Philippians 3 is nice because it clearly lays out one of the distinctive and oft-overlooked characteristics of Christianity, that our righteousness, our redemption comes not from our own doing, but through faith. Of course the common objection to this is that we would then have no motive to do good things, if all we have to do to get to heaven is to believe there is one. But it doesn’t quite work that way – Paul describes the basis of faith:
…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead -Philippians 3:10-11
Thus the response to knowing Him and the power of His resurrection cannot be to absolve oneself of all responsibility, the need to seek out righteousness. We do good things because we are saved, rather than doing good things in order to be saved. In a sense it almost makes motives more pure – Christians are supposed do good things for the sake of being good.
Of course (speaks the cynic/realist in me) there are plenty of people (Christians and non-Christians alike) that go through the right motions with the wrong motives… even the best of us can get distracted and and "set [our] minds on earthly things" rather than the "upward call of God."
Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. -Philippians 3:15-16
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This is a verse I keep thinking of but could never remember where it was:
…work our your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. -Philippians 2:12-13
To me "work out your salvation" is a reminder that we should be thinking about our faith and what it means to be saved, to self-examine, and to question our own assumptions and habits in the light of God’s teachings, rather than just being sheep following the people around us. My confession of the day though is that it’s the following verse that is more appropriate for me today:
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent.. -Philippians 2:14
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It is better to be of a lowly spirit among the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.
Feeling a little despondent about my relationship with God and my lack of engagement with the bible over the past few years, I’ve made a resolution to select and post a verse each day to this blog.
Today’s selection is from Sojourners Magazine‘s daily verse and voice e-mails. The corresponding voice/quote is:
The church has only two alternatives in its confrontation with the world: either it adapts itself to the world and betrays the gospel, or it responds to the gospel and enters into conflict with the world. - Rene Padilla
In reality I doubt the work is so black and white as Padilla claims – much damage has been done by those who claim to be responding to the gospel, but in fact are responding to societal norms. In the end, they have betrayed the gospel, even if none are around to tell them so. It is more than possible to adapt oneself to the world without betraying the gospel… if only we really understand it in the first place.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” -Matthew 22:36-38
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. -Phillipians 1:6
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. -Philippians 1:9-11
It never ceases to amaze me how sometimes even when you have read a passage a thousand time before, it can look brand new when you read it again. This comes from the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Phillipians, written during his first imprisonment (dated at approx A.D. 61). What always strikes me is Paul’s voice of strength, hope and encouragement, even in prison. His hope in the Phillipians strikes me especially today – that he is so confident in us as the beginnings of God’s good work, and that, perhaps more importantly, we are constantly being perfected until the day of Christ Jesus. Perhaps this is in contrast to the preacher in the Poisonwood Bible (which I’m reading now), but really I think it’s just a reflection of good life philosophy: we should always be striving to better ourselves. I like the second selection also – to me it says that to better oneself is to allow love to abound, not blindly, but in knowledge and discernment. Makes one think, neh?
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