By Mary Parker
Have you ever been devoted or deeply committed to someone or something? It may be work, school, family or even a hobby or a cause you adamantly support. Being dedicated to your passion is one thing, but being driven by salvation through Jesus alone is a completely different story.
In his letter to the people of Philippi, Paul writes that he once had every reason to have “confidence in the flesh.” He was circumcised according to Jewish law, was a well-known Pharisee and even proclaimed to be a zealot for God, and under the law, “faultless” (Philippians 3:4-6). In short, Paul has more reason than anyone to be committed to his faith through good works and the law.
Faith in himself however, didn’t save him from the temporary blindness he experienced through a personal encounter with Jesus. Because Paul was so dedicated and committed to the law, Jesus had to take extreme measures to meet him and change his life according to the real will of God, not just by abiding the law. Once Paul recognized Jesus’ holiness, he submitted himself and completely turned his life around, literally changing the world for God by taking the gospel across the Roman empire. Pursuing a relationship with Jesus often means changing our commitments, and- more importantly- your direction.
Even though Paul endured great trials of faith for his commitment to Jesus, he lovingly writes that everything he once prized, his good works and commitment to the flesh, seem to be “garbage” compared to a life following Jesus (3:8). I’m not suggesting that your family or hobbies should be discarded, but perhaps we all should take a minute to compare the temporary, worldly possession and pastimes we enjoy to the eternal salvation we have in Jesus. He has rescued us from the murk and mire so that we don’t have to endure suffering forever! That’s something to really prioritize and value.
As Paul experienced a transformation of the heart upon meeting Jesus, he turned his commitment from worldly pursuits to Jesus and “the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:9). Paul works diligently throughout the New Testament to help people, walking firmly in the direction of Jesus. “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (3:12-14).
God used Paul’s gifts, especially his passion and thirst for righteousness, to change the world. But the biggest shift was Paul’s focus from worldly desires to relentlessly and unapologetically pursuing Jesus.
How can we follow Paul’s example and use our gifts to reach others for God?
What things in your life overshadow devotion to God? How can we relinquish the hold on us and give in to faith in Jesus alone?
Lord, You are so holy and mighty. You are eternally loving, sovereign, and gracious. I am so quick to lose sight of who You are, and how much greater You are than anything else in my life. Help me to set aside all else for the sake of knowing You. Remind me of Your goodness and mercy today. Amen.
Mary Parker is an Air Force wife who works as a public relations writer. A South Carolina girl at heart, she and her husband have recently relocated to Fairbanks, Alaska. Mary spends her spare time honing exercise and cooking skills, and is a self-proclaimed DIY addict. You can read about how faith and hope shape military family life, and check out Mary's latest projects at her blog, Mary's Mischief.
By Heather Tabers
When I study instructional passages of Scripture, I love to look at these three concepts: What, Why, and How. Let’s use these concepts to look at Philippians Chapter 2.
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
I love that in the first two verses of this chapter, Paul opens up a sermon on unity with one simple if/then statement. IF there is any encouragement (help, exhortation, counsel) in Christ, IF there is any fellowship (partnership) of the Spirit, IF any affection (the Greek’s strongest word for compassionate love) and compassion, THEN we are to be of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. IF we are blessed with encouragement, help, exhortation, counsel, fellowship, partnership, affection, compassion, and love, THEN we need to be united.
To break it down, IF God is compassionate towards you, THEN you need to share that same compassion with your brothers and sisters.
Paul offers no exception to this rule, only further encouragement to strengthen the bond among Christians. In one sentence, he gives us the What of the passage: Be united. Now, the Why- Why is it so important for Christians to be united? Why is it so important that we be of one mind, one love, one spirit, one purpose?
Because God chose to be united with us.
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
God, in all His perfection and righteousness and holiness, came to earth in the form of a lowly man through His Son, Jesus. Despite being sinless, He obeyed the Father and allowed Himself to be crucified horrifically in our place. The most compassionate love ever displayed was bestowed from a perfect Creator to a sinful creation, all for the sake of being united. Sin no longer separates me from God. He bridged that gap on the cross so that I can be His for all of eternity. That’s the Why-because Christ chose to be united with us.
But how we can be of one mind, one love, one spirit, and one purpose with all Christians? We’re so different!
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Putting others before ourselves does not usually come naturally, this is why Paul breaks it down for us. To be united in the body of Christ as one, we need to put away our selfish habits and conceited ways. We need to stop thinking that our needs and wants are more important than someone else’s. We need to look for opportunities to bless others- not just the others we want to bless, but all others. That’s the How in this lesson- choosing to humble ourselves in unity with one another, just as Christ did for us.
Who in my life do I lack unity with?
How can I humble myself and seek to put that person’s needs before mine?
What would this world be like if Jesus had put His needs before ours?
Lord Jesus, thank You for the humility and sacrifice You demonstrated on the cross. You put Your glory aside and chose to die for me, because of Your deep love for me, even when I was far from You. Thank You, Jesus. In light of Your love and Your sacrifice, I choose to surrender my pride and my wants, my needs. I choose to love others above myself. I know I can’t do it on my own, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Open my eyes to the people around me who need to be loved and served today. Amen.
Heather Tabers is the wife of a wounded warrior and the mother of five children. She is also currently a full time student, a specialty cake baker, and a volunteer with the VA Public Relations office. She writes about her life and her faith to encourage other women on her blog, Wives of War.