Let This Be So…

To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.  Philippians 4:20.

 

Paul wrote a thank-you letter to the Philippi church.  Almost every word written spoke to his desire to encourage and stabilize their community, small as it was.  He started out greeting them and ends with another.  These people were more than just acquaintances they were family.

His instructions to them came from a concern he held for all the churches—pure gospel and deliverance from not only sin but the tyranny of idolatry in the guise of pleasing God.  For that’s what legalism really is—the setting up of man’s efforts to please God through man’s methods.  Oh, we give lip service to the law and whatnot, but really we’re out to either save our own necks or earn that extra bit of reward and honor at the Great Supper of the Lamb.

One of the reasons I love the letter to the Philippians so much is that it troubleshoots statements made to other churches which would otherwise lead us down another understanding.  Paul delves deep into Christian growth in all his letters but never does he deal a blow to man’s wisdom as much as he does in the instructions to this church.  Every one of his points refocuses our attention on the whole reason for the gospel in the first place:  reconciliation with God and mankind.

What’s so different about his take on it all, though, is he knows none of us can accomplish the necessary changes in our natures to pull it off.  The confession that he himself had not attained perfection or a sinless state at the time of the letter testifies to the fact he didn’t expect anyone else to either.  If I summed up his point to the Philippians in one terse statement, it would be “stop being anxious and grow up in Christ!”

The rest of the message is not simply a self-help how-to manual but the only way to be like Jesus.  When Paul tells them, Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…, he’s not giving them a suggestion but a definitive description of the mind of Jesus.  In the NT “amen” means “let this be true” or “let it be so,” or in our modern vernacular it could be said like “that’s a fact.”  Paul wants them to catch the attitude demonstrated in the cross, for our natural tendencies lead to be self-serving, be self-gratifying and to worry about self-preservation over any form of sacrifice.

If we have nothing for which we need to worry or be anxious about because God will supply all our needs, then the attitude of Christ makes sense.  If we can’t trust God with our present or future needs, then fear and anxiety make sense, because it’s all on us.  If, however, we experience God’s provision and contentment, any anxiety on our part becomes foolish and faithless.

Yet, I know God understands where we come from and how far we have to go in this journey of faith.  It’s not like we can just snap our fingers and be changed over night.  I also don’t think that this instant kind of change brings about the necessary heart adjustments failure does.  To clarify that last point:  our efforts to be like Jesus almost always fail when we attempt them in our own strength; we learn more from this failure than we do from our success.  Yet without the Spirit to guide our efforts, we will fail to retain the mind of Christ, trading it for a form of godliness while denying the power.  However, once we submit, the change is a natural state of mind because He begins to live in us as the only God in charge (as opposed to our attempts to be little gods).  Once He lives in us, our efforts to be like Him don’t come from any human methodologies or self-help lists but from the sheer power of His glory in our hearts.  Where Jesus lives as the reigning power, sin holds no sway.  Yet this state of being is a progression not an instantaneous one.  The word “growth” implies progressive stages of being.  In other words, we don’t begin the journey of faith with anything but what Jesus called a “mustard seed” sized faith, which grows into a big plant.

Submission doesn’t come natural to us, though it is the very essence of our growth in Christ.  If we are to grow at all, submission must be the first act of righteousness we perform.  Resisting the devil doesn’t come from our confronting him but our submission to God.  By default the positive action of submitting to God automatically resists the devil; drawing near to God draws us away from the devil.  Instead we somehow buy into the “truth” that we are strong enough to beat our own natures by methods bastardized from Christian teachings.  In another book Paul warns the prevalent attitude of the last days would have a form of godliness but deny the power.  When we attempt to use Christ’s teachings while subtracting Him from command we will fail.  The only way to success in Christ is complete utter submission to Him.

Paul ends the letter with “Amen” or in our language, “let this be a fact.”  I desire more than ever that the mind of Christ take over mine in order that I might rightly divide His word and demonstrate His life.

Let this be so.

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4 Responses to “Let This Be So…”

  1. Ula Says:

    “For that’s what legalism really is—the setting up of man’s efforts to please God through man’s methods.”
    Yep, if we could do it in our own power and in our own efforts, Christ died for nothing. These are such encouraging words, Jonny.

    And then there’s another you mentioned: “our efforts to be like Jesus almost always fail when we attempt them in our own strength; we learn more from this failure than we do from our success.”
    Very, very true. I know this from personal experience. I fell flat on my face everytime I tried to achieve this with misguided zeal.

    This post is packed with truths concerning the Gospel and our submission to Christ. Thanks for writing it 🙂

  2. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    You’re welcome! I have to remind myself constantly what’s important and what isn’t. There has never been a time in my walk with God that I’ve just “gotten it” and could move on; I’m always having to reiterate or revisit truths because life tends to be distracting. I think that’s why being in the Word consistently becomes so important for our spiritual health because we need to be reminded of these things everyday in order to practice them, at least I know I do…

  3. tlc4women Says:

    Great post. I don’t know if it’s what I am reading these days or if there truly seems to be a movement to get back to the basics of our faith without all the feel good political practices that have existed.

  4. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    Most of our lives are lived in reaction to other people’s lives or our own pasts. This is both natural and very dangerous because it means we can be whipped about willy-nilly by every wind of doctrine or circumstance which pushes the buttons.

    The Church has done much the same thing. The Jesus movement reacted to the austerity of the 50s, which in turn was a reaction to the deprivation of WWII and the Great Depression; which were both reactions against the Roaring 20s…

    I want to live in truth which chooses to be rather than bounces off the extremes of society or religious twists. This is where the submission to God’s Word and Christ’s Spirit come in. Neither is a reaction but rather a conscious choice to be like God.

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