Tag Archives: Biblical Christians

Giving attention to … Christ’s Strength for Christ’s Things (Philippians 4:13)

Recall some of these Simple-Truths which we have considered, ones which turn out to be most profound: The Lord is my Shepherd. He has shown you, O man, what is good and what God requires of you. … Here, we look at Philippians 4:13. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength [that Him is God, or specifically Christ Jesus]. This seems like a very simple text, the kind of hopeful Bible verse we expect to find stitched onto a knitted pillow case! What could be confusing or complicated about such a comforting and assuring promise?

  1. Well, I do hope that you love this verse (for what it really means, in its fullness), but when the Lord God finds us in this wicked world, the attitude of each one of us is more like this: I can do all things … period! I am awesome, wonderful, sufficient, capable, and independent … so why would I need the help and strength of an invisible, distant Being?! Thus thinks the arrogant man of this world.
  2. But for His chosen people, the Spirit of God brings us to the place where we confess the opposite of what we were believing (or at least claiming) before, and so we are now agreeing with God (a linguistic description of repentance): I cannot do anything! This is an admission of total inability, at least in the spiritual realm of doing anything to merit God’s favor. I am incapable of saving myself from the pit in which I have fallen, from the troubles which I have chosen. But if the world mocks such an attitude of weakness, the Bible holds it out as the necessary testimony of the lost man who must be born from above, raised from the dead by a sovereign act of the living God.
  3. I am sorry to admit (this is my personal issue; perhaps it is yours too?) that many believers then move from confessing their total inability, through salvation in Jesus Christ, to this kind of false confidence: I am a Christian now … so now I CAN do all things [in my own power]. As if Jesus gave my battery a jump-start, so now I am good-to-go for another year. But this is the false-to-reality attitude of The Arrogant Christian (which is an oxymoron, for morons).
  4. Slightly better (we imagine within ourselves) is the attitude of the believer who has been around for awhile, so he knows some of his own weaknesses, but he still misses the big idea of this entire universe. So he claims: I can do all of MY things with the power of Christ (as if the highest use of the powerful authority and glorious attributes of God is to meet my selfish demands and to fulfill my self-centered desires).
  5. May God bring us, in His time (but soon, please!) … to grasp our continuing need to believe and to act upon every part of this simple verse: I can do / all things / through Christ / who gives me strength.
  6. Extending, and not contrary to this verse, and not inappropriate to the verse, but expositing this verse in light of other ones … aim for this spirit: I can do all of Christ’s things, through all of Christ’s strength which is at work in me (for it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me). The “all things” of Philippians 4:13 should be thought of as Christ’s things, all of Christ’s things.
  7. And the context of Philippians 4:13 guides us to this understanding. Many will assume that this is a verse about the believer’s ability to control his environment through a kind of self-talk or mind-control (which ends up in a version of matter-control), by which a faith-filled person can change his reality, making life or the world better for himself. And if Christ’s power helps us get to this better state more efficiently, then that is most useful! Well, Philippians 4 is actually about Paul’s resolve to be content, whatever the circumstances. Paul praises God because God has taught Paul (through many years and many trials) how to be satisfied in God, even when Paul was in a state of need, even when Paul was hungry, even when Paul lacked. I dare say (this is another rebuke to me; you?) that most Christians do not even want to have such a power (to be content with little). Have you ever prayed for such a gift?! And if we read beyond this favorite (but misunderstood) verse, we find ourselves in the midst of a thank-you note, from Paul to the church of Philippi. Paul expresses his gratitude and thanksgiving, that God used their generosity to meet Paul’s need. So this pillow verse is not (again) about the power of mind-over-matter, but it is about the power of the Holy Spirit over our typical self-centeredness, to convince us that others matter, and that my more-than-enough at this moment may be God’s very provision to supply the need of another … in order that all of God’s people are sufficiently supplied, so that God gets the glory.

The Kind of Revival We Need

 (Worship Meditation … April of 2014)

 … Now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within His holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery.  For we are slaves, yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us His steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Jerusalem. … The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. … You who seek the Lord, let your hearts revive. … You who made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again.  From the depths of the earth You will bring me up again. … Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? … Thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:  “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” … O Lord, I have heard the report of You, and Your work, O Lord, do I fear.  In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known.  In wrath remember mercy.  [Ezra 9:8-9; Psalms 19:7; 69:32; 71:20; 85:6; Isaiah 57:15; Habakkuk 3:2]

I mentioned before that this year, some of the most conservative evangelical pastors in Lawrence are giving attention to the topic of revival, agreeing on this basic and obvious point, that if we do not know what revival really is, then it is hard to know what we are asking for, it will be impossible to recognize if the Lord has said “yes” to our cries, and (shall we humbly admit together that, maybe) if we find out what revival really is, we may not want it (full strength)?!

That should have occurred to us, as Bible Christians, because in the Holy Scriptures, there are a number of encounters between the holy God and impure humans, and we know how those meetings turn out!  Far from being a happy and pleasant experience ~ an adding of a bit more joy and power to an otherwise good life … it is quite devastating in a way that is ultimately necessary, enlivening, saving, killing, healing, sanctifying, and strengthening.

The more famous saying is, “Be careful when you pray for patience” (because God will send trials).  So here, take care as you pray for revival, for it will truly disrupt your world and life as you know it.  That said, we must prove to be true disciples, who will declare to Jesus Himself as He asks if there are other options we would like to explore:  “No, for You alone have the words of eternal life!”  That gets to the real meaning of revival, with the root “viv” à life, from what was dead.

So please join me and us, in praying for this life, this revival, not blindly but sincerely, asking like David for that one thing, to know God’s presence, even if it burns away all that used to matter.  God is free to send, or to withhold, His special seasons of revival and renewal, but in the history of revivals recorded in the Bible or after, no revival came without genuine repentance on the part of God’s people, for their own failings first.  Then seek the Lord, according to His word.