Due to a family emergency, I will not be able to post before Monday at the earliest…maybe later than that. My brother-in-law was killed in a car accident this past Friday. Please keep our family in your prayers.
This week I have been studying the letter of Philippians. It is Thursday and I am not yet finished with chapter one…Paul’s words have been tearing me up!
Yesterday I posted a passage, verses 15-18, in which Paul rejoices in the midst of suffering. But as I read over those verses again, something challenged me that I missed on first read. Here are Paul’s words again:
“15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” [TNIV]
Paul is in prison, and some people are actually telling others about Christ with the end goal being stirring up trouble for Paul while in prison. And Paul’s response? What does it matter their motivations? Why should I care if they are telling the truth about Jesus with a pure or impure motive? The point is that those who had not encountered Christ are now hearing about him!
I read one commentary that put it like this: “…so here Paul rejoices that despite his imprisonment and the personal animosity of some fellow Christians, the gospel is being preached. Ultimately, for Paul, this is all that matters.” [The NIV Application Commentary: Philippians by Frank Thielman]
These words hit me like a ton of bricks. How often am I more focused on being cool, popular, well liked, or just being “a nice guy.” How often is my own comfort, advancement, and success the ultimate thing for me?
To be honest, I am not at the point where I can say…”But what does it matter? The gospel is being shared. Lives are being transformed. That’s what matters!”
But I want to be there.
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Paul in Acts 20.24 [TNIV]
How do these words land in your life?
In the introduction to his book, The Irresistible Revolution, author and activist Shane Claiborne says:
“Christianity often has offered little to the world, other than the hope that things will be better in heaven.”
As difficult as it is to swallow, I believe there is much truth in these words.
Often Christians are the most unhappy, joy-less, miserable people. Then we tell others that we have good news…and that they should believe and join up so they can live with Jesus [and us too, by default] in heaven forever. But if we are so miserable with Jesus, why should they want that?
The truth is, that through Jesus, God wants to radically change our lives now. He wants to make us more joyful, more alive now. Why wait until we die to experience the fullness and joy that comes from Christ? It is available to us today.
Paul wrote Philippians from prison, and yet the overarching them of the letter is joy. Listen to his words to the struggling, persecuted, poverty stricken church at Philippi:
“12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice…” [Philippians 1.12-18 TNIV]
Paul did not rejoice because of his circumstances…he was not a fruitcake. Prison could not have been a great experiece. Paul, however, rejoiced because through his life and even his suffering, the message of Christ made a bigger impact, changed more lives.
There is more to being a Christians than waiting around for heaven. We are charged with making here and now an appetizer for what will happen someday.
So, how is God using your story to impact someone else???
For more on joy, see this post on Pete Wilson’s blog.
This Sunday we are wrapping up a series entitled “True Colors.” The big idea behind the series is that we all carry around things in our hearts that shouldn’t be there, and no matter how we try to convince ourselves that they aren’t a problem, they are.
We have explored pride, jealousy, and greed so far, and the consequences that not dealing with these issue can bring into our lives. We have also discovered that the solution to these diseases of the heart are intentional choices we make:
Intentional service breaks the power of pride.
Intentionally celebrating the success of others breaks the power of jealousy.
Intentionally, consistently, and strategically giving a percentage of your income away breaks the power of greed.
This week we will wrap up by talking about anger. Have you ever thought of anger as a problem? Is there such a thing as good anger? What are you angry about right now? Where could that anger take you if it is left unresolved?
NT Wright was on the Colbert Report last Thursday. I thought it was interesting that he was invited to be on a Comedy Central show. It’s pretty difficult talking theology with a comedian, but it was a great interview. If you have not picked up a copy of his newest book, Surprised by Hope, you can do so here.
What other theologians would you like to see on Comedy Central?
I usually take pride in being up to speed on the newest and hippest music. But to my surprise I have been listening to a little of Don Henley’s late 80’s solo efforts lately. And I love it. There, I said it.
What music are you listenting too?
So, this past Tuesday night I celebrated Communion in jail. I guess I should also tell you that I was there by my choice and not someone else’s.
I have a friend whom I go to church with named Jimmy. Jimmy is one of my heroes. He has a huge heart and he is involved in helping drug addicts get into a rehab facility with the hopes of starting their lives over again. Jimmy also had a brother who spent over a decade in prison. While he was in prison John [that’s his name] became a Christian, and he never looked back. He dedicated his remaining years after release to serving those who were incarcerated. And Jimmy developed a heart for this ministry too.
When Jimmy asked me to speak to the inmates during chapel and lead communion for them, I said yes, for no other reason than I love Jimmy. The time of communion was so powerful. I spent 10 minutes explaining why the bread and wine are so important…because they are symbols of the body and blood of Christ broken and poured for us…then we spent some time in quiet reflection.
After we had taken Communion, Jimmy stood up to dismiss. And he wept. This is not unusual, because Jimmy can get emotional. But it was powerful. I saw in him a man who is broken because all is not right with the world or our community. I saw a man who was willing to share his life and whatever else he may have with people that tend to be stereotyped and ignored. I saw so much in him that I hope to be someday.
So, who is your hero?