Growing in Faith, Obedience, and Love


1 John 5

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

1 John 5:1-5

In the last chapter of 1 John 5, John concludes by bringing together all that he has spoken of in regards to love and obedience and emphasizes the core of all these things being faith. John has stressed that Christians are to walk in the light, deny the darkness of the world, being obedient to the life and standards that God has called us to. He highlights that the proof and fruit of obedience and right living is love, especially love of our brothers. We must be born of God, so hidden in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ that we, by consequence, become his children who naturally bear the loving image and character of the Father.

From the beginning of the chapter, John exposes the fact that there are forces opposing our revelation and potential for spiritual growth. False teachings that come from the world and the devil deceive us with subtle lies that say that enlightenment and our ability to live righteously can be produced by ourselves. They encourage to idolize the human heart and strength, drawing us not nearer but farther from truth and power of God. But John gives the true revelation that these things are only found and accomplished in God. Belief in Christ is the evidence of being born in God, which in turn stirs in our hearts for the love of God and our brothers. And what does this love look like? The obedience of God’s commandments, which John says are not burdensome. Without God, his commandments to love and be obedient are an impossibly daunting task. But the key element that he brings into the final closing of this letter is the faith that is required to accomplish the life of love and obedience God calls us to.

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

1 John 5:6-12

Faith in Christ is our only means by which we can overcome the world; our flesh and the temptations of Satan. In his introduction, John used the testimony of the disciples to present the gospel. They proclaimed the Christ that they had witnessed with their own eyes, the eternal life that they now, out of the joy of their own salvation, share with John’s audience. Now, in his conclusion, John points to the greater testimony. It is not by man that faith comes but by the revelation of Jesus by the Spirit. The water- Jesus’ baptism that revealed his righteous standing with the Father, the blood- Jesus’ crucifixion that took on the punishment and wrath that the world deserved, and the Spirit- who works in the hearts of believers to convict of sin and reveal Christ’s saving love. If we are apt to believe the testimony of men- other believers- we should be far more willing to accept the greater testimony of God.

And what is the point of all of this? That we are to look at Jesus and believe in who God is and what he has done and thus live righteous lives, love God for loving us, and love others? This all sounds like great advice for times when I struggle with momentary spiritual growth. But there is a sobering and vital purpose for John’s letter. In his introduction he says that life was made manifest (in Jesus) and now they testify and proclaim it so that others can share in eternal life. Rich and fruitful discipleship and Christian living comes from the understanding of our eternal reality.

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

1 John 5:13-15

In his conclusion he emphasizes the purpose of the letter: that they may know that they have eternal life. We have eternal life in Jesus Christ! John is not just saying that we should grow in faith, love, and obedience just for the sake of growth. He is presenting the gospel of Jesus, so that his audience can be freed from the burden of the world and self-righteousness, and the lies the enemy tells. God offers us eternal life not because he wants to bribe us into holy living but because he is a God of love. He loves us and sent his Son for us to live righteously in our place, dying for our sin and rising to grant us every good gift. We can go to God with confidence, knowing that Christ is our advocate and that he wants to give us righteousness as a gift. There is eternal significance in sin. There is eternal significance in spiritual Growth. The gift of Jesus Christ is not a temporal fix but an eternal solution. In our momentary lives, we can be eternally satisfied. And this makes all the difference in the value and hope of how John says God calls us to live. The promise of God is to know him and in knowing him we have eternal life because he is the eternal life.

Let us run to him who has made a way to know the true God of eternal life and leads us to grow in faith, obedience, and love in Jesus Christ. Let us flee from all that causes us to stray from the truth of the gospel.

20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

1 John 5:20-21


Love that Casts Out Fear

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1 John 4
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

1 John 4:1-6

In 1 John 4, John provides clarity and a type of litmus test to help his readers fully grasp the realities involved in living a life in light and darkness/in Christ and in the world. The struggles of living a godly life are not merely temporal or material, they are spiritual. John makes the distinction between worldly and godly motivations by saying that we must test the spirits that drive our desires and actions. John has just finished his  statements in the previous chapter that focused on how loving our brother is the utmost consequence of Christ abiding in us and vice versa. Now, he says that there is more to consider when deciding on whether or not we are truly living lives that are pleasing to God. It is not only enough to love our brothers but we must also test the motivation and substance of  that love.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

1 John 4:7-16

And here is the standard by which we must measure our works of love: Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit reveals to us Christ, who is the manifestation and source of true love. Any teaching or motivation outside of Jesus is false and does not come from God but from the world and is of the antichrist. Why does John feel the need to make this distinction? The original audience was heavily tempted by opposing teachings of the gospel, especially Gnosticism- a teaching focused on detachment from the material world. He stresses the importance of understanding that love is not merely an abstract concept but is tangibly found in Jesus Christ. Without this measure, we can be easily deceived because the lies that the world tells about love are enticing to our flesh. Worldly love is egocentric and moves us to rely on ourselves and our own understanding on how to love and live good lives. But we must use the measure of  truth as our standard. John encourages that we need not fear the world’s schemes and lies. We are able to overcome because we belong to the one who has overcome the world by true love. These measures do not make it harder for us to discern spirits, but easier because we will know that when a particular teaching is from the world it is because it will deny (by word and deed) the truth and revelation of who Jesus Christ is.

17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.

1John 4:17-19

The true motivation behind worldly love and righteous living is fear. Fear in terms of God’s wrath and punishment. Most religions, and sometimes even among Christians, often function by the motivation of fear. Churches must be wary of teaching that our motivation to satisfy God’s commands stems from our understanding of the consequences of sin and disobedience. We cannot simply behave a particular way in order to avoid suffering or punishment.

John says that love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement. It is a daunting thing to go before the Holy God of the Universe. When we are faced with approaching God, our unholiness is made ever more clear. We are unrighteous and unable to approach God without fear of his rejection, punishment, and just wrath. John says that there is no fear in love. If God is love, then why are we often motivated to follow his commands because of fear? It is because we forget Christ. John makes mention in this chapter of Jesus’ humanity and his deity. It is important to remember that Jesus was both human and God. He understands our weakness and was the only person able to overcome it because he is God. God’s love was perfected with us because we are the recipients of it. The world will try to tell you that love is an emotional substance or abstract construct but God is love and he displayed that love for us on the cross. True love casts out fear because if we abide in Christ there is no fear of judgement. He took on wrath for us. He cleanses us from unrighteousness so that we can have confidence before God in judgement, knowing that Jesus is our savior and our advocate.

When Jesus resurrected from the grave, the power of the Holy Spirit was displayed as death was conquered. Wrath is satisfied and death conquered in Jesus and that revelation and power is provided to us by the Spirit. We don’t have to try to love or live godly lives by our own strength, which will prove futile eventually. We can follow God’s commands by the power and strength that he freely provides to us as a gift. The more that we know that Jesus is our Savior, we can rest assured that it is by his Spirit that we are able to live in the way that is pleasing to God. Our motivation is not fear but love. The more we know the true, sacrificial love of Jesus, the more we are able to love others. Not as a prerequisite to faith but as a consequence.

20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 4:20-21


Love that Is Pleasing to the Father

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1 John 3

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

1 John 3:16-18

In 1 John chapter 3, John continues with his examples of righteous vs. worldly living. In the previous chapters he describes this dichotomy as walking in the light instead of the darkness or loving and abiding in God instead of loving and abiding in the world. In chapter 3, John  reveals to his audience that there is evidential fruit in being children of God, just as there are in the previous examples of walking in the light and abiding in God.

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

1 John 3:7-10

John stresses that he does not want his readers to be deceived, for they were constantly bombarded with false doctrines such as Gnosticism (which teaches abstinence from the material world). John’s teaching on the avoidance of the world had nothing to do with using the world’s goods or being amongst worldly people. It was about sin. He did not want anyone to be confused that true Christianity meant simply adhering to a way of living. Being a child of God does not mean recognizing authority and therefore doing what you are told. It means that you bear the image of the Father. At creation, humanity was made in the image of God and at the fall, that image was tainted by sin. Christ came, bearing all that the Father was, being the true image of God and reconciled us as image bearers. In Christ, we no longer are the tainted image but the restored one.

Therefore, if we have been born of God and are his true children, we will look like God. Anyone who makes a practice of sinning cannot be born of God, who is without sin and unrighteousness. By process of elimination, you can see that it is evident that those who do not reflect the characteristics of God are children of the devil, who sinned from the beginning, becoming an enemy of God.

John points out at the end of verse 10 that the summarizing difference between children of God and those of the devil is whether or not they love their brother.

11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

1 John 3:11-15

The new commandment that Jesus gave did not replace the  old but completed it, that we are to love one another as Christ had loved us. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says that by living out the commandment to love one another, all will know that they are his disciples.  John brings up the story of Cain and Abel and says that Cain murdered his brother because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Therefore, he tells his audience that you should not be surprised when the world hates you. The command is to love our brothers, not the world. Not the kind of love that is by word or talk but by truth and deed. Does this mean that we are called to love only those within the church and not outside? No, because the world is not a word used to describe the people or things outside of the church. He refers to our flesh, worldliness and characteristics outside of God and to the giving of ourselves to these things.

The pure evidence of being a child of God is how we love each other. John seems to assume that it is easier for the Christian to aim to please the world with their actions rather than God. Why? Because it appeals to our flesh. It is easier to be selfish, self-righteous, greedy, unloving, prideful, and unkind. And they work in us in ways that we often do not realize. The righteousness of God is harder to achieve. It calls for suffering and a standard of living that is impossible to attain or sustain on our own.

The reason why loving one another is a sign that we are children of God is because it directly reflects the kind of love God has for us. If we bear the fruit of that love, it is a sure sign that we abide in Christ. We confidently come before him knowing that we are saved and changed by his gracious, sacrificial love.

Even when our hearts condemn us to sin, we know that God is greater than our hearts. It is only through Jesus that we can love and live to please God. As our hearts are changed by his love, we are finally able to obey his commandments. Not only that, we desire the things that he desires for us. He is a good Father, who desires to give us good things. And this is evident in the fact that he not only gave us his Son, who laid his life down for our sake, but he also gave us his Spirit who reveals to us the love of Christ and by who’s power we may abide in him.

19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God  in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

1 John  3:19-24

Christ our Advocate


1 John 2

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

1 John  2:1-6

First John chapter 2 continues with John’s teaching on light and darkness. He begins by explaining even further that the reason he is writing these things is so that they (the church in context) may not sin. BUT if anyone does sin, they have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. John confirms that his discourse on the  idea that true Christians walk in the light and have no darkness in them is not a statement that means that Christians never sin. His whole point is that true Christians are to have a specific source for that light and any other source is a lie.

Jesus is a propitiation for our sin and not only for ours but for the sins of the whole world. The word propitiation here means, “a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath and turns it to favor.” Does this statement that John makes mean that Jesus’ death has saved the entire world? Obviously not. The main theme thus far has been that there are two camps: light and dark. Those in Christ and those who are not. Jesus’ death provides a way for all to be saved from the wrath of God. But John makes it clear that not everyone walks in the light of Christ. He goes on to give reasons for why he is writing this message to them. He addresses the little children, young men, and fathers, stressing that this message and reminder is universal. It is for everyone in all stages of spiritual maturity to hear.

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

1 John 2:15-17

John goes on to expound on light and darkness in practical terms: if Christ is the light, then the darkness is the world. He says that they should not love the world or the things in the world and explains that those things are the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life. This is not just a matter of staying away from worldly people or things. Our fleshly desires are not things we can separate from so easily. John is uncovering that the problem with light and darkness is not a matter of morality, it’s a matter of love and devotion. Our behavior and lifestyles are motivated by what we love and are devoted to. So, is the answer to try harder to love and devote our lives to God? No, even trying to love God on our own strength is just self-righteousness. The problem of loving God is not a matter of what we do but where we abide.

John brings up warnings against antichrists because they were people who denied that Jesus was the Christ, denying both the Son and the Father. There were threats of deception of people in the church causing some to stray from the gospel. John explains that those who fell prey to these false teachings did so because they didn’t abide in Christ. He stresses that in order to abide in Christ, the gospel of Christ must abide in them also.

Knowing Jesus is the key to abiding and therefore loving him. Jesus is our righteous advocate. He became the propitiation for our sins, taking on the wrath that we deserved. Being our advocate does not only mean that he took our punishment for us, he also achieved what we couldn’t through the resurrection. In Christ we are spared and also receive the promise of God for eternal life. John tells his audience that if what they heard from the beginning, this gospel message, abides in them, then they will also abide in Christ. Later in his letter, John states that we love because he first loved us. It is only the love of Christ that compels us to love him in return and through him we are able to walk in the manner he desires for us.

Letting the message of Christ our advocate abide in us draws us to abide in Christ. Our pride that hinders us from the light is broken and the fruit of righteous living is produced. We cannot stand confidently in the world or our own flesh. When our hearts are changed because of the God who loved us so much that he gave his Son for us at his own great expense, our lives are changed also. Because of this we are not afraid of God’s judgement because Christ stands in our place.

28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

1 John 2:28-29


Why it is Difficult to Walk in the Light


1 John 1

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:5-7

In the book of 1 John, John writes a prologue which is similar to his other letters and his gospel. He talks about the revelation of Jesus, who was the word of life from the beginning and has now been made manifest to them. He states his purpose for his letter, to share the Gospel of Christ that the disciples had received. He goes on to say that this message proclaims that God is light; a central theme to his Gospel that says that Jesus is the true light coming into the world.

John is encouraging his audience to walk in the light of Christ. Christians were constantly bombarded with competing doctrines and lifestyles that drew them away from a life devoted to God. Walking in the light instead of darkness was not a metaphor for them to make good choices and stay away from the dark and tainted world. Rather, it was a metaphor for God’s truth and holiness. If God is light, then he exposes darkness and has the power to destroy it.

John makes a good argument for why we should embrace this gospel message. God is light, he is pure and good. Walking in the light means that we have  redeemed fellowship with God and each other, all of our sins being cleansed by his blood. Why, then do we so often fail to live out this message?

We have a constant struggle with our pride. John gives us the two ways that we can falsely walk in the light:

  1. “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. “ This directly echoes James’ statement that faith without works is dead. Walking in God’s light means that we are not only in his truth but his holiness. We can say that we believe and know his Word, but we are not truly God’s children if we do not bear the character of God. We are not true followers of Christ if we are not becoming more like him by the power of the Spirit.
  2. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. The second way we falsely walk in the light is by covering our sin with our own, filthy, self-righteousness. Walking in the light means that we are not only in his holiness but his truth. We can try our best to live righteously and do good things, but if we cannot admit to our sin then we are not truly walking in the light of the gospel.

So, how do we walk in the light correctly? John says that we deceive ourselves. Like Adam and Eve, we often point the finger for our sin and disobedience. We look to the world and Satan to blame for sin. But the gospel doesn’t point to these things. The light doesn’t expose them as the culprit for sin. It exposes our own hearts. That is why it is so difficult to embrace the gospel. The first part of the message says that we are the darkness and we have no part in fellowship with God. It shows us how much we deserve to be exiled from his presence and how much we deserve his wrath. That is not a message that is easy to embrace. But thankfully, that is not the whole of the message.

There are two answers that John gives for the ways we can walk falsely in the light:

1. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

2. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

God gave us Jesus to reveal our sin to us – show us the truth. Part of that truth is that we are sinners, but the other part is that he is our Savior. By his truth we can painfully see our unrighteousness. Through his blood, we are made holy. The truth hurts and it is painful to deal with sin, but God wants to reveal his Son to us so that we may have fellowship with him and each other.

Ultimately, it is our own pride that hinders us from the gospel. In order to truly walk in the light, the light must shine upon us, exposing every dark deed in our hearts. Only then can we see how much we need Jesus and call upon him to cleanse us so that we may join him in righteousness.

This was the heart cry of the disciples who had been changed by Jesus. They wanted everyone to be free from their sin and share in the life that they had found in Christ.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

1 John 1:1-4

In Any and Every Circumstance


Philippians 4

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:10-13

In Philippians 4 Paul gives his final exhortations and encouragements to the Philippian church. At its core his letter has been a reminder for them to rejoice in the Lord in the midst of suffering and temptation. The Philippian church was well known for their spiritual success, which makes sense as to why Paul related their situations so often to his own. At the heart of the letter was a call for joy, humility, and commitment to the gospel. He constantly exhorts them to follow in his footsteps which was truly a call to follow Christ.

In the fourth segment of his letter Paul again uses himself as an example of what he is calling the Philippians to. He acknowledges that they have already showed spiritual maturity by acting like Timothy and others he mentioned in previous chapters in caring for other believers. They have been faithful in providing for Paul’s needs. But while he rejoices in God’s provision for him by way of the church, he notes that he was never truly in need. Paul has learned how to be content in whatever situation. He has learned the secret of being needy, that he can do all things through the strength of Jesus Christ.

He didn’t note this in his letter in order to reject needing support from other Christians, but to highlight the fact that the true source for all of our needs is Jesus. This also was not a statement that God gives provision and strength for our own agendas and plans. The central mission of the church is the sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Paul wants to stress that the core of who they are and all of their actions are motivated and powered by that mission. It is not simply for Paul’s sake that they give provisions, it is for the sake of the gospel. And it is not by their own will to provide but God has provided for Paul through them for his own will and purposes.

17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Philippians 4:17-20

Their gifts and supplication is part of their worship and offering to God. Paul not only rejoices because he has received something for them, but because their self-less giving is a sign of their spiritual maturity. Paul assures that God will provide for them just as he has provided for Paul- not by worldly riches but by his riches in glory in Jesus Christ.

How can we have the same faith for God’s provision?

Paul claims that he has learned the secret to contentment. Throughout  his letter to the Philippians he stresses a lifestyle of self-abandonment and reliance on Jesus Christ.  It has been a message of rejoicing amidst certain suffering, denying ourselves for the sake of others, and placing our identity, purpose, and hope in Jesus Christ. Paul used himself over and over again as an example of these things but only because he was following in the steps of Jesus. And just like Jesus he didn’t look to any other source for physical provision than God. He knew that the secret to being content in this life was knowing that, spiritually, we have been well provided for. When we focus our lives on the eternal things, God’s purposes and plans for the world and that the war over sin and death has been won through Jesus, we can have full confidence that he provides for everything that we need. In any and every circumstances we can have faith because the God of peace is with us. He has not forsaken us and we have all we need in Him.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7



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Our Confidence in Christ


Philippians 3

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law,blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:4b-11

In Philippians chapter 3, Paul calls for the church to rejoice in the Lord. He continues on by warning them of the Judaizers (Jews that taught that Christians had to adhere to Jewish law in order to be saved) that were teaching them that they had to be circumcised. Paul argues that the church is the circumcision who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh. Why is this such an important point to be made by Paul? He elaborates by talking about his own experience of being the ‘perfect’ Jew, a Hebrew of Hebrews. He knows what it means to have confidence in his own worldly gain and in light of the gospel everything he was, was now counted as a loss. This becomes more than a mere point being made about laws and rules but about identity, purpose, and hope.

In the world, who we are is so heavily defined by what we can accomplish. Paul was a prime example of worldly success, having been a Pharisee. He was a keeper of the law and religion and a respected citizen. He was defined by his own righteousness. But true righteousness only comes through faith in Christ by the Spirit. Anything outside of Jesus Christ was meaningless. The success, the honor, the wealth, was all temporal but in Christ there was so much to be gained eternally. What is to be gained in Christ, Paul stresses, is simply knowing him. He has gained Christ himself and in gaining Christ, he has been found in Him. His identity is known in Jesus.

Receiving this new identity in Christ means sharing in everything that Jesus had achieved for us; his righteousness, inheritance, the power of his resurrection, even his suffering and death. All these things were considered the ultimate gain to Paul. This new identity also meant new purpose: that we would be more like Christ. His identity also becomes our purpose.

Paul makes it a point to say that he is not perfect in his calling to attain the things of Christ, but he presses on because Christ has made him his own. His new purpose that sprouts from his new identity ultimately gives him hope. And all these things are grounded in Jesus Christ.

When we put our confidence in Christ, instead of our own flesh or the world, we have a new identity, secured in Jesus Christ. We are made righteous, children of God. This new identity also gives our lives new meaning and purpose. We are to strive in the things of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s plan for our lives are not to be seen through the world’s temporal lens but hold significant, eternal value. Our purpose in Christ grants us hope. There is meaning for every struggle. There is a prize at the end of the race. Our hope is not only in Jesus, it is Jesus. He is the only one we can put our confidence and hope in.

20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Philippians 3:20-4:1

Serve Others Like Christ


Philippians 2

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:1-11

In Philippians chapter 2 Paul calls the Philippian church  to serve one another in humility. This selfless service comes from their one-mindless in Christ through the Spirit. In Christ they have the ability to serve like Christ, who though being God, became human  and humbled himself to the cross for our sake. In his humility, he was exalted so that we could live out the same humility and obedience through him, also being exalted in his name.

At first glance, this passage could simply reveal to us an example of humility. In our own understanding we can take this and say that service means giving all that we have and obeying those who ask anything of us, even to the point of death.

Even Paul tells the Philipppians later in the chapter that he would be glad to be poured out like a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of their faith. He uses Timothy, whom he says is genuinely concerned for their welfare like no one else, and Epaphroditus, who nearly died for the work in Christ on the behalf of Paul.

So, are we simply to serve others by giving our all to the point of death? 

I think that in order to understand this call to serve we need to look at how Jesus serves and how Paul and the others he mentioned serve in light of their devotion to Christ. How did Jesus serve not only the world, but us as individuals? The greatest gift we could ever receive is that of Christ and the greatest service that has ever been done is Jesus’ work on the cross for us. These we have received by means of the gospel through the Holy Spirit. If we read carefully, Paul is not saying to serve others just because Jesus served to the point of death. He’s saying that what Christ did is the substance of our service. Christ’s death wasn’t an attribute of his service, it was his service. Every miracle he performed and blessing he bestowed served as a foreshadow of his ultimate future service and gift. So, when Paul serves to the point of death, he means that he serves the gospel to the point of death.

22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.

Philippians 2:22

Even when he mentions Timothy’s service he says that he has served with him in the gospel.

As we think of how we are to serve others we have to look to Christ’s example. We are not humbling ourselves to each other but humbling ourselves to God who gives us the power to count others more significant than ourselves. That means that we think about the interests of others before our own. What is the best interest of others? To know Christ. The Bible stresses that we use our physical means, if we are able, to give to the poor and needy. But ultimately, the greatest gift you can give and the greatest service you can perform is sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is how we can accomplish Paul’s call to the Philippians today to shine as lights in the world. We are lights that do not point to ourselves or shine on our own works of service. But we ourselves are being shined on by the light of Christ because we are holding fast to the word of life. We are pointing to Jesus who has served the gospel to us through his own life, death on the cross, and resurrection.



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Rejoice in Your Suffering

27 “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, 28 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. 29 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, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”
Philippians 1:27-30
In the book Philippians Paul writes to the Philippian church from prison. He begins the letter with a greeting, giving thanks, and praying for them. He tells them of his situation and that ultimately Christ is glorified because the gospel is being preached. He is transparent about how the gospel and his call to share it has brought him suffering but instead of losing hope or being angry, he rejoices. Any Christian in Paul’s time knew that following Christ meant an expectation of some kind of suffering. Jesus calls his followers to take up their crosses. The cross was widely known as the most brutal form of Roman torture. It should be no surprise that Christians face suffering for the sake of Christ.
Paul encourages that Christian suffering is something to rejoice over.

But how and why are we to suffer for the sake of Christ? 

 Paul had experienced such suffering that he saw death as something to be gained and to hope for because a departing from this life means being with Christ. On the other hand, life contains fruitful labor. God had a purpose for Paul’s life; to preach the gospel to the world. Paul’s perspective, as echoed through his other letters, was to be content in whatever situation God has placed you in. Whether it be in life or death, peace or strife, comfort or suffering. He didn’t rejoice because suffering made him more valuable or worthy. Suffering was a privilege because it was the fruit of the purpose that God had for him.

Jesus greatly exemplifies this to us. He is the suffering servant that bore the cross for God’s ultimate purpose. God calls us to a life of suffering not to burden us but to find satisfaction in our following in the life of his son. In love, Jesus was sent to join in our human suffering, taking on more than we will ever have to because of what he did on the cross. Paul is mirroring Christ’s actions in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prays that God would relieve his suffering but ends with praying that the Father’s will be done and not his own. In the same way Paul concludes that while he has a desire to be relieved from his suffering, his ultimate desire is to do God’s will. God doesn’t promise that we would not experience suffering, we should expect it, but trust that even in suffering, he has a redemptive plan for us in Jesus.

We all have a purpose in this life and we should look to Christ for what that is even amidst suffering, as Paul did. May we rejoice in our suffering because we live for the sake of Christ and may God be glorified as we run to him as our sole comfort and peace.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Matthew 5:11-12

Grow with Gratitude

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
Colossians 4:1

In Colossians 4, Paul gives his final instructions to the church encouraging them to continue in their growth. He says to continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Giving thanks seems to be a very important theme in the book of Colossians and Paul continues to emphasize its importance in the very last chapter.

In every chapter of the book of Colossians Paul instructs the church to be thankful (Colossians 1:12, 2:7, 3:15-17, 4:2). In most instances, this command seems misplaced considering book’s over-arching theme of spiritual growth and maturity. He goes on long discourses on who we are and how we are to behave in light of our standing with the sovereign Lord.

What does thanksgiving have to do with spiritual growth?

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:15-17

Thanksgiving is not only the fruit of our spiritual growth, it is also a tool given to us for our growth.

If we are truly made alive in Christ, then through his power we would bear the fruit of a grateful heart. We would exemplify all the attributes we find in Col. 3. Paul mentions thanksgiving often but he isn’t simply reminding us, he is applying the tool of gratitude. We are to give thanks in the moments of struggle and growth. Thanksgiving is a precedent for godliness. When we give thanks despite what we are going through and how we feel, our hearts are drawn to who God is and what he has done rather than ourselves. It changes our perspective from or limited human view to God’s sovereign and holy perspective. We are reminded of the truth that we have a reason to be forever grateful no matter what and in all things. We have Christ who has made a way for our salvation. In the light of who Jesus is, all other struggles fade away and our hearts are drawn to a position of humility that prepares and spurs in our spiritual growth.