“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)
How do we mature in our faith as Christians? What causes us to become more Christ-like in our conduct? It’s not uncommon to witness people declaring they are Christians, but by their actions it’s hard to see much of Christ in them? Clearly we all struggle with our sinful nature. It can inhibit us from doing what we know we should … a struggle even the apostle Paul had (Romans 7:15). But too often some so-called Christians seem to live a life devoid of what the Bible teaches.
Then there is the perception of what we think is important in living as Christians. People can easily put the focus on what we do instead of why we are doing it. We can invest our energy in noble causes but lose sight of the motivating fuel behind our involvement. It reflects how we feel about ourselves instead of the desire and hope we have for those we are serving, let alone our desire to serve God.
At this point we need to ask ourselves, why did God offer us salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection? Why does He want us to trust in Him and have eternal life? The answer is to the glorify and praise His name (Phil 1:11). In fact that’s why God created everything… to bring glory to His name! Christians are to marvel at God and all that He has done. We are to find joy in God, to rejoice in Him (Phil 1:25-26). Our joy in God is the blessing He gives to us as we trust in Jesus. No matter the circumstances or stage in life we find ourselves, our joy is fuelled by our relationship with Jesus… our focus being centred on who He is and what He has graciously done for us.
To become a Christian is to experience God opening our hearts to enjoy Him forever; to marvel at Him; to worship Him with how we live each day as a sign of gratitude and awe!
But how does that translate to living a life honouring to God? It’s at this point that we often seem to be laden with guilt into believing or acting on certain notions, whether they stem from ourselves or others. We allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy God has for us by being guilt-driven to act or behave in a particular way. This tends to place our focus and energy on avoiding things and behaviour that we perceived are wrong. The joy of our faith in Christ fast evaporates as we make our salvation out to be about what we do instead of who Christ is and what He has done!
I think the above passage in Philippians helps us discern how we are to live as Christians and what should always motivate us. It’s about loving and serving others, being “others focused” that depicts a Christian. But these actions are only the outward evidence… the “fruit of righteousness”. It is not what should be driving us.
What makes this possible is a heart focused on Jesus, on enjoying God and trusting in Him. It’s about gaining knowledge of God and discernment in decision-making through reading the Bible and prayer. We are not to read the Bible as just a book, but as God’s means of communicating His truth. Rather than defining our own personal view of what constitutes “good and evil”, we must allow the Bible to mould our view of these things. As we learn more about God; as we soak our hearts and minds in biblical truth, the actions will follow. Our lives will slowly reflect what the Bible teaches, the way God wants us to live.
How is this done? It depends partly on our will to do so? We must choose to continue following God and be obedient to the leading of His Spirit as we develop spiritual discernment through listening to Him in the Scriptures. Ultimately this leads to being “filled with the fruit-of-righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ”. It’s by His work in our lives that we are able to reflect Him more. It’s by His sacrifice that we are redeemed or brought into a relationship with God, not our own efforts to gain favour. Our ability to love God and others is the evidence of what God has DONE in our hearts as opposed to what we can do to earn our salvation.
So in a nutshell… focus on God and you will less likely focus on sin. Look at the times in your life when you struggled with sin. For me it’s when I don’t spend time with God; spending time focusing on myself instead of others. When I focus on God and serving others, I find the sinful struggles in my life are less prominent… they are still there, but their enticement diminishes significantly.
And always remember why we live for, and enjoy God… “to the glory and praise of God”. Our joy is fuelled by remembering it’s about God, not us.
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