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Written by James Edward Sharp for http://jamesedwardsharp.com
4 Bible Secrets For a Loving Culture
We will focus on the middle portion of this prayer today. Each of these 4 Bible Secrets includes 4 pointed questions for us to practice self-evaluation. These are very personally convicting for me.
Paul’s prayer is that the Philippians will abound still not and more in love. These are 4 signs that indicate whether that prayer is being prayed and/or answered.
Philippians 1:9-11 (NASB)
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
The Culture Conversation
The obsession in the Church with culture is a great thing. It forces us to evaluate whether Jesus’s words are being lived out by His people. Before I point to an underemphasized principle in this trend, let me over simplify it for those who haven’t been reading or hearing all of this culture stuff:
Here’s the gist of the best parts of those conversations:
1. Jesus says that the world will know is by our live for one another.
2. Are we famous for that or for anything else?
I believe we keep missing the part of prayer in our development as loving people. This is where this Phillipians 1 prayer intersects with this topic. How does prayer impact culture?
Intersection of Prayer and Culture
Paul isn’t just teaching the Philippians here to abound still more and more in love because he knows it’s more than a knowledge they are missing. In fact, we are entirely incapable of this in our own strength.
Paul is asking God to do this work through them. Here’s also teaching then glue they should pray and therefore encouraging them to agree with him in these very prayers. This is another example of how discipleship is very much on the job training.
The way of life of a group of people that will be marked by love must be insulated with prayer. We have to be reliant on God and the power of the Holy Spirit to do the impossible as he often promises He can, will, and wants to do on our behalf for God’s glory.
This brings us back to discernment which Paul just mentioned. Hebrews tells us that we can grow in discernment through practice like a muscle. I would like to point out that Paul is praying these things.
The idea isn’t that we can make ourselves into Christ followers but that we answer the call to follow him. In that equation stands obedience and Holy Spirit transformation. These two are not mutually reclusive nor does one negate the other.
How do we approve things that are excellent?
Could we substitute the word affirming here?
How can we tell what things are excellent if we do not know the most excellent one?
How can we recognize His design if we don’t generally know His will?
A heartfelt life is a full life. Anyone who is going through motions or just superficially skimming the surface will burn out and die inside.
Are you often accused of false humility?
Do you feel yourself going through the motions mechanically?
Do your relationships never breach a superficial skim?
Can you also well? Is your conscience clear?
While sincerity focuses on the internal life, blamelessness shows the external life produced by these heart conditions. Blamelessness means a lack or absolute absence of repentance.
Are you continually defending yourself?
Do you give reasons instead of apologies?
Is your reputation pretty clear? If not, are you staying a new track record?
Does God get the glory when you are guilt free? Or are you content to revel in His blessings as if you’ve earned it through hard work?
Being filled with the fruit of righteousness means that we are continually tasting and seeing that the Lord is good. It also means that we become a strong tree amongst an orchard.
Plants that bear much fruit lose some of that fruit to the ground around them. In this, the seeds are planted. Bearing much fruit means we are doing more than looking, feeling, reading, and thinking well; it means we are making Disciple makers all along the way.
Does your righteousness come with a side of conceit?
Is your righteousness evident to others?
Are you filled to overflowing?
Does your righteousness flavor your neighborhood? Do the people around you enjoy the sweetness and joy?