insight into the incarnation of Christ. This title comes from the critical word in verse 7 when Paul states, “but emptied himself.”  The word empty comes from the Greek word “kenos.”  The verb means to cause to be emptied of power or to make powerless.  It is a word that serves to capture the mystery and wonder of the incarnation of Christ.  However, before we get to the implications of this verse, we first need to understand verse six and its implications.  Paul begins by affirming that Jesus existed in the form of God.   Throughout the New Testament, we find repeated the emphasis that Jesus was entirely God and shared the divine nature and essence with the Father.  In John 1:1, we read that Je

If God can do it, then why can't we.

If God can do it, then why can’t we? Self-sacrifice Pt. 2 Philippians 2:5-9               Philippians 2:5-11 is one of the pivotal sections in the whole New Testament.  In these few verses, Paul captures the mystery of the incarnation of Christ (more about this in tomorrow’s devotional).  This passage sets for the wonder of God becoming a man.  However, in the marvel of the beauty of this passage, as it relates to Christ’s divine humiliation, we often lose the statement's significance.             In this passage, Paul did not set out to give a theological statement regarding the incarnation.  While describing the nature of the incarnation, Paul seeks to provide the divine illustration of the principle of self-sacrifice that he just mentioned.  As we saw yesterday, God calls us to focus and prioritize the needs and interests of others, even above our own self-interest and needs.  But this mandate is not just based upon some sociological ideal to maintain our civil society. Instead,

The Sacrifice of Self

The Sacrifice of Self-Empowerment (Pt. 1) Phil. 2:1-4 “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.”               Our greatest appetite is not our cravings for food but our craving for self.  Our natural desire is to look out for our own self-interests.  In Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs, self-actualization, which is achieving one’s full potential, including creativity, is listed as the highest need, and self-esteem is second.   So the mantra today has become about personal empowerment, which is about taking control of our own lives and making positive decisions based on what we want. We are told to be in control of our destiny and that we should not allow anyone to tell us what to do.  The song by Frank Sinatra, “My Way,” has become our personal national anthem, for in the end, nothing matters more than living life on our terms. Certainly, a healthy self-image and an understanding of our value as individual

Perspective in Suffering

Perspective in Suffering Phil 1:27-30 “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for his sake.”               The call of Christ is a call to suffering.  We often think of the Christian faith to be a life of celestial joy as we rejoice in the salvation Christ has given us.  We listen to messages and read the devotionals telling us how much God loves and desires to bless us.  Yet the reality is often far different. Indeed, God gives us joy and peace as we experience our hope in Christ.  But this joy is often not realized in times of blessing but in times of sorrow and pain.  It is not when life is good and everything is going well that the blessings of God are fully understood; it comes when life turns dark and foreboding, and we are experiencing deeply felt hurt and pain.               The circumstances confronting Paul and Philippi's people were deeply troubling.  They were facing increasing opposition and attack not only by t

Pursuing the Insignificant

Complete Surrender. Phil. 1:19-26  “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”               What is left when all the glitz and glamour of life is removed?  Life's greatest tragedy is not death but a wasted life spent pursuing the insignificant.  So often, we get caught up in the daily affairs of life, focusing on the pursuit of wealth and prosperity, the advancement of our careers, and the attainment of status and recognition so that we spend our whole lives pursuing what is ultimately unimportant.  When we stand in the face of death, we are confronted with the reality of significance.  Death is the equalizer, for it reduces life to the essentials.  In our confrontation with death, wealth and prosperity offer no relief.  The career we pursued tenaciously no longer matters.  Status and recognition only become a few words of tribute upon our tombstone.  In the grave, the rich and the poor possess the same thing.  Success and failure are forgotten.             Paul faced the

Finding Joy in the Ministry of Others

Finding Joy in the Ministry of Others Philippians 1:15-18 “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.”               In ministry, it is easy to be jealous of the success of others, especially when they are ministering with the wrong motives. It does not matter what ministry we are involved in; there will always be others obtaining greater results and getting more recognition.  As a result, we can become discouraged, or worse, we can become bitter.  We labor just as hard, strive to obey Christ, and honor him.  Yet they appear arrogant and proud as they brag about their popularity and success.  Instead of promoting Christ, they seem more concerned about promoting their program.  Yet people still flock to their ministries, and they get the recognition of others. Whether we are a church pastor, program leaders, or even a Sunday School teacher, others will always get the recognition while we labor in the trenches.        

The Tragedy becomes a Triumph

When Adversity Becomes a Triumph Phil. 1:12-14 “Most of the brethren trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.”                          No one is exempt from the trials of life.  Sometimes, we think our faith should protect us from adversity, only to become discouraged and disillusioned when adversity comes.  We begin to question God and his goodness and plan for us.             Paul was well acquainted with adversity.  He had experienced the depth of trials.  In 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, he describes the struggles he had faced, “We were afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body of dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also might be manifested in our body.”  How could Paul maintain his spiritual perspective in the face of his continual persecution and hardships?  In Philippians 1:12-14 Paul give

The Prayer God Answers

The Prayer that God Loves to Answer Phil. 1:7-11 “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”               When we pray, what is the focus of our requests?  James points out that one of the reasons we are powerless in prayer is because we ask with the wrong motives. Our prayers focus on what we want for our pleasure and happiness rather than spiritual transformation (James 4:3). Effective prayer starts with the proper focus.  This is not to say that God does not desire us to pray about our personal needs.  He invites us to pray about all things and issues in our lives.  However, prayer is not alligning God’s will to us, but our will to his.  Effective prayer aligns our lives with Christ's will