Philippians 1.12-14 – Influential Incarceration

Often we look at our circumstances and, for better or worse, put ourselves at the very centre of them. They must be about me, for me, against me, and altogether concerning me. In vv.12-14 Paul shows us that, really, for better or worse, our circumstances are about much bigger things. 

The believers in Philippi are obviously concerned for Paul’s wellbeing whilst in prison (v.12), yet Paul highlights to them that, do you know what, whether I am in prison or am freed miraculously as before (cf. Acts 16.11-40), the main thing is still the main thing,

…what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel…

His imprisonment is being used to advance the gospel. Quite an influential incarceration!

He writes that he was able to witness to the whole imperial guard and to all the rest, and that the local believers have become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment and are therefore more bold to speak the word without fear.

Is the same true for you? Can you look at whatever is happening to you and around you and say, well Lord, how is this being used to advance the gospel?

We don’t all need to be incarcerated for the gospel to have such influence, as Paul was, but we would do well to take his perspective and apply that to our lives today; keeping the main thing as the main thing in our lives (v.12), and to see the God-given positives in every situation (vv.13-14).

Try and employ this perspective today!

Living a Life of Faith

James wraps up this passage, James 2.14-26, by saying that 

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

A body with no breath is dead, so, says James, is faith without works, without evidence, without fruit, without proof. 

Thomas Manton said that,

Here [James] concludes the whole argument, showing how little is [given] to an empty profession of faith without works. It is like the body without the spirit of life.

What does working faith look like then, where does it take us? If you’re a notetaker, this is it;


Genuine faith results in active obedience to Jesus’ teachings. 

Working faith takes us to Jesus…every, single, time.


Here’s why. We try, and try, and try, and try to be so obedient, to do good works to show our faith, and we realise, you know what, I just cannot ever, try as hard as I might, live the kind of holy, sanctified, righteous, life that we are called out of the world to live.

Back in chapter one James writes, be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 

So we do need to be doers, we want to be doers, but when we try to be we realise that we are failing, because the standard is so high. It’s 24x7x365. This is really bad news.

Where then do we turn when we realise this, that we have failed, again?

To Jesus. To the Good News, to the Gospel. 

That’s why working faith takes us to Jesus.

Where is the Gospel in James? Admit the bad news to receive the Good News – this is a work of faith that we need to do each and every day, and that is why a life of working faith will always take us to Jesus.

Can I Be Right Before God?

Yesterday our big question was why go on? Today, a question posed by Eliphaz (4.1),

‘Can mortal man be in the right before God?
Can a man be pure before his Maker?

Job 4.17

Eliphaz seems to think that somewhere down the line Job has sinned (4.7), and that everything that is happening to Job must be the result of some sin he may have forgotten. As with yesterday, there is such a degree of demonic deception going on here; ‘can you ever really be ok with God? Sure Job, you are ‘blameless’, whatever that means, but come on, you must have done something, can you really be in the right before God? Can you really be pure before Him?

The Word of God that we carry in our Bibles tells us really clearly that left to our own devices, trying to earn and work our way to Him, that the best we can do is as good as filthy rags, as strong and sure as leaves blown away in the wind (Isaiah 64.6).

So, can we be right before God?

There is a simple answer to this with profoundly deep and complex workings – yes you can by faith in Jesus.

Ours is a faith that is so simple in practice but complex in understanding. Maybe you have friends who practice another religion and it seems to complex in it’s adherence but very simple in premise.

‘We are all trying to climb the same mountain’ they may say. Have you ever tried to climb a mountain? It’s hard. It’s tough. Unlike the mountains of this world, the metaphorical mountain of the Lord that represents right standing before Him can never be climbed alone so no, Eliphaz, no mortal man can be right before God, no human can be pure before his maker.

Thankfully, we serve a God who loves us so much that He knows this and He took action to fix this problem. Rather than watch us try to climb the mountain, He came down and will take us up with Him. He has the ability to climb what we cannot.

We have the opportunity to be right before God, we have the chance to be pure before our maker if we put hope, and trust, and faith in Jesus alone to accomplish this (Romans 3.28, 5.1, Habakkuk 2.4, Genesis 15.6, Galatians 2.16, 3.24). 

Can I be right before God?

Yes, you can. 

Alone you will never do this. Alone you will never be good enough. That’s the bad news. Accept this. But, don’t dwell on this, because there is Good News, there is the Gospel. Jesus, who is eternally good enough, gives you the opportunity to be right before God. When looking at you who have faith in Jesus, God sees you through this lens, He sees the righteousness and the purity and the perfection of Jesus and treats you the same. Amazing.

Can I be right before God? Yes, you can. 

Thinking About Christmas

There are so many passages in the Word of God that tell us that He is motivated towards us by love, that Jesus came and lived among us out of the motivation of love (Philippians 2.4-8, John 3.16-17 to use two examples).

Charles Ryrie said of love that it is seeking God’s will for the person/people that you love. From this we can say that Jesus came, lived, died, rose, and ascended all out of love for you, and that He was seeking to action God’s will for you by allowing you to be reconciled to God in right relationship through faith in Him. 

Christmas, then, is when we pause and celebrate and commemorate the fact that He did come, that God expressed His love for you in such a powerful and real way as to send His image to live and walk among us…and that started with Christmas, didn’t it.

Because of this what is our duty as believers at Christmas, what should we be mindful of at Christmas?

Speech – what are you talking about at Christmas? Is is the trappings of the season, or is it the reason for the season? Are you talking yourself up, or are you building others up? (1 Corinthians 14.3).

Spending – what are you spending money on and time with at Christmas? Is it worldly and selfish pleasure and gain, or is it on and with Him? (1 John 3.16).

Selves – if someone dropped by your house on Christmas Day, would there be any explicit evidence that this is a household celebrating the coming of Jesus?

We who have heard the Good News and experienced freedom through Christ are responsible to proclaim it to others still enslaved by sin.

Christmas is the perfect time to do that, with our speech, our spending, and our selvesThis is the message of Christmas, isnt it, God’s expression of His love for you. This is the message that we need to share. It is so important that we share it with our speech, our spending, and our selves.

Are we doing all we can to make sure that people get the message?

The Gospel in Malachi

Where is the Gospel in Malachi?

We’ve come to a place by looking at the Minor Prophets that we’ve seen the ultimate remedy for our sin and human condition is not our external repentance and obedience, but the Lord’s coming to his temple, as Malachi says.

Our own righteousness, our own efforts, our own remedies cannot stand the day of the Lord.

We need the righteousness of another, if we are going to stand on that day— which is precisely what God gives us in the gospel. The Good News comes into the midst of our bad news, and says look, don’t worry, take the burden off yourself (Duguid).

God’s people in the Old Testament we’ve read of through this series, God’s people today, you and me, us, humans, there is no

realisation of the depth of God’s love for us, 

reponse, 

honour, 

faithfulness, 

hope, 

obedience, 

fear.


What is the remedy for this?


What is the remedy for the human condition that we all have?

All throughout the Minor Prophets we have been looking at how they point to the character, the qualities, the truth of Jesus, and they all build towards Him being the remedy for the human condition.

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It all crescendos to Jesus being the remedy that we need.

It might seem too simple…it is, believe and receive.

We need to acknowledge that we need a Saviour, we need to acknowledge that we have a problem before we jump into the finer points of our faith. 

It’s no use dealing with the superstructure if the foundation is not right, I read this week, and our foundation has to be that we are sinners in need of remedy that we cannot provide for ourselves.

D.Martin Lloyd-Jones said

“We go astray because we are not truly convicted of our sin.”

Many not yet believers are not yet believers because they don’t see the need for it, they don’t think they need a remedy, they think they can achieve all of this by themselves, many of the Old Testament persuasion and other works-related worldviews would say that righteousness is attained by keeping laws and doing things, but that twists the very purpose of the law – to show us that we need more, we need more than law, the law highlights that we are sinful and we need a remedy to this.

Let us use the law, the Old Testament, the Prophets, the Minor Prophets to see that we are all together in our human condition, that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and that all are in need of a Divine, Sovereign, Redemptive, Restorative Remedy.

Jesus is that remedy.

He addresses everything that makes us human, and do you know what, He takes that just as it is, He loves you and accepts you just as you are, right now, but then works in and with you to remedy everything that is broken, everything that is lacking, everything that is missing, and slowly, day by day, from the inside out, turns you into the person you were made to be, made in the image of God, being transformed into His likeness until the day you see Him face to face and live in His presence for eternity. 

What a remedy.

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