Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Today we begin our verse-by-verse study of the book of Philippians, as we journey toward a life of true joy. Let’s read the first six verses.
Philippians 1:1-6 1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
As Paul introduces his letter to the church at Philippi he mentions seven things that I think are foundational to the experience of joy. Here they are:
- Be a servant – vs. 1
- Know you’re a saint – vs. 1
- Know you’re accepted – vs. 2
- Be thankful – vs. 3
- Spend time in prayer – vs. 4
- Be partners with others in the cause of Christ – vs. 5
- Be confident of God’s work in your life – vs. 6
I like to take joyrides. Not the type of joyride that produces momentary thrill and excitement because of a temporary freedom from the rules, but the type of joyride that produces lasting satisfaction with life. I like to go to places of beauty and historical significance, and I am especially drawn to places that have an emotional connection to my childhood. Each of these destinations touches a different part of my heart and gives me a deepened sense of significance and worth.
That’s the way it should be in our relationship to God. Let’s consider that we are on a joyride, with the specific purpose of stopping at each of the seven scenic sights listed above. At each stop, we will take in the joy God intended, thus deepening our understanding of our significance and worth to God. So, let’s get in the car and head out on our adventure.
Our first stop is Servant City. Paul begins his letter by calling himself and Timothy servants of Jesus Christ. Paul certainly had the right to call himself an apostle – he had done it before when writing to churches with issues that needed to be addressed with authority. But even in those situations, he spoke in a gracious way, as a servant of Jesus Christ.
(For further study see 2 Corinthians 10:1-18 and 2 Corinthians 13:1-10)
Paul makes it clear in these passages that the authority he invoked to correct error and sin in the church was done to build the church and honor God, and he did it as a servant of Jesus Christ. There is, in Paul’s life, a consistent humility that seeks the glory of God and not personal advancement. Humility is the cornerstone of building a life of joy.
But don’t let a wrong understanding of humility cause you to live beneath your privilege in Christ. The servant Paul addresses the people in Philippi as saints. It is only in a balanced understanding of a servant’s heart and a saint’s position that we can experience true joy.
If one or the other of those positions is over-emphasized, there will be problems. If humility is the primary focus, it becomes a false humility that forces external behaviors of pride. When such a person wants to feel humble they debase themselves in some way, believing that others will recognize the sacrifice and self-destructive behavior as humility. But the fact that they seek the recognition of others is really pride.
Or, if being a saint is the primary focus, then a superiority complex quickly develops as the “saint” begins to believe that their behaviors and choices make them more spiritual than others. Both these positions are dangerous.
True humility is only experienced through an understanding of our position as saints in Jesus Christ. When we truly understand the incredible grace of God that made it possible for us to be transformed from a sinner to a saint, and when we totally accept the reality that we were totally undeserving of such a miraculous transformation, then and only then can we be truly humble.
We are joint heirs with Jesus Christ of all things for all eternity, and not one of us deserves it based on our own merits or accomplishments. But in Christ we are called saints, and because it is totally His doing and not ours, we honor Him by serving Him. We are servant saints, and we are living beneath our privilege if we don’t live in the fullness of both.