Things can happen so fast. A mother, shopping in a crowded store with her little one, turns away for what seems to be just a moment. When she turns back, her child is gone. A man I know left his little boy in the bathtub for just a moment while he stepped into the other room to get something. When he got back, his son had drowned. A driver looks away from the road, at his cell phone for just a moment. When he looks back, he’s ready to crash into the rear end of another vehicle. A woman is going about her daily routine, everything seems fine. Suddenly, her vision blurs, she’s dizzy and disoriented. She falls to the floor, helpless. She has suffered a stroke. One moment everything seemed all right. The next moment her life was in jeopardy.
The Apostle Paul, guided by the Holy Spirit, laid out a great treatise for Christian living in Phlp. 2:1-4. The first verse establishes the basic principle that a Christian ought to live and act as a Christian should. The next three verses lay out specific application according to this immediate context of scripture.
On the day of His ascension back to Heaven Jesus told His apostles to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:15-16). What did Jesus mean when He told the apostles to preach the gospel to everybody everywhere?
The apostle Paul advised the Ephesians, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16). He exhorted the Christians at Colosse similarly, “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Col. 4:5-6). The wise man wrote, “Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.” (Prov. 4:26-27).
Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matt. 5:14). In the immediate context of this verse Jesus set His followers in contrast with the rest of the world. This verse calls attention to a world that exists in darkness due to sin. The lives of followers of Jesus, in contrast, radiate the light of righteousness. The difference between His followers and the rest of the world is so stark that Jesus uses the illustration of a city built on a hillside. At night, when the sun goes down and the residents of the city light their homes for the evening, the city naturally stands out in the surrounding darkness. There is no way to hide a lit up city situated high up on a hillside at night. Its light calls obvious attention to itself.
The apostle Paul stated, “but one thing I do...” (Phlp. 3:13). In this chapter, Paul talked about himself. He listed something of his heritage in vs. 4-6. He noted that, from a purely physical perspective, he had excellent credentials. He could trace his bloodline back to the tribe of Benjamin, and that bloodline was pure, his being a Hebrew born of Hebrew parents. As far as his spiritual credentials were concerned, as they appeared on the surface, his were most impressive. He was a Pharisee, meticulous in keeping the law of Moses and zealous enough in his dedication to that law as to be an aggressive persecutor of the church.
Just how much do we need God? Most people, even the most dedicated, probably do not really think much on a daily basis about how much they truly need God. If asked the question, most of us would quickly affirm that we need God every step of the way, every day, but probably do not live like it. We get caught up in all the busy-ness of daily living. Well, do we really need God?
Jesus taught us, as His disciples, to love one another (Jn. 13:34-35). His instruction in that context is not a suggestion. He stated it as a commandment. The purpose behind this commandment is extremely important. The world will recognize Christ in us by the love that we exhibit toward one another. But the reasons that should motivate our love for one another go way beyond just following a commandment that tells us to love one another.
The story goes that the devil decided to retire (now, wouldn’t that be great news!), and he had a “Going Out Of Business Sale.” All of the tools of his trade were openly displayed and priced on row after row of tables. One tool, however, was set off to itself under a glass case. It was more worn than most of the other tools, and it was considerably more expensive. A small labeling card was set in front of it with one word printed thereon- DISCOURAGEMENT
Many people have kind of a funny view of love. Can you imagine a wife who loves her husband too much to demand that he not abuse her? Too much to point out to him that his behavior could ultimately cause him and the family harm? Too much to expect him to work a regular job in order to at least help provide for the family? Can you imagine a husband loving his wife so much that he’d let her lead him to spiritual condemnation rather than trying lead her to salvation through his own righteous example? Christ’s love for the church is the model for how husbands and wives ought to love one another (Eph. 5:22-33).
Gary L. Hutchens