JohnSWilson3 Blog


“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.”

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.” Matthew 13:44.

“But seek his kingdom…Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Luke 12:31a,32,34, 13:18-19.

“God…was pleased to reveal his Son in me…Christ lives in me…I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 1:15-16, 2:20, 4:19, 5:25.

“…God, who tests our hearts…the Word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe…May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts…” 1 Thessalonians 2:4,13, 3:12,13.

“…that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11.

“…God has been making it grow…God…makes things grow…the Holy Spirit, who is in you…But God has put the body together…you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it…follow the way of love.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, 6:19, 12:24,27, 14:1.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7.

“…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…it is God who works in you to will and act in order to fulfill his good purpose…the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” Phlippians 1:6, 2:13, 3:8.

“…if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you…his Spirit who lives in you.” Romans 8:10-11.

“…that you may know him better…that you may know…the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe…God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ…he might show the incomparable riches of his grace…the boundless riches of Christ…I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…” Ephesians 1:17-19, 2:4,5,7, 3:8,16-17.

“…God has chosen to make known…the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory…in Christ you have been brought to fullness…Christ, who is your life” Colossians 1:27, 2:10, 3:4.

” ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’…See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks…we have a clear conscience…” Hebrews 3:15, 12:25, 13:18.

“God’s work…is by faith. The goal…is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith…take hold of the life that is truly life.” 1 Timothy 1:4,5, 6:19.

Verses from Today’s New International Version.

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“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
May 31, 2010, 1:52 pm
Filed under: M Letter to Philippians

I am finishing Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. After encouraging them of their citizenship being in heaven because of the Lord Jesus Christ, helping one another, especially for those who do not agree with one another, he describes the importance of rejoicing “in the Lord always,” and thinking rightly. We sometimes forget that when difficult things happen, like a relational conflict, that God brings them into our lives to help strip away the old man and to help Jesus Christ shine through us. It is then that we really get to know Christ better, “the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.” Because of this, while not pleasant at the time, if we have Jesus’ attitude and discernment we can look above our difficult circumstances and realize they are for our good and for Jesus glory! Let us think about things that are true, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy!

Paul now concludes this wonderful letter! “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.” This begins to bring Paul’s wonderful joy for these Christians back to forefront of his letter. Because of the concern that this church had for Paul no wonder the beginning of his letter was so full of thankfulness! “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

I find this interesting. Often times we have a concern about someone but at the moment we are unable to help, maybe we do not have the skill or knowledge or financial support, but in time God will honor that genuine concern. His Spirit will guide us. Paul makes a point to say that “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Sometimes our inability to help someone is perhaps God still helping the other person to learn to be “content in any and every situation” and for us to learn to have “tenderness and compassion.”

I find many times in America that we have so many easy ways to get money, charge money, etc that we really don’t understand these verses. Our fast food way of living and our fast food Christianity is also found in our charity. We get into financial debt to easily. For some reason we think we need to go into debt with money that is not ours in order to meet someone’s need or even wants. We really don’t know this “secret of being content in any and every situation,” we really do not know Christ “who gives me strength.” Perhaps we need to get out of debt first, perhaps we need to rethink the tithe (the tithe is no longer necessary in organic church life), perhaps we need to rethink the use of multiple credit cards. Perhaps we need to realize that, instead of getting another credit card so we can use it to help someone in need, using someone else’s money, this is the opportunity for us not to show our concern financially, maybe another way to help would be more necessary. When we do this maybe we might know Christ better because we would really be dependent upon Him. Perhaps this is the opportunity for someone else to give, not just you.

Paul goes on and says “yet it was good for you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Living by the life of Christ means living in constant mutual relationship. This mutual relationship involves a constant “giving and receiving.” There is a sense of flow here, a sense that in our relationships in the body of Christ everyone has the opportunity to function, to give and to receive. The gifts of the Spirit seem to fit this context. Sometimes we are the givers of the gifts God has given us, sometimes we are the receivers, receiving the gifts God has given someone else. No one person should just give and no one person should just receive in the body of Christ. Today God allows me to give to the body, tomorrow God allows me to receive from the body, or during our gathering there is an opportunity to receive something of Christ from someone and another moment later I give something of Christ to someone else in the body. Like Paul said: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” If Jesus Christ is Lord in the assembling of His body then there will be a mutual giving and receiving within its members. Is everyone of this same mind, same love, same spirit, same purpose?

The words “Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account” sounds very superficial. I think the actual rendering gives some more depth to what Paul is getting at here: “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit – increasing to account of you” (1). What is the increase going on here? I think it is another reflection of Paul’s desire he sought in every church: the increase of Christ, the progressive manifestation of Jesus life in every believer, the tossing off of the old man and putting on the new man. “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be sincere and unoffending until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” The mutual giving and receiving within the relationships of the body of Christ are meant to help the body bear fruit. If we are not giving when it is in our power to give we will not bear fruit, if we do not receive from others out of their concern for us we will not bear fruit. The fruit of Jesus life living through us! Let us give and receive in all humility and allow the fruit of Jesus life to live through us! Then “my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory into the ages of the ages. Amen”!

What an incredible letter! Paul ends with “Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send greetings. All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.” How we miss one another in the body of Christ when we are away from each other! How we miss the receiving and the giving of Christ when we cannot see each other! Yes, let us pray that “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” It is all about Jesus! It is all about Jesus Christ lordship! It is all about the lordship of His life in us to one another, “to the glory and praise of God.”

(1) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 585.



“And the God of peace will be with you.”
May 23, 2010, 1:36 pm
Filed under: M Letter to Philippians

As a church planter, Paul’s main role was to preach the gospel and those who believed the message formed a gathering of followers of Jesus, then he proclaimed the riches of Jesus Christ helping to build a solid foundation for the new organic church. Paul constantly lived and modeled the life of Christ in him towards those who formed the church. He wanted to make sure that the body of Christ lived by His life from the Holy Spirit that lived within them. Here in his letter to the Philippians Paul has this thought in mind and packages between them his key things for this body of Christ before he concludes his letter.

He begins by saying “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” And Paul concludes these things with “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

God desires a place of rest, a place of peace within every group of people around this earth. As Frank Viola says in his excellent booklet (Bethany: The Lord’s Desire for His Church, page 12) “Bethany was the only place on this earth where Jesus Christ was completely and gladly received. It was the only place on earth where He felt at home. This is the outstanding feature of Bethany. And it is the first mark of the church that God is after.”

Paul’s desire was to see Jesus glorified! He desired that Jesus glory be displayed through the people who called on the name of the Lord. That manifestation of grace and truth, only found in Jesus Christ, only occurs when we live by His life, when He is in complete control, when He is Lord of all in us and our gatherings. Paul’s point of asking the believers to follow his example, to “live according to the pattern” that he gave them was not about having rules and regulations in the church, it was about Christ’s rule in the hearts of His people. Paul made a point to proclaim Christ’s forgiveness, His mercy, His grace, His freedom from sin and death because of His great love for us, what He did for us on that cross, being raised from the dead, and ascending to heaven, bringing down His Holy Spirit to live in every believer, giving us His life to live by. This message was in the heart of God before He ever created this world!

For Paul, to live in the body of Christ was about living “by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” because of being crucified with Christ, the old man is now no longer alive as a result, and that Christ was living in him. That’s how we need to think as well. That’s what we are to believe by faith. That is what we experience in the body of Christ as we gather! All of Paul’s letters have this same theme throughout.

Here in Philippians Paul contrasts life in Christ with the awful fact that “as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” The cross means everything to us as a follower of Jesus. The cross is where Jesus paid it all with His blood and life so that we could be cleansed from sin and have His life. It is what we share now as His body in order to know Christ better. “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead.” To the Corinthian Christians he made a point to state: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Of course made it clear that “Jesus Christ and him crucified” was the one thing that he resolved to know about. It would seem that would be true for God’s family as well.

How do we follow this example, how do we live according to the pattern that Paul gave? Paul has already been describing some of them already in his letter. In our conduct towards one another and towards others is it “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ”? Are we focused on self or the interests of others? Are we standing firm “in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel,” in making Christ Lord of our lives and of our gatherings? Paul contrasts this with those who “live as enemies of the cross of Christ” whose “destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” If Christ is not Lord then that means we have set up idols, we have made ourselves lord or god of ourselves. Paul reminds them that our thinking, our attitude is to be different. We are a new creation and now live by His life. The old is gone! We were bought at a price therefore we no longer belong to ourselves but to Christ as he mentioned to the Corinthians. Our citizenship is no longer of this world. It “is in heaven”! And enthusiastically Paul proclaims that as a result “we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 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.”

With this in mid he encourages them and tells them “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” At this point Paul is reminded of something he had been informed about at Philippi. He found out that Eudia and Syntche are a disagreement about something, so much so that it has affected the body of Christ in Philippi. Paul knows that when there is disagreement, even between two persons in the body of Christ, that will disrupt the fellowship’s love for one another, and thereby disrupt their fellowship with Christ. Disagreement that is not resolved does not enable the body to “stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.” Extending forgiveness to others is something that we must learn to follow in the body of Christ. If we are living by His life then the Spirit will cause us to become uncomfortable and be without peace if there is broken fellowship with another. To live by Christ’s life is to follow the promptings of the Spirit and restore fellowship. This is something that must be dealt with.

What makes this even harder for Paul and worth his mentioning it even more so is that these women had “contended at (his) side in the cause of the gospel.” Perhaps they were some of his assistant church planters or had helped in hosting the church in their homes. He “pleads” with them “to agree with each other.” Because we are the body of Christ “if one part suffers, every part suffers” it is the responsibility of the body to help resolve the matter. Paul asks the body, which he describes as “loyal yokefellow” to help them in resolving their disagreement. I can only guess that Paul uses these words to make a point about the importance of our relationships in the church, that we are loyal towards one another and to Christ, because we are yoked together in Christ. We cannot have unresolved issues in the body, therefore the body must be involved in helping resolve it, if two Christians cannot resolve it themselves. Perhaps Paul is thinking of Matthew 18:15-19. How important unity in the body is.

Maybe this is another reason why in the beginning of his letter he mentioned “to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi with overseers and servants.” Those who were more mature, those who were to be helping the body of Christ live by His lordship, perhaps had not gotten involved in resolving the conflict like they should have and perhaps Paul made a special emphasis to mention these functions early in the letter to highlight the importance that everyone should be functioning in the church, including, even more so, those who were considered more mature in the body.

Paul then encourages the church, perhaps this is meant to help the sisters resolve their differences. How can we resolve our differences: being gentle towards one another, not being anxious about things, bringing matters to the Lord, thinking better of others. Expressing Jesus Christ should look like this, if we are not then we living by the flesh:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Let us “live in accordance with the Spirit” having our “minds set on what the Spirit desires…the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” Let the body of Christ be a place where Jesus finds a place of rest, where He is Lord of all, our minds and our relationships.



“Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”
May 22, 2010, 2:34 pm
Filed under: M Letter to Philippians

In the first section of Chapter 3 of Paul’s letter to the Philippians he gives them warning of those who were legalistic and who pursued a righteousness of their own “that comes from the law” in contrast to pursuing Christ; knowing Christ “which is through faith…the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” Paul then gives his magna carta, so to speak, of knowing Jesus: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Paul told the Roman Christians perhaps just after he wrote this letter to the Philippians, and perhaps things he had been teaching his church planting assistants in Ephesus for a couple years now: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Amen! This knowing Christ’s resurrection and sufferings, is a spiritual matter that involves death to our flesh. When we die to our flesh, no matter how it comes about, we give opportunity for the Spirit to shine forth from our broken lives and we get to know Christ better and his power and fellowship!

But Paul does not want to be a braggart and makes a point that not even he has “already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Paul said that “whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…” What is it of myself that I think highly of? What are things that give me confidence in myself? These things almost always tend to make me selfish or focus on me. That is something alien to God. In Christ, while we are individual members of the body of Christ, we are ONE in Christ, we are given to the body for one another to Christ. Anything that focuses on me, myself, and I is not of Christ. That’s where things of the flesh begin showing up instead of things of the Spirit. Paul says it is about “forgetting what is behind.” It is to be considered a loss, in fact refuse.

The flesh is no longer to be considered important or have any place in us, it is about Christ and His body! It is about Christ’s lordship in the Body of Christ: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…”

Perhaps Paul is also thinking of his second letter to the Corinthians when he mentions not having “already obtained all this.” “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul was tempted to be conceited. Paul, the great church planter, who could brag the most among the apostles! It was not about Paul, it is about the body of Christ, about His glory! That’s what we are to press on to, that’s the goal: “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God”! We are not there yet, not until we are with our Lord.

Of course some will not see things as Paul does, or you or I. Not everyone in the body came to Christ at the same time so we are all at different levels of progressing in Christian maturity, some are ahead of us, some are with us, some are behind us. There is richness of our faith in Christ because of this! But it can also be a source of division if we do not have Christ as Lord in our gatherings. As Paul says: “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” So if you think differently, then in prayer and in loving fellowship with one another we should seek to know Christ in these matters. Again, “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Forget the old man and live by the New Man, His Spirit who lives in us! This life is a life of “straining toward,” pressing “on toward” and as Luke says in his gospel: “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” I think this straining toward, pressing on, and presseth into for some, and even me sometimes, has a lot to do with considering “everything a loss,” considering “them rubbish.” I “NOW consider loss” should be our thinking about the old man. We think too much about the old man instead of the New Man, Christ Jesus. Let’s forget the old man, let us strain towards, press on toward, and presseth “heavenward in Christ Jesus” and live by the Spirit with one another!

As Paul explained to the Roman Christians: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old HAS gone, the new HAS come!” (bold mine). And all of this “is from God”! “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus…You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness…But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Let us now live in freedom in Christ! “Therefore, there is NOW no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death…Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”

So Paul says: “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” Amen!



“…the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…”
May 16, 2010, 9:59 pm
Filed under: M Letter to Philippians

Paul described the wonderful character of Timothy and Epaphroditus, whose portion of Christ was truly fulfilling in every way in the last section of chapter 2 of his letter to the Philippian Christians! In chapter 3 Paul now balances his thought of the remarkable life of Jesus in these brothers: “Finally, brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh – though I myself have reasons for such confidence.”

We have to be careful of the tendencies to live by the flesh and not by the Spirit. We need each other to show us how to live by Jesus! It doesn’t happen overnight, there will be mistakes, we must learn to forgive one another, encourage one another, and love each other by faith despite our failings. I guess this is what Paul is trying to get it, it is meant to be “a safeguard.” We need to be constantly reminded that as the body of Christ we are to live by Jesus life, not by our fleshly tendencies to put things, even Christ, into a box.

We need to “watch out” for others who make claims to living by some law versus by the life of Jesus. This can be very subtle. The body is about a relationship with Jesus Christ, not religious duty. Paul probably has the Jerusalem church and the Corinthian church in mind. To the Philippians he probably is referring to Jewish Pharisees or those like them who make religious duty more important than life in Christ. Paul knows them well, he was one of them. “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” Paul knows all about it, he lived in the religious flesh to the extreme!

In reference to the Corinthian Christians, his second letter to them in New Testament, he had described the same thing. Except it was in reference to “false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ” that had tried to make themselves head of the body of Christ. Paul really gets upset because of what is going on in the Corinthian church because he “promised (them) to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” Life in the body of Christ was meant to be about sincerity and purity of devotion to Christ! If anything moves it from this than the body is being led astray! Life in Jesus is completely different from the world!

How is it different? Paul gives us one of the grandest statements of all the New Testament!

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, 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 is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

These words remind me of the following:

From his letter to the Galatian Christians: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

From his first letter to the Corinthian Christians: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

From his letter to the Roman Christians, perhaps written after his letter to the Philppians: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ ”

Later as Paul travels back to Jerusalem, for his lengthy imprisonment, in his farewell address to the Ephesian elders, he tells these more mature Christians who have lived by Christ’s life and have been helping others in the body of Christ to do the same: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” You can sense the feelings in what Paul is saying. The years of sacrifice with helping this church to live together by the Holy Spirit, Christ’s life, and to think that Satan will come in to try and squelch it! How sad indeed.

How important it is for those Christians who are ever growing in the fullness of Jesus Christ together with the body to ever keep Jesus as Lord of His Body! We do not use the law or some religious duty to make Jesus Lord, but we come in humility, in love, in the Spirit, with tenderness and compassion, confessing His lordship in us and His body. We do not live by religion we live by His life! We “are the circumcision” not physically but spiritually, we are a new spiritual creation! We “worship by the Spirit of God” and “glory in Christ Jesus” not out of religious duty but out of love and devotion for Him, very God, who came to this earth as a man, humbled Himself, died for us, and saved us by His blood, gave us His very life, to bring us into vital mutually loving relationship with Himself! So we “put no confidence in the flesh.” After all that He did for us how can we live by our flesh?

Nothing of ourselves counts as anything! If something becomes more important than knowing Jesus Christ Paul says he considers it a loss, in fact “rubbish” or “refuse.” Life in Christ in the body of Christ is about ever increasingly knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. His resurrection power and His sufferings. We want His power but we do not want His sufferings. Perhaps Paul had written his second letter to the Corinthians already and had chapter 12 of that letter in mind when he said:

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” While we should pray when we are sick, ill, or have some malady, or pray for those who would do us wrong, we must realize that God will not always relieve the pressure of these things, in fact it may be far better for us spiritually if they were not removed.

Perhaps when we gather together we should spend more time sharing our weaknesses with one another, perhaps then Christ’s power may rest on us? Isn’t this the principle: crucifixion must come before resurrection? “Anyone who would come after me must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Let us worship by the Spirit of God, glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh! “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.” Let us seek Christ together, in health or weakness, and know Him better everyday brothers and sisters! Amen!



“I hope in the Lord Jesus…”
May 16, 2010, 1:46 pm
Filed under: M Letter to Philippians

Paul can’t wait to hear news about how the Philippian Christians are living their lives together under the Lordship and Headship of Jesus Christ! He knows them, he has seen Christ live through them and is confident that Christ “who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Paul longs to visit them again “with the affection of Christ Jesus” because he wants them to see the fullness of Christ in their lives, for their “progress and joy in the faith.” This brings wonderful joy to Paul as he thinks of how they will “stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.”

Any organic church body living by the life of Jesus knows the importance of having Jesus as Lord of their gatherings! No one person in the body is to be over another, whether as apostle/church planter, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher, deacon, elder, or particular gift and so on. Actually for anyone to claim any of these as titles actually diminishes the organic nature of the church and make it fall under the headship of a person and not Jesus Christ. These are merely functions used by God to build up the body of Christ and enable it to function as a living organism under the Headship of Jesus and no one else. Paul knows that the body of Christ is what the description says it is. The body of Christ. The only way the body of Christ can function is if every member together has Christ as Head, the controlling Person of the gathering. When this happens then there will be humility, expressing Jesus’ life towards one another, a life of love. Something Paul knew in reality and looked forward to when meeting with the brothers and sisters. Life with Christ brings gladness and rejoicing! May this reflect our gatherings!

Because of the importance of living by the life of Jesus Paul constantly sent out his assistant church planters to not only find out how the churches were doing but also to help them live solely under Jesus Headship. “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you.” Timothy was by far Paul’s most beloved assistant! There was no one else like him according to Paul that had such an interest in the Christians, specifically in Philippi. Timothy must have felt a wonderful attachment to them during Paul’s second church planting journey when they came to Philippi. Paul left Timothy and Luke there for a while when he and Silas left to Thessalonica.

What wonderful times with the Lord they must have had as Timothy and Luke visited the believers in their homes, around town, and “outside the city gate to the river” encouraging them, praying with them, singing songs to the Lord, and speaking and serving Christ to one another! Timothy did not “look not only to (his) own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Paul goes on to say that when we “in humility consider others better than ourselves” this is actuality the interests of Jesus Christ. Are we interested in others more than ourselves? Then those are the interests of Jesus Christ! Timothy’s character has been demonstrated to this organic church plant in Philippi, they know him well and his love for Jesus Christ and His body. Nothing is more important to Timothy than the good news of Jesus Christ, that God would come to this earth “taking the very nature of a servant…he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” That He died and rose again and ascended to heaven, giving us hope and His very life through the Holy Spirit! So Paul says, “I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.”

Of course, some years earlier, Paul had previously sent Timothy to the new organic church plant in Thessalonica. Paul seems to have the same feelings for the Christians at Philippi that he did for the Christians at Thessalonica:

“So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when we could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless. But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you.”

So for the Philippians Paul desires something similar, to hear about their growing faith in and knowledge of Jesus Christ: “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you.”

But Paul is not content to just send Timothy for this most important work, of living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, he finds it “necessary to send back” to them Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus is someone Paul considers be his “brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier” as well as the church’s messenger who came to provide help to Paul. Epaphroditus is the example of a follower of Jesus who has like Paul lives by the dictum: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Jesus Christ is being fully expressed in this person! Wow! How we need more men and women, young and old, you and I who could have such a portion of Christ being expressed through what they say and do, having the same attitude “as that of Christ Jesus”! Paul says that “he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.”

A person like Epaphroditus is needed in every organic body of Christ! How we need these persons to model life in Christ! But here we have a problem. In church history many times these persons were not just honored but they became leaders and in charge of churches instead of mature Christians progressing in their faith by enabling the body of Christ to grow in their life with Jesus together. Yes, let us “welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me” but let us not let them do all of the work and live all of the life of Jesus in our gatherings. We have a tendency in our personalities to either attempt to control those who seem to be “better” or shy away from others whom we think are “better” at it than we are and so the life of Jesus in the body gets squelched. The body of Christ is not to be led by any person except the Person of Jesus Christ! Yes, let us praise God for the wonderful life expressed in each member to encourage them to “abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,” etc but let us not put others on a pedestal or podium, that becomes idolatry. Let us fellowship with the Spirit and “discern what is best” so that we “may be sincere and unoffending until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.”



“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…”
May 15, 2010, 3:19 pm
Filed under: M Letter to Philippians

After Paul gives us a wonderful poem or song of Jesus’ humiliation and exaltation, in chapter 2 of his letter to the Philippians, describing the major focus of the body of Christ – Jesus Christ is Lord, Paul goes back now to his original thought that “whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

“Therefore (so), my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” What an amazing sentence! Paul loves these Christians so much! He also wants to to see Jesus’ life to be fully expressed through them to bring praise to God! Paul continues to bring home his initial prayer for this organic body of believers “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure (sincere) and blameless (unoffending) until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.”

If we are in Christ and living by His life, then fruit will be produced. A fruit tree doesn’t have to work at producing fruit, it produces fruit in season because of the sap in the branches. The branch receives sunlight, nutrients from the sap, and it organically produces fruit. I think Jesus’ words from John’s gospel makes it clear that faith in Christ cannot be detached from His fruit – love or obedience to Christ. “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” What was Jesus’ command: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This fruit of the Spirit, love, is based on being in Christ. Jesus also said: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” How do we “work out” our salvation? We “remain” in Jesus. “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” How often we have found ourselves failing in such and such because we were trying to do something on our own, in our flesh, and not relying on Jesus and His Body? This doesn’t mean we lose our salvation, it just means we need more of Jesus lordship in our lives. What does His lordship look like? “…encouragement in Christ….solace of love….sharing (fellowship) of Spirit….compassions and mercies…having the same love…nothing according to selfish ambition, nothing according to empty conceit but with humility considering one another more important than oneself, each not looking out for one’s own concerns but each also for others’ concerns.”

The body of Christ, living a life together by His life, should recognize that it is not OUR life that we should be expressing towards one another, it is Jesus’ life that we are to express. Jesus, “who, being in very nature God…Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 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.”

As Paul describes to the Christians in Corinth in explicit detail, because of living by their own life and not by Jesus’: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” and here Paul is also referring to their life together as a body of Christ not just individually. The very God who created this universe for the church, He lives in you and I and us! There is an atmosphere not only of joy in the body of Christ when living Jesus’ life together but also that of “fear and trembling” recognizing that it is not about playing games, and enjoying each others company, which is extremely beneficial for building relationships, but it is mainly about the lordship of Jesus Christ, His reign in me and us! It is God, Christ in us, His Holy Spirit working in us “to will and to act according to his good purpose.” It is about God’s purpose!

When He is Lord then we will “do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life – in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” Wow, blameless, pure (or harmless), faultless! If we are living by His life, then this is how the world will see us! While God sees this already in us, being in Christ, He so desires to see Christ’s life worked out of us.

I am reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew’s gospel: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Perhaps Jesus was thinking of when Christians gather in the name of the Lord Jesus in an organic way, when Christ’s life is expressed towards one another when we gather we will “shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.” Are we holding out the word of life, Jesus’ life, when we gather together in His name? Isn’t this what Paul means when he says rhetorically: “if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion”? When Christ’s body gathers in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ then organically we “hold out the word of life,” fruit is produced, His life is made manifest.

If there is one thing that makes what Paul is going through, being “in chains for Christ,” suffering for Christ, and “being poured out like a drink offering” worth his very life was because of Christians living by the life of Christ in them together. That’s what brings “glory and praise” to God! That’s what brings joy to the hearts of believers! “You to should be glad and rejoice with me.”