August 11, 2018

Today you should read: Philippians 4:10-23

As Paul sums up his letter to the Philippians, one of gratitude but also correction, he does so with an amazing lesson for us all. Although Paul is thankful for the gifts he has received from the Philippians, which is the primary occasion for the letter, the church had some struggles. It seems from 3:18–19 that the Philippians misunderstood grace, thinking it to mean they can do as they please. Paul encourages them in a few ways, 3:17 says, “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” Also, in 4:9 we see yet again, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

It seems that although many of the Philippians were givers, they struggled with gratification. The grace and provision of the Lord is not a license to continue living in unrighteousness (see Romans 6). Paul states clearly twice in the immediate context of our passage today, “Follow my example.” In our passage today, we see one more example from Paul the Philippians should follow.

My love language is gifts—I love getting gifts because I feel loved by the giver. It seems Paul feels somewhat the same, but his concern runs much deeper. Verse 11 begins an odd idea for someone sending a thank you note. Paul thanks them for the gift, but sort of says, “I didn’t really need it.” The famous verse in this passage is 13, “I can do all things,” but from the context it is clear Paul says that the “all things” refers to contentment in either poverty or abundance. It is not his power, but the power of Christ, in which Paul finds his strength. However, although Paul says he didn’t need the gift (17a), he was grateful because the Philippians shared in his affliction (14), and it was profitable for them to be givers (17b).

What is the cure for those who seek gratification? The answer, at least in part, is giving. For all of us, it’s hard to put others first. Giving is a tangible way of sharing in the suffering of others and turns our hearts outward, away from ourselves, toward the world. Giving is profitable for the giver because, as Paul says, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Additionally, Paul wants the Philippians to follow in his example of radical contentment. Paul was thankful for the Lord for every single breath—whether that breath is the air of a prison cell, the sea air of a prisoner transport ship, or the aroma-rich air of a banquet hall among friends, Paul was thankful. The key to contentment is gratitude, and the key to generosity is contentment. Simply put, a discontent person will never be a generous person. But sometimes, the way to learn contentment begins with generosity.

Questions for reflection:

Are you grateful to God for every gracious gift in your life?

Considering your attitude over recent weeks, has it been marked by contentment and gratitude or by frustration and self-focused want?

Our giving is basically limited to our time, talent, and treasure, in what ways have you been generous or selfish?

Where is God calling you to be content? Where is He calling you to give?

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate

August 10, 2018

Today you should read: Philippians 4:1-9

Anxiety is a growing issue in our society today. As someone who works with middle and high school students it blows my mind how many students are dealing with heavy anxiety to the point that they are debilitated and even medicated. This passage is telling us that we should not be anxious about anything. This does not say that we should never stress about anything. We often confuse stress with worry and anxiety. The reality is that an appropriate level of stress can spur us onward, where anxiety and worry actually pushes us away from what will truly help.

Anxiety and worry is simply a lack of faith in God. It is easy to just say we shouldn’t worry or be anxious, but what happens is that we end up in a place of crushing anxiety because we ignore what is said in verses 4 and 5. We are told to rejoice in the Lord always and in all things. If we would live our lives with a posture of thankfulness and joy in the Lord, things would look much different. This does not mean that there will not be difficult circumstances. It means that in those circumstances we will still focus on God because of who He is, and we will rejoice.

This takes the focus off us and puts it on God. Our response is much more likely to be us running to Him in prayer and supplication rather than being debilitated under the weight of anxiety. When we experience that kind of peace we are able to think more on what is described in verse 8.

By: Dakota Gragg — Student Ministry Associate

August 9, 2018

Today you should read: Philippians 3:12-21

There is so much in these few verses! I love this passage of Scripture!

First, Paul lets us know that he is not perfect! Of all the spiritual people and heroes in the Bible, you would think at least one of them (other than Jesus) would claim to be perfect, right? But Paul, even after laying out his credentials in the verses we read yesterday (v.4-7), realized that God was not done making him more and more like Jesus. Paul doesn’t count on his own righteousness, but knows he is righteous through faith in Christ (v. 9).

Paul is righteous before God, but not yet perfect. Paul is living in the tension that we all experience once we become Christians—that we have been made right before God, but don’t always do the right thing. We have been forgiven, yet we still sin. We have right standing with God through faith in Jesus, but don’t obey the God who has forgiven us.

So what should we do? Paul gives us a clue. Even though Paul is still a sinner (just like you), he presses “on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Paul says, “I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” This perfection that Paul mentions can also be translated as completion.

Paul is telling the Philippians that he is not yet complete and God isn’t finished growing him, but he is pressing on toward the end of the race, the end of his life, when he will receive the heavenly prize, life forever with God.

Second, Paul tells the Philippians to imitate him. Paul knows that while he isn’t complete, he is mature. God isn’t quite done making Paul into who He wants Paul to be, but he sure has brought Paul a long way.

This is a great picture of what it looks like to be in a discipleship relationship – where one person shows another person what it looks like to follow Jesus. No one in our church is perfect, but there are many people in our church that God has grown to a point where we should imitate them and even ask them to teach us.

This passage reminds me of our mission as a church: to take everyone we meet one step closer to becoming a true disciple of Jesus Christ. There is always a “next step” that you can take to becoming a true disciple, someone who is “complete.”

Is your next step to find someone in our church to disciple you?

Is your next step to find someone to disciple?

Let us know if that is your next step, and we would love to get you paired with someone!

By: Lucas Taylor — West Campus Ministry Apprentice

August 8, 2018

Today you should read: Philippians 3:1-11

Have you ever been called a bad name? It can’t be as bad as the recipients of Paul’s anger in Philippians 3. Whatever you’ve been called — however bad it may have seemed — hasn’t been read over and over and over and over again for 2000 years. So, after reading today, do you think Paul takes the purity of the gospel seriously? He sure does. He comes at those who twist the gospel with pretty harsh words.

“dogs”         “evildoers”        “mutilators”

These aren’t exactly the terms you throw around in casual conversation. He was making a point. While he tells the Philippians to be gracious and loving, he also shows them that the gospel must be protected at all costs. Those teaching circumcision as a requirement for salvation (*similar argument today with those contending for a baptismal regeneration theology) were twisting the gospel. These “Judaizers” missed the grace found in the true way of salvation: repentance and faith in Jesus.

This is a helpful note from the ESV Study Bible on Paul’s harsh rebuke:

‘Dogs’ was not only a general term of derision in the ancient world, it was particularly a word used by some Jews in reference to Gentiles, who were considered ritually unclean. With biting irony, Paul says that the Judaizers, not the Gentiles, deserve that label. Paul’s irony continues as he labels those who extol good works of the law as evildoers and those who mutilate the flesh. This last phrase (Greek: tēn katatomēn) is a play on words with circumcision (Greek: peritomē). The Judaizers’ supposed badge of pride turns out to be the sign of their destruction.

On to the next section of today’s passage.

Philippians 3:4-11 is awesome. Paul walks us into the trophy room of religious success. He gives us the tour. We get to look around in awe…. and then he calls it garbage in comparison to knowing Jesus.

This is a good reminder for each and every Christian today. No matter what we’ve done for God or how good we think we are, nothing is greater than being a child of the King! Everything else pales in comparison. This is also a good reminder for each and every non-believer today. The family you were born into, the good you’ve done, the church you attend, and the religious rules you’ve followed — none of these get you into heaven. Only the resurrected Jesus can do that. You don’t get to show Jesus your moral/religious trophy room as your ticket to heaven. You need to throw yourself on His mercy and embrace the forgiveness He offered you at the cross.

CPC family: what did God teach you today through this passage?

By: Todd Thomas — Worship & College Pastor