Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Do as I Do: Phil 4.8-9 (Part I)

We said a little while ago that Paul was teaching us how to fight worldliness, and one way to fight worldliness was by carefully following the godly examples of believers around us.

Paul is back to that theme again today. You see it especially in verse 9, where he urges us to follow the practice that they have seen and heard from him as well as what he taught.

And you’ll also notice, as you look at verses 2-7 of Philippians 4, that a pattern emerges in which Paul gives exhortations and then follows that list of exhortations with a promise. In Philippians 4:2-7, he gives four exhortations that are meant to be part of our growth in grace in the Christian life, and he concludes them with a promise that the peace of God will surround and flood their understanding and desires.

Today, once again, Paul has a series of exhortations, and he’ll follow it with a promise – a promise very closely related to the promise that he has stated in verse 7. That promise comes at the end of verse 9. So the pattern again is exhortation followed by promise.

Before we delve into the text I want to ask you a question. How often do you think? I mean really think. How deeply do you reflect on the most important things of life? Are you so caught up in the hustle and bustle of every day that you find yourself, like I do, at the end of a long day filled up with all sorts of stuff, at about 10:30 at night wondering if you’ve thought about anything of eternal significance?

I had a professor in college in the history department, and I always enjoyed sitting outside his office waiting for my appointment because he had interesting cartoons and sayings on his door. One of the sayings that I still remember went something like this: “Some people would rather die than think. Many do.” I liked that saying; it made me think every once in a while!

But the pace and preoccupations of our lives, especially in our contemporary world, conspire together against deep thinking. They do that together by preoccupying us with the trivial so that we never get around to the profound and the permanent.

Well, in this passage the Apostle Paul makes it absolutely clear how important it is for our living of the Christian life to think deeply—to meditate, to reflect upon the truth of God’s word. In fact, he says it is absolutely of strategic importance to the Christian life that we do so.

If you remember what Paul said at 3:17, “Do as I do,” and you might have had the same thought that I did, “Paul, how in the world can I do what you do? How can I follow the one who saw Christ face to face? How can I emulate your example?” But, Paul in this passage lays out a pattern for us to emulate him. He’s going to teach us four huge truths about living the Christian life. Let me just outline them for you and point you to the parts in the passage where they come from.

First of all, he’s going to tell you the importance of meditation in the Christian life. You see that in the very last words of verse 8: “Think on these things.” What’s Paul talking about? He’s talking about Christian meditation.

Secondly, he’s going to tell you about the importance of cultivating godly affections and desires; that is, desires that are set on the right thing, desires that want the right thing, desires that admire the right thing, desires that are fixed on the right thing. You see that even in the list that he gives in verse 8: things that are true and honorable, and just and pure, and lovely and commendable, and excellent, and worthy of praise. What’s he doing there? He’s reminding you of how important it is for you to lock in on things that you ought to desire, because the world isn’t going to come knocking at your door offering you a list of things that you ought to desire. It’s going to come knocking at your door with a list of things to desire, but they won’t necessarily be the list of the things that you ought to desire.

Third, he’s going to show you the pattern of Christian discipleship in two verses. In two verses he’s going to tell you how it is that you grow in grace. And then, finally, he’s going to close with a promise.

So, he’s going to point to the importance of Christians meditating on God’s word and on things which are true and commendable; he’s going to talk about the importance of cultivating godly affections or desires; he’s going to show you the pattern of the Christian life; and, he’s going to point you to a promise.

On Thursday, we’ll look at those four items more in depth, but for now you have at least a taste of what Paul has said in this passage.

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