TENDER AND TOUGH

Opening Prayer

Father God, thank you for your faithfulness to me. Thank you that all of your promises are ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen.’

Read PHILIPPIANS 3:12 – 4:1

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Following Paul’s Example

15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Closing Appeal for Steadfastness and Unity

4 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Meditate

Grace and truth. Thank God for these biblical qualities and the way they are displayed in the life of Jesus.

Think Further

There is much in our world that is positive, which should fill us with joy and hope.1 Yet there is much that is wrong too. Paul details some of the problems of his first-century world (vs 18,19). He could easily be writing about our own day, marred by materialism and consumed by consumerism, full of injustice and a lack of self- control, leading to ‘shame’ and brokenness (v 19). Sometimes as Christians we are loath to call these things out. We need clear, applied biblical thinking and the courage to speak prophetically when the situation demands it.

This is not all that is necessary, however. Sometimes we speak stridently, without love in our hearts. Paul shows us a better way, for when he speaks the truth he does so with ‘tears’ (v 18). He sees the tragedy of a society rebelling against God. He knows he has the answer: the cross of Christ. At the cross, people are delivered from the penalty and power of sin and broken lives are made whole. Yet, tragically, many live as its enemies, rushing headlong to destruction (vs 18,19). Paul speaks out but he also weeps, giving us a model of how to engage with our world.

One further thing is needed. If we are going to speak, even with love, we need to live in ways consistent with what we say. Awareness of our status as Christians helps us do this. It was a great privilege to be a Roman citizen, yet Paul knew that every Christian enjoyed an even greater privilege with which came great responsibility: we are citizens of heaven (v 20)! We are called to speak truth with grace, but we recall that Jesus embodied these qualities in the way he lived.2 We most faithfully follow him when we do the same.

Apply

How has God challenged you about the words you speak, the way you speak them, and the way you live? Respond to his challenge.

Closing prayer

Lord Jesus, help me to relate to the world around me in ways that reflect who you are, that draw others to you.

Last Updated on December 29, 2023 by kingstar

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