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Saturday, April 14, 2007

philippians - holy friendship

On beginning a church study of Philippians...

As we study Philippians and as we continue in our life together as holy family and holy friends, I hope that we will grow in the understanding that we are not just here to worship together, eat together, or even to support one another in tough times, though all of those are vitally important to each of us. We are also bound together here as holy friends because of Jesus Christ. And as we learn to love one another with the affection of Christ – the very heart of Jesus Christ – we will learn more and more how to encourage one another to grow spiritually.

That means we will need to learn how to dip beneath the surface questions. We will need to ask the harder questions like, “What is God doing in your life? How are things with you and God? Can I pray with you? What can I pray for you about?” It may be that we need to add our discernment when our friends’ seems clouded. We need to find ways to cheer one another along and keep one another from stumbling. (You’ll notice in Philippians that in addition to the plant-growing imagery, Paul will later use the race analogy to describe spiritual growth.)

Warning: It can be easy to take the goal of spiritual accountability and see it devolve into judgment and gossip. “Oh, so and so isn’t living the straight and narrow – she really needs to get her act together.” That’s not holy friendship; that’s the devil at work.

Holy friendship – spiritual accountability – must begin with loving with the heart of Christ, and I think we understand what that might mean. When we have that perspective, we begin to see one another not as competitors but like family. And we are interested in growing together toward God.

Let’s think about the sequence Paul prayed for in chapter 1, vv.9-10:

1. Love abounding: How can we help one another grow in love for God and others?

2. Real knowledge and discernment: How can we teach one another and grow in knowledge of Jesus and clear understanding of what is good and godly?

3. Sincere and blameless before God: How can we turn from sin more often and more completely, and keep our eyes focused on the God-who-goes-before-us?

And finally, how can we be a “searchlight” so that those who do not yet know Christ may become “friends of God?”

Philippians is a “letter to my friends” from Paul. I hope to encourage you as a brother so that your love might grow into real knowledge of Christ and discernment in your lives, that you might stand sincere and blameless before God. I hope, too, that you will find ways to encourage one another (and me) in the same ways.

I am reassured that as we participate in God’s growing process that “He who began a good work in [us] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (1:6)

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