Thinking of Ourselves Less

“The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”
–Tim Keller, The Reason For God

It just doesn’t get any more simple nor straightforward than the above quotation. The point of life is not to develop great self-esteem so that we think the world owes us a favor, nor is it to deny ourselves so much that we become  door mats to the rest of humanity. Rather a Christian’s one purpose is to follow in the steps of John the Baptist, who proclaimed, “I must decrease, He must increase.” When we die to self; when we remember who we were are as hopeless sinners; when we remember the greatness of our holy God and our utter inability to be in relationship with Him; when we think of ourselves less and our great God more, our lives begin to fall miraculously into place. Suddenly “the things of this earth will grow strangely dim/ In the light of His glory and grace.”

There are so many times when I take the focus off of him and I place it on myself. Those are the times I slide into thinking things like, “I’m doing alright. At least I don’t sin like so-and-so. I’m doing pretty good compared to her.” But our goal is not to be better than we were yesterday or to be better than the people around us. Our goal is to be holy as He is holy– a pretty tall order for a bunch of sinners.

In this journey to Christlikeness, I must remember that the fastest way to stay close to Christ is to remember the great sacrifice He made for me on the cross, and to remember how sinful I still am and how sinful I will remain without His grace and help. Praise to Him who loves enough to not let us stay in our sinful state, but instead made a way for us to be holy as he is holy!

Philippians 1.7-8– Christian Affection in a Love-Starved World

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. Phil. 1.7-8

I. Confidence in the Gospel:

Paul closes out the welcome of his letter by continuing his conversation about his love and affection for the people in the Philippian church.

Throughout these first verses Paul has repeatedly expressed love and affection for these people. There are few things that would bond Paul to these people by our modern day standards for friendship.

In his sermon “A Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Lonliness,” Mark Driscoll talks about relationships today usually being based on two things: affinity and location. We are friends with people because we are in the same place as us or they like the same things as us. This sort of friendship is based on shallow things that do not last the test of time or trials. When people move or activities change, our friendships end. There are simply not many lasting, abiding relationships around today. In our consumer society, all things are expendable. Love is not a commitment—it’s equated with personal feelings of happiness and contentment.

Paul and the people of Philippi had little in common on the surface. Paul was a single Jewish man; most of the Philippians were married Gentiles. Paul was a tentmaker by trade; most of the Philippians were merchants and soldiers. From the lists of converts given, women were most likely a majority in this church. Paul was in jail in Rome; the Philippians were free in their province. There were few things in their lives that would have brought them together in deep relationship. Yet this congregation seems to have had one of the closest relationships with Paul of any of the churches he planted. Why is this?

It’s because their relationships were not based on affinity or location. They had nothing in common and they were not in the same place, yet their friendship and love for one another stood the tests of time and location. This is all because their relationships were built on something more solid than a shared love for a football team or a hobby: they recognized that their love for one another was grounded in the self-sacrificial love of Christ.

This is a situation that makes itself known in our lives today. We live in such a transient society that it is rare for people to stay in the same place for long. I have moved around quite a bit in the last few years, and my lasting friendships have become very precious to me. Those who I keep in contact with regardless of where I live are the friends I treasure most because I know the relationships have deep roots and are based on something more than just convenience.

Paul proclaims to them in verse seven that regardless of the situation in which he finds himself, he holds them in high regard. To Paul, these people are his brothers and sisters, co-members of the body of Christ. They are family, a part of his very body, and no situation can really remove someone from a family. Why does he feel this way about them? The answer is back in verse 5: he is confident in his affection for them because of their partnership. He doesn’t love them because they have spouted out empty words of love and affection to him. He is confident in their actions.

Christian love and partnership in the Gospel is defined by our actions, not our words.

How do you show love for the body of Christ?

Paul says in verse 8 that God Himself knows how genuine Paul’s love is for them. The word translated “affection” refers to the innermost parts of a person. Scholars tell us this is the strongest word in the Greek language to indicate compassion and affection. Paul loved the Philippians with the deepest love possible, and this is how we are to love one another. Already in this letter, Paul has emphasized over and over again the love that passes between him and the congregation, and he tells them repeatedly that he is confident of their partnership in the Gospel because of their active love for one another.

All of this sent me again to think about how I show my love for my brothers and sisters in Christ. Do I have fellow believers in my heart? Do I reflect Christ in such a way that people would want to keep me in their hearts? What does the affection of Christ look like practically?

Please post your suggestions of practical ways we can show the affection of Christ to those around us!

Philippians 1.6

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Paul has just had a moment of prayerful thanksgiving for these friends of his in Philippi. He is thankful for their partnership in the Gospel, and in verse 6 he further explains to them why he is so confident in his thanksgiving to God. In this one sentence, Paul sums up the entire Christian life.

  1. We can have confidence in one thing in life.
    1. Possessions will come and go. People will always fail us. Paul is joyful that the Philippian church is faithful, but he does not place his confidence in them. He places his confidence in the one Person who will never leave us nor forsake us: Jesus Christ.
    2. Our confidence is found in the work of Christ in our salvation. In this one verse, Paul explains the three parts of our salvation in Christ. There are theological terms for each aspect of salvation; look them up, study them, and consider how God is still working out your salvation, even today.
  2. God began a work in us—this is justification. This is the moment that you receive salvation from the Lord. In Baptist circles, this is when you “get saved.” J There’s a handy book you can buy or order from Lifeway called Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms. It’s helped me tremendously when I have been in classes and didn’t understand the conversation because I didn’t know the terms being used. It’s very handy, and I would encourage you to pick one up!
    1. The Pocket Dictionary gives this definition of justification: A legal term related to the idea of acquittal; refers to the divine act whereby God makes humans, who are sinful and therefore worthy of condemnation, acceptable before a God who is holy and righteous.
    2. The simple fact that God even chose to begin a good work in us should cause us to praise Him! Paul says in Romans that humanity is the enemy of God when we are in our sin, yet “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5.8).” We would never choose God on our own. There is nothing good in us; even the best things that we do with the best of intentions are but filthy rags when compared to the holiness of God. Paul described our situation this way to the church in Ephesus: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of the flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind and were by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1-3). Sounds like a great place to be: dead people, walking in indulgence and wrath and lust. Lost humanity is a pleasant group to be around. We weren’t in a neutral spot, we weren’t good people who just needed a relationship with God to be complete. WE WERE DEAD. And then comes the greatest transition in all of Scripture: “But God.” We were those things, but God was rich in mercy, and because of his great love for sinful dead humanity, made us alive in Christ Jesus!
    3. Justification means that the penalty for our sin, which is death (Romans 6.23), was paid for by Jesus, and we are now seen as sinless and forgiven, debt free in the eyes of God. All of that was done for us, through no work or merit of our own.
  3. The work God began in you will be completed—this is sanctification.
    1. Again, from the Pocket Dictionary: From the Hebrew and Greek, “to be set apart” from common use, “to be made holy.” The nature of sanctification is twofold in that Christians have been made holy through Christ and re called to continue to grow into and strive for holiness by cooperating with the indwelling Holy Spirit until they enjoy complete conformity to Christ.
    2. If you are a Christian, if you have surrendered your life to the calling and work of Christ, this is where you are in your walk of salvation. Sanctification is the hard part of salvation. While our justification is a work done by God, sanctification requires our participation. We are enabled by the Holy Spirit to conform to Christ’s image, but we must daily choose to die to self and become like Christ in word and deed.
    3. So often, we spend our time focused on thanking God for our justification and then looking forward to our glorification—that time when we will be with Christ for eternity. But hear this and think about it carefully: God did not save us just so we could go to heaven when we die! If that were the sole purpose of salvation, he would take us the moment He saved us! But He leaves us here to do a work for Him. We are to be His ambassadors; we are to take time to learn about Him and to teach others about Him as well. Our purpose is not to just make it through this life so we can get on to eternal life. Our purpose is live abundantly to the glory of God! We are to laugh and love and serve and sacrifice and LIVE for Jesus! Our Christianity should not be compartmentalized into Sundays and Wednesday nights. Instead, our Christianity should permeate every part of our lives. We should eat and drink and do everything to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10.31). This means we should scrapbook to the glory of God. We should play ball to glorify God. We should care for our children or our grandchildren or our parents for God’s glory. We should have coffee with our friends and God should receive glory through what we do and say. As we enjoy life on earth (which is what God intended for us to do here), we are to enjoy it in a way that points a lost and dying world to its Creator.
    4. The bulk of the New Testament is devoted to letters written to churches, explaining to them how to walk in this life in a manner that is set apart and holy in the eyes of God. There is a two fold reason for striving for sanctification: 1) a life set apart from this world brings glory to God, and 2) anything that brings glory to God will be a light for a lost and dying world.
    5. I know in my own life, I have looked at sanctification as a list of things to mark off of a To-Do List. My To-Do List inevitably becomes a prideful list of the things that I have accomplished. Sanctification is not about us and how good we become. Rather, it is about pouring ourselves out as a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise to the God who loved us enough to save us from ourselves and an eternity in Hell.
  4. The day of Christ Jesus will come—this will be our glorification.
    1. One more time from the Pocket Dictionary: The last stage in the process of salvation, namely the resurrection of the body at the second coming of Jesus Christ and the entrance into the eternal kingdom of God. In glorification believers attain complete conformity to the image and likeness of the glorified Christ and are freed from both physical and spiritual defect. Glorification ensures that believers will never again experience bodily decay, death or illness, and will never again struggle with sin.
    2. I don’t know about you, but that’s the first time in my life that a dictionary entry has caused me to rejoice! It’s no wonder that we spend so much time pining away for heaven and glory. Paul says later in Philippians that our citizenship is in heaven. He told the church in Corinth that “now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13.12).
    3. Our glorification is a work of God that is worthy of our praise. It is an act of His grace and mercy that we do not deserve. It is something to look forward to. But never let a preoccupation of what is to come distract you from the work He left you here to do! While our citizenship is in heaven, we are ambassadors of Christ in this world, and as a good ambassador, you are to do the work of the One who sent you until He calls you home again. Paul was torn when he thought about this: He wanted to stay and do the work of an ambassador, but he desired to be with his Lord. He says in Philippians 1.21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” We love to talk about the gain we will receive when He calls us home. No more dying, no more pain, no more sin. But we miss the first part of that statement so often—to LIVE is Christ! We are to live for Him powerfully and victoriously for as long as He has on this planet.

So here’s what I want you to think about the next few days:

1. Take a few minute and think about your justification. When were you saved? How would you share that experience with another person? How is your life different now than it was before you surrendered your life to Christ? While remembering the exact date and time is not that important, you should be able to tell about a time when you realized that you were a sinner who was separated from a holy God and that you knew that trusting Jesus to save your sins was the only way for you to be reconciled to God. For some people, it was an instantaneous moment and they can give you the exact date, time and location. For others, like me, it was a journey, a process of learning truth and trusting God slowly. But think about how you would share your story of salvation with another. First Peter 3:15 says: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

2. The above verse goes along with the next question: in view of God’s command that we live lives set apart for the Gospel, since we are to be working towards sanctification, what about you will cause people to ask you about the reason for the hope that you have? Do you live a life that is set apart from the world? Would your co-workers be surprised if they found out you go to church? What do you intentionally do to keep you walking in a direction toward Christlikeness? Sanctification will not happen passively. It is an active, intentional process; what’s your plan?

3. Do you think about your glorification? Take some time in your “sanctified imagination” and picture what it might be like when we finally see our Savior face to face. Write a prayer of thanksgiving to God for His mighty love and grace and mercy. Think about what it is that He has called you to accomplish before that day. More than anything else, as a way of thanking Him for what He has done for me, out of love and gratitude, I want Him to be able to say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25.21). He gave His life for us, as a ransom. What more can we give Him but our very lives in return?

Boundless Treasures– Philippians 1.1-5

As I prepared this study, I began by just meditating on each verse and asking myself questions about each of them. This weekend we began with a “big picture” view of the book; now we are going to begin breaking it down and getting to the meat of the text. I’m going to start by posting the observations I made and the questions those observations caused me to ask of myself. You can jot down these questions and answer them on here and in your notebook, or you can use them as a guide as you work through the text and ask yourself some tough questions. Please post your questions and your observations. Discuss as much or as little as you like for each section! I will post a chunk of chapter one each day this week, then we will pull back and review and do “big picture” reading on Saturday and Sunday. This will also give you a chance to catch up if you miss a day or if you want to go back and dig even deeper in a section.

Philippians 1.1-5

  1. Paul describes himself and Timothy as “servants of Christ Jesus.”
    1. What does it mean to be a servant of Christ?
    2. How does a human servant relate to her master?
    3. If someone were to watch you throughout the day, would she know you are a servant of Christ, or would she assume you are your own master?
    4. Some translations say they are “bond-servants” of Christ Jesus. This is a different term than just servant or slave. A bond servant is one who has been freed by his master, yet chooses to remain a servant of that person. This person voluntarily turns his will over to another. This idea of being a servant recurs throughout the book—Paul stresses humility over and over again in Philippians.
    5. He is writing to the “saints” at Philippi: saints or holy ones indicate a people who are set apart and pure. Am I set apart from the world? Do I look different from those around me? Where else does Paul talk about being “set apart”? Do some digging and look through some other books to learn more about what it means to be set apart for Christ.

  1. Paul’s greeting is standard for the time in which he was writing. But don’t overlook it as a “hi, how are ya?” statement. Grace and peace are two words that are rich in meaning and help us understand more of who we are as children of God. Use a concordance and a Bible dictionary ( has a great concordance and Bible dictionary) and look up the terms grace and peace. What new insights about your relationship with God did you discover?

3-5. Paul says he is praying for them with joy and thanksgiving. This convicted and challenged me greatly. I don’t spend a lot of time just thanking God for the body of believers he has placed in my life.

a. Are you thankful for the body of Christ?

b. When you pray about people at church, is it with a spirit of thanksgiving, or is it complaining? Do you just pray to ask God to do things for people?

c. Think about your prayer time. What do you spend most of your time praying about? What would you like to pray about more? What would you like to pray about less?

5. Paul is thankful for their partnership or participation in the Gospel. This is the word koinonia, which we usually translate as fellowship. This word is more than partnership, because when we use a word like that, it’s usually in a formal, business sense. Today, we have even cheapened the idea of fellowship and have often reduced it to mean eating ice cream together after a Sunday service. But this word carries an intimate, committed dedication to those who are in this fellowship. It’s a vow of commitment. Koinonia is not for fair-weather Christians. This partnership is not a social gathering, but deep commitment to walk with one another through both joy and suffering. I spent quite some time thinking about my commitment to the body of Christ.

a. Check out some passages that talk about loving your brothers and sisters in Christ. John talks about loving one another extensively in 1 John. Paul refers to this love in Colossians 3.12-14.