The Joy of Overcoming

Philippians 3

Paul is one of the few people who can write “Finally” and continue on writing for the same length that he had just written! He writes two chapters, puts “finally” and writes two more. Inspired as he is, obviously Paul thinks of most of what he writes from Philippians 3:1-4:7 as all one idea. To be fair, as you are reading today, he uses “finally” in chapter 4 as well. It reminds me of a “midwestern goodbye;” he keeps trying to end his conversation but doesn’t want to say goodbye just yet.

While Paul starts his writing in verse one on the happy note of “rejoice” in the Lord, he quickly moves to talk of things that we need to beware of and, I think, overcome. That means we need to live differently, have victory over, and to not be defeated by. 

Overcoming Others

In two places in this chapter, Paul discusses two kinds of unfaithful people and the way they live. First, there are those whom he calls “dogs” and “evil workers”. These are both the Jews and the Judaizing Christians who believe they follow God because they are circumcised on the outside and think all must follow them. However, their pride and focus on the law is actually showing that they have a false circumcision (3:2). Paul says that we are the ones who truly follow God, who follow him with a “circumcised” (or pure) heart. 

Secondly, there are those who have never come to faith of any kind. Instead of even trying to honor God through false rules and regulations, they focus on fulfilling their own desires, whether that is food, drink, or sex. They worship those desires as their god. Even, (maybe especially) in our world there are those who glorify their appetites that they indulge as “healthy”, “not-repressed”, and “liberating”. However, Paul weeps knowing that their end is not life, not joy, but destruction. (3:18-19)

Overcoming Ourselves

We need to not be like either of those groups, but that means overcoming ourselves. True, we need to overcome the teachings of those who say following God is keeping a bunch of rules and regulations, but it is easy to feel good about ourselves because we did keep God’s word. It would be easy for Paul, for example, to glory in who he is. (3:4-6) He fulfilled all the credentials of what a successful Jew would be. But he considers it “dung” (skubala) if he might instead have Christ. He would count all these things rubbish in order to have the far greater, far surpassing righteousness of Christ. (3:7-9)

Once we know that our best attributes are only dung in comparison to Christ, we may say we might as well live terribly because we can never measure up. But Paul encourages us to strive to live rightly. Ever upward into the call of God in Christ. He says, though we will never be perfect, let us keep living by the same standard to which Christ has raised us. (3:12-16)

How to Hupernikao (Overcome)

How are we to overcome? How are we to not fall into the traps of being legalistic or being completely wild with our living? We need to live LIKE CHRIST! That should sound familiar! If we live like Christ, forgetting what lies behind and pressing on ahead (12-16) then we will be conformed to him. We will suffer the way he suffered, being mistreated on both sides. We will sound to0 gracious to the “judgmental” and too judgmental to the “gracious”. We won’t look like those who are legalistic and believe that rule following will save them. But we also won’t look like those who believe that everything is OK and permissible.

But this is the way Jesus lived. He was a friend of tax collectors and sinners and yet told them they needed to stop sinning. If we live like him, we will face the suffering he faced, we may even be conformed to him in death. (3:10) But the GLORIOUS news is that if we are connected to him, believe in him, and live like him, we will ALSO be raised with him. If we die with him, we will also live with him. (3:11, cf. 2 Tim. 2:11-13)

It is because we have a savior who will raise us up, and glorify us as he rules over all things that Paul can say, in Philippians 4:1 “Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” Because we have a savior who will redeem us, we can rejoice in the Lord and we can be the joy of those who have trained us in the way we should go. 

May you, my brothers and sisters, overcome those who tell you to be more strictly following all the right rules that only they seem to know. 

May you overcome those who say live with abandon and do whatever it is that makes you happy and fulfills you. 

May you overcome the desires in yourself that push in you in those directions. 

May you instead be conformed to the life, suffering, death, and ultimately resurrection of Christ, as you seek to live like him. 

May you forget what lies behind, press on ahead, and retain the standard, while only trusting in Christ’s sacrifice to save you. 

Amen

-Jake Ballard

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here Isaiah 13-14 and Philippians 4

A Cheating Bride

Ezekiel 16-17

Ezekiel 16 8 15 NIV sgl

In Ezekiel 16 God is trying to explain his frustration with Israel to Ezekiel in a way they can understand.  He describes them as a bride that God had cared for and loved and showed mercy to.  A bride who then cheated on God with anybody around.

 

“14 Your fame soon spread throughout the world because of your beauty. I dressed you in my splendor and perfected your beauty, says the Sovereign Lord. 15 But you thought your fame and beauty were your own. So you gave yourself as a prostitute to every man who came along. Your beauty was theirs for the asking.”

 

Now in Israel a woman cheating on her husband was grounds for the death penalty, and everybody in Israel would take this very seriously.  While God is referring to the people of Israel intermarrying with other nations he is mostly angry about how the Israelites have given themselves over to the gods of the other nations and have offered sacrifices, even human sacrifices, and have strayed away from God’s teaching.  For this, his anger will burn against them, but there is hope…

 

59 “Now this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will give you what you deserve, for you have taken your solemn vows lightly by breaking your covenant. 60 Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.

62 And I will reaffirm my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the Lord. 63 You will remember your sins and cover your mouth in silent shame when I forgive you of all that you have done. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”

Even while God is as angry as he can be at them and is ready to hand the Israelites over to be killed and exiled and humiliated in front of the whole world for their sins he is calmed by the thought of his plan for Jesus to come and for his people to be reunited with him.

 

There is great comfort in this knowledge that God can always forgive, even if we are deserving of, or even in the middle of experiencing his anger and frustration.  It also reminds us of how serious our sins are and how hurtful they are to God, and that there can be very real and painful consequences in life for those sins.  We will continue to see in Ezekiel though that even in the middle of the pain and suffering we must have hope in God’s everlasting covenant.

Chris and Katie-Beth Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ezekiel 16-17

Tomorrow’s reading will be Ezekiel 18-19 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Moses’ Early Life

acts 7 25

So now we actually get to Moses in Exodus 2, but Acts 7:20-29 summarizes it very well so here it is.

 

20 “At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for by his family.

21 When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son.

22 Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.

23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites.

24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian.

25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.

26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’

27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us?

28 Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’

29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.

 

This is not about Israelites being afraid of a murderer, it is about them rejecting Moses/God.  The Israelites reject Moses as their leader, even though they already have Joseph as an example of how God can place one of their own in very high places in order to save them.  We do not know why they rejected him, but they did. And they must have reported Moses to Pharaoh, which not only was a rejection of Moses as their leader, but a rejection of God’s plan and leadership.

 

Because of this Moses flees to Midian to become a shepherd and does not return to lead the Israelites out of Egypt for 40 years.  This is very similar to later on when the Israelites do not want to enter the promised land because they are afraid of the Canaanites and are forced to wait 40 years for the unfaithful generation to die off.  Because of their unfaithfulness these people chose to live in slavery the rest of their lives instead of living as free men.

 

We too have a decision to live the rest of our lives as slaves to sin or to take a leap of faith as Moses did and trust in God.  Moses went through a lot of turmoil because of other people’s unfaithfulness, but “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (Hebrews 11:26).  You can endure all suffering if you can keep your eye on the Kingdom reward that we all eagerly await.

-Chris Mattison

Reconciliation

Hosea 1-4

hosea 2

Sunday, April 9

Weird names.  Sketchy goings-on.  Terms like “sacred raisin cakes”.  The book of Hosea is kind of like that weird relative you avoid, but then find out that they actually have some interesting things to say.

Hosea offers us some of the most beautiful and heart-wrenching images of God’s love for us in all of Scripture.

Have you ever watched a movie where someone gets cheated on?  Maybe you even know someone in real life that has experienced this.  A husband or wife finds out that the one who promised to love them, to never leave them, has found someone new.

“I made a mistake,” they may say.  “You’re not the one for me, I’ve found my soul mate and I’m leaving.”

As hurtful as that is, can you imagine how much more hurtful for a wife to tell her husband that she loves him, but spends her weekends sleeping with not one, but many, other men.  It’s beyond comprehension that any marriage could survive that, or that any husband would put up with it.

But that’s exactly what God says He does.  And can you guess the part we play in this story?  It’s not the faithful husband, I can tell you that!

Hosea shows us that God tries many things to get His unfaithful spouse (us) back when we walk away.  Do you see him doing any of these things in your life?

Verses 2: 6-7 show us that sometimes God blocks our paths when we start to go astray:

Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes;
    I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.
She will chase after her lovers but not catch them;
    she will look for them but not find them.
Then she will say,
    ‘I will go back to my husband as at first,
    for then I was better off than now.’

Sometimes God ‘allures’ us.  He brings flowers, and lavishes gifts and affection on us.  Wooing us to choose Him again (2:14).

Therefore I am now going to allure her;
    I will lead her into the wilderness
    and speak tenderly to her.

Can you feel God’s shoulders slumping, His head dropping, as the hurt of being cast aside washes over Him when he says (2:8),

She has not acknowledged that I was the one
    who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil,
who lavished on her the silver and gold—
    which they used for Baal.

Ultimately, God shares the dream of every abandoned spouse…reconciliation.  “One day,” the scorned wife thinks, “One day he’ll come back to me and be mine again.  One day he’ll wake up and see what he’s given up…”

God says (2:23):

I will plant her for myself in the land;
    I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’;
    and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”

For myself.  God wants you for himself.

Friend, you don’t ever need to wonder if God loves you.

-Susan Landry

Susan is a teacher turned homeschooling mom turned blogger.  She is married to her favorite person and they live in balmy Minnesota with their two sons and their dog, Scout (who is the sweetest and most desperately infatuated mama’s boy on earth).  Her favorite Psalm is Psalm 84; and her favorite passage of Scripture overall is Job 23:8-10 (because it reminds us that even when we can’t see God…He sees us).  She knows that she is blessed far more than she deserves, and seeks to follow Jesus’ example of spreading grace and truth.