Some days there is so much in the text it is hard to know what to emphasise. In a sermon, one thing is best, but online, people like lists! Blog posts that do well have “7 steps to…”, “5 keys for…” as their title. I’ve picked out 5 ways we can grow in the Lord.
Rejoice in the Lord always
Anchor your joy in Jesus. Heineken used to advertise that it ‘refreshes the parts other beers can’t reach’. Well Jesus gives us joy like nothing else. Last week someone was telling me that their old church used to teach about submarine joy – it’s deep down. Yes it is, joy is deeper than a superficial happiness. Jesus brings joy in our innermost parts when everything around us screams despair. But joy affects the bottom line of our face too. Psalm 45:7 prophesies the Messiah, Jesus, as anointed with joy more than his companions. “Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions”.
Paul was marked out by thankfulness; anchoring your joy in Jesus – rejoicing in the Lord always – is just as key! When all around David was going south and even his companions wanted to kill him, he strengthened himself in the Lord (1 Samuel 30:6). Part of that would have been joy – as Nehemiah recognised, the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Lloyd Jones used to say, ‘stop listening to yourself and start preaching to yourself’. Be joyful!
Stick with grace not the law
Paul urges the Philippians to watch out for those dogs, which is ironic! Jews considered Gentiles to be dogs (the Canaanite woman referred to that in Matthew 15, when she said even dogs are entitled to the crumbs). He considers the Judaisers, the ones trying to get Christians to go back to the law, in addition to faith in Jesus, to be righteous, as “mutilators of the flesh”. That’s a wordplay in the Greek. The Judaisers wanted believers to be circumcised – peritome. Mutilate is katatome. The wordplay is emphasised when he asserts that believers, grace filled believers, are the circumcision.
The old covenant believers had external boundary markers that identified them as the people of God – circumcision, food laws and Sabbath keeping. New covenant believers are marked out by being filled with the Spirit – it’s internal and, of course, works out in joy and holiness.
Paul can be confident in his old covenant pedigree, but he considers it all loss, actually dung (rubbish in the ESV), compared to knowing Jesus. As he puts more forcefully in Galatians, don’t put yourself under the law – the whole lot applies and that would be a curse. Stick with grace!
God is at work in us as we work out our faith (Philippians 2:12-13) – Paul urges us to keep pressing on. Don’t give up, as He will never give up on you. Forget the past – it is gone. Strain forward in the power of the Spirit.
Learn from more mature believers – mature in character and gifting. Let them be an example and model to you. Don’t be like the greedy ones leading people astray.
If you want to grow in sharing your faith, hang around people who are mature in it. If you want to pray better, hang around with intercessors. If you want to prophesy more, stick like glue to prophetic people. I learnt so much about sharing my faith in my twenties, spending time with different types of evangelists – a power evangelist called Jonathan, a street preacher called Mark and a friendship evangelist called Tony. Oh, and Hugh and Sharon who sent me off to read the gospels, till I understood the message of the cross, before sketchboarding in Leicester Square in the late 1980s!
Our citizenship is in heaven
We don’t belong here ultimately – we are already seated in the heavenly places in the Spirit. So don’t get too sucked into the world and what it promises. We are destined for much better.