EVANGLEICAL MENNONITE CONFERENCE
Sunday, July 6 at 2 p.m.
The good is often the enemy of the best. We can clutter up our minds with things that are good, but have no room left for the best. If we clutter up the shelves of our mind with the mediocre, it may not be vulgar, it may not be coarse, but it is the best?
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “We always pay dearly for chasing after what is cheap.” Remember he was in prison in the former Soviet Union for many years. He knew hardship. Aleksandr paid a great price for his stand but he injected the Soviet Union with notions of democracy. He took his place independent of outside influences.
In computers we use a device called “formatting.” We format the margins, page numbering and size of page. Formatting gives definition to the kind of document we want to produce. Most of us do not live formatted lives. We live without boundaries. There is little definition to our lives. We live for no ultimate purpose. How can we live for that which is most important if we do not know what it is? By formatting our lives we can put priority on the things of greatest value. If we do not format our lives we will write aimlessly over the pages of life.
A life active with ultimate purpose demands priorities; it is an issue of first things first. In Atlanta there was a couple who heard My Fair Lady was running on Broadway in New York (I believe it was Charles Swindoll that gave this illustration). They attempted to procure tickets but could not secure reservations for 10 months. They planned their whole vacation around going to the play. After ten long months they finally arrived in New York. Their seats were seven rows from the orchestra. The place was packed except for the seat right next to the husband. A lady sat two seats over. He could not imagine why anyone would not occupy that seat since the tickets were so hard to come by. At the intermission he asked the lady why no one occupied the seat between them, “Since it is so difficult to obtain a seat for this show, why is this seat empty?” She said, “Well, this is my husband’s seat but he died.” The man said, “I am sorry to hear that, but since these tickets are so scarce, why didn’t you bring a friend?” She answered, “They are all at the funeral!!!” My Fair Lady was her priority!
If you were to map out the remaining years of your life, what would it look like? How would you give priority to your life?
Philippians 1:9-11 shows us how to formulate a life’s purpose:
Ten years and 800 miles distance did not diminish Paul’s appreciation for the Philippians. Passage of time did not lessen his love, “For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ” (1:8). He demonstrated his love for them by a powerful prayer for priority. This prayer runs from verses 9 to 11. He was in prison at the writing of this epistle. Hardships made him better, not bitter. Difficulties always do one or the other to the child of God.
In Philippians 1:9-11 we find Paul’s prayer for putting priority on the things of greatest value. Paul’s prayers were never perfunctory but always pertinent.
In this prayer there are three petitions all of which begin with the word “that.” Verse nine is the first “that.”
1. PRIORITY ON BIBLICAL LOVE, 1:9
2. PRIORITY OF A SCALE OF VALUES, 10a
3. PRIORITY ON INTEGRITY, 10b-11
I. PRIORITY ON BIBLICAL LOVE, 1:9
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 1:9
“And this I Pray”
In verses nine to eleven we come to one of the splendid prayers of the apostle Paul. Paul’s prayers are very suggestive. They are never superficial and half-hearted. His prayers are always germane to the situation. This prayer has the very whiff of heaven. Paul’s prayers are a high water mark of spirituality in the New Testament. A person ought to be at their best when at prayer. Prayer is conversing with God. The white heat of the flame of God’s presence melts way all superficiality in our lives.
We can detect the deficiencies of the saints in the prayers of Paul. To put it another way, we see his concern for the Philippians to live proper priorities. Paul’s prayers are never perfunctory but always pertinent to the situation. This prayer has the very exhale of heaven. It is a high water mark of spirituality. We ought to be at our best in prayer.
A. ABOUNDING LOVE, 1:9a
“that your love may abound”
Paul prays that the Philippians would put priority on three things. First, he prays that they would demonstrate a biblical love, 1:9. The first petition was for a special kind of love.
Paul prays that Philippian love would have divine love. This is love in which God is the subject, object and the motivating factor. There is no bitterness, envy or jealousy in this love. Divine love isn’t what you show on the outside; it is what you think on the inside.
The first earmark of a growing, dynamic Christian is unconditional love for fellow believers. Immature Christians behave like youngsters. They engender anger at the drop of a hat. They detonate quickly. They are irritated and exasperated with people who do not seem to appreciate them. As we grow in love these things become inconsequential. Petty things are too tawdry to deflect the child of God from this kind of love. When we let people get into our hair or under our skin, this is a sign of spiritual immaturity. When teens take on “baby fat” we say, “They will outgrow it.” We, as well, will outgrow spiritual baby fat if love abounds “still more and more in knowledge and all discernment.”
The Greek word for “love” here means divine, self-sacrificing, one-way love that is free to relate. It is divine because God must produce it; we cannot produce it. “I cannot love this jerk.” No, but God will enable us to love him. It is self-sacrificing in that I am not looking for something for myself in this love, in fact, “I may have to pay a price to love this person.” It is one-way in that my love does not depend on the reciprocity of that person to love me back. It makes no difference whether that person appreciates me or whether they understand what I have done for them. One-way love means that I love them on the basis of my character, not on the basis of my feeling. I love on the bedrock of what God has done for me. It does not make any difference what they are, who they are, or what they have done; I can still love them because of what God has done for me. My love is also free to relate. It makes no difference if they violate me. I am free from soul kinks of bitterness, sour grapes, jealousy, resentment, implacability, hostility, anger.
This kind of love needs formatting. It will not come automatically. That is priority number one for which Paul prayed.
Moreover, Paul prays that this kind of love will “abound.” This word carries the idea of overflow. The first essential that Paul prays about is that their love may “abound.” It is one thing to have love; it is yet another to have abounding love. Their love needed enlargement. This is a love that dominates one’s life. Love is no mere category. In unbiblical love there are categories of love. In one category there is love yet in another category there is bitterness and resentment.
B. EXUBERANT LOVE, 1:9b
“still more and more:”
Paul says this abounding love is to have exuberance—“more and more.” Paul prays that their love would go beyond an overflowing love but prays that their love will abound “still more and more.” Paul piles up adverbs to show the exuberance of Christian love. This is exuberant love, not anemic love. It is a dynamic, poignant, powerful love. Wave after wave of love should hit the banks of our souls. The more we grow in grace the greater is our capacity to love. One way we know we are growing is how much we love the unlovely.
We rub elbows with people who are more difficult than others. All people do not appeal to us equally. It may be their disposition, their dress, or their way of doing things. If we love with abounding love, all that melts away. All that is irrelevant. We do not love them for their sake; we love them for Jesus’ sake.
The first earmark of a growing Christian is a dynamic love which is beyond static love. Immature Christians wax anger at the drop of a hat; they become exasperated quickly; they are aggravated by people who do not seem to appreciate them. But as we grow more and more in love those things become petty. In the light of the stern realities of heaven and hell, sin and righteousness, God and the Devil, such things become irrelevant and inconsequential. They are too tawdry to deflect the child of God from his original purpose of glorifying God with his life.
Another passage that speaks of an expanding love is I Thessalonians 3:12 “And may the LORD make you to increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you.” The Lord must make this happen. This kind of love is beyond our power. It is supernatural. The Lord can enable us to love, not only Christians, but “all” persons. Growing love catalyzes us to share our faith. The more we grow in grace the more we love. No one ever loves too much. Do we care enough about the eternal destiny of souls to share Christ? Will you format into your life such love of the lost that you will risk your comfort zone to love them?
All people do not appeal to us equally. Some are more difficult than others. Their disposition, dress, character or ways of doing things may not appeal to us. Compatibility of personality is irrelevant to this kind of love. We do not love them for their sake or their personality, but rather for Jesus’ sake. We love the unlovely. An abounding, increasing knowledgeable, discerning love has greater capacity to love a wider range of people.
When we let people get under our skin or in our hair, when we let people vex our souls, we are deflected from reflecting God’s glory in our lives. Biblical love is dynamic; it both abounds and keeps developing so that it moves the child of God out of childhood and into spiritual adulthood. Are we still caught up in bitterness and indignation? Are we trapped at the initial stages of Christianity? Have we recognized signs of babyhood?
C. LOVE WITH TWO SPECIAL CHARACTERISTICS, 1:9c
With knowledge and all discernment
We have already examined 1:9a where we found that our love needed to “abound still more and more.” However, a dynamic love is not complete without some other norms. In 1:9b we find two norms which are necessary for a dynamic love: knowledge and discernment. Paul does not pray for an ordinary love; he prays that their love would display two advanced features:
Love grows best in the full light of knowledge. Christian love has a biblical foundation. This is far more than a prayer for simple love. Paul prays that their love will engage “knowledge.” Genuine love requires content. A flighty, romantic, impulse love is not the point here. With human love, the more we know about people the better we can love them.
An arm’s distance love is inadequate biblical love. Sentimental love cannot consummate that kind of love. Greeting everyone with the smile of a Cheshire cat and calling them “dearie” or “darling” is sentimental love. Paul’s prayer is that love will abound in knowledge. This word knowledge means full, experiential knowledge. To love in God’s economy is to love beyond emotion and feeling. There is something at the foundation of this love. To love in knowledge means far more than calling people “honey” or “darling.” This is not saccharin, imitation love for that is not authentic love. Authentic love loves on the basis of substance or content.
Christian love has biblical foundation. There is a basis for this love. This is no mawkish, maudlin, saccharin love. It is not about the little orphan and her lost doggy. This love is based on great quantity of structure from the Word of God. It is love that is based on true perspectives. Petty things then are too tawdry to deflect the child of God from his original purpose of glorifying God. When you let people get into your hair, under your skin, when you let people irritate you, this is a sign of immaturity. You can outgrow it.
Love has nothing to fear from light. Suspicion puts the light out; it kills love. Intense love makes people sensitive to slights and misunderstandings unless they apply full knowledge. This word denotes fineness of perception.
Knowledge is important for any specialist in any field. How would you like some plumber to give you a prefrontal lobotomy? He obviously does not have the knowledge to perform delicate brain surgery. On the other hand, I would not want a brain surgeon to work on my plumbing either! I do not want my plumber to perform surgery on me. Neither do I want my surgeon to work on my plumbing! Each has his field of specialty. Each specialist is adept at his specialty because of what he knows. A Christian is to be a specialist in love. That love is to abound in knowledge. An indifferent, vague, sloppy love is not Christian love. It is an informed love. Love grows best in the radiant light of knowledge.
Secondly, not only does love need knowledge but it needs “judgment.” The idea of “judgment” is discernment. This second characteristic of love is the ability to “discern.” Hippocrates, an ancient Greek medical writer, used this term in the sense of perception. This love is more delicate than any seismograph for recording earthquakes or any chemical apparatus for detecting affinities between atoms and electrons. This is fineness of spiritual perception in love. “Discern” calls for practical application of “knowledge” specialized to needs in particular people.
Knowledge is the accumulation of facts. Discernment, however, is an advance upon knowledge. Discernment is the correct use of the facts. But we must have knowledge to have discernment. The more we know the more we can divide things that differ. We can separate and make distinctions. Discerning love can tell the difference between maudlin love and authentic love. Maudlin love may not employ “tough love” when necessary. Maudlin love loves on the basis of sympathy, not empathy.
God wants us to “abound still more and more” in love that loves on the basis of knowledge and discernment. Do you love purely with your emotions? Can you dislike someone and still love them? It is valid biblically to deplore the foolishness of an individual and still love them.
If there was anything Paul desired for the saints, it is that they would love with the sum total of all these qualities. Is your life filled with bitterness, resentment, hostility and implacability? Are you constantly hurt? Do you wear your feelings on your sleeve? Are you more concerned about how other people appreciated you and you could care less about them? Are you hypersensitive about what people say about you?
On the other hand, are you going to wander aimlessly through the next five years as over a faceless terrain? If we are not intentional in this kind of love, it will never become real. We can format this love if we give structure to it. We can make purpose real in our lives by adding the word “by” to love. “I am going to be more loving between now and the end of the century by cherishing my wife more.” “I will change the direction of my life by respecting my husband more.” “I am going to love as Christ loved me.”
Jesus challenged us with a special love, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34,35). This love is the hallmark of Christianity.
II. PRIORITY OF A SCALE OF VALUES, 1:10a-b
A. TEST FOR APPROVAL THE THINGS OF GREATEST VALUE, 1:10a
“That you may approve the things that are excellent”
The second priority is that we will live by a scale of values both in the near and far terms until Christ comes again.
The Greek word “approve” means test for approval. This is spiritual discernment. Discernment is the ability to distinguish between the chaff and wheat, the dross and the gold, the genuine and the superficial. It is a testing with a view to approving. The word was used for assaying metals and coins. The assaying process determines whether the metal satisfies specified standards. In Detroit Michigan automobile companies test their cars on “proving grounds.” If a shock absorber does not meet their regulations they keep changing it until they correct the problem.
Automobiles need to be tested on a torture track before they are sold to the public. If a car’s breaks do not meet the test, they are sent back for redesign. You do not put a car with faulty breaks on the market. Lives are at stake. In order to test those breaks some standard for testing needs to be applied. A standard or measure for determining good breaks is needed. God wants us to have a criterion for whatever comes into our lives. That criterion is “excellence.”
B. HAVING A SENSE OF WHAT IS PRESENTLY VITAL, 1:10b
Things that are excellent
When we distinguish between the things that differ we can put priority on the things of greatest value. By the way, we need to distinguish between the things that differ, not the things that oppose. It requires no keen insight to distinguish between what opposes. The emphasis here is not between what is good and bad but between what is good and better. That is, we need to determine the things which “transcend.”
God wants us to “test for approval “things that are excellent.” If we have the criterion of “excellence” we can resolve the priorities of our life. Any problem or set of alternatives which is set before us should be measured by this standard. If we operate by this standard we should be able to resolve any priority.
In order to test something we must have a standard, a measure or criterion. The second purpose, therefore, is to resolve a set of difficulties and problems with biblical priorities. If someone comes to us with a business deal, you don’t accept it unless you run it through a process. You use principles of business knowledge then you say “no deal.” We can test things for approval or disapproval by the Word of God. A thinking person must have criteria to prove life’s priorities. God’s Word gives us those criteria for life. If we use criteria for business, education and every other field of life, why not employ it in our spiritual life?
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. Is 8:20
In this verse Paul prays that the Philippians will sense what really matters. His prayer is that they will put priority on the things of greatest value. Do you format your life to the things of greatest value? Do you live with a construct or structure and definition in your life? On the other hand, do you wander through life? Is making money your greatest value? “The security of money in the bank is the highest value to me. I’m going to retire one day. Inflation is on the rise. I may end in poverty if I do not pack it away.” The Bible does not assail a savings plan. It does vilify making money an idol. Biblically, money is a means, not an end.
The word “excellent” means a sense of what is vital. It is the ability to distinguish between the things that differ. It is the discernment to distinguish between chaff and wheat, dross and gold, the genuine and the superficial. Some people lack discernment to the degree that they cannot tell the difference between the Bible and the Koran. The Bible is the touchstone whereby we determine whether a thing is true or not.
Here “excellent” means to operate by a scale of values. The phrase “the things that are excellent” can translate “the things of greater value.” We should be able to test for approval what is most valuable in life. No one operates adequately in life without a scale of values. Where there is no scale of values there is utter and total confusion. We would live in daze without a sense of what is important. Imagine trying to live in a world where everything is equally important! How we use our time depends on what is important in our lives.
Why does Paul pray for such priority? We are here on earth for such a short time. Paul is in prison. He may face death shortly after he writes this book. In this very dangerous plight he must know what is important.
The field of sociology presents two types of values: terminal and instrumental values. An instrumental value is something we use. A terminal value is one of six or so core beliefs that drive our lives. We treasure these tenets above all else. Money should remain an instrumental value, not a terminal value. We should employ it only for the glory of God. If that means meeting the needs of my family, then it is a biblical value. God is glorified by my doing so. Utilizing money for “us four and no more” converts money into a terminal value. Money then applies exclusively for the mundane.
Putting priority on the greatest values means we must manage our lives carefully. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15,16). Secular Greek used the word “circumspectly” for a person walking across a stream where the rocks were just above the surface of the water. When the water splashes, rocks become slippery. The rocks are uneven so a person must watch each step carefully. Are you watching your priorities carefully? Do you put priority on your steps, the pattern of your life, the direction of your life? The word “redeeming” carries the idea of buying up every opportunity that presents itself to us. Each of us has passed by enormous opportunities because we did not seize the moment. We were not alert enough to prioritize the possibility before us.
Opportunities slip by. We squander and waste many advantages. We could have touched someone with the gospel. We could have won someone to Jesus Christ. We did not seize the moment because we were spiritual navel gazers. We are more concerned about our problems–“Me, myself and I”–than other people. We need to come out of ourselves and see the world of opportunities around us.
“Only one life, twill soon be passed, only what is done for Christ will last.” Living for Christ is to keep eternal values in view. Do we live with eternal values in view? Do we exist primarily for going down to the beach? This is not to say that going to the beach as a lesser priority is wrong. Part of good stewardship is to measure a certain amount of relaxation into our lives. If the essence of life is to play golf or trim our hedges, then we subsist on the outer edge of God’s priorities for us. We dwell on the outside of the periphery of God’s design for us. Do we place priority on the things of greatest value? Do we appraise what is truly important?
A lighthouse keeper was given a measured amount of oil to run the lighthouse in the older days. He lived close to shore so people came over to visit him. One day a lady came and said, “My family is cold and we need some oil to keep our house warm. Would you give us some oil?” He said, “Okay, that is a good use of my oil.” Over time others came; he gave them oil as well. One day he depleted his supply. That evening a number of ships crashed on the shores. A number of people died. He did good things but did he do the best thing? He did not put priority on the thing of greater value.
We need to have a sense of what is vital by a scale of values. We need to know what is important. It is a mistake to emphasize the details of God’s work and neglect his universal purpose. That is like studying the bark of one tree and not caring for the forest! It is easy to make an idol out of the ministry.
One thing I have found about successful staff is that they have a strong conviction of God’s purpose is for them. There will be criticism. There will be obstacles. A church may not respond to your dreams. They may be hung up with their little problems. They may focus on trivia and miss the great issues of the Christian life.
Many Christian workers become disillusioned with their careers because of a given ministry. A career should not be measured by a single failure or even a series of failures. What is an adequate purpose that transcends even ministry? One thing upon which all evangelicals agree is that the ultimate purpose of God for man is the glory of God. However, it is one thing to hold that belief as a general theory and it is another to translate it not experience, especially into the daily function of the ministry.
If we were to give the Greek nuances of this verse, we could paraphrase it like this: “That you may test with a view of approving by a standard the things of highest value.” This puts priority on the things of greatest value. If I were to ask you face to face what your highest priority in life is, what would you tell me? Would you tell me of a priority that transcends the mundane, the day-to-day, the here-and-now? Would it reach beyond the end of your nose? What is the highest value of your life?
For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. 2 Co 2:17
Is high motivation for the ministry wrong? No. When is it wrong? To have ministry in wrong perspective. If the objective is something beyond the ministry itself, that is, what is God’s primary purpose, then it is right. If it is just to be successful in the ministry, then it is wrong. Each of us has to decide what is the most important.
Now we come to the third petition “that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.”
III. PRIORITY OF KEEPING ETERNAL VALUES IN VIEW, 1:10c-11
Now we come to the far or remote priority for which Paul prays. He prays that the Philippians will annex two characteristics to “excellence” by the time Christ comes, “that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ” (1:10b).
A. TRANSPARENCY WITH THE LONG GOAL IN MIND, 1:10b
The first quality to annex to excellence is “sincerity.” The word “sincere” is more meaningful in the Greek than in the English. The literal idea is without wax, without dilution. It was used in the selling in selling of pottery. The idea is “Be the real thing.” It means “transparent.” “Sincere” comes from two Greek words: “sun” and “to judge.” The idea is to judge by the light of the sun. In the ancient world, people would fill in the cracks of a jar with wax and paint over it. Then they would sell the jar as new. The way to tell if the jar was broken was by holding it up to the sun. If light came through, then they knew that it was a defective jar.
For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward. 2 Co 1:12
We need to determine whether our lives pass the test when held up to the sun. When we hold our life up to the Word of God, we need to know if it reveals cracks. We judge our life by holding it up to the Word of God to determine whether it is genuine. God wants us transparent with nothing to hide. When Jesus comes again he will judge us with piercing perception. He will see us for what we truly are. A sincere person has nothing to hide. His life is unmixed, pure, unsullied. In other words, it is genuine or authentic. He has nothing to hide.
B. WITHOUT OFFENSE WITH THE LONG GOAL IN MIND, 1:10b
The second evaluation Jesus will make of us when he comes again is to determine whether we are “without offense.” This word means “no stumbling block.” It also means to set a trap. The Greeks used it for a stick on which they fastened bait. God will evaluate us on whether people stumbled over our lives.
If we put priority on the things of greatest value, we will not cause other to stumble. If we put priority on the things of greatest value we will have a life of integrity until Christ comes again.
One of the greatest criticisms the world has of the church is that it is “hypocritical.” This has become a standard, stock excuse that those without Christ have for not receiving Christ. “There are too many hypocrites in church.” We admit that there are hypocrites in church. Yet there are hypocrites at the office. Do we quit work because there are hypocrites? Do we turn in our membership at the golf course because people are inconsistent? There is hypocrisy about hypocrisy!
Now we come to the extent of putting priority on the things of greatest value. We do it until Christ comes again—“till the day of Christ.” The “day of Christ” officially terminates the Christian life. Paul prays in this phrase that the Philippians will live an authentic life and a life that is not susceptible of censure until Christ comes again.
IV. REASON FOR KEEPING PRIORITIES, 1:11
being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. 1:11
The third point for which Paul prays is that the Philippians will glorify God by producing fruit which only God can supply by Jesus Christ, “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (1:11).
Verse eleven sets forth the characteristics of those who produce the three requests for which Paul prays:
1. “…that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,”
2. “that you may approve the things that are excellent,”
3. “that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,”
Those who have these characteristics in their lives will produce fruit.
A. THOSE WHO LIVE FOR THE GOAL OF THE GLORY OF GOD PRODUCE FRUIT, 1:11a
“being filled with the fruits of righteousness”
The Greek indicates “being filled with the fruits of righteousness” is something we receive, not something we do. Christians receive this action. They do not produce it. We do not produce fruit; we receive it.
“Being” indicates this is something we receive. We receive it by God’s grace. We do not earn it or work for it. “Fruits” is singular in the Greek. This may refer to the filling of the Holy Spirit. This is the produce of righteousness–the harvest. “Of righteousness”–produced by Christ and so supernatural. The word “of” indicates source this is imputed righteousness (righteousness which God unilaterally gives). The believer has a righteous stand before God, resulting from being clothed in Christ’s righteousness, ought to produce fruit for God. Practical righteousness is to flow from what God has done.
Filled with the fruits of uprightness which come through Jesus Christ: The term of Christian growth and development is the status of uprightness before God, yet it is not a status that one achieves by oneself; rather it is begun by God (1:6) and has its fullness in that which comes only through union with Christ (see 3:9).
Such inner qualities, partially described in Galatians 5:22-23, will be evident to others. The fruit of the Spirit comes through Jesus Christ, for it is really His life lived out through believers. Such fruit magnifies God, not self.
God is the source for the fruit that is produced in our lives. God has given us imputed righteousness (a legal righteousness which he put in us) so that we might produce a practical righteousness. Do we recognize the “harvest” of God’s work upon us? Do we praise him for what he has done?
B. FRUIT FOR THE GLORY OF GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, 1:11b
“which are by Jesus Christ”
“By” means “through” instrumentality. It is through the instrumentality of Christ that fruit is produced in our lives. The Greek has a definite article before the word “through”–“the through” “by that I mean the kind which is through Jesus Christ.” This would mean by the death of Christ on the cross, for example. The death of Christ makes it possible to be delivered from our sins. The death of Christ makes it possible to live the Christian life.
Notice that this fruit comes “by Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ produces this fruit. The third point for which Paul prays is that God would do something in our lives to make a difference. He prays that we would orient to the grace of God, to the provision of God, to the majesty of God. If we set our course on God’s grace, we will glorify God. Only through the death of Christ is deliverance from sin possible. His death makes it possible to live the Christian life.
Is the hand of God on your life? Will you allow him to radically change you? Most people never change their terminal values. It takes a major disruption in life to change a core belief. Only dissonance or some major catastrophe will impact this fundamental belief system. We believe money will make us happy or beauty will give us a sense of fulfillment. If a core belief fails us, we may be jolted into openness toward God. It is sad that some wait for a catastrophe to come into their lives before they change. The Holy Spirit will create a spiritual dissonance or dissatisfaction with our terminal values if we yield to him.
C. FRUIT FROM PROPER PRIORITIES PRODUCE GLORY TO GOD, 1:11b
“for the glory and praise of God.”
The purpose of being filled with fruits of righteousness is the glory and praise of God. The “glory” of God is the outward expression of his inward reality. “Praise” is commendation to God, the admiring approval which we give God.
The fruit that God produces glorifies God. The glory of God is the manifestation of his attributes, the manifestation of God himself. His glory depicts the wonder of who he is. If God does the doing he gets the glory. If we do the doing we get the glory. The “fruit” in this verse is God’s doing.
“By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8).
A life that exhibits such traits is to the glory and praise of God. God produced the fruit so God gets the glory for doing it. If God does the doing, God gets the glory. God is glorified by the fruitfulness he produces in our lives, John 15:8, “In this is my Father glorified…bear much fruit”. There are three kinds of Christians in this passage: those that bear “fruit”, “more fruit” and “much fruit.” But there is no such thing as no fruit in the Christian. If a person is a believer there is going to be fruit.
The purpose of Christ’s death was to glorify God. His attributes are glorified such as righteousness, justice, mercy and love in his death. As in 2:11 the career of Jesus and his influence on man are ordained only for the glory of the Father (cf. Rom 15:7; 1 Cor 10:31; 2 Cor 4:15).
We glorify God by utilizing divine provisions. Glory is provided inside each believer because the Holy Spirit resides in each believer, I Co 3:16; 6:19,20. The ministry of the Holy Spirit produces the character of Christ in the believer, Gal 4:19; II Co 3:3,18; Eph 3:17; Gal 5:22,23.
Matt. 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
I Pet 4:11 “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God gives: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever.”
If God does the doing in our lives, he gets the glory. If we do the doing, we get the glory. One of the saddest things in the family of God is a case of arrested spiritual development. We reach a spiritual plateau and there we remain. We need to realize that something is stunting our growth. We need our spiritual vitamins.
It chaffs people of our generation to depend upon God. We have lost the idea of dependence. We cannot have proper relationships even with other humans if we cannot depend upon them. If we cannot depend on human beings, how can we depend upon God to work in our lives? God can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
We have the idea, “Tomorrow is God’s, today is mine.” Is not today God’s? If it is God’s, then we should format our lives accordingly. We establish the priorities God has for us and not wander aimlessly over a faceless terrain.
Paul said, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
Paul prayed for the Philippians that they would put priority on three areas of their lives. What kind of grade would you secure on each of these items? Each one will count one third. If you get all three, you will receive 100%. If your mate would grade you, how would they score you? How would you do on loving with an overflowing knowledgeable, discerning ever increasing love? Do you presently operate on a scale of values? Is there fruit in your life which God produces and thereby glorify God?
We need to have a sense of what is vital. We cannot have this without a test that approves what is important. The criterion is value. We need to know what is important.
Disraeli: “The secret of success is constancy of purpose.” It is one thing to have a purpose; it is another thing to keep that purpose constantly in the forefront.
There will be criticism and obstacles. The church may not respond to your desires. We should not measure ourselves by a single failure or even a series of failures. We need to ask the question of what is God’s ultimate purpose that transcends ministry. We need to put priority on the things of greatest value.