Philippians 1.7-11 – Paul’s Prayer

After expressing confidence in the future work and grace of God (v.6), Paul now explains his love for the Philippians and prays for them.

Paul says, essentially, that he loves the saints at Philippi with the same self-sacrificing love that Jesus showed for the entire world (vv.7-8, cf. John 3.16). He knows they are not fair-weather friends (v.7b), and knows they are in this for the long run (v.10).

The prayer in vv.9-11 is powerful, and something that we could all benefit from praying today.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1.9-11

Even though there is plenty of love on show already (vv.7-8), praying for more is never a bad thing! Paul prays for love with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…How often we emphasise being full of love, but empty headed. A full heart can actually go with a full head (cf. 1 Corinthians 5.1-7).

Today then, yes, be as full of love as you can possibly be, then pray for more! But, in addition to this, pray and ask God for love that comes with knowledge and discernment. It is possible to be full of both! 

If you are worried that this doesn’t really feel like a very ‘Christian’ position, you know, we ought to just focus on loving and not too much on the thinking…, read the end of v.11 again, we pray for this for

…the glory and praise of God.

Full of love, yes!

Full of knowledge and discernment, also yes!

Ruth 1 – Love in Action

After reading Ruth 1, how do we adjust our lives? What do we do?

Just think,

Who are you loving?

How are you loving them? In word, or in deed?

Are you loving them in positive affirmations, or positive actions? When the going gets tough for them, what do you do? 

Is that where we end with Ruth then? Is it just a good old moral motivation, or are you the true hero of this text when you love someone in action?

Where is Jesus in this? He Himself said that Scripture points to the Saviour.

You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me,  but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life. 

John 5.39-40

Studying Scripture is good, taking moral lessons is good, taking do’s and don’ts is good, but, on their own, they don’t bring eternal life. Lessons like that make YOU, ME, US, the centre of the story, but, Scripture shows the Saviour, we read of the Redeemer, so, in Ruth 1, where is that?

We can all say the right words, can’t we…

Some are content with feeling Christian feelings – with feeling a love for God, with feeling a love for His Word, with feeling a love for His people. But is that good enough for you?

What if God did that?

What if He saw you, loved you, felt like He wanted to be in right relationship with you, knew where you were heading, and left it there? Just think – where would you be?

Aren’t we glad that God didn’t just feel His love for us.

Just think, what did He do to show it?

John 3.16 is a verse many know, but only really know the second half, ‘believe in Him and you won’t perish but have eternal life‘ but, the first two clauses, the first few words, are AMAZING!

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 

For God So loved the world‘ is often skipped over to get to the second half, isn’t it, but you can translate this as 

This is how God showed that He loved the world…

If God had felt love for you but not actually done anything about it we would have perished. 

But, because He acted on what He felt, as Ruth did here, we have the opportunity to have sins covered, have souls saved, to be forgiven, restored, born again, adopted into His family, raised to newness of life, and to inherit eternal life. 

So, yes, work hard to love in deed and not only word, take the resolve of Ruth and come good on what you are promising, claiming, and saying. Work hard to love people in what you DO not only what you SAY, but, friends, never take your eyes off the truth that God has already DONE that for you. 

He loved you and He gave His only son for you, so that if you believe in Him, you will never perish, but have eternal life. 

You don’t need to become a better Ruth, the ultimate true Ruth already came and showed us the ultimate example of love in action.

That was, and always will be, the ultimate example of love in action.

Titus 3.4-7 – He Did So That You Can Have

If we’re honest, we were all the kind of people detailed in 3.3, and when we were living in that state, the state of our natural human fleshly self, none of us thought totally of our own volition ‘Do you know what, I am such a sinner and I need to repent of this and put myself right‘. Today, Paul platforms his exhortation for Titus to teach the people (3.1-2) on a steadfastly-sure foundation. So, simply, teach the people these things Titus because God has done all of this for them.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3.4-7

So, having been living a life that was severely lacking in Godliness (v.3), Paul now says, butbut when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us…Notice with me that the first action, the impetus, the beginning of this wasn’t with you or with me, but with Him; the goodness and loving kindness of God…He saved us

This pattern of God being the initiator in our salvation is repeated throughout this mini-poem, did you see it? He saved us…not because of works…according to His own mercy…of the Holy Spirit…He poured out…through Jesus Christ our Saviour…justified by His grace…

With all of this done for us by Him, what are we to do? Simply, we become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

He does everything so that we can have everything.

This wholehearted, whole-life, wholly others-focused offer can only be made by an entirely loving person for the object of their love. This is not the natural way of interacting with people, is it? The good news for you and for me is that God who made heaven and earth is that entirely loving person, and that you are the object of His love. That’s why He did everything so that you can have everything. 

 

Labelling or Loving

Throughout the often-overlooked book of Amos we read that social injustice will not be tolerated (8.4-6 for example). If you Google a definition of social justice, you will probably get something like this,

“Social justice is the equal access to wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.”

Society’s version of social justice will tell you that we need to look around and see everybody’s differences, we need to acknowledge just how different we are, and we need to affirm and accept all these differences. 

Society’s social justice says I see your differences, we need to recognise them, then treat everyone the same despite the fact we are all different. But first though, let’s differentiate between ourselves as much as we can. Then, when we’ve done that, let’s work towards equality for all these groups we’ve just made.  

Gospel social justice says it doesn’t matter what colour skin you have, or what passport you hold, or what social status you have.

Gospel social justice says we are all made in the image of God (see Genesis 1), that we all have inherent and intrinsic dignity, worth, and value, and that is what we need to affirm and acknowledge, not our perceived and conceived differences.

Saying, “I am going to treat all nations the same” still acknowledges that there is a difference. 

Gospel social justice just doesn’t see the difference. 

Saying, “I am going to treat all people the same, the rich ones and the poor ones” still acknowledges that socioeconomic levels are noticeably different to you.

Gospel social justice just doesn’t see the difference. 

Social justice sees difference but works to treat people equally. 

Gospel social justice simply sees everyone as equal

We live in a fallen world that expects submission based on social status, country of origin, the colour of your skin, but, as Christians we know this is not right. We know that true submission is given to God, who does not distinguish by race or colour or gender or bank balance.  


Gospel social justice is not equality

it is impartiality. 


Jesus came to redeem all, regardless of social status, country of origin, religious background; all.

Galatians 3 summarises this well, 

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek,

there is neither slave nor free,

there is no male and female,

for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

On the Day of the Lord, Jesus died for all. He died to bring all into His kingdom, no matter who we are, no matter where we are from, no matter what we do, no matter our social status, our career path, who we were, Jesus died for all. So what do we do with this?

Perhaps this is marginally easier for me to grasp given that where I live, I am the minority. I am the minority linguistically, socially, religiously, dermatologically, and economically. Where I live, whenever I go anywhere to do anything, I am talking to and interacting with people who look different to me, who think differently to me, who speak differently to me, who worship differently to me, and who spend differently to me. I am the minority in this demographically rich and diverse place. 

This means that when I go anywhere other than my own house, I see people who are different to me. I see people, not categories of people. It would be utterly exhausting to differentiate between them all based on society’s social justice framework and then do the work needed to treat them all equally. A trip to the supermarket would require military-grade planning and precision just to make sure I don’t offend anyone. So, instead, when I go out, I see people. Period. I don’t see a Bangladeshi man, a Filipino lady, a Bahraini family, an American, a Brit, an Indian, an Aussie, a Kiwi…I see people. I would encourage you to do the same. Stop differentiating and labelling and putting people into societal boxes, and just see people. Be salt to people. Be light to people. Don’t see them for who they are on the outside, see them for who they are on the inside; created in the image, formed in the womb, fearfully and wonderfully made, loved to the point of death, and redeemed by resurrection.

Simply then, Gospel social justice is not equality, it’s impartiality. See people as people. Stop labelling, and start loving. 

Living a Life of Others

James 4.11-12 talks about how we are (and are not) to interact with others. Where is the ultimate example of how to view, interact with, speak to others?

Paul writing to the Philippians says, 

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.

Philippians 2.3-4

Sounds great, doesn’t it; don’t speak evil of one another, but think of others as being more important than yourself. Paul continues and gives us the ultimate example,

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.

Philippians 2.5-8

Did you catch the ultimate example of being others-focused;

he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Robert Lightner wrote that Christ is the supreme example of humility and selfless concern for others, and that

there will never be a better example of [a] selfless attitude for believers to follow…than that of Christ.