Tag Archives: Philippians 3

Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (Philippians 3:14 – “One Standard”)

“One Standard”

Philippians 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

This morning, our culture becomes disjointed based on moral relativity. Everything becomes subjective, and definite lines are seen as abhorrent. When a dedicated disciple of the cross attempts to live according to absolutes as taught in God’s word (whether theological or moral), he will be met with disdain and mocking. Such should not be a surprise, as the Lord Himself was mocked and criticized for the same thing. He even tells us to rejoice when we experience the same as it shows a kinship to our King. (Matthew 5:11-12, 10:25) However, no matter how skewed perspectives and attitudes can become, the beautiful quality about truth is that it shines exclusively to belief or adherence. Whether some, all, or none believe or follow the truth, it is still the truth. Therefore, absolute fixtures in the word of God will endure, because He who gave them endures.

Many times, good minded people get wrong ideas about things, and if we are honest with ourselves, we have things we have to clean out of our minds and hearts, sometimes repeatedly. We are all prone to getting into comfortable ruts, even when those ruts do not align with the truth. One of the biggest perils to a disciple of the Lamb is to think, “That applies to them, but not to me.” That is how the 1st century Pharisee thought, and that leaven is still running rampant today. While we all have different life circumstances, we are all held to the same moral imperatives. Even the wicked are held to these as God will one day judge them for not adhering to His moral code. (Revelation 20:12) Some might posit that a focus group is not as morally accountable as another group. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of this is the realm of ministers vs. non-ministers or men vs. women. Whether male or female, minister or not, we have the same duty and obligation to the Lord, morally speaking. Yes, our roles and duties may vary, but our moral obligation is the same.

Our study verse is found in the midst of perhaps one of the most personal profiles ever sketched for us. Paul “lays it on the line” for us in this passage. He talks about himself in great detail. This is not to show us how much he thought of himself, but rather it shows us just how much this lesson touches him. Lest any think Paul was alone in this. He makes it personal to us as well by telling us to be “thus minded” (Verse 15) and to “walk by the same rule” and “mind the same things.” (Verse 16) As personal as this lesson touched Paul, it should affect all of us equally too. Paul’s point from our study verse is not that he had a standard, whereas ours is different. We all have the same standard. It is “the mar k” of Jesus Christ. Not many marks. Not many subjective standards. One standard. One mark. The mark.

This striving that Paul was working for is one that he honestly knew he had not met. (Verse 13) Though he desired greatly to get there, he knew that he was not there. So what happens when we take this message personally? When we internalize what Paul has said, we then cease the incessant comparisons that we make of ourselves to others. One of the observations that I have made and repeatedly stated over the years is that by looking hard enough you will find two things: 1. Someone doing better than you and 2. Someone doing worse than you. When you make these “finds,” it will not lead to treasure, rather ruin. Finding the people doing better breeds jealousy, bitterness, and contempt. Finding people doing worse breeds pride, laziness, and contempt. None of these finds are conducive to the life that honors the King.

Also, internalizing this lesson urges us to take the two fold approach to how Paul got here. In the previous verse, his one desire (to hit the mark) entailed two things: 1. Forgetting the past and 2. Reaching forward. This two fold act helps us hold on to what we should and let go of what we do not need. Notice how the passage describes Paul’s past. Many times, we need to forget about past failures, of which Paul had many. No doubt he had to let go of the guilt of the past as the murderous Saul of Tarsus. To be a successful laborer in God’s kingdom, he could not be consumed with and obsess about past ruin. While that applies and is certainly true, the passage actually urges us to consider that Paul had to let go of past successes. He was the pride and joy of the Jewish religion. Nobody was better. Nobody. Paul said it specifically about himself. No matter how much you could glory according to the flesh, he had more. Touching the law: a Pharisee. Touching the righteousness in the law: blameless! You need to know what Moses said about something? How about Jeremiah, Isaiah, any other Old Testament lesson? He had the answer. How should this situation be handled according to the law? Over here! Saul has the answer. Want an example of perfect execution and application of these things, look over there at Saul!

What was all that now worth? Nothing! Paul considered all of that to be dung next to the knowledge of Christ, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings. (Verse 10) Paul had to get over past success. It could not help him now or going forward to dwell on how good he had ever been. Though I am still a young preacher (some might argue middle-aged by now), I have learned a valuable lesson, rather painfully. When you preach poorly, you have to forget it. When you preach well, you have to forget it. Yes, you learn from mistakes and can rejoice in the blessings of the Lord when they are had, but dwelling on past failures and previous successes will only damper what service can be done today and hinder your next preaching effort. To the disciple in the trenches, remembering past failures can lead to despondency, whereas remembering past successes can lead to pride headed for the pit of destruction.

The second part of this act is reaching forward, which is something that helps us today as well. No, we cannot live in the future any more than we can successfully dwell in the past, but as we learn lessons from yesterday, so can we have hope for tomorrow. No matter what we face and go through, there are things before us that never go away. Jesus is present in all the tomorrows just as He is with us right now. No matter what happens in the future, He will be there, and the resurrection is sure and absolute because the Absolute has already been resurrected as the firstfruits for us. Therefore, to hit the mark that Paul strives for, we need to keep a firm view of Jesus Christ before us, while not looking back and making crooked furrows in our field. Our gaze should be set like a flint upon Him, not giving heed to the doctrines of devils, vain jangling, and profane and vain babblings of this world. All these various and sundry distractions do is get us to either look back with regret or look forward in fear. You ever heard the expression “going around in circles”? When the distractions point us towards both things, we will do nothing but go around in circles never accomplishing anything the Lord has set before us.

By the time Paul gets to “the mark,” he has laid himself “wide open” for us. This lesson should lay us “wide open” to examine how we are getting along. Where is the mark? Where am I? Again, we all have the same standard. It is the same mark? Is it good or bad that I am closer than you are or that you are closer than I am? It is immaterial. Your walk and life is not dictated by me being better or worse than you. Our lives should be dictated in that He is supreme, and I have much work to do. Like Paul, I freely confess, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended…” I am not there yet, and though I have already fallen so short so many times, my desire now is to get closer and closer and closer. If we start holding one another to varying standards for morality and life, we become guilty of being respecters of persons, which ought not so to be. (James 2) My goal is Jesus. Your goal is Jesus. Let us walk together minding the same things, and trying to be steadfast in our love for Him and one another. Let us run with patience, knowing that we have something awaiting us that is enduring and eternal and not become distracted by the vain and perishable things of this old world.

In Hope,
Bro Philip

Morning Thoughts (Philippians 3:21)

Philippians 3:21, "Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."

This morning, many things garner our attention from time to time.  Work calls.  The family needs attention.  However, in all the affairs and business of life, one thought should stay with us prominently on a daily basis.  That thought revolves around the resurrection and the life and world to come.  Without keeping these thoughts prominently in view, life would become a tangled mess of toil and overmuch sorrow.  Paul summed it up succinctly in I Corinthians 15:19 as "of all men most miserable" should we have no hope or joy about something beyond this life and its vale of sorrow.  Much of that world to come and the experience of the resurrection goes beyond our ability to comprehend.  As finite creatures within fallen faculties of nature, we fail to grasp the sweeping grandeur of immediate change, ascension, and glory in a moment with all the people of God together.  Thinking of the elements melting and burning away in a snap goes beyond our mind's conception to fully understand.  Finally, being in endless satisfaction boggles the mind, though it does resonate beautifully within the new man.

Some verses of Scripture get misquoted often, and most of the time, the misquotation – though wrong – does not altogether injure the thought or intention of the verse.  However, some misquotations actually damage the true heart and soul of the verse's intent.  More often than not, the misquotation is a simple oversight, but it still damages the thought nonetheless.  Our study verse is often misquoted, and I have been guilty of misquoting it myself perhaps many more times than I realize.  In this case, though, I believe that most of the misquotation comes from a general English principle to keep subject and object agreement the same.  For example, if you have a singular subject of the sentence, you would have a singular object, and the same principle would apply to plural subjects and plural objects.

How often has this verse been misquoted, "who shall change our vile bodies?"  It is a simple thing to do.  Since the subject is "our" in the plural sense, we automatically want to make the object plural as well: "bodies."  However, Paul's point is rather sublime when seen in its actual form.  Christ shall change our vile "body" and fashion it like unto His glorious body.  At this point in time, one might wonder, "What's the point of all this talk about whether the text says body or bodies?  Isn't the point that all of us will be raised at the end of time?"  Indeed, the thought that we shall all be raised is the main thought of the resurrection, but Paul peels back the view of the resurrection to give us extra comfort and consolation about the scene.

How many children of God are there?  The Bible declares the number to be an innumerable host of people comparable to the stars of heaven or the sand of the seashore.  What will that look like!  What glory must be abundantly manifest in that scene!  Still, how will that affect us individually?  I recall a story from my youth that stuck with me.  At an associational meeting, one of the ministers that spoke made this glorious point about the personal nature of our Saviour, "Though there are countless millions of God's children that Christ came to die for and save, He would have done the same thing had you been the only one."  His point ss that Christ loves each one of us personally, not just as some group.  Paul declared the same point to the Galatian brethren in 2:20 when he repeats the word "me" to talk of Christ's love and sacrifice. 

Translate that thought to the resurrection, and we have Paul's sublime point.  When He comes to get your body, He is coming personally for you.  Even if you were the only one that He was coming for, the experience would be identical to the one that you will experience.  His raising of your body will be personal.  He will not simply pass by waving His hand to open the graves.  His face and appearance will be at each one, as each of us will be raised by His voice speaking to us personally.  No one will have a richer or poorer experience than the other.  He is raising all of our vile "body" on an individual basis and through personal love and compassion.  Friends, I really do not know how to imagine the sight, but my experience of the majesty of the Lord and feeling His personal fondness towards me will match identically with your experience on that day.  We will each feel like He came for us singularly and specially.  Each of our bodies will be given the same care and devotion to come forth matching His.  Yes, we will have identity just as stars do differ from each other, but each of our "body" will be given personal attention in the fashioning like the Lord's glorious and majestic body.

This personal nature of the resurrection is what gives that extra special thought of comfort during the weary journey of life.  We have a Saviour that loves each one of us individually, and He will raise each and every one of us individually and personally in a moment and flashing instant.  That immediate and personal transformation will then lend itself to personal fellowship and attention with the Master.  Consider another of Paul's glorious thoughts in Colossians 3:4.  When He appears in that instant, we shall all appear "with Him."  That phrase "with Him" can literally be rendered "alongside."  How is it that each one of us (the untold thousands of millions of the family of God) will equally share in the fellowship alongside Christ?  How will there be room for all?  Again, our finite minds cannot fathom the experience, but rest assured friends, you will not have to "wait in line" for your turn with Jesus.  Just as He raised you personally and specially, so also will you have that personal place alongside Him without being behind anyone else.

Sometimes the mind's reflections and meditations of this event simply melt away due to utter lack to comprehend and see it fully.  However, the resurrection and its associated glory is truly the best thing to turn the mountains of life into molehills.  What can compare to it?  What can prevent it?  As the songwriter eloquently said about that scene, "Imagination's utmost stretch in wonder dies away."  No matter how glorious and majestic you can imagine it to be, the reality will make the imaginary version from your mind just fade away into insignificance.  While in this flesh, I am not fully able to see this as I want or ought, but I like to think of the moment when I hear Him call to my faded ruins of dust and say, "Philip, come forth."  Then, as my changed eyes open for the first time in immortality, I see His glorious face and glorified body, while I joyfully take position next to Him to ride the power of His love and might into that city that never sleeps and pain is felt no more.

In Hope,

Bro Philip