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?

The Fellowship of Suffering

There are many things that I love about the internet and technology. I love writing here and talking to you all on Instagram stories. I love producing a podcast and listening to my favorite podcasts. I love ordering books on Amazon and getting perspectives from around the world. Something I don’t love is the constant influx of news. It’s not that I want to bury my head under the sand, ostrich-like in my intentional ignorance. But it’s overwhelming to get reports of injustice and brokenness and suffering happening continually all over the world. I find myself longing for my true home more and more often.

In the middle of Philippians 1, Paul is debating between life and death. He says he would rather have death because then he gets to be with Christ. Honestly that sounds pretty good to me some days. I long for the glory of new creation. I desire to be with Jesus and not fight to remember Him in the busyness. I would gladly be rid of the sin that hurts myself and those around me. Then Paul says something shocking. He says he would choose life because it’s fruitful labor, because it’s progress and joy in the faith for others. He’s postponing the ultimate joy to continue the mission of God.

He was facing a potentially gruesome death. He wasn’t trying to skip that by choosing life though; his life was one many would choose. He had physical problems. He was weighed down with worry over the state of the believers that he was serving. He was frequently beaten and stoned for sharing the gospel with the lost. He had been abandoned and deserted by people who had once stood by him.

Defend and Confirm: a tour through Philippians

It’s easy to think that you know a book of Scripture only to camp out and see whole new depths. Our Friday Bible study is working through Philippians for the summer and we all agreed we were just familiar enough with the material to use verses out of context. We’ve divided up the material and are committed to reading the whole book every week as well as studying the specific portion. I hope to share some thoughts from our study with you throughout the summer.

Paul told the believers at Philippi that they were “all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:7)

I get stuck imagining things when I read the Bible. The “defense and confirmation of the Gospel” stopped me because I’ve been considering how we ought to teach and defend the faith, and how much it matters that we actually live out what we believe, not just that we speak it out.