Today as we return to Paul’s letter to the Christians in first century Philippi, we resume at chapter one verse 27.
You will recall how, as seen in the verses preceding these, Paul voiced his internal dialogue in which he weighed the benefits of dying and going to Jesus and living to further serve Jesus by continuing to spread the gospel. Here he encourages the Philippians to stay the course of faithfulness through “whatever happens” – whatever happens to him and whatever happens to them. Focus on the latter of the two. To help you do so, re-read verse 29.
Eugene Peterson translated that as . . .
Here is a verse worthy of some attention. To ease our minds, we may give a brief nod to the words while we rush past. Let us, as uncomfortable as it may be, slow our pace and ponder. Only a few will accept those words, really accept them, for it is quite a different action to embrace those words than to merely recognize their truth. If suffering is granted, I’d like to step out of the receiving line. In truth, we who live in the free West and follow Christ suffer very little for our faith. For, as Frank Thielman wrote . . .
Should true persecution come our way, will we receive it as a gift?
That is a question worth pondering.
That question also prepares us for continuing through Paul’s letter.
When I read those words, I observe how verse five is the sinew that bonds the meat of verses 1-4 to that of verses 6-8. We will address verse five in a moment. First, however, let us glean for the meat.
From verses 1-4 we learn the importance of unity within the body of Christ and the pivotal role humility plays in accomplishing that. From verses 6-8 we receive the summary of the ultimate role model who lived in such humility. Regarding the latter we observe the great servant act of Jesus.
About Jesus’ taking the nature of a servant, N.T Wright wrote . . .
How are we to live like Jesus in such a way that we do things like those mentioned in verses 1-4 – value others, be like-minded, look after the interests of others? For the answer we return to the sinew.
Neuroscientist Gregory Berns refers to the human brain as “a lazy piece of meat.” He continues by proposing that . . .
We must train our brains to think differently, to think like Christ. Robert Wicks wrote . . .
Train your mind to think like Jesus. How you think determines your view of the world. How you view the world determines your actions. Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “where the mind goes the body will follow.” That is true in all of life, not only in weightlifting.
As you mature in your relationship with Jesus you will, through the work of the Holy Spirit, change your brain. Slowly, yet surely, the old way of thinking will move to the trash bin. Paul, in another letter, acknowledged such a change.
“Once you were” is, obviously, a statement in the past tense. How do we move from past tense into a present reality of growth in our minds?
Those words, too, came from Paul’s pen. Paul pressed the issue. Without mind change, you will experience little life change. So, you may (and hopefully will) ask how we train our brain. Once again, Paul came through with the answer. Before you read the passage below, pray to God that the Holy Spirit will illuminate for you, areas of life you need to surrender to Him.
For further reading:
Gallo, Carmine. Talk like TED. Pan Books, 2017.
Thielman, Frank. (1995) The NIV Application Commentary: Philippians. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Wicks, Robert R. (l955) The Interpreter’s Bible: Volume 11. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Wright, N.T. (2009) Philippians: 8 Studies for Individuals and Groups. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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