Thursday, September 14, 2017, 4:59 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Philippians 1 (Select vv. ESV).
Gospel Advanced (vv. 12-14)
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
In Jerusalem, Paul had been falsely accused by some Jews, who had stirred up a whole crowd against him. Then, Paul was falsely arrested and he was brought before the Sanhedrin for questioning. The Jews then formed a conspiracy to kill Paul, so Paul was transferred to Caesarea where he stood trial before Governor Felix. He was kept in prison for two years under Felix, and then Paul came under the jurisdiction of Governor Festus, before whom he was also brought for trial. Paul was being encouraged to return to Jerusalem to stand trial, so he appealed to Caesar. Then, Paul was brought before King Agrippa. And then Paul was sent to Rome to stand trial before Caesar, where he lived at least two years in a house under guard (See: Acts 21-28). On each of these occasions, Paul was able to share with them his testimony about Jesus Christ, and concerning the gospel of our salvation.
So, truly, what Satan meant for evil in Paul’s life, God meant for good. Amen! The gospel not only was not hindered from spreading, but the gospel was advanced through Paul’s sufferings, under his imprisonment. All glory to God! And, as a direct result of his imprisonment for Christ, many other believers in Jesus were encouraged and strengthened in the faith and became bolder in speaking the word of God without fear. So, what had the appearance of defeat in the life of Paul was actually in God’s design for the advancement of the gospel. And, so it is often for us, as well.
I can give testimony, myself, that I would not now be doing what I am doing in sharing God’s Word and his gospel of salvation on the internet if it had not been for many instances of rejection and persecution of myself and of God’s gifting and calling in my life, and also from religious leaders within organized and institutionalized Christian religion. It was through these times of rejection and persecution that God placed his call on my life to spread his gospel message on the internet, and so I have been doing that faithfully these past 11 years. All glory to God, for great things HE has done!
To Live is Christ (vv. 18b-26)
Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Not everyone, even within the Christian community, will be supportive and encouraging of us if we are proclaiming the whole counsel of God, as Paul did. One of the reasons for this is that so many of them are listening to humans over and above God and his Word. They are buying into humanistic philosophy and a diluted gospel message intended to tickle itching ears and to appeal to the flesh of humans. Not only that, but they are being taught that if anyone mentions repentance or obedience, in the context of the preaching the gospel, that they are teaching works-based salvation and so their words should be disregarded or challenged as untrue and misleading.
Yet, we should not let this discourage or dishearten us, but we should continue proclaiming the truth of God’s Word and of his gospel, and we should rejoice that we are sharing in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. So, even if we are falsely accused, and even if people who oppose us end up poisoning others against us, in hopes to discourage them from believing the truth of the gospel, we should not be afraid. God is still completely sovereign over all things and all people, and his Word will never return empty, but will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it (Is. 55:11). Amen! We just need to do what is right, and then trust God with the results, even if we are mistreated in return.
We should always have this attitude in us that for us to live is Christ, but to die is gain, because then we get to be with our Lord forever. It is not that we seek death, although we would like to be with Christ, but that we don’t fear death or persecution, rejection, false accusations, etc. We know we were put here on this earth to give glory to God through our lives, and we know that faith in Jesus Christ also means we die to sin and self so that we might live with Christ in newness of life. Also, we know that Jesus bought us back for God with his blood shed on a cross for our sins, so we are no longer our own, to do with our lives what we want, but we are to honor our Lord in all that we do. So, we accept God’s will for our lives, and we praise Him!
Worthy of the Gospel (vv. 27-30)
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
As followers of Jesus Christ, and as ministers of the gospel of our salvation, our manner of life, i.e. the way we live day in and day out, should be for the glory of God, and for his honor and praise. How we conduct our lives should be worthy of (becoming, suitable, fitting) the gospel of Christ. What this means is that, since the gospel teaches us that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, this should be how we live. We should no longer live to gratify our sinful flesh, but we should conduct our lives in a manner fitting (suitable) to one who has been set free from slavery to sin and who is now walking in Christ’s righteousness and holiness, according to the Spirit of God.
What this means for us is that we should be ones who take God and his Word seriously, to heart, and who walk in obedience to his instructions to us. We daily, by the Spirit, are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, and we are walking in Christ’s righteousness and holiness. We don’t lie to ourselves, and to others, or make a pretension of godliness while willfully living in sin, or make excuses for willful and persistent sin against God. We also don’t make compromises with the world of sin in order to be liked, accepted or to not be persecuted, or in order to hold on to pet sins. Jesus died, not just to forgive us our sins, but to cleanse our lives of all unrighteousness.
Instead of playing it safe, and joining in with those who are making “nice” with the world, we should be ones who are standing on the Word of Truth, who are living what we say we believe, and who willingly lay down our lives in order to see others go free from addiction to sin. We should not shrink back from living for the Lord or from sharing his truths out of fear of persecution, but we should accept the fact that it has been granted to us by God, not only that we should believe on him, but that we should also suffer for him and for the sake of his gospel. So, we should be striving side by side with all followers of Christ for the faith of the gospel, standing firm in one spirit, and not frightened in any way by our opponents, which are many.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.