165. The power of excellence

Greater, more, deeper – we walk on through Philippians. We talked about the character of the One who makes the promise,  the purpose of our decision to know God in the fullness of the resurrection of Jesus so that we could rise from the dead even in this life, and now we can talk about the power that He makes available for us to live by.

One of the outstanding promises in Philippians is the power of a finished work.  Every person who has ever embarked upon a big project, knows the effort that the finishing touches demand.  How often is it the last things that cost much in terms of time, money and effort.

In that moment that we make the decision to follow Jesus – a rational, mindful moment without any hyped-up spirituality – a miracle takes place in our inner being.  Our spirit welcomes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  It is our “emigration” out of this world and “immigration” into the invisible Kingdom of God that Jesus announced in his first words of ministry (Mark 1:15).  This is exactly what Jesus emphasized when He spoke to Nicodemus in John 3.

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

This is not a reference to heaven one day after our physical death. When we give our lives to the Lord, we enter “heaven” immediately.  Heaven is where God is.  Our rebirth brings us into the God’s realm, even when it does not feel that way.  It is faith that opens the door to enter into his presence.  The Psalmist knew this well.  He describes it as follows – a thousand years before Jesus walked the earth!

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”    
(Psalm 91:1,2)

The awareness of God as a refuge and trustworthy hiding place is heaven on earth – it is the best life possible!

 …while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

The promise of Philippians 1:6 is closely knitted into this vision of the unseen.  Paul states that he trusts God to complete the work that He (God) has begun in us. It is an ongoing process, not snap “perfection-magic”.

God will never leave us.  He will not abandon us as a hopeless case.  He considers us worthy of the death of his Son.  No mess we have made, no sin we could have done or fallen into can ever be too much for his almighty saving power.  The promise stands.  He will complete his handiwork in us.  In the shadow of the Almighty we are transformed.  In his unconditional and incredible love, He changes us from the inside to bring about the next part of the promise.

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,  that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

Isn’t this a mind-blowing thought?  Love works discernment in us.  To know what is important is one of the most profound life skills to possess.  In love we grow into wise people who know what to do and what to say in every situation life throws at us.  It is almost impossible to think of a life without messing up, without regrets, with our mistakes sorted out and the promise of guidance through all the uncertainty that accompanies that scary scenario called the future.  Yet, this is the power of the promise.

Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.
  (Psalm 143:10, NIV)

Love is the opposite of evil.  Love conquers fear and anger.

Love makes excellence possible.  Philippians talks about unity.  It is astonishing how many people think of unity as an emotion. Friends hitting it off, marriage that brings unity between two people who love each other or unity in the workplace when colleagues agree stand in sharp contrast to conflict and confrontation.

Unity is a decision.  Unity as an emotion is unstable and, I dare say, worthless.  It can never stand the test of argument when the feeling flees and the unity crumbles into quarrel.

One of the many accusations against Christianity is the fact that so many denominations argue about theology under the bigger banners of Catholic and Protestant churches.  Specifically, in this context Christians must unite in the core principle that hold us all together.  In the words of the ancient prophet Joel, quoted in Acts:

And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Shall be saved.
’  (Acts 2:21)

Jesus is the One and his work on the cross brings salvation to all people.  This is Christianity in a nutshell and the one thing that unites us.  All the other theological differences are about Christian living and how to follow Jesus.

The church of Jesus is an invisible body of people who seek Jesus and follow him.  We are not the same and He celebrates our differences.  Our path with him is unique and personal.

We come to God through the blood of Christ. Everything after that should be humbly submitted to the guidance of the Word of God (the Bible) and the insight of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Spiritual growth follows salvation.  To become a mature Christian is a constant surrender to the work of Jesus in our lives and our study of his Word.

True unity is a decision to tolerate and accept everyone who submits to Christ.  The power of unity is love. In the words of Peter:

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”  (1 Peter 4:8)

Always and in everything – it comes back to love – the greatest of all.

It is how we live; how we overcome.   Love conquers evil and the darkness in our souls.  Love lets us enter into heaven – the kingdom of God on earth.



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