Christian Position, Prospect, Practice
Christian practice flows from Christian position and Christian prospect.
“We are called to be what we are,” it has been said. That is, we who are Christians in position and prospect are to be Christians in practice also. Our position is given to us in the great grace of God. We are before Him “in Christ Jesus.” This is all and altogether of Himself, as we read in Corinthians 1:30, “Of Him (of God) are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” “In Christ,” we are created anew. “In Christ,” the Beloved, we are “made accepted,” and all is to the praise of the glory of God’s grace.
Our great ultimate is to be with Christ where He is, with bodies of glory like unto His body of glory. He has apprehended us for this. The hand of His grace reached from the glory of God to the gutter of guilt in which we lay. That hand now holds us in its mighty grasp, and will never allow us to be seized out of it, but will raise us to the glory from which it reached even to us.
Meanwhile power is ours from Himself to walk for His pleasure. The Holy Spirit dwells within us, so that something of the life of Christ may be expressed in us day by day. We have not to walk or war at our own changes. All-sufficiency for every part of our pathway is found in Christ. Thus the apostle could say, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
Remembering these verities let me speak a little of some of the details of Christian practice which came before us in this fourth chapter of Philippians. The first, “Stand fast in the Lord,” is the apostle’s exhortation (v. 1). There is all might in His hand. He controls everything. He sits on high above the noise of many waters. The stormy winds fulfil His word. We have but to wait a little longer, and He will subdue all things unto Himself. He can do everything and no thought of His can be hindered. Every counsel of His shall have its consummation. So in the midst of all that which is contrary, where the enemy would seek to drive us from our confidence, we are to hold fast, to stand firm, and to refuse to yield aught of the truth committed to our trust.
The next verse presents the thought of Euodias and Syntyche, two sisters in Christ, had had a difference and were “out” with one another. This antagonism was a dead fly in the ointment of the Philippian assembly. And the word of exhortation is sent to them (and to all Christian sisters or brothers) to be “of the same mind in the Lord.” We may notice that each sister is exhorted to get right with the other. The fault may have been on one side only, or as is commonly the case, there may have been faults on both sides. But, however the difficulty arose, Euodias was to seek reconciliation with Syntyche, and Syntyche was to seek reconciliation with Euodias. If such endeavour were made humbly and sincerely by each sister, a happy conclusion surely would be rapidly reached.
Verse 3 may bring before us
Paul’s “true yoke-fellow” is besought to “help those women.” What a helper was the apostle! Every true yokefellow should aim at this—to be a helper of others. And what need of help is found on every hand. Each of us, writer and reader alike, may well ask, “Am I a help to my fellow-Christians? In the meeting am I a help or a hindrance? Do I seek to carry others, or am I in need of being carried myself?”
A quaint old brother used to remark of an assembly of Christians, “There are many passengers on board the ship, but there are not many who work the ship.” Shall we enquire of our own consciences, “Am I a passenger on board the vessel of witness for Christ, or am I a worker helping forward all fellow-voyagers on our way to the port of glory?”
Many are crying aloud for help. May we be fitted to succour the feeble and faint-hearted and failing ones around us.
comes before us in verse 4. “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” Paul had a right to say so. Was it not in Philippi that in the prison he had rejoiced? There in the innermost dungeon, while his back was bruised and bleeding from the cruel scourge, and his feet were held fast in the grip of the stocks, his fellow-prisoner Silas and he had “sung praises to God.” In that prison “a man of Macedonia” was soon crying out for help as he said, “What must I do to be saved?” And soon he was rejoicing also with all his house, believing the glad and glorious gospel.
The Lord abides unfailing in all our circumstances. Whoever rules, He overrules, and somehow He works all for our good and for His glory. This is the New Testament counterpart of the words of Habakkuk of old: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:17). “The Lord LIVETH.” He knows the need of His loved ones, and is all-powerful on their behalf. Believing this they may exclaim, “Blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.”
Relying on Him and His abounding affection and abiding ability they could afford to show
or gentleness to all. They need not “stand for their rights,” “the Lord is at hand.” This the next verse shows. He is near to uphold His own in all that will be for their truest welfare. He set us the example of moderation, of gentleness, of yieldingness. He was not received in a Samaritan village because His face was toward Jerusalem. John and James would have called down fire from heaven to destroy the inhabitants. But He said, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” Then there is added, “And they went to another village.”
Gracious Master and Lord, “Thy gentleness hath made us great.” Help us to be more after the manner of Thy spirit, Thou who wouldst touch and heal Malchus’ ear when one of Thy followers had cut it off; Thou who didst say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” when in Thy holy agony upon the tree of shame.
CHRISTIAN CONFIDENCE AND DEPENDENCE
come before us in verse 6, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.”
“Where anxiety begins faith ends, and where faith begins anxiety ends.”
Nothing is to be allowed to overcharge our hearts, to render us anxious. The Lord is still at hand. Into His ear we may tell all our desires. To Him we may unbosom ourselves in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. “Careful for nothing, prayerful in every thing, thankful for any thing,” as it has been said. Here is the Christian’s safety-valve when pressure is great. He can ever turn to One who, infinite in understanding, and great in power, lifts up the meek and heals the broken hearted, binding up their wounds (Ps. 147:3-6).
And we may tell Him all, keeping back nothing of all our longing and desire, while thanksgiving is mingled with our petitions as we remember all His goodness and His grace. We may freely confide in Him and fully depend upon Him. As we do this
will be known. “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Such is the promise. We shall be lifted in spirit above the circumstances through which we have to track our way.
Two friends were travelling together in Switzerland. One ascended the Rigi and stayed in the hotel at the top of the mountain. The other remained below. While they were separated a violent thunderstorm broke over the valley. The friend down below, telegraphing to the friend on the summit, said: “There’s an awful storm raging down here.” The reply was, “Come up here; we’re above the storms.”
So it is that by the way of prayer and supplication with thanksgiving the believer is lifted into “the peace of God which passeth all understanding”—that unruffled calm which can never be disturbed.
There we may sing;
“The storm may roar around me,
My heart may low be laid;
But God is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?”
The next part of our practice to call for our attention is
It is the remark of an old writer, “The Christian’s power is to be ever, only, always occupied with good.” It is this to which we are called in verse 8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
We become, unconsciously, like that with which we are occupied. We are formed by our thoughts. As a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
Happy is it to be engaged with all that is of God, and with what is in accordance with His Word. The path of the Lord Jesus portrayed in the pages of the Gospels above all should engage our attention. He is the “perpetual theme for our most exalted” contemplation. Then all that is of Him in our fellow-Christians may be the subject of consideration profitably, we delight in beholding something of Himself coming out in each one of His own, and acknowledging everything which is in them in Christ Jesus.
THE CHRISTIAN EXAMPLE
of others will help us. “Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me do; and the God of peace shall be with you.” As we follow the example of those who follow Christ, and as we carry out that “form of doctrine” which we have had delivered to us in the Scriptures, so shall we have the sense of the presence of the God of peace Himself with us.
He has given to us all that pertains to life and godliness. For our pathway we have a perfect pattern in Christ, a perfect provision in the Scriptures, and a perfect power in the Holy Spirit. Walking thus we shall not only have the peace of God possessing our souls and garrisoning our hearts, “between us and all hostile surroundings,” but we shall have the God of peace Himself walking with us and giving us the joy of communion with Him. The thinking of good and the doing of good is God-like.
is spoken of in verse 10. The Philippians had ministered in carnal things to the apostle, in his necessity sending once and again supply in his want. He could rejoice in this fruit abounding to their account. Our Lord Jesus said, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” How perfectly did His whole course exemplify this truth. He said it in His deeds of love and mercy. He, the Son of Man, came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many. He has left us here to follow His steps. “To serve and to give,” such is our mission. Never can any have part in His glorious redemption work; that completed sacrifice stands gloriously, eternally alone; but in the spirit of it we may seek to give of our best in spiritual and in carnal things for the help of all about us.
We are saved, not to sit still in self-love, but to serve steadily, seeking the benefit and blessing of others, giving out of a glad heart for the succour of the needy.
is expressed in the words of the apostle, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” He had within him a source of satisfaction, a well of water springing up into everlasting life. Thus he was independent of that which was around. Proverbs 14:14 declares, “A good man shall be satisfied from himself.” Walking in the fear of God he has an inward testimony that he pleases God and an abiding contentment in the all-sufficiency of Christ.
Wonderful—is it not?—that in this dissatisfied, unsatisfying world (where men hurry and worry, seeking rest and finding it not) one should be able to say, “Enough!”
“I have no blanks now,” said a Christian who was asked to go to places of sinful pleasure where once he had sought (but never found) heart-satisfaction. Hearts-ease is a flower which grows only in the knowledge of, company of, and service of Christ. But there it luxuriates. God who in His rich grace has provided heaven for us hereafter, knows how to provide happiness for us here and now.
This the apostle had learned “Everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” He was a graduate in the university of adversity. And he was a man like to ourselves. Let us not forget this.
Finally let us think of
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” All that we have spoken of, all that is suitable for the believer in his earthly journeying, is possible through Christ.
He is our resource everywhere and at all times. He was enough for the saints of old, as Hebrews 11 shows so clearly. He was enough for the early Christians and for the apostle, in the midst of all their difficulties. And He is enough for us today. We are in danger of thinking that the difficulties of our day are greater than any known aforetime. But great as they are, and greater as they may become as we see the day approaching, Christ is always present with His own, and His power is ever adequate for every contingency.
To His disciples He could say, “All power, is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age.” His power and His presence are our competence. Relying on Him who fails not we may go forward without a misgiving.
Wonderful position! Wonderful prospect! Wonderful practice! “In Christ,” “with Christ,” “through Christ.” Forever and in everything the Christian is linked up with Christ. The Christian in Christ and Christ in the Christian makes up true Christianity. May we all know more of it until we are in His presence and likeness.
Help and Food 1929