Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Philippians 4:8-9 8Finally, 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. 9Whatever 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.
Memories are important. They bring us strength. They encourage us. They motivate us. They comfort us. They bring us joy. Most of us carry memories around with us in one form or another. Some of us trust our minds to carry them. Others put them on our mobile devices, and maybe in our wallets, pockets, or purses. Some of the memories are printed on small slips of paper, while others may be photographic. I carry both. Tucked away in a tiny slot in my wallet is a card from a man that I led to Christ years ago to remind me of God’s transforming power in his life. On my phone are pictures of family members, especially grandchildren, to remind me of the love I experience when I am with them. Even though I say I love the picture, I love the person infinitely more. The picture is but a reminder of the relationship that is only fully experienced when I am with the person.
In Philippians 4:6-9, I see a similar concept. First, Paul tells us to pray about everything and we will experience the peace of God. I see this as the memories we carry around in our pockets. Throughout our lives we have been given pictures of the faithfulness of God as He worked through all the difficult situations we experienced. We carry those memories around with us in one form or another. Some of us have notes on slips of paper tucked away in significant places like wallets, purses, or Bibles. Some of us have kept detailed journals of our walk with Christ. Some of us trust the storage capacity of our minds to hold the precious memories. We use these memories as the foundations of our prayers of praise, thanksgiving, confession, repentance, request, and surrender. The memories of God’s faithfulness are the fertile soil into which God plants the seed of peace, and we love to walk in the garden of peace and be reminded that we have no reason to worry or fear.
Paul goes on and tells us about something even more exciting, fulfilling, and satisfying than having the peace of God in our hearts and minds. He tells us that we can experience the personal presence of the God of peace. So many of us are satisfied just to carry around the memories and be at peace. We have fallen in love with the picture. We miss out on the greatest joy when we do not spend time in personal relationship with the person whose picture we carry. I realized that more than ever after my mother died. I have picture of her accessible from my phone, and for the rest of my life the memories motivated by those pictures are all I will have. Not until heaven will I be able to spend personal time with her. I have the memories of mom, but I would much rather be experiencing the mom who created those memories.
That’s the distinction I see Paul making: we have become satisfied with the peace that comes from the memories of God’s work in our lives, but we may be missing the best part of knowing Jesus – spending time with Him in person. Paul says that the step up from the level of having the peace of God to the level of living in personal relationship with the God of peace is accomplished by putting into practice what we have learned about God. It is a wonderful thing to experience the peace of God by going to Him with our requests and trusting Him with the outcome – but it is not the best thing. There is more that God has for us. He longs for us to experience the wonder of His abiding presence.
We know that at the moment of our salvation we were indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God and He promised to never leave us or forsake us. But what I speak of here is more than that. At my wedding my wife committed to being with me for as long as we both shall live. Her picture reminds me of that commitment. But I am not satisfied to live with the memory of my wedding day. I am not simply in love with the picture or the event. I want to experience the wonder of her presence every chance I get. That’s what Paul is talking about, and that is only possible if we are putting into practice what we know to be true about God.
Paul affirms what James teaches when he says “faith without works is dead.” It is by faith that we are saved, but it is by our works that we abide in the presence of the God of peace. By faith we pray based on our knowledge and memories of God and we trust Him with the outcomes. By our choice to bring our minds, hearts, and actions into conformity with God’s pattern for living we experience the awesome reality of His presence in our lives.
Jesus said it this way – If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:10 – 12)
Jesus knew that the fulfillment of joy in life is dependent upon abiding in the love of the Father, and that is only possible through obedience to God’s commands. We are not satisfied to live with pictures of God, but rather we long to experience the presence of God. The reality of that experience depends on our choice to bring our thought life into alignment with God’s holy nature, and to put into practice what we have learned about living holy living.
So, take a look at all the pictures you carry, and assign them into one of two categories – those people you want to spend time with and those whom you don’t. What, you don’t carry pictures of people you don’t want to spend time with? Of course not! We carry memories of relationships in which we are invested. The memories may be good, but the time spent investing in the relationship is better.
Now apply that to your relationship with God.