Kindness + Respect: a primer for believers

Nice is a nothing word. Sure, it has a dictionary definition but if someone tells me that my outfit is “nice,” I go change. I attempt to never tell my kids to be “nice” because what does that even mean? A lot of times I think it just means “don’t rock the boat, don’t make waves, and for heaven’s sake, don’t be the wave.” I’m almost always the wave so I don’t have a lot of space for that. I’m not interested in nice and much more importantly, God never tells us to be nice.

But I do frequently remind my boys to be kind. One of my parenting goal is teach my boys to be kind and respectful by teaching them why they should be kind and respectful. We need good reasons for the things we do; motivation can make all the difference.

Kindness, as opposed to niceness, is a characteristic that should flow out of a believer. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). God describes Himself as kind. Psalm 145:13 says, “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.” Love is kind (1 Corinthians 13:4) and we are told to be kind to everyone (Ephesians 4:32, 2 Timothy 2:24).

All Things in Christ and Contentment: a wrapup

We wrapped up our time in Philippians last Friday. I’m sad to be walking away from this study, but grateful for how my understanding of the book has deepened and shaped the way I view life. There is so much value in soaking in the Scripture. A friend asked me a question over the weekend and I practically handed her a sermon from Philippians. One of my friends commented that she had listened to the book every single morning of the study; she can probably quote much more of it than she realizes.

This last section of the book is probably the least talked about overall, but contains one of the most mis-used verses in the Bible. We know that I mean Philippians 4:13, but let’s look at surrounding context.

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly because once again you renewed your care for me. You were, in fact, concerned about me but lacked the opportunity to show it. I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me. Still, you did well by partnering with me in my hardship. Philippians 4:10-14

 

I’ve grown leery of pulling one verse, any verse, out of its passage and discussing it without filling in context. If we do that we can make a verse mean anything, regardless of what the author actually intended.

How to Have a Settled Life: finding a firm foundation

Occasionally, I hear someone say a pretty flowery thing about following Jesus. They present an almost fairy tale; candy that entices, but doesn’t sustain. It’s not that they aren’t true; they just left out the meat. They presented the fairy tale ending too soon and left out the part about life today. The full redemption and transformation comes after God makes the world new. Then He wipes away all our tears; pain and suffering and death are gone forever. But here, even with the joy of being in Christ, comes persecution and suffering and loss. We are joined, not just in Jesus’ resurrection, but also in His death.

Paul never minces words about this dual reality. This both/and narrative is his story. He’s writing this book to the Philippians from prison. He’s in prison and he doesn’t know if he will live or die. He doesn’t know if he will see these believers he loves again. And even if he lives and does see them, it’s second best. He would actually rather go be with Christ.

How to Live in True Humility

“My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). Those are the two verses we ended on last time. Knowing Christ, both in death and resurrection, is the road to glory.

Context is critical when we are studying Scripture. If we don’t read what the verse means in context of the passage that surrounds it, we can make a verse say anything we want. That’s not rightfully handling the Word, and we don’t want to do that. We aren’t after our own agendas in studying the Word; we are after faithfulness, seeing God, knowing Him as He has revealed Himself.

In Bible study last week, I confessed that at the beginning of the summer I would have said that I was familiar with Philippians, but now that we’ve spent seven weeks reading and rereading the entire book and digging into individual portions and connecting the topics of Paul, I don’t think I knew anything about this book. After going through three chapters, I keep picking up a theme of true humility.

The Aim of Life is Knowing Christ

Christian circles, especially once you move into women’s ministry, sometimes take a lot of flack for talking so much about identity. Identity can be very poorly explained; it can disintegrate into conversations about beauty and being enough. I’m all for throwing that out because that has nothing to do with our identity anyway.

But identity itself is crucial. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in Matthew 4, the first two times the devil started with, “If you are the Son of God.” Are you sure, Jesus? Are you who you think? Are you what the Father says? Is He true and faithful?  We stand on our identity; what we perceive to be true about ourselves and what others tell us is true about ourselves shapes what we believe. Identity matters. I think women and men should have regular conversations about where they should find their identity.

We need regular conversations because we are a forgetful people. Everything we know about this new life in Christ goes against our nature. It’s fought by the world. It’s not what we hear in the scattered conversations at our workplaces and schools. We need constant reminders of who God is and who we are. Paul starts chapter 3 of Philippians pointing this out. “In addition, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write to you again about this is no trouble for me and is a safeguard for you.”

Why You Need the Bible: Paul’s Version

One of my favorite things to talk about is reading the Bible. But I think it’s very important that you know why you should read the Bible. It’s not about a checklist or memorizing a list of rules. We read the Bible because it shows us truth. We read the Bible to know who God is and what He’s doing. From that, we know who we are and what we are supposed to be doing.

Knowing the Word was just as important to Paul. Right after his magnificent poem about Jesus and His example of living, he continues shaping the way the Philippians should live and he wraps it all up with one phrase, “holding fast to the word of life.” This is the only hope we have of making it.

Work it out

Paul introduces this new thought with “therefore” because it’s all based on the life that he just told us about. The life that Jesus lived is the basis for what coming’s next. Philippians 2:12-13 says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Christ: Our Model of Humility

When our Bible study group met last week, we went deep. We would discuss a concept and a quiet pause would follow. We wanted those truths to settle into our hearts and minds and change us. In the beginning of Philippians 2, Paul moves from talking about struggling in a conflict and finding encouragement and affection from other believers to a call to unity: same mind, same love, some purpose.

How unity exists

Unity is easily confused with uniformity. Uniformity means consistency; we’ve put on a Christian exterior and now we all match. Uniformity is cheap, short-lived, and not at all what God is after. God made the beautiful variety of skin colors, personalities, women and men, young and old. Unity means “the state of being united or joined as a whole.” We must have unity to live as the body of Christ: not the same, but joined to Christ as a whole. How do we find unity among so much diversity?