On Wednesday nights, like a lot of “traditional” Southern Baptist Churches, we have a prayer meeting followed by a time of Bible study—basically like what we do on Sunday nights but without the music. We have spent the past 13 months quickly working through the entire Bible, doing a broad overview of all 66 books, one each week or sometimes one for a two week span. This past Wednesday we studied Philippians.
The cool thing about short books is that in this study we actually get into more detail than we do with the longer ones like, say, Jeremiah. But I digress…
Philippians is a book that fascinates me on several levels. In my seven years of pastoring, I’ve not yet had to opportunity (or, “felt led”) to preach through it, though I have bookended it by preaching Ephesians and Colossians. One of these years I hope to get to it (maybe after I preach Hebrews, Ecclesiastes, and Luke).
Personally, Philippians is one of the most convicting books in the Bible. Especially for a very introspective guy like me, I read certain lines, think of my life, and am left with a stunned, “Oh…wow…uh…” I mean…
For me, to live is Christ to die is gain.
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each one of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Do all things without grumbling or questioning.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.
Do not be anxious about anything.
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
How do I fall short? Let me count the ways!
And in 4:8 we find, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Think about these things.
Let that echo in your mind for a while.
I may have mentioned it before, but in seminary I worked in the library for three years and saw thousands of books pass through my hands. In the masses didn’t have time to see too much detail, but occasionally one would show up with a fascinating title or subtitle, or I’d have an opportunity to peek at a back cover and check one out for a read. One was a book on so-called Baptist distinctives. Of course, it mentioned the usual suspects: believer’s baptism, regenerate church membership, priesthood of the believer, and such, but it argued that not one of these was the true, central, Baptist distinctive. That honor belongs to division. We must always have something to fight about and to divide over.
Looking at most of the past and present activities of our denomination and churches I’ve been involved in, I must say it sounded like a pretty good thesis. But it’s not limited to Baptists. I can ask my Methodist, Christian Church, Assembly of God, and Presbyterian friends and get the same stories.
And then, it’s not even just a Christian phenomenon. Politics anyone? Social class? School cliques? Race?
Division isn’t a Baptist distinctive…it’s a fallen human distinctive. Our minds are so clouded with pride and other sins we think about a hundred things before we get to anything pure, lovely, honorable, and excellent.
Of course the Bible as a whole is contra our human nature past Genesis 3.
So for the Christian, if we are going to live in this world but not of this world, if we are going to let our manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, we must intentionally battle ourselves to set our minds on greater and better things.
Like any habit, it might be hard at first, but it will grow better with time, especially as a Spirit-empowered habit. But think of the difference it would make if we became known for thoughts and attitudes described as true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy…
How would it change our churches? How would it change our families? How would it change our schools? Our jobs? Our neighbors? Our witness?
It’s past due time we stop thinking like the world!