Today we begin the book of Philippians, which is a letter to the believers in Philippi, a city which sat on an important transportation route in Macedonia. Once again, we see where Paul invested time with believers and the importance of their location to the spread of the gospel. In this first chapter we also read one of the most powerful passages from Paul in Philippians 1:21, For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. The point Paul is making is as long as we are living our lives for Christ, we win. Even if it leads to death, we still live.
Today we read one of the strongest and most encouraging passages in the Bible; The Armor of God. In this passage, Paul gives us all the tools we need to do battle against the forces that are against us in this world. In Ephesians 6:13-18 Paul describes what the Armor of God looks like, 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Just as we imitate our parents, we should also be imitators of the example of Christ. In Ephesians 5:1-2 Paul says, 1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Our love for others should reflect the love and sacrifice Christ had for us. It should be a love that goes beyond affection and leads us to sacrificial service to others.
We have the privilege of being God’s representatives here on earth. We should count ourselves worthy of this privilege. In Ephesians 4:1 Paul says, As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Paul is challenging us to be worthy of being called one of Christ’s own.
When we become a servant of the gospel and we trust in God, He gives us the ability to effectively share the gospel of Christ. While we may not be apostles or evangelists, God still gives us the ability to tell others about Christ. More importantly, he gives us the ability to show others as we reflect Christ in our own lives. In Ephesians 3:7 Paul says, I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Our ability to share and reflect Christ is a power given to us. While we should boldly share this and not shy away from it, there is a right and loving way to do this when we rely on God to lead us.
One of the beautiful things about being a child of God is we don’t have to be strong enough to handle all things. When it all seems hopeless, He is right there by our side taking care of us, even when it all seems hopeless. I thought this video by Matthew West did a good job of expressing this notion.
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God created us for Him to do great things through us. In Ephesians 2:10 Paul says, For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. We are His great works of art and we are to treat ourselves and others as such. We are to respect and love one another as God intended and we are to serve each other as well. We have everything we need through all God has provided to us.
Our salvation is 100% up to God. It is through His grace that we have been saved and it is His choice to extend grace to us. In Ephesians 1:4 Paul says, For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. God’s desire is for us to be holy and blameless at all cost, including at the cost of the death of His son. It is at the feet of Jesus and His sacrifice that we are brought into holiness and blamelessness in His sight.
In today’s reading we are in the short book of Philemon. This book is a letter Paul wrote while in prison to Philemon, who was probably a wealthy member of the Colossian church. The purpose of the letter was to try to convince Philemon to forgive his runaway slave Onesimus. While Paul does not condemn slavery, which was very common in the Roman empire, he does make a radical statement in the beginning of Philemon 1:16 no longer a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. Paul calls Onesimus Philemon’s dear brother. This is important to all of us. No matter who we are or where we stand in society, as believers we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.
Today we come to the end of the book of Acts. This marks the end of Luke’s account of the history of the early church, but in actuality it marks the beginning of the history of our Faith. Without the boldness of Paul to force the hand of the local Roman leaders to appear before Caesar, he would not have been sent to Rome. Though Paul was imprisoned, he was still given freedom to preach the gospel and share his faith with anyone who would listen. Let us learn from Paul’s and other early church leader’s examples of taking every opportunity to share our faith with others. In doing so, we are to remember to follow Paul’s example, which he learned from Christ, to love others and help to provide their needs before expecting them to understand God’s love for them. We are the Hands and Feet of Christ, just as Paul was over 2,000 years ago.