Psalm 34:8

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Jesus is greater than Me

I was going to title today’s devotional: “Perfect Humility and How I Attained It”. I was afraid no one would read it because the title would be a complete lie and everyone would know it.

I’m reminded of a song I played as a Country Music DJ many years ago: “O, Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way. I can’t wait to look in the mirror, ’cause I get better looking each day. To know me is to love me. I must be one heck of a man. O Lord, it’s hard to be humble, but I’m doing the best that I can.”

In today’s Bible reading from Philippians 2, Paul talks about true humility.

When many people think of “humility” they may picture someone groveling in the dirt, crying, “Woe is me.” Or they may picture someone self-flagellating, attempting to make atonement for their sins.

Funny… I don’t see that picture in Scripture except for the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9–14. The parable describes humility, but it doesn’t prescribe that everyone should do exactly what the Tax Collector did.

Pride is to be avoided. But I think in many people’s minds, humility is a virtue, but few people actually see humility as worth pursuing. After all, if you ever attained perfect humility and told someone that you had, well… would it be prideful to say so?

Paul actually prescribes humility in the first part of Chapter 2. He says, “Be humble like Jesus. Have the same mindset that Jesus did.” And then he gives us a picture of perfect humility.

Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross. Philippians 2:5–8 (CSB)

If anyone who every walked on this planet had a right to be proud, it would be Jesus! He was the embodiment of perfection. However, Jesus didn’t exploit that truth. Instead, he humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of a humiliating death.

Just before he points to Jesus as our model, he tells the Philippians to be humble. He says, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3–4 (CSB)

Note that Paul doesn’t say that we shouldn’t look out for our own interests. Instead, he says, “Don’t look out for just your own interests, but include the interests of others as well.” That’s the key.

How different would the world be if we didn’t just look out for ourselves, but also looked out for everyone else, also? Instead, we are affected with a severe case of narcissism. If you don’t believe me, just look around. And then, look in the mirror.

Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself.
It’s thinking of yourself less.

Application

We’re told we need to have a healthy self-esteem. People are applauded for their self-confidence and self-sufficiency. While these traits are to be admired, we must be on our guard against pride. Pride is so subtle. And the lines between self-confidence and self-sufficiency on one hand, and pride, on the other hand, are so easily blurred.

Why isn’t humility listed in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:16? Could it be that humility is something that we must actually work on, instead of something that is (super)naturally produced as fruit as we grow in our walk with Christ?

I think Paul answers that question in Philippians 2:12-13: Work out your salvation with fear and trembling as God works in you. He isn’t telling his readers they can work for their/our salvation. He says them/us to work out your salvation. Work it out from the inside, knowing that God is working in you to will and to work according to His purposes. (Philippians 2:13)

Humility: I’m not there yet. And neither are you. Let’s work on it.

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get the big picture

Yesterday, I said that believers tend to be shortsighted. As a result, we don’t always get the big picture. In today’s Bible reading, Paul tells the Philippians about the big picture.

Many of us enjoy reading our favorite authors and bloggers. We enjoy our listening to our favorite podcasts. We enjoy our favorite Bible teachers. The people, Bible teachers, podcasts, etc. that we align ourselves with could be called our “tribe”. Everyone is a part of a tribe.

We tend to think our tribe is the best. As a result, we don’t often associate with other tribes. We don’t read other authors. We don’t listen to other podcasts. We don’t expose ourselves to other Bible teachers.

I think one of the biggest downsides to all of this is, since we think our tribe is the best, we think the other tribes are less desirable and even to be avoided in some cases. Such was the case with some who were preaching the gospel in Philippi. Paul says,

To be sure, some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of good will. These preach out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, thinking that they will cause me trouble in my imprisonment. Philippians 1:15–17 (CSB)

Paul says, “Yes, some Bible teachers have wrong motives. Some are selfish. Some are vindictive and downright mean.” But look at his next statement.

What does it matter? Only that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice Philippians 1:18 (CSB)

Paul tells the church at Philippi to step back a bit and take a look at the big picture. He would say, “Not every one of these Bible teachers is correct in all they say and they way they say it. Not every one of these Bible teachers is even sincere and some even want to desparrage my name while I’m locked up in prison. But as you take a few steps back, you’ll see that Jesus is being lifted up, even by the meanspirited and envious ones. And that’s what matters.”

Paul knew that it wasn’t about him; it’s about Jesus. And so long as Jesus is being exalted, it doesn’t matter what people think of him.

The Christian group, Casting Crowns has a song that I believe Paul would sing if given a microphone. In “Only Jesus”, singer Mark Hall sings, “I don’t want to build a legacy. I don’t care if they remember me. Only Jesus.”

Application

I know it’s hard to give grace to other people, especially people who don’t always want the best for me. But Paul would say, “Don’t worry about that. Just keep your eyes on Jesus and aim to make His name famous.”

That’s a good reminder for all of us.

Enjoy the song I referred to earlier, “Only Jesus”

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In today’s Bible reading, Paul completes his statement of what being filled with the Holy Spirit looks like as it applies to relationships with parents and children and with masters and servants (employers and employees in our context). He concludes the chapter discussing Spiritual Warfare.

Most believers think they’re being persecuted for being a believer when they can’t wear Christian-themed jewelry at work. Or they can’t wish “Merry Christmas” to customers in the checkout line.

Let me say this as strongly as I can: Most Christians (especially in the West) have no idea what real religious persecution is. OpenDoors, Voice of the Martyrs, and similar organizations give real examples of real persecution of real people. Check them out. (and pray for them)

Most of what believers call “spiritual warfare” isn’t.

So why would I make such a bold statement? Do I believe spiritual warfare doesn’t exist? Nothing could be further than the truth! Spiritual warfare is very real. Believers are victims of spiritual attack every single day. But most of what believers call spiritual warfare isn’t. Believers can be very nearsighted about spiritual warfare just like we are about “persecution”.

Most believers think they’re under spiritual attack when they get sick, or when they run out of money before the end of the month, or they lose their job, or when their car gets a flat on the way to church. Some of this may be spiritual warfare, but most of it isn’t.

Paul tells the Ephesians to put on the full armor of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. Most of the armor is defensive; it protects you from attack from the front. But notice that there’s no protection to your back if you tuck tail and run in heat of the battle!

But there’s one key piece of the armor that isn’t spelled out as clearly as the others. It’s easy to see that the sword of the Spirit is an offensive weapon. But if you don’t see it in this passage, you completely miss the other offensive weapon!

Paul mentions it at the end of the list: the spear of prayer. Unfortunately, since he doesn’t spell it out like he does the others, it doesn’t make it to the picture hanging in our Sunday School classrooms and Children’s Picture Bibles. And not seeing this piece of armor in this passage prevents you from learning to use it in one of the key aspects of the very nature of the warfare!

Spiritual warfare is well, spiritual warfare. Things happening to you in the physical realm may or may not have a counterpart in the spiritual realm.

Paul says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.” Ephesians 6:12 (CSB)

He begins the next sentence, “For this reason“. Because the war field is in the spiritual realm, we have to take up spiritual armor. A good friend of mine has rightly said, “You will never win a spiritual war with a fleshly weapon.” Elsewhere, Paul expounds on the nature of spiritual weapons.

For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ. And we are ready to punish any disobedience, once your obedience is complete. 2 Corinthians 10:3–6 (CSB)

Our weapons destroy strongholds, arguments, and anything else that rises up against the knowledge of God. We use our spiritual weapons in the spiritual places to accomplish spiritual purposes namely, to point our eyes to God so we can worship and obey him.

Getting sick, running out of money before the end of the month, losing your job, and getting a flat tire can happen to anyone: believers and unbelievers alike. What you do when those things happen is where spiritual warfare can occur. But most of the time, only believers are attacked spiritually when those things happen.

The spiritual warfare occurs when those things cause us to lose focus from thinking about God rightly, when they keep us from worshiping Him, and when they keep us from obeying Him.

Yes, spiritual warfare happens in spiritual places, and one of the battlegrounds is the mind of the believer. That’s why we need to put on the whole armor of God so that we can stand our ground. Note that Paul mentions standing three times in four verses. Standing in spiritual warfare must be pretty important!

Application

Whenever you feel that you are under spiritual attack, ask God if that’s what’s up. He’ll tell you. And if you are under attack, Paul tells you what to do: Put on the full armor, not just a few of your favorite pieces.

Catching a nail in your tire on the way to church isn’t spiritual warfare. But if that causes you to question the goodness of God in allowing it to happen in that place at that time, it is spiritual warfare. If it causes you to not thank God for His provision of a helpful stranger to change your tire, and if it keeps you from using the opportunity to share the gospel with him, yes, it is spiritual warfare.

So to deal with this spiritual battle in a realistic way,

  • You put on your helmet of salvation to protect your thoughts as think about God’s wise provision in the timing and location of this.
  • You grab your shield of faith to reject those attacks that suggest that God isn’t in control and that this flat tire caught Him off-guard.
  • You draw your sword of the Spirit and meditate on Bible verses you’ve memorized on the goodness and faithfulness of God; you use those verses to attack those thoughts questioning God.
  • You protect your heart with the breastplate of righteousness to keep your heart right before God in this battle.
  • You hold it all together remembering the truth that all of this is about maintaining your focus on Jesus, worshipping Him and obeying Him.
  • You put on your shoes to be ready to share the good news of peace with God with this stranger.
  • And you offer to pray for this helpful stranger; he may have a need for you to pray with him about. Also pray for the helpful stranger to respond to the call of the Gospel and you thank God for the opportunity to be His instrument of reaching out to this stranger.

God’s Word is very applicable in showing us how to win spiritual battles. If we will just step back to get our focus on God, worship Him, and obey Him.

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Holy Spirit

In today’s Bible reading, Paul talks about living a consistent Christian Life. (Ephesians 5:15-22) Nobody wants to see a hypocritical Christian. And nobody wants to live a hypocritical Christian Life. So how do you live a consistent Christian Life? Paul answers the question in verse 18.

And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit Ephesians 5:18 (CSB)

Paul contrasts getting drunk on wine with being filled with the Holy Spirit. Many years ago, I heard a preacher say, “Getting drunk on wine makes you do foolish things. Getting drunk on the Holy Spirit makes you do things that seem foolish.”

Being controlled by alcohol leads to reckless living. And Paul spells out what being controlled by (which is what the Greek word “filled with” means) the Holy Spirit leads to:

speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. Ephesians 5:19–21 (CSB)

Being controlled/filled by the Holy Spirit expresses itself in praise and thanksgiving to God. It also expresses itself in mutual submission to other believers.

In the following verses, Paul expounds on how being filled with the Holy Spirit and submitting to each other expresses itself: it bubbles up and overflows into marital relationships, relationships between parents and children, and relationships between employers and employees.

But what is being filled with the Spirit? First off, the verb expresses a continual process. In other words, you aren’t just filled with the Spirit once and that’s all you need. Paul says, “Keep on being continually filled/controlled by the Holy Spirit.” Being filled with the Holy Spirit isn’t a one-time experience; being filled with the Holy Spirit should be a moment-by-moment experience.

Next, being filled with the Spirit results in relationship changes, beginning with a believer’s relationship with God and extending to the believer’s relationships with other believers.

So how is someone filled with the Spirit? Some would say by someone laying their hands on you and you speaking in ecstatic words. But is that what Paul says? Look at what Paul tells the Colossians in a parallel passage:

Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:16–17 (CSB)

Just like being filled with the Holy Spirit is a continual, moment-by-moment process, letting the word of Christ live in us is a continual, moment-by-moment process: Let the word of Christ “keep on continually living in you”.

Notice: The expressions of being filled with the Holy Spirit are identical to letting the word of Christ live richly among you: relationship changes between the believer and God (praise and thanksgiving) and relationships with other believers. Just like he does in the verses following Ephesians 5:18, Paul spells out these marital, parent/child, and employer/employee relationships in the verses following Colossians 3:17.

So being filled with the Holy Spirit is the same thing as letting the word of Christ dwell in you. In other words, as believers spend time reading God’s Word, studying God’s Word, and memorizing God’s Word, our relationship with God and our relationships with other believers change. These changes won’t happen overnight. It’s a continual process as we keep on being filled and as we keep on letting God’s Word fill our lives.

Application

Are you keeping on being continually filled with the Holy Spirit? Do you let the word of Christ live in you? Do you read it? Do you study it? Do you memorize it?

How would you describe your relationship with God? Are you full of praise and thanksgiving to Him?

How are your relationships with other believers? Is your life characterized by mutually submitting to other believers? How is your relationship with your spouse? Your children or parents? Your employer or employees?

Again, being filled with the Holy Spirit and letting the word of Christ live in you is a continual process. Don’t be discouraged by the process. Trust the process. Spend some time in the Word today. And spend some time today just praising and thanking God.

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molded bread

Paul instructs his readers to live a Godly life in today’s Bible reading. Nowhere is the idea that you can be saved and then live your life however you want, indulging your fleshly desires.

My title above is a tongue-in-cheek way my college friends and I used to remind each other that we should use our words to build up each other in the faith. To edify is to build up. Think of an “edifice” which is “built up”. 

Paul says that everything we say should give grace to those who hear us. No griping. No complaining. No nagging. No bullying. Only encouraging and grace-giving words. And when Paul says to not use “unwholesome”, “foul”, “corrupting”, “abusive”, “rotten” (depending on your translation of choice) words, he’s drawing a strong contrast between the positive “building up” kind of words with the “tearing down” kind of words. In other words, Paul isn’t saying, “Don’t use curse words.” Instead, he says, “Don’t use cursing words.”

Application

I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to use only words that encourage and build up when my natural inclination is to use “unwholesome”, “foul”, “corrupting”, “abusive”, “rotten” words.

Note: The word translated corrupting, abusive, etc. is also translated as “putrid”. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my words to stink like decaying garbage! Let’s build up each other!

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