January 17, 2018
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
In the last blog we looked at Saul, who became the Apostle Paul. He had traveled the known world spreading the gospel of Christ and establishing churches in major metropolitan areas. About ten years before writing to the Philippians, on his second missionary journey, he had been used by God in the Greek city of Philippi for the salvation of some key people – among them Lydia (see Acts 16:11-15) and the Philippian jailer and family (see Acts 16:23-34). After his third missionary journey, Paul was arrested in Jerusalem (see Acts 21:27-34) and kept in custody in Caesarea for more than two years, according to Acts 24:27. Having appealed his case to the emperor, the apostle was taken to Rome and held in prison there awaiting his trial. During this time he wrote what is known as ‘the prison epistles’ – Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. In the letter to the Philippian church, Paul shared the famous declaration of his goal as a believer – Philippians 3:7 through 14. Our featured Scripture is verses 7 and 8:
…what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. But
indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of
Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and
count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
Paul’s goal was Character, not Comfort! We saw how he could have had a very comfortable life as a Pharisee and member of the Jewish Sanhedrin – especially if he is (as I believe) one and the same as the rich young ruler! (See Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 18:18-23).
Why do so many who have accepted Jesus as their personal Savior seem to seek Comfort over Character? I would doubt that they would agree with this last statement. But let’s look at some of the implications of our calling when one becomes a Christian:
• The Lord calls us out of the world, but leaves us in the world to be a witness unto His grace! We can learn much from His High Priestly prayer in John 17:
✞ John 17:6 and 16 (Good News Bible) – “I have made You known to those You gave Me out of the world. They belonged to You, and You gave them to Me….Just as I do not belong to the world, they do not belong to the world.”
✞ John 17:18 – “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”
✞ John 17:22 and 23 – “…the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”
• This world system stands in opposition to God and His purpose!
✞ It is currently under the temporary dominion of the god of this world – Satan! (See Luke 4:5, 6; II Corinthians 4:4).
✞ According to II Thessalonians 2:4, the devil “…opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits…showing himself that he is God.”
✞ Jesus warned His followers in John 15:18 and 19, “If the world hates you, know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
• Jesus tells us in Mark 8:34, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
✞ The cross is an instrument of death! When we follow Jesus bearing our cross, we are going out to die with Him!
✞ We do not necessarily die physically, but we are to die to self! We are to take the continual attitude with which Jesus prayed in the Garden – Luke 22:42: “…neverthe-less not My will, but Yours, be done.” This is saying to God that we will obey and do what He leads us to do – not what we want to do!
✞ Paul was an example of this. He wrote in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
• How far are we to take this attitude of being crucified with Christ ?
✞ …even unto suffering for the cause of our Lord!
▸ Paul writes in Galatians 3:10, “…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering….”
▸ In II Timothy 3:12 he says, “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
▸ Peter tells his readers in his first epistle, I Peter 4:13 and 16: “…you partake of Christ’s sufferings….if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.”
✞ …even unto death! Paul told Timothy just before the aged apostle was martyred in Rome – I Timothy 4:6 (God’s Word to the Nations): “My life is coming to an end, and it is now time for me to be poured out as a sacrifice to God.”
It is not to a life of ease and personal pleasure that we are called to live as followers of Jesus Christ! We are to become more and more like Jesus!
• Romans 8:28, and 29 – “…those who are…called…He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
• II Corinthians 3:18 – “…we all…beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into that same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
• Colossians 3:10 – “…the new man [the Christian] is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.”
God wants Character…not necessarily Comfort! (See also Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4). Be conformed to the image of His Son!