The Way Towards Unity

Philippians 2:1-11

IMG-0275

In Philippians 2 we find our memory verse for this week, in which Paul exhorts the church at Philippi towards unity: “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind (Philippians 2:1-2, NRSV). In the verses that follow, Paul gives the Philippians some instruction on how they can work towards achieving that unity.

 

Paul’s advice for the Philippians is to pursue humility in order to achieve unity. Humility is to hold one’s self or self-interest in a low or modest regard. In practicing humility, those in Philippi would be placing the interests of others and the agenda of God above their own desires and concerns. This lowering of one’s self would allow room for the Gospel to take over each member’s life and for the church to come together for the purpose furthering the Gospel in their community. In this, they would be unified.

 

But Paul doesn’t stop at giving them some ideal to chase after; he offers a model to copy—a perfect one. Jesus had more reason than anyone to pursue self-interests: he was like God. When tempted to have all the kingdoms of the world put under his rule without having to suffer first, he refused (Matt. 4:8-10). Jesus always subjected himself to God. God’s agenda was the only one he cared about—even if it meant torture and death. Paul called the Philippians to have this same mentality, and we should too.

 

Each one of us has objects we hold as valuable (physical and otherwise), some of them justifiably and others not. We have families and jobs, both of which are important and should not be neglected. We also have ideas, opinions, and agendas that we might say (or at least our actions would suggest) are just as important. What we must remember, and what our actions must mirror, is that all of the things we find value in must pale (greatly) in comparison to the worth we place on the Gospel—God’s agenda.

 

Can you image what the Church would look like if we were all unified around and living out this common idea? What a sight that would be…will be.

– Joel Fletcher

Advertisements

The Purpose of Unity

 Philippians 1

IMG-0274

One of the main reasons Paul decided to write a letter to the church at Philippi was to encourage unity among them. If they achieved this unity, it would make his joy complete (Phil. 2:2). But for what purpose did Paul want them to be unified? What is the common idea around which their unity was to be based? The answer to this question is found in chapter 1.

 

Paul had a singular focus in life: to preach the Gospel (good news) to the world. In particular, he wanted to spread it beyond the Jewish people to the Gentiles. In Philippians 1 Paul mentions the persecution he had faced in his life. While he doesn’t go into detail, we know from other sections of the New Testament that Paul suffered greatly. He was thrown into prison multiple times, he was shipwrecked, and, among other things, he was beaten. Despite this suffering, Paul says in verse 12 “…that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel.” Paul also heard of people who were preaching the gospel out of “envy and rivalry.” Despite these selfish motives, the important thing to Paul was that Christ (the central figure of the Gospel) was being preached. Paul was able to rejoice because his focus was on Christ and the Gospel—even when the situation wasn’t always…pleasant.

 

And this brings us to Paul’s purpose in imploring the Philippians towards unity.

 

Verses 27 and 28 say:

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.”

 

Paul wanted the church to be unified in their desire to further the Gospel. This meant conducting themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel—no matter what happened. If everyone in the Church would start doing this one thing, then they would be striving together as one for the faith of the gospel; they would be unified. No outside force could intimidate them and throw them off course, and no disputes from within could form to distract from their common purpose. This would make Paul’s joy complete.

 

If we want to bring unity to our churches today, we must make sure that we are unified around the same idea: spreading and living out the Gospel. If it is not for that purpose then it’s pointless. And if we want to bring unity to our churches, each of us as individuals must start living in a manner worthy of the Gospel. If we are committed to the same purpose and to living in the same manner, unity is assured to ensue.

 

– Joel Fletcher

Making Paul’s Joy Complete

IMG_0272

Hello everyone! My name is Joel and I will be bringing you this week’s FUEL Bible Readings. Each day we will be taking a look in the letters of Paul (Philippians in particular) at the theme of unity.

 

We’re living in a time filled with divisiveness and disunity. Every day our Facebook feeds, television screens, and other sources for news are filled with stories of conflict. This conflict manifests itself in many ways: arguments, protests, hostility, and even war. Sadly, conflict is not just a problem in secular society; the Church is not immune to it. But this is nothing new; from the very beginning of the Church and continuing for almost two thousand years, there has been discord and conflict among those who claim to follow Jesus of Nazareth.

 

But this, my brothers and sisters, is not how it should be.

 

The Church is to be united: having the “…same mind, having the same love, being in full accord” (Phil. 2:2, NRSV).  This is what Paul wanted for the church in Philippi—it would make his “joy complete”. And I am sure that, if he were writing today to any of the many churches dealing with disunity, he would encourage them to do the same.

 

So this week, as you are reading these devotions and the words of Paul, I would encourage you to look at yourself to see if there is anything you are doing that is promoting disunity within your church and look for ways in which you can make Paul’s joy complete.

 

– Joel Fletcher

 

Memory Verse:

“1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (Philippians 2:1-2, NRSV)

See Where God is at Work

Romans 1-16

The theme for our devotions this week was the gospel. The Bible is full of accounts and teaching but the most important teaching is the gospel. Self-examine and be honest with yourself, ask ‘Do I know the gospel? Can I show someone in the Bible where it is? Do I understand the gravity and significance of this message?’ Often times many Christians are weak on the gospel. Either they don’t know it or they don’t live by it or they fail to share about it with others. Which leads us to today’s lesson: share the gospel with other people.

If you have ever shared the gospel, you know it is scary. In the two years God has worked with me about sharing the good news to people, and let me tell you whether I’m sharing with an immediate family member or a total stranger, it’s scary every single time. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get comfortable with it. Just like with anything, the first time you share is rough and you might stumble over your words or be extremely nervous. But the more times you do it, the better you become at it. When you share the good news with someone, you are speaking the eternal into the temporal. You speak life into death. You shed light into the pitch black void. God is with you and the spirit is at work in you when you share the gospel. I want to share some lessons I’ve learned in my experience with sharing the gospel.

  1. Have spiritual eyes and ears to discern a situation.

Let God direct you with whom to speak the gospel to. Some people are at a place in life where they’re not ready to hear the message. Be sensitive to the spirit and if you feel a prod to talk to someone or steer a conversation to faith, do it – God is with you. You don’t have to share the gospel with every person you come across.

  1. You don’t save anyone, God does.

The greatest miracle is the miracle of conversion. God is the only one able to bring that about. Don’t gauge your success by how many people you get to convert, that’s not what God wants from you. You can’t even save yourself, how can you save someone else? Instead gauge your success by if you’re sharing the gospel or not. If you are faithful and share, then you’re a successful evangelizer. I’ve shared the message with many people and none of them, to my knowledge have converted, still, in God’s eyes I am successful.

  1. It’s not an option, it’s a command.

It may be easier to not evangelize however it directly disobeys Jesus’ command at the end of Matthew 28:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” – Matt. 28.19

It’s easy to go to church, attend Bible studies, listen to Christian music, or post verses on your social media and so on. But the mark of a mature Christian is one who takes the message of salvation they received and shares it with others. Let us have confidence to obey Jesus in this all too important area of life. You can do it. You can do it. You can do it.

Be the one who obeys Jesus and spreads the gospel. Be the spiritual warrior who wages war against the powers of darkness. Be the one who breaks the silence and darkness with the power and glory of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” – Rom. 1.16

“But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.” – Acts 8.12

-Jacob Rohrer-

Obey Obey Obey

Friday

James 1-22

You’ve heard the message about the kingdom of God and you’ve been taught the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection. You decide you want to repent of your current lifestyle and be baptized into Jesus and become a part of the family of God. There’s one question that remains. What are you supposed to do in the meantime? What should you do until his return or your death. The answer is one word: obey. A person can believe all the other aspects of the gospel but if they don’t live lives of obedience to Jesus, then the rest doesn’t matter.

“…be doers of the word and not hearers only…” – James 1.22

James 1.22 is a popular verse and many people assume that ‘the word’ being spoken here is about the Bible. Thus it reads:

“…be doers of [what the bible teaches] and not hearers only…”

However, when James is writing this, the Bible we have today did not exist. The New Testament canon didn’t become finalized until hundreds of years later, so it begs the question. If James isn’t talking about the Bible, what is he talking about? In the New Testament the gospel has a plethora of synonyms, many that we don’t pick up on when we read. Some of the synonyms are:

The gospel of God – Mark 1.14

The gospel of Christ – Rom. 15.19

The good news – Acts 8.12

The word of reconciliation – II Cor. 5.19

The word of the Lord – Acts 16.32

The gospel of the grace of God – Acts 20.24

The Message of truth – Eph. 1.13

The gospel of peace – Eph. 6.15

The word of life – Phil. 2.16

The word of truth – Col. 1.5

The promise of life – II Tim. 1.1

The faithful word – Titus 1.9

The word of God – Heb. 4.12

The word – James 1.22

Instead of James saying that we need to be doers of the Bible, what he’s really saying is that we need to be doers of the gospel, not just a hearer. However, what does it mean to be a doer of the gospel? I thought the gospel was just something I experience once at my conversion and that is it? Well remember, the gospel is not just about Jesus’ death and resurrection but it is also about the kingdom of God. And the kingdom has two aspects, the future hope and the present reality. God’s reign and rule bursts into the present when we obey Jesus. When we obey Jesus, we obey him and the gospel he preached. When we obey Jesus, we become “doers of the word”.

Jesus wants all of you. Not part of you, not some of you, and not only on Sundays and Wednesdays. Not only when it’s convenient for you and not when you feel like it. Jesus wants all of your heart and mind and soul and body and he will not accept anything less. He demands that every aspect of your life be in subjection to him and his father.

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel’s will save it” – Mark 8.35

Obedience can be tough and difficult and not the easiest choice to make. But obedience is rewarding. When you obey Jesus and God you spread the kingdom influence and power to those all around you whether you know it or not. God blesses your loyalty and trust in him, when you obey. And lastly, when you truly repent and embrace the new life God has given to you through Jesus, your heart changes and you desire to obey. It doesn’t become a hassle or a chore. It’s a choice you want to make.

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience from the things which he suffered. And having been made perfect, he became to all those who obey him the source of eternal salvation– Heb. 5.9

-Jacob Rohrer

 

 

The Resurrection

Thursday

I Corinthians 15-26

Everything hangs in the balance with the resurrection. Whether the claims of the resurrection are true or false, the outcome has unparalleled consequences. If true, then everything Jesus said about himself, about God, and about the human condition is true. If false, billions of people have been deceived into believing a lie and Jesus turns into another great moral teacher of history and nothing more. There has been work done to provide a defense for the historicity of the resurrection. If you are curious into learning more about this go to youtube and look up William Lane Craig or Gary Habermas, concerning the resurrection. The evidence they provide for the resurrection may surprise you. It is not something we just have to take on “faith”, but there is reasonable evidence to believe Jesus really did rise from the dead. For the purposes of our devotion, I’ll assume that we hold Jesus really did rise from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus is the next aspect of the gospel that we’ll look at.

In the gospels’ accounts the only gospel message that is being preached is the kingdom of God, which we have seen from earlier this week. However, after Jesus is raised his disciples for the first time proclaim Jesus’ death and resurrection as gospel alongside the kingdom message they heard and preached with Jesus. We see this most clearly in the book of Acts:

“…this man delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put him to death. But God raised him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for him to be held in its power” Acts 2.23-24

“But you disowned the holy and righteous one…[and] put to death the prince of life, whom God raised from the dead to which we are witness” – Acts 3.14-15

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because he has fixed a day in which he will judge the world through a man whom he has appointed having furnished proof to all men by raising him from the dead” – Acts 17.30-31

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures” – I Cor. 15.3

The resurrection is essential for many reasons, however today we’ll review two: one, the resurrection provides evidence that Jesus was who he really said he was. And two, because Jesus was brought back to life, those who are in Christ will rise again too. Acts 17.30-31 is a great verse because in it Paul says that God has given evidence to the world that Jesus is his son because he was raised back to life! This means everything Jesus said would be true then. Jesus said he is the way, the truth, and the life, he tells us to repent and believe in the gospel, and he says he will execute judgement.  And all this is true because God raised him back to life. Why should Jesus have authority over anyone’s life? Because God raised him from the dead and made him “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2.36).

Because Jesus is alive those who are in Christ will be raised back to life:

“…he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus…” – II Cor. 4.14

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” – I Thess. 4.16

Just as Jesus’ death is essential for us to be in the presence of God, so to is the resurrection. Without the resurrection, we would die forgiven, but there would be no future hope of any kind (I Cor. 15.15-19). At the resurrection those who are in Christ will be changed and given the gift of immortality (the ability not to die), this allows us to be in the presence of God and Jesus in the kingdom:

“Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the last trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” – I Cor. 15.50-53

The resurrection of Jesus is the most significant event in history and it resides in the greatest message the world has to hear, the gospel.

-Jacob Rohrer

 

The Death of a King

Wednesday

Romans 5-8

There are a handful of ways to think about the meaning of the death of Jesus. From a Jewish point of view Jesus was killed because he was a false prophet. From a Roman point of view, he gathered a large following that was counter-cultural to Roman authority, so they executed him. Or if you’re a muslim, Jesus wasn’t killed at all on the cross. Almost all people recognize that Jesus actually did die, but the question is why? The New Testament has several different ways of understanding why Jesus died. These include, Jesus died to destroy the works of the devil, to satisfy God’s need for justice, to justify us apart from Torah or the law, and to give us eternal life. However, the most ubiquitous reason the New Testament gives as to why Jesus died, is that he died for our sins.

“Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins so that he might rescue us from this present evil age…” Gal.1.3-4

“…he bore our sins in his body on the cross…” I Pet. 2.24

“God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” – Rom. 5.8

“…when he had taken the cup and given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin’” – Matt. 26.27-28

The reason Jesus’ death is so significant is because it solves the problem of sin. Sin is a barrier between us and God, it is impossible for us to be in the presence of God because he is holy and perfect and we are not. Jesus’ death satisfies God’s need for justice. The cost of sin has been paid for by Jesus. So through Jesus we can have a renewed relationship with God through Jesus. Apart from Jesus, God sees us as worthy of wrath and death, he sees all our mistakes and rebellion. But in Jesus, he sees us being right before him and clean and pure. Because of Jesus we are able to be in the presence of God. Jesus’ death is the means by which we can enter the kingdom. Hope, forgiveness, contentedness, and so much more can be found when someone accepts the gift of Jesus’ death for them.

For someone to be restored to God and to be a part of the kingdom when it comes, they must accept Jesus’ death. Through Jesus’ death all can live.

-Jacob Rohrer-