Philippians 1-4

Toward the end of the letter Paul asks a particular person to help him bring harmony back to the church by repairing a relationship between two women.   I wonder how many churches have been crippled or killed because the devil used this same attack on them?
A wise man once said to me “I am not going to fail Christ by falling into some trap that I already know the devil uses, and has been using for centuries.  I mean, come on…what would that say about my intelligence or my maturity?”
It’s an interesting thought, right?    If I know that the devil “takes out churches” or “takes out families” by creating arguments and conflict, then I should do whatever I can to address conflict in a healthy way when it erupts.   We can’t live without conflict or difference of opinion, but we can continue to live together and work together toward a common goal if we trust each other and have mutual respect.    Those things must be nurtured and cared for, they will not simply grow on their own.    Conflict is usually based on pride or self-centeredness….sometimes it happens because we lack patience or compassion.    It should come as no surprise that throughout this letter Paul is encouraging the church to develop in those areas.
1:9-11  Paul is interested in continuing Christian growth and development.    You can’t simply invite Christ into your life and then go sit on the couch.  Christianity doesn’t work that way.   Every Christian must continue to study and grow, worship and serve.  If we don’t we begin to wither….even Paul was still growing and learning new ways to serve and suffer for Christ.
I shouldn’t be surprised…but I am.   There was a part of the faith that was antagonistic to Paul….Ministers who didn’t approve of him, or envied him and preached the Gospel out of selfish ambition.  Oddly, Paul doesn’t seem to care about that, saying “at least the Gospel is being preached”   He must not have thought that they were false teachers, only immature.   Now that I think about it, Paul is modeling what he taught just a few moments ago, and what he will insist on in Chapter 4….Unity.    Paul is too wise to fall into the devil’s trap.   You know the one I’m talking about….where  a friend comes up to you and says “so and so is saying ___________ about you, and I thought you should know.”    Ugh.    I don’t want my friends to be laughing at me or mocking me behind my back, and if they do…I don’t want to know about it, especially not like this.    This sort of information requires me to be more mature, and to work harder to be kind and forgiving, and to not hold a grudge.    I am willing to do all those things, but I wonder if my “friend” knows that.    They could be exposing me to real danger here.   What if they share that gossip with me on a day when I am frazzled and short on patience?   In a weak moment I could injure a friendship or another Christian.  What about the people who aren’t involved who see me behaving this way?    How would it affect their faith?
1:20-24  is a good example of the consecrated life.    Paul is completely committed to Christ, he relies on him for every word, every day, every message.   
1:27   Paul sees himself and all Christians as “citizens of heaven”.   This is a key thought…in fact, it could be the central theme of the passage.  This tells us how “people like us behave”.    Even if they throw us in the lions den, we are royalty, and we will behave as such.    I don’t mean we behave as human royalty, that would be ridiculous….I mean we behave as citizens of heaven.   We remain humble, patient, kind, long suffering, good, filled with joy and peace and forgiveness….all the difference aspects of being filled with the Spirit pour out of our lives.    We are citizens from another realm, another kingdom.    We talk differently, act differently and have different values and customs.    
Chapter 2.  Paul pleads for humility among his followers.  I would imagine the ministers who were talking badly about him in their congregations would not be able to do the same.   I’m sure Paul recognized pride and arrogance tainting their message.   These men were trying to pull the believers apart, creating a following for themselves….probably so that they would be guaranteed an income.    That’s a challenging thought in any century…
2:19   In a display of selflessness, Paul is willing to send Timothy to the Church in Philippi, even though he doesn’t have another person like him.   Others might have kept Timothy close, building a team around themselves.   Paul is always willing to give ministry away…the hallmark of a mature believer.
3:7-11   The way Paul was raised was right until Jesus came, at that point the law became useless for obtaining salvation. (it never could actually, but we didn’t know that until Jesus).   Paul has wisely quit trying to earn his salvation, but he hasn’t quit working.   Now, he works hard for the Lord out of love for Him, and from a desire to experience Christ working through him.   Paul has surrendered himself so completely to the Holy Spirit that he can no longer survive without Him.   That’s awesome.
3:17   I used to think that Paul was being arrogant here, but now I see that what he is actually saying is “I have completely surrendered myself to Jesus, and he is the one who lives in me.  You should do likewise”.   Paul simply wants the church to be humble, patient and hardworking….just like he is while under the Spirit’s control.
Paul is concerned that two leaders in the church have come to odds with each other.   This is a tried and true way that satan uses to break up the body of Christ and keeps us from reaching full effectiveness.    As I said in my opening remarks  “I wonder how many people this old ruse has worked on”  and more importantly  “why in the world does this still work?”     For pete’s sake, we know the devil uses this…let’s quit falling for the same old worn out tricks.

Recognizing that he can live on little or with plenty, I think Paul is actually saying that he lives by faith.  When there is little he trusts God for enough, and when there is plenty he trusts that God will make him a good steward of it.  
How encouraging for the church it must have been to hear that there were Christians in Caesars household!    Paul’s letters are a combination of challenges and celebrations.   Paul was always content, but I don’t think he was ever satisfied.    He always wanted to experience more of Jesus, share in more places, grow deeper in his faith, share and suffer in whatever ways God provided.     With a sold out committed leader like Paul, no wonder the Church was growing!   God was able to work powerfully through him.     I wonder what it would have been like to be part of the company of believers that stayed with Paul?    Timothy was there for a long time.  Luke was always with him.     I wonder how they would describe their journey?
I wonder what the people who are journeying with me would say to describe the experience?