Isaiah 60:1-62:5, Philippians 1:27-2:18, Psalms 72:1-20, Proverbs 24:11-12
Today is the 30th day of September. Welcome to the Daily Audio Bible and welcome to the end of the month. We’re here to close down another month and that this is the ninth month of the year. So, well done. Nine months together every day, which makes this the 273rd day of the year. So, we’ve taken a lot of steps together. We’ve covered a lot of ground together and we have one more quarter, right? So, one more stretch to go. I am kinda getting ahead of ourselves though. We’re still here. This is September 30th and we haven’t finished the month yet. So, let’s dive in. We’re reading from the Christian Standard Bible this week. Isaiah chapter 60 verse 1 through 62 verse 5 today.
Okay. So, like we talked about when we began Philippians this is a letter that Paul wrote while he was incarcerated. And this is a capital…this is a capital case, right? So, what’s hanging in the balance here is Paul’s life and eventually the outcome of the trial would be the end of his life. So, that should add a certain amount, you know, like a little bit of weightiness to the words that we read that Paul wrote while he was imprisoned. So, in our reading today his words encouraged humility, a humble posture toward each other as fellow citizens of heaven. And as he’s prone to do, he gave of us a picture of what our lives should be shaped. So, let’s just…let’s review that. I’m quoting here. “My dear friends, just as you’ve always obeyed, so now not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to His good purpose. So, do everything without grumbling and arguing so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.” And let’s just pause there for a second because that’s cool. “We shine like stars in the world?” So, I guess if you ever dreamed of being a star, this is how you actually do it. So, Paul says, “among whom you shine like stars in the world by holding firm to the word of life. Then I can boast of the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing, but even if I am poured out as a drink offering”, and Paul’s talking about his potential execution here, “so even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrificial service of your faith. I’m glad and I rejoice with you.” Okay. So, Paul, you know, there’s lots of lists and character traits to avoid and to stay away from and to embrace and to become in the writings of Paul. So, this isn’t particularly unique. And the idea that we should suffer long, right, be long-suffering and patient with our fellow human beings, this isn’t particularly new concept. We were taught…I was taught the golden rule from childhood and the idea that we should live a clean, upright kind of life and avoid darkness and the muck and mire of life. That’s not revolutionary thought either. But the thing is, Paul’s writing these kinds of lists as like…I don't…like life encouragement…like life tips or like biblical life hacks. Paul was convinced throughout his ministry that this is all going somewhere and that ultimately where we are headed is into our full and complete restoration that would remake us into the image of Jesus our Savior and offer us a place alongside Jesus as joint heirs with Jesus as additional sons and daughters of the most high God, along with Jesus. This is Paul’s view of where this is all going and what Christ actually means. This is the good news. And when you think about it in terms like we just said, it is staggering, right? It’s a big monumental shift in the world. So, much bigger than just a list of characteristics or behavioral traits that we should try to live into, right? Behavior modification wasn’t Paul’s objective. Behavior imitation was Paul’s point, right? You can’t be Christlike if you’re not like Christ. So, in telling us to live a life that’s worthy of our salvation Paul was telling us to imitate and live our lives like Jesus did. And that brings us to one of the best known passages, one that maybe offers the most concise view of Jesus or of Paul’s Christology than any other…any of his other letters. Paul says…and he’s saying this about Jesus, “who existing in the form of God did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead, He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a servant taking on the likeness of humanity and when He had come as a man, He humbled himself by being obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Okay. So, for Paul, a man who had lost his freedom and was awaiting trial before an Emperor would decide whether he would live or die, Paul’s convictions here would have mattered greatly to him and these words would have made Paul’s chains take on a totally different context to his readers. So, rather than like invalidating the gospel, invalidating Paul, and, you know, sending him into a dungeon where he would disappear from history, Paul was actually walking the path of Jesus, right? Paul was following the same course. These same things happened to Jesus and ended in his death. So, as Paul is considering becoming Christlike himself, we see that he is, in a most iteral way, walking in the footsteps of Jesus here. And, so, for Paul instead of being hopeless about the fact that he’d been thrown into prison and the Emperor could have him killed, Paul realized this is what imitating Christ looks like. But, why would why would he put himself in this position? Like, why would any of the early believers be willing to imitate a person when what you’re gonna to imitate is incarceration and execution? Like, who imitates somebody and tries to imitate them all the way to their death? Paul answers why he’s doing this. He said, “for this reason, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.” This is Paul’s view and he embraced it to the point that…that leaving the body, like leaving the human life behind would be preferable because it would be immediate and full restoration in the presence of the Savior, which is far, far, far better than being chained up in a dungeon and wondering whether you’re gonna have your head chopped off today or not and be nailed to a cross and hang there for hours in agony until you die. So, it’s important that we understand that this is Paul's…this is Paul’s cosmic view of what God is doing in the world. And Paul was thoroughly convinced that Jesus is Lord of it all. And, so, knowing Paul’s view of Jesus Lordship helps us understand how we must imitate Christ in our earthly lives. We’re to imitate Christ because we’re being made into his image, which means we’re becoming as he is, which is the center of the gospel and mind boggling to say the least. But this is what we hope and as believers in Jesus
Father, we’ve covered some territory here and, You know, try to dissect it, in part theologically, and it can get tedious but the fundamental truth here is that we are being transformed. As we believe and as we walk with You, we are being renewed or remade. And any time that we turn toward the darkness and walk in that direction we are literally interrupting that process, which is walking away from You but it’s also walking away from who we were created to be. And, so, help us to see it in those terms today and every day. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
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