I Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Have you ever thought of yourself as a foreigner or exile? I doubt I’m the only one who needs to think about that question. We are foreigners and exiles, but from what? I’ve been in social situations where I felt completely out of place. I didn’t like that feeling or my response. In that uncomfortable place I realized how much I wanted to fit in rather than be a foreigner or exile. Fitting in is the “war against your soul.”
That uncomfortable place is where the battle lines become clear. There are two sets of values; one for fitting in and another for spiritual things. There’s only one defense that will save us – the integrity of faith.
In·teg·ri·ty: the state of being whole and undivided.
Whole and undivided faith is the winning strategy that makes it possible to “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
Note to Self: You may be a foreigner and exile but people see the integrity of your faith and will remember it’s purpose even if they don’t agree with it…yet.
I Peter 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
I once had someone ask me “what does born again mean anyway? I didn’t know quite how to answer except using some analogy I’d heard about an airplane and a pilot that I can’t even remember. I could tell my response made no sense to the one who asked and now I understand why. I was trying to explain what someone else understood. It gets more complicated because it’s so personal.
Stories of what God has taught others are good but they are only meant to be a small cell the Holy Spirit plants in you with the possibility what “they” understood might become something more for you…spiritual curiosity. That’s spiritual conception.
It’s the work of the Holy Spirit that leads you to something more over a period of time. Spiritual curiosity develops the desire to “search and find” spiritual answers. That the period of your spiritual gestational development.
Finally curiosity, conceived and developed, gives birth to your own praise to “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” knowing with complete certainty that “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” the Holy Spirit has personally taught you spiritual truths you’d never known before.
That dear friends is your “new birth into a living hope” and an inheritance “that can never perish, spoil or fade.”
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
My idea of “whatever” has changed in these four chapters. What began as more or less an acceptance of a negative circumstance has become a new idea.
“Whatever” happens in life, Jesus is the core of the faith God has given each of us. He is the “faith OF the gospel.” He IS the Word [Logos] that builds truth from a trusted book into a structure of personal faith, divine reason and creative order for daily life.
Philippians 4:8 is all I need to remind me to think about “whatever ” in a new and much bigger way.
NIV Philippians 3:7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Thankfully most of us would never have to say we’ve “lost all things” to gain Christ. It’s likely we weren’t as successful as Paul was at keeping the rules in our old life, either, but we were certainly trying. Many of us would say we just “went along to get along” confused about the relationship of success and righteousness. That same confusion that left us unsure what to put our faith in was there back in Paul’s day too. Was righteousness only about right behavior and obeying the right rules?
Paul came to consider his list of successes as “garbage” but it was that old confusion that became our “garbage.” Christ became the contrast that showed us this reality; trying to figure out what we could make of ourselves was “garbage” compared to what God had in mind for us; “the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”
- Philippians 2:14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.
Faith is a structure built from the many truths of the Bible. It was that idea of building one truth onto another that made me think of Legos…you know, those little building bricks that lock together to build amazing things. “Do everything without grumbling or arguing” is a brick I’m adding to my last post about dealing with whatever happens.
Those individual bricks of truth from the Bible are like spiritual Legos. God has designed a perfect system of building personal faith that’s dynamic and changing evidence of personal growth that reveals the reality of Logos. John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word [Logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
Spiritual Legos become Logos ” as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
Phil 1:27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel…
“Whatever happens” and “for the faith of the gospel” are two phrases in this one verse that caught my attention. I’m convinced “attention” is one of the schoolroom tools the Holy Spirit uses to let me know class is in session.
1. How am I doing in my life with “whatever happens?”
Remember this story from Matthew 21 about the two sons? “What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ The boy answered, ‘I will not.’ But later he had a change of heart and went.” That plan of rebell, resist and repent is familiar to me. It’s my schedule, my effort and my decision. NOT! It’s a personality of rights issue of faith. After all these years and a lot of tutoring that mindset still competes with the gospel of Christ. So I have to ask…
2. What does “the faith of the gospel of Christ” mean?
Paul could have said “striving together as one for the faith IN the gospel.” That seems easier somehow, like investing in the gospel outside myself. I believe in investing in that gospel but Paul uses a different preposition, “of” that makes it far more personal. The truth is my faith from God came with his core package to get me started, the “faith OF the gospel.” That core of faith is my best hope my answer to question one can be changed.
Philippians 1:14 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.
Have you noticed how similar the words change and chains sound? Paul only mentions chains but he’s making a pretty clear connection between chains and “change” in this verse. That’s what started me thinking and looking in a topical bible to find references to those two words. What I found out was interesting. Chains were shackles for those who were imprisoned BUT they were also ornamentation [jewelry] for princes, priests and even camels.
Paul’s chains were meant to constrain him but instead they’ve become like jewelry to him. They are the visible evidence that reminds him, and others, “most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” They’ve become chains that led to change.
Now about that word “change.” Oddly I didn’t find any direct references in my topical Bible to “change” but that word made me think of changing clothes and this part of Job 29:14. “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me…” It’s interesting to think how much emphasis I put on how I’ve changed as a believer. I’ve got the right clothes now but did I forget the right jewelry?
Is it possible that God has changed those very chains I was so happy to be rid of into the jewelry meant to become ornamentation for my new clothes? Is that jewelry visible evidence that allows my brothers and sisters to see how Christ can turn chains into change for them too?
I’m confident along with Paul that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Jesus has the power to turn chains into eye-catching jewelry to accent the beauty of being dressed in his righteousness.
So it came to pass, when Joseph had come to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the tunic of many colors that was on him. Then they took him and cast him into a pit. And the pit was empty; there was no water in it. And they sat down to eat a meal. (Gen. 37:23–25 NKJV)
“His eyes were wide with fear. His voice was hoarse from screaming. It wasn’t that his brothers didn’t hear him.”
I post on Sundays and then on Wednesdays and by early Tuesday morning, July 4, 2017, I was still looking for some fresh Biblical take on “freedom.” I’d been stumped by my “idea” until I read that quote from You’ll Get Through This by Max Lucado. Joseph’s story became a real story of freedom for me.
When I read that quote I could imagine how Joseph felt lying there in that pit with not a clue that he might one day look at this as his day of freedom. The freedom from that pit began with his brother’s betrayal and led to him being enslaved, trapped and imprisoned. It was those days after freedom that God used to really free Joseph. They taught him that freedom is more than “being freed.” Freedom is focus on being “free” despite circumstances.
The Biblical record of those days after freedom has given us the benefit of hindsight of that truth. Joseph was 17 when his brothers freed him from the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites who sold him to Potiphar who put him in prison. He was in his 30s when he was freed from prison by Pharaoh and set “over all the land of Egypt.”
All those years later Joseph spoke these words of true freedom to those same brothers: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” “Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, Thus says your son Joseph: “God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen. Joseph was 110 when he died, a truly free man.
Ephesians 2:6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. 8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. NLT
Have you ever considered how important it is to God for you to live your life believing you’re his masterpiece? It’s true that makes us feel good. I think it’s also vital evidence of the grace we’ve been given: renewal through Christ and the desire to “do the good things he planned for us long ago.” God has made you his masterpiece that can attract others to come closer and see the reality of what he is able to create. “God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.”
God’s plan is to reveal you as his masterpiece.