Perfected in Christ - Abounding in love - Filled with the fruit of righteousness
Philippians 1:1-26 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 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. 7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
12 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14 and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. 15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that this will turn out for my [q]deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.
In today’s text Paul says: 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. That is what this life is. It is the walking out and the working out of our perfection in Christ. Romans 9:28-29 says: We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. Everything that happens in our lives, all the good things and all of the difficult things are used by God in the work of perfecting us and conforming us to the image of Christ. In Matthew 16:24-25 Jesus says: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” James 1:2-4 says: Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Sometimes it takes the difficult things in our lives to cause us to fully die to self. Like peeling the layers off of an onion, day by day we deny and allow our old self to be stripped away until finally all that is left to be seen is the perfect image of Christ inside us.
Paul says: I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. There is often an emphasis on love when we think of the Christian life and walk. Look though at how Paul says our love should abound. It is not just in doing nice things for others, it is in real knowledge and discernment. It is that we would approve the things that are excellent; that we would be blameless and filled with the fruit of righteousness. Love that embraces and abides with evil, is not really love at all. Romans 12:21 says: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. The cross is the ultimate demonstration of the abounding love of God. It is through the cross that good overcame evil. If our love is to abound more and more, it is in the real knowledge and discernment of the love of God and the overcoming power of the cross. 1 John 4:19 says: We love, because He first loved us. The reason we can love at all is only because He first loved us. In John 14:15;23 Jesus says: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments… If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” The abounding love of God from us is a result of the abiding love of God in us.
Paul says: Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Do we have that same attitude that Paul had; that for ourselves we are better off apart from this life and with God and Christ? Do we, like Paul, recognize that this life is to live for Christ; to become perfected in Him? Do we live not for our own gain, but rather to do what is necessary for the sake of others? This life is about becoming perfected in Christ. There is a saying that “practice makes perfect.” So what we practice in our daily living, whether the abounding love of God and the fulfillment of the fruit of righteousness or the daily pursuit of self fulfillment; living to please ourselves; to gain in this world; that is what will be perfected in us. In Psalm 37:4 the psalmist says: Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit, like Paul I say: Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Like the psalmist I delight in You. May Your abounding love for me, which was demonstrated in the cross, result in You abiding love from me for the world. May the fruit of righteousness abound in my life as I am perfected in You. Amen.