“How can we help our pastor? We can help him by talking about what he says; not talking about the performance and about the performer and all that, which, if it is appropriate anywhere, is surely all inappropriate when we turn away from the solemn worship of God, and from listening to sermons intended to do us good — but talking about the thoughts that he has given us, recalling them sometimes to one who has heard them like ourselves, repeating them sometimes to some one who has not had the opportunity of hearing them. Thus may we multiply whatever good thoughts the preacher is able to present and keep them alive in our own minds and the minds of fellow-Christians.”
— John A. Broadus, Sermons and Addresses
I’ve been pretty busy. That seems to be consistent with almost everyone I know. Life continues moving at an increasingly hectic pace. I read a wise reflection by Don Whitney this morning about the sacrifices we make in private and how horribly misdirected this approach to the Christian life is. Can you slow down enough to read it?
Young brothers and sisters, take note. Life is richly textured. Your walk in this life need not be reduced to a pallete of black and white. There is room for nuance and vibrance in your daily walk.
Now that the Christian message is so generally disbelieved or forgotten, the human race is sinking gradually into bondage; the advance in material things, extraordinary though it is, is being dearly purchased by a widespread loss of human freedom. But when the gospel is brought to light again, there will again be life and liberty for mankind.
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11, ESV)
Paul loves the Philippians. He knows it. They know it. And we know it. We looked at that in the prior post of this series. Right on the heels of his profession of Christlike love for the Philippians – God as witness of Paul’s heart – Paul explains the subject of his prayer for the Philippians. He prays for the Philippians frequently and with joy, but what does he pray for them? He approaches God out of the sincere desire of his heart for the benefit of his dear friends and the glory of his God. Paul wants the Philippians to grow and grow and grow and grow in their already abundant and overflowing love. It’s something he requests of God on behalf of the Philippians, ultimately for the glory and praise of God.
Paul is looking to the Lord to show his might in the lives of the Philippians. It’s not like they are starting at ground level and need to learn to love. They were no slouches in the love department, already displaying overflowing love repeatedly since their conversion to Christ. Here comes Paul, piling grace upon grace in his prayers for them. To paraphrase the missionary apostle, he is asking God to help them overflow deeper and deeper, again and again. Not simply to love. Not simply to reach a pinnacle of love and remain there. No, overflowing more and more. What a tremendous blessing he is seeking for the Philippians.
[Time for a praise break] If this is the case on this earthly plane, what does eternity with God hold in store for us who know Christ? Dare we hope for an eternity of abounding more and more in love, more in 10,000 years… more in 10,000,000 years… more in a trillion years! There is so much more to heaven than our puny, sin-soaked minds can even begin to grasp. Praise be to God who has shown us love in humility, in sin-bearing, in mercy and forgiveness.
In our current “it’s all about me me me” culture, our first inclination on hearing what Paul was praying for is to turn it on its head and pray this blessing for ourselves and our own church. But that’s not what’s happening here. Paul is praying for others… one of the churches he helped establish and which has helped him in ministry and in trouble repeatedly.
Brother and Sister, this type of prayer can rightfully take its place in your worship vocabulary, following Paul’s example in praying this blessing for others. How often we struggle with prayer, not knowing what to pray for on behalf of our missionaries and churches once we exhaust the short list of immediate concerns they give us. Here is biblical fuel for your prayer fire.
I just finished reading Kevin DeYoung’s book on discerning God’s will called Just Do Something. This is a delightful little book. Thank you Kevin for saying several things that needed to be said. Many people will be helped by your wise advice.
DeYoung takes on the over-spiritualized process of making decisions. In essence, God gave you a brain so use it. Don’t be lazy and blame God for your inactivity as if it were deep spirituality.
The author insightfully diagnoses several contributing factors of our hesitancy to do things. He offers common-sense advice to move you to action. This is written so everyone can understand it. Once you read this, the excuses you’re hiding behind will be vaporized.
It is primarily helpful for teens and young adults but also gave me some good insights into my mid-forties life that will impact what I do.
Just get it. Just read it. And for God’s sake, just do something.
For God is my witness that I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:8, ESV)
Paul commits himself to the Philippians with a most solemn vow. Words can be easy, but these are not easy words. These are words with a long history of action behind them. They are words carried along on the blood, tears, and suffering which Paul paid out in his care for the Philippians and others. Paul isn’t handing them a bagful of good intentions as yet unfulfilled. No, those would be easy words.
In this brief little verse I come under conviction again and again. How often I find myself offering heaping portions of good intentions to those around me but never fulfilling them in action. The royal robes of Christian love must be fitted to the body of Christian servanthood, else they are empty and useless.
So often we have it backwards. We want to speak, then act. To say ‘I love you’ and then put it on display. Oh how different our testimony could be if we lived love first, rather than merely stating our as yet unfulfilled good intentions. Which are blessed, the feet of those who bring good news or the lips of those who talk about bringing good news someday?
The Philippians themselves have each witnessed Paul’s love for and commitment to do good to them in the way he has lived. Their heartstrings, tuned by the gospel of Christ, ring in unison for their beloved apostle as they help him in chains, in beatings, in lack. In Christ, their love has extended beyond their means but they continue to give help to Paul again and again, as he has also helped them. Why? Because Paul has loved them with the love of Christ.
Even though Paul has proven his love in action many times, he calls upon God as his witness. The Philippians themselves are eyewitnesses of Paul’s external acts of love but this is not enough. Paul seeks to assure them that his love for them lives in the heart, which they obviously cannot see or know. Think about it for a minute… calling God as his witness. The ultimate Witness from whom nothing is hidden, before whom the hearts of men are laid open. The Witness who sees all, including Paul’s own heart. Paul calls on Him as witness of his genuine longing for the Philippians. And even here, normal patterns of speech fail Paul. He longs for the Philippians, not merely with his own affection, as deep as that is. Rather, he longs for the Philippians with the bottomless affection of Jesus.
Christ and His affection are what brought Paul to and through all he has experienced with the Philippians. It is not a mere abstract concept or even Paul’s own affection. It is the sacrificial love of Jesus himself, moving within Paul and moving Paul to serve them. What a profound commitment Paul has made, calling God to witness his love, which wasn’t even his. It was the supernatural love of Christ.
In all of this we have an example to follow. May we seek to act in Christ’s love for others before saying it. What does this look like in your specific circumstance? I will not attempt to reduce this to some sort of rudimentary checklist. It is lived in your life, not merely or only in your thoughts and heart. It is Christ at work within you, dear Christian, to live love towards those around you. Then, when you finally say it, no one wonders what you mean. They already know.
It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. (Philippians 1:7, ESV)