Friday 9 August
The #NH2019 Media Team is delighted to bring you summaries of all the main sessions this week so you don’t miss a thing! On Friday morning, Gilbert Lennox concluded his challenging series from the book of Philippians – here’s what he had to say!
All of us need role models especially when we are young. We need them to help us to learn the basic skills we require to learn in life. We often select a hero or somebody want to be like. My hero was Geoffrey Boycott. As a boy I wanted to bat like him, so I tried to model myself on him. You know the idea, the importance of imitating the right models. This is especially important when it comes to our spiritual life.
It is critical to choose the right role models. In the previous chapter, Paul called all of us to imitate Christ in how we relate to one another. The perfect, sinless Christ who became a voluntary slave for our sake. But here, Paul calls on them to imitate him. He is not setting himself as the standard of perfection. Paul had to live with his history of spending years of his life investing in things he now considers rubbish and with the memory of his murderous past. All of us are living with something as we allow ourselves to look back.
All of us (like Paul) live with on-going struggles against the quirks of our personality. Paul’s desire now is to know Christ and to become like Him. He wants to die with Christ so he can experience what it means to live with Christ and that is a life-long process.
If you want to grow to become more like Jesus, there is help here – to follow the right role models. Follow Paul and keep your eyes on other examples (e.g. Timothy and Epaphroditus). Timothy had worked alongside Paul as a son with a father. Paul wasn’t perfect but his burning desire was to be like Christ.
Choose your role models well.
There are many who might seem progressive who are actually living as enemies of the cross. They are probably not self-confessed unbelievers. They may claim to be Christians. They have all kinds of spiritual language. This is why Paul writes about them through tears. How do we know that they are false and the wrong kind of model to follow? It is not that they speak against the cross. They walk and live as enemies of the cross (in stark contrast to Paul whose desire is to know Christ). These people oppose the cross as the basic principle not only of salvation but of true spiritual progress.
Paul is not talking about genuine believers who fail and fall. He is not talking about those who struggle against sin. These are people who do not accept that the flesh is under God’s judgement, that salvation is only through being crucified and raised with Christ. These are people who are not prepared to say, “No” to self.
Paul takes no joy in this – there are just tears. “Their god is their stomach” – the satisfaction of their appetites is their chief good. These are people who seek to remove “shame” – the biblical category of sin plays no part in their thinking.
Somebody told me that at a teacher training day they were told, “There is no such thing as wrong behaviour, just occasional unwise choices.”
Christian movements that call themselves progressive rarely are. The new morality is the old morality. Salvation if they think of it at all is self-improvement, which is a form of self-indulgence. Behind the religious talk, there can be deep immorality going on. This is to be an enemy of the cross. Their minds are set on earthly things.
Let us not misunderstand this. Not all earthly things are bad. Paul’s point is that these are people whose mind-set is as if this world is all there is – this is the mind-set of materialism. It is often the default position in our culture.
What is the answer? It is the true mind-set based on the fact that our true community and home is not in this world.
Our citizenship, our community, our home is in heaven!
It is so important that we grasp that, especially when the pressure mounts and when, like the Philippians you feel the pressure in society. Jesus was aware of that. When the disciples came to that public confession that He was the Messiah, it was at that moment that he started to talk to them taking up their cross and following Him. It was at that point when He spoke about going to the cross.
To reinforce the point, He said, “You will see the kingdom of God.” He took them up a mountain to pray and He was transfigured before them. Suddenly it was as if the veil was torn and they saw the kingdom of God. It changed their lives. Peter made it his ambition to tell the story. There is an eternal kingdom. In fact, it is more real than this earth!
We think that this material world is real. Yet, our citizenship is in heaven and we need to get that fixed in our minds. The challenge is to perceive it before we die. I am not limited by the horizon of death. Since my citizenship is in heaven, my prime allegiance must be there also. Paul says, “We are eagerly awaiting…” Are we?
What are we waiting for? A Saviour. This Saviour is going to take this physical body and He is going to transform it. This is an incredible Gospel! It is not simply a gospel of forgiveness that when we die we will go to heaven. This Gospel tells us that our bodies will be transformed to be like Jesus’ glorious body! Isn’t this exciting? This culture is perpetuating the myth that we are going to be here forever.
One day to have a body like Christ’s resurrection body – what a hope! How little concept sometimes we have of the inheritance that is kept indestructible. We are born to a living hope.
What a wonderful way to move into chapter four. We come down to earth with a bump. When we are dealing with all the practicalities of partnering in the Gospel, we need to be clear that our citizenship is in heaven. The driving desire to know Christ does not relieve us of the necessity of dealing the practical realities of this world.
As you engage in church life and missions, these things arise and you become more and more aware of them. One of the most difficult is when believers fall out with each other. We are not told what the issue was. It is more likely that it was an issue of tactics or personality. It is amazing the things Christians can fight over. These women were not lazy Christians. They were keen.
Let’s notice a few things. Paul speaks highly of both of these women. He doesn’t take sides. Some of us don’t know how to praise anybody. Learn how to praise people in the right so people are encouraged (not sentimental flattery). Look at how warmly Paul commends these folks. People who are disagreeing need help. Paul calls for other workers to help these women to be reconciled.
Paul appealed to them to be of one mind in the Lord. However important our work for the Lord is, we need to keep things in proportion. Our names are in the book of life and we are under the same Lord. If we are citizens of heaven then surely on earth we can get on with one another.
Rejoice in the Lord – keep that, don’t let the conflict take your eyes off Him.
Remember the Lord is at hand therefore be gentle – He is at your elbow. Another translation has it, “Let your reasonableness be known.” Are you reasonable? Work at it! Some people see themselves as God’s gift to the church by being critical and awkward.
Turn the anxiety into prayer – we get so used to worrying that even when we pray, it ends up being a worry session on our knees. When we give our worries to Him, then His peace will protect and garrison our lives.
Fill our minds with good things – King Solomon spoke in proverbs and wrote Psalms. He filled his mind with good things. Paul doesn’t just say fill your minds with Bible verses or spiritual songs. Paul is asking, “What do you fill your minds with?” If we allow our minds to get filled with the vile stuff shared on social media. It is not wonder we don’t experience the God of peace. Switch it off. Turn off your Facebook page. Come off Instagram. Stop twittering. You will not die if you do. Put away your phone and engage in conversation around the table. Invest in interesting things.
Finally, another area that can produce great pressure and anxiety is the area of finance. He gives us key things:
Be grateful for financial support – do not develop a sense of entitlement. Get a job. Grow up.
Learn how to be content with little or nothing
Encourage believers to support gospel workers and gospel work – the use of finance is one of the most underestimated tools. All over the place, there are gospel works that are struggling because of the lack of investment. Here is an opportunity to think about this. Paul was not these people’s pastor but time and again they sent money to support his work. Invest in eternity. Gospel partnership involves not just prayer, talking but also about investing in the kingdom of God.
Paul ends his letter talking about all the people of God. One of the great things about New Horizon is the people who come from such a diversity of churches and backgrounds.
Now may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with us all.