Philippians 1 – There Are No Holy Places

(September 1, 2017) 8:18 AM Yo folks!

So September is almost upon us. Huzzah! The kiddos are finally back in school. The weather is turning cooler. Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Those of us who teach are back into teaching mode. This week’s classes were phenomenal. I asked, “So what must we do to follow our Father’s footsteps into the kingdom?” For starters ….

  • Reject manmade status symbols (like titles).
  • Embrace the flat kingdom.
  • Affirm, remember, and proclaim: THERE ARE NO HOLY PLACES.

Oooh, that last one.

Religions have their shrines, temples, mosques, and churches. Not so Christianity. We worship “in Spirit” — that is, worship is spiritual, not material — and “in truth” — that is, according to what the Bible teaches and not our human traditions. Moreover, the church is a missional church. Missions is an active word. We pursue the path of the kingdom precisely because the Way of Jesus is a path of shalom for all people. Christianity is an insurgency. We throw off all those things we once considered so important and now consider them to be no more than skubala. We put our minds and energies into the service of the daily, grinding, upstream-swimming, frustrating, impossible work of overturning injustice. Why, we’re even willing to put aside our legitimate rights (as Jesus did) if the time to exercise them isn’t right. We do not grow weary in well doing. We show up when others need us. We set apart our days for the work of proclaiming with our hands and feet the kingdom of God. It doesn’t matter if we live in India or Indiana. Together, we’ll keep up the holy work, keep laying down our lives, keep worshiping, loving, making space for others. We refuse to let the lies of churchianity hold us back.

There’s something exhilarating about living this way. There’s something wondrous, fantastical even, about flinging open the door of simple church and exclaiming, “Bring it on, Jesus!” This was my view this morning on my front porch as I meditated on the word.

My text was Phil. 1:12-14.

Since my Bible is so messy, the text reads as follows:

Γινώσκειν δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι τὰ κατ’ ἐμὲ μᾶλλον εἰς προκοπὴν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ἐλήλυθεν, ὥστε τοὺς δεσμούς μου φανεροὺς ἐν Χριστῷ γενέσθαι ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ πραιτωρίῳ καὶ τοῖς λοιποῖς πᾶσιν, καὶ τοὺς πλείονας τῶν ἀδελφῶν ἐν κυρίῳ πεποιθότας τοῖς δεσμοῖς μου περισσοτέρως τολμᾶν ἀφόβως τὸν λόγον λαλεῖν.

As I thought about how Paul made the cause of the Gospel his number one priority, I wondered aloud: “How can I do that this day?” It’s a lovely thing to watch men and women living kingdom lives. Their whole beings are an act of worship (not just what they do during “worship” on Sunday — oh, how I wish we could rid ourselves of that concept!). As Paul shows us, there’s no single way to be a Christian. Sometimes even in our prisons we can do life together and make our circumstances count for the Gospel. Isn’t that it? We are the smell and touch of Jesus, wherever we are. God in the flesh, Word made man — surely it matters. “One can scarcely miss the focus of Paul’s concern, here and always: Christ and the gospel,” writes Gordon Fee on Phil. 1:12-26 (p. 56). Paul “…intends much of this to serve as paradigm” (p. 57). As always, Paul turns the attention away from himself and his circumstances to the Gospel. I like that. I like to think that everything from my recent bouts with bronchitis to my teaching Greek to my giving to disaster relief in Houston — all of it is a sacrament of community. Sometimes the best way for me to properly celebrate the kingdom is to answer my students’ emails in a timely fashion. We can embody the kingdom by going to the nations (as we ought), but we can also embody the kingdom by an unhurried family meal or a visit to a homebound relative. I want to live out my faith, not just talk about it. I want to live it out as an embodiment of the Gospel in real places, in real contexts, and with real people.

Paul’s point in Phil. 1:12-14 is a simple one: The Gospel is not bound (pardon the silly pun). It’s advancing both inside and outside prison. It survives despite jerks who preach it with false motives (1:15-18). And it will survive even if God takes Paul home to heaven (1:19-26). I live in a Christian subculture that elevates the Bible to the fourth member of the Godhead. We celebrate the cult of the speaker. (Apparently you can type that sentence and not be struck by lightening.) But the real question is: Have our lives been molded by this Spirit-inspired word? The purpose of the Scriptures is to equip us and then send us out into the world. And guess what? Everyone gets to play. Seminary students do. Mothers folding diapers do. We all do. Despite our “issues.” Paul’s teaching us in Phil. 1:12-14 to focus simply on the Gospel. Don’t let your daily problems drive you to panic. Let them drive you joyfully to leverage your circumstances for Jesus. Don’t give up or give in. Patience in the midst of trials is the trademark of God’s Holy Spirit in your life. And that’s a good word in this aspirin age of ours.



Philippians 1 – Two Entries

(September 1, 2017) 9:40 AM As everyone knows, William Varner of the Masters University in California is going through the entire book of Philippians verse by verse. I just checked out his latest vlog on Phil. 1:16. It’s excellent. I especially enjoyed how he calls our attention to a rhetorical device called chiasmus that Paul seems to use in Phil. 1:15-16. Now that’s the kind of exegesis I enjoy. To those who know Paul, they know how much he enjoyed using rhetorical devices, not for their own sake, of course, but to draw his audience into the text. That’s why, when I was in seminary, I began to reorient my life around not only the denotative meaning of Scripture but around its connotative meaning as well. As Will notes, poetry is not prose. I know that some students get discouraged when they see just how demanding exegesis can be. But I sort of like how deep the New Testament is. It gives me chills when I read such exquisite poetry as the Christ hymn in Phil. 2 or the ode to love in 1 Cor. 13. I don’t think it’s possible to overstate how much poetic language permeates the New Testament writings. Nowadays, when I read my Greek New Testament, I try to slow down. I watch. I listen. My hunger for the overtones of the text increases. I’ve witnessed rhetoric at work in Paul in so many places it’s mind-blowing. I am a man of detail. It sounds boldfaced to say that, but there it is. I pray for eyes to see what the Holy Spirit put into the text. I feel like a small child wading on the shore of a limitless ocean. But I still want to go out into the deep, like I used to do at Sunset Beach even when I knew the waves were breaking surfboards in half. My prayer for my students (and all of us) is that the Holy Spirit would sweep into our lives with holy disruption. That He would show us things in the text that would upend our assumptions. I’d like to see a great awakening, for sure, but I’ll settle for a few more of us to simply become more careful readers of Scripture.

8:58 AM Through Scripture, God speaks to us. Through it, Jesus speaks life to millions of believers every day. That’s probably the reason I just can’t get past Phil. 1:3-11 in my study of God’s word. Because what if there are truths He’s still trying to impress on me? Such as …

1) Gratitude is not gratitude unless it’s expressed. Paul didn’t just think thoughts of gratitude. He expressed gratitude. Is there someone I need to say “Thank you” to today?

2) Interestingly (Paul is always interesting!), Paul expresses his gratitude for the Philippians, not to them, but to God: “I thank my God for you….” It’s easy for us to thank others and then forget to thank God. I know I’ve been guilty of this. I’ve been so preoccupied with my horizontal relationships that I’ve disengaged my mind from the God I really need to express my thanks to more than anyone else.

3) Prayer focuses on specific needs. The word Paul uses here (Greek deesis) can imply “that which is asked with urgency based on personal need” (Louw-Nida). The needs of others should drive us to prayer. One of Becky’s sisters lives in Houston. God spoke to me instantly to be praying for her. We need to balance thanksgiving with petition. Jesus demonstrated this balance in His famous Disciples’ Prayer. It wasn’t a one-sided prayer that focused on needs. Nor did it ignore those needs. I love that.

4) Paul prayed habitually. So did our Lord. His life was a living prayer — unhindered communication with the Father. Both Jesus and Paul set an example for us.

5) Paul excluded no one from his prayers. Note the repetition of “all of you” in this passage. It’s like a constant drum beat. Paul’s love was not selective, and neither should ours be.

6) But where did Paul get his love for the Philippians? It wasn’t self-derived. Not at all. Paul makes it very clear that he loved them “with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Do our prayers exhibit the Lord’s compassion? They can and they must.

7) Above all, Paul prays for the Philippians’ love to abound. That seemed to be their greatest need at the moment. The term Paul uses for love (agape) does not necessarily refer to divine love. After all, when Demas deserted Paul, it was because he had agapoed the world (2 Tim. 4:10). There are good reasons to look to Paul himself for his definition of love, and a place to start might be Phil. 2:2-4. Here Paul contrasts love with selfish ambition. To love is to serve others humbly. It’s to esteem others as more important than ourselves. It’s being plain, everyday kind to one another. It’s when daily courtesies become a habit. It’s being “big-hearted” (Phil. 4:5). Love means going the second mile, opening your home to strangers, “doing good to each other and to all people” (1 Thess. 5:15), being willing to give your best effort even when it’s inconvenient. Men, it’s opening the door for ladies. It’s refusing to repeat lewd jokes. It means drawing her bath. Go back to your first love in your marriage. Gentleness is not something to be ashamed about.

Friends, sometimes I wonder why we go so fast through the Bible. I still struggle with Paul’s teaching in Phil. 1:1-11. I’m not ready for any more truth! I hope we all wrestle with the truth we know. I hope we look deep into our hearts and sift through our ecclesiology and our missiology and our praxis and all of it. I hope we can learn to change. I hope we can all become a bit more inclined to slow down and listen to what Jesus is saying to His church. He can speak to us anywhere — in cathedrals and living rooms and offices and, yes, even in church buildings. But we’ve got to be willing to play second fiddle and embrace His plan. Remember: Anyone can pray for anyone else. So go ahead and pray for me. Go ahead. Pray that God would allow me to be a disciple of the Way and to remember whose I am and why I live this life. And I’ll pray the same for all of you.

Grace and peace,


Philippians 1:12-26

(September 4 , 2017) 8:12 PM One of my takeaways from studying Phil. 1:12-26 this weekend was Paul’s assumption that the Christian is at home in no nation. Christians are led by a Savior who was always on the move. Christians set their hearts on the kingdom of heaven before all else. This means, ultimately, a desire to depart and be with Christ, for on this earth we have no lasting kingdom. Paul was in turmoil. He yearned for death, to depart and be with Christ. Yet he was such a Gospel man that he also yearned to remain to serve others. And so he needs God to make the choice for him. As Hawthorne writes, “Need dictates direction.” When Christians in Tertullian’s day constructed idols and excused themselves by saying, “Everyone has to make a living,” Tertullian asked them, “Must you live?” Today we make all sorts of excuses for serving our own gods. I know I do. For years I bowed to the shrine of Caesar. For years I made gilding idols out of my work and my reputation. What’s wrong with that? “Must you live?” answers the great theologian of the early church. Once we bow to the spirit of this age we cannot worship in Spirit and in truth. I still have a lot of goals and dreams and ambitions I’d like to accomplish while I’m alive. At the same time, I hope Jesus returns soon. I know that any day He will come, or else He will call me home. In the meantime, like Paul, I must be willing to leave family and friends behind, must be willing to live out of a suitcase, must be willing to go anywhere and serve anyone. I’ve done this countless times, and “goodbyes” to family are never easy. Yet life is too short to spend it only on yourself. “The thought of eternity consoles for the shortness of life,” said Luc de Clapiers. The only colors Paul knew were black and white. “Either I’ll depart and be with Christ, or I’ll remain here.” But if he’s going to remain, he’s sure as shootin’ gonna be useful for the kingdom.

As I read Philippians 1, I can hear some of Paul’s former friends bemusing themselves at his expense. “Too bad about old Saul. He’s gone off the deep end. He was once a brilliant scholar, a student of Gamaliel no less. But ever since he suffered sunstroke on the Damascus Road he’s been out of his mind. Gets into trouble all the time. Even stays in jail a whole lot. What a loser!” Everything depends on your perspective, however. Today we read Paul and not his contemporaries. Many of my students are eager to pursue their PhDs. I say more power to you. But PhD may mean Phenomenal Dud. Paul was brilliant, but he had an ability to leverage his intellectual prowess for the Gospel. I admire people like that. There seem to be far too few in the church today. (Michael Green comes to mind.) Which brings us back to Philippians 1. Never has evangelical Christianity needed Paul’s perspective on suffering as today. In the midst of prison, his only goal was to know Christ and make Him known. Aren’t we to live for Him all the time — for the One who grappled with the sordid problem of evil, defeated death, and left us with a Gospel and a new life, possible because He lives in us? Phil. 1:12-26, if it does nothing else, reminds us that only way we can redeem the hours of our lives is to spend them in God’s service.

Dear students: Chase fleeting fame and you are known but for a moment. Scholars who serve Jesus by serving others — these are the ones who outlive themselves.

Paul the Missionary and Philippians

(September 5, 2017) 6:38 AM This week our study of Philippians coalesces with our study of Paul the missionary as portrayed in Acts. Paul’s core convictions about Christianity include:

  • Christians are not just to study theology but are to follow the example of Jesus and live the way He lived, in selflessness and humility.
  • Followers of Jesus are to put the needs of others above their own.
  • Christianity involves ethics as much as theology.
  • Suffering is a normal part of the Christian life.
  • Believers are called to pursue a kingdom that is radically different from all versions of the kingdoms of this world.
  • This kingdom is always cross-centered and counter-cultural.

Above all, both in Philippians and Acts we see Paul the missionary, a man who lived totally for the sake of the Gospel, a man for whom believing and behaving were never disconnected, a man who was committed to following Jesus in obedience and love unreservedly and unconditionally. More and more, it is this submission to the lordship of Christ that is being recognized as the core of Paul’s Gospel — an attitude of worldly renunciation matched by an eagerness to suffer for one’s faith, to death if necessary.

Paul invites all of us to embrace a more radical faith and more outwardly focused Christianity. Many years ago Jim Elliott went to Ecuador impelled by the same vision of radical discipleship. He fully embraced the Great Commission, could not keep quiet about his faith, and his legacy as a martyr continues to inspire many today to share their faith, plant new churches, and take the Gospel to the unreached and under-served nations of the world. For the most part, these radical emissaries of Jesus are ordinary, everyday Christians who have no formal theological training but who are obedient to the Spirit and not only understand the Bible but obey it. I work in the midst of a community of students and scholars where everybody is concerned with some aspect of the Christian mission, whether in North America, Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Europe, or Latin America. In such a community, everybody is a missionary. No place feels like home. The world itself beckons us. For the world’s problem is sin, and it is left in a worse state than ever when it is given anything less than the cure.

So who will apply the cure? Will it be me? Will it be you? There must be a radical turn in our churches from earth’s skubala (excrement, unspeakable filth) to heaven’s treasure (3:8). There is no place in the will of God for a lenient attitude toward what Paul calls “the only thing that matters” (1:27). Paul was committed to one thing (3:13). He had his priorities right.

So how about it? Will you join the cause of global missions? There is a two-way movement here. As we draw close to Christ, His love in turn impels us outward toward others. We have everything in Christ. Shall we not share this blessing with others? Our Lord had no place for middle grounds or halfway stations. He expects His people to “shine like stars in the world, holding forth the life-giving message” (2:15-16).

Think about it.


Structure of Philippians 1:12-18

1) Here’s my student Joe leading our Greek 3 class in a discussion of the structure of Phil. 1:12-18.

2) I’ll repeat: There is nothing I enjoy more than watching my students teach. Here Joe is taking us through the Greek text of Phil. 1:12-14.

His analysis clearly shows how, in this section of Philippians, Paul is turning his attention to the progress of the Gospel, as seen in two ways: 1) his guards (and others) know that he’s in prison for the cause of Christ, and 2) the Christians in Rome are more actively (and fearlessly) proclaiming Christ. That little word mallon shouldn’t be overlooked. The “progress” that Paul’s describing came “unexpectedly.” One would think that imprisonment would mean the end, not the beginning of something. But God delights in making good out of evil. (More on that below.)

Philippians 4:9 – Putting It into Practice

(September 7, 2017) 6:04 PM Anyone studying the book of Philippians needs to keep in mind what Paul writes in 4:9:

ἃ καὶ ἐμάθετε καὶ παρελάβετε καὶ ἠκούσατε καὶ εἴδετε ἐν ἐμοί, ταῦτα πράσσετε· καὶ ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης ἔσται μεθ’ ὑμῶν.

The teaching we’ve learned and received from him we need to be putting into practice constantly. Nothing like hitting us over the head with a two by four, Paul.

Philippians 4:4-7 – Imitating Paul

(September 8, 2017) 6:16 AM Morning friends! When I said yesterday that we are to imitate Paul’s life and teaching, a crazy thought occurred to me. Has Paul done this very thing in Philippians? A good place to start, I said to myself, might be Paul’s concluding exhortations in 4:4-7. Mind you: This is no “shotgun parenesis.” What Paul writes in 4:4-7 is tailored-made for the Philippians’ situation. At this point, it might be interesting to compare Paul’s injunctions here with what we’ve already studied in 1:1-18. Ready?

  • Rejoice! Yep. Paul’s joy is already evident in the body opening: Paul prays and gives thanks with joy.
  • Give thanks! Most certainly. What is Phil. 1:3-8 if not a thanksgiving?
  • Pray! The heart of Phil. 9:1-11 is just that — a prayer for the Philippians.
  • Let your big-heartedness be known to all! You mean, maybe like Paul was toward those who sought to add to his bonds in Rome (see 1:15-17)? Note: In class the other day I called these people jerks. So I repent today. Paul never called them that, so I shouldn’t either. Knuckleheads maybe, but not jerks.
  • The Lord is near. He is indeed near — both to those who pray to Him, and to those sufferers who await ultimate vindication upon His return.
  • The peace of God. In 1:2, Paul had prayed for this peace to flood the Philippians’ lives.

I wouldn’t dare call this an exhaustive treatment of parallels between the beginning of Philippians and its ending. I’m not sure it’s even that important to point out, except to note how self-consistent Paul seems to be. He seriously knew how to write a letter! If he calls upon the church to have Christlike humility, he’s going to make sure they know he’s not an ivory-tower imposter. Paul the apostle was maybe the most fully and completely unselfish, unpretentious man to ever live apart from Jesus, and I just want to be more like him.

By the way, here’s Eugene Petersen’s interpretation of Phil. 4:4-7. I don’t know why, but I like it.

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Seriously? I’m expected to live like that? Which reminds me: I need to pray right now. I’m starting to worry again ….

Philippians 1:12-13

(September 8, 2017) 7:48 AM I would not have you ignorant, brethren, about the discussion taking place at the Nerdy Language Majors(NLM) Facebook page about English Bible translations. The New Living Translation (NLT) seems to be squarely in the bulls-eye. Well, shall we take a brief look at a sample from the NLT Interlinear? The passage is Phil. 1:12-13.

1) Note, first of all, the use of “dear brothers and sisters” to render the single Greek word adelphoi. And why not? The Greek term, as used here, seems to be gender-inclusive. In addition, as Hendricksen notes (p. 68), adelphoi is more than a mere discourse marker. It’s a term of “endearment.” “Dear brothers and sisters” seems to capture this thought well.

2) Secondly, you will see that the NLT fails to render the Greek adverb mallon: “Everything that has happened to me has helped to spread the Good News.” This seems problematic. Hansen notes, “The close connection of the negative word chains and the positive word advance in this sentence indicates that Paul is using the word actually [Greek mallon] as a marker of a surprising alternative to a negative expectation” (p. 66). The idea seems to be: Paul’s imprisonment (something bad — a “negative expectation”) actually served to advance the Good News about Christ. In other words, far from being a proskope (hindrance), his imprisonment is a prokope (advance)! With the little word mallon, writes Hawthorne, Paul “announces the unexpected” (p. 34). I quite agree.

Hear this: I don’t think there’s any perfect English translation. This goes for the ISV New Testament, for which I was the base translator. (Note: Years ago the Committee on Translation was disbanded, and I haven’t been involved in the project since that time.) I’m guessing that most of the commenters at the NLM site feel basically the same way. I don’t want to base my life on what I’m against. I value most every New Testament translation that is out there. Even more, I applaud the efforts of my Greek students to produce their own translation of the Greek text of Philippians. So yes, the NLT is helpful. I’ve discovered, however, that I can’t put my brain in park or neutral when I consult it. Ditto for any Bible translation out there.

Okay, back to writing.

Philippians 4:5 – EPIEIKES

(September 8, 2017) 11:32 AM I am a word guy, fully right-brained (unless I’m being left-brained). Carved into the temple at Delphi are these words:

I wonder if Paul might be alluding to them in Phil. 4:5, where he uses the Greek term epieikes, often translated “gentleness.” The temple carving means something like “Nothing in excess.” Hawthorne prefers “big-heartedness,” but then adds, “For big-heartedness one may substitute any of the following: forbearance, yieldedness, geniality, kindliness, gentleness, sweet reasonableness, considerateness, charitableness, mildness, magnanimity, generosity” (p. 193). The goal is to “meet people halfway,” to “not insist on one’s own rights all the time.” Forgive me for beating a dead horse, but, again, don’t we see this in Paul’s discussion of the Roman “preachers” in 1:15-17? Paul could have gotten on their case because of their false motives. The fact is, they are advancing the Gospel, and for Paul that’s the main thing. Yet isn’t it also possible that Paul has chosen to highlight these ill-willed evangelists because they are causing strife and division in Rome, much like the Philippians themselves were possibly polarizing around two women whom Paul actually names in 4:2? I think the point is this: Paul is being tactful. He wants to address the issue of division (or at least disharmony) among the Philippians, but he’s willing to bide his time. First he has to set the backdrop: the life and ministry of Jesus. This tactfulness on the part of Paul is whispering to me, “Not so fast in becoming argumentative when you disagree with people, Dave.” I’ve got a dozen emails I still haven’t answered, and one of them is, let’s just say, a bit uncharitable. Epieikes doesn’t apply to me, does it? Surely not.


“The Christian is the man who reasons that it is far better to suffer wrong than to inflict wrong (I Cor. 6:7)” — so writes Hendriksen on the word epieikes (p. 193). Who am I in this scenario? A man who needs to heed Paul’s injunction. How about you? Try practicing the presence of the One who is meek and gentle amid the noise and confusion you’ll be facing today. Rest assured. You can be big-hearted. So can I. Such simple things matter to God — and make a Christian stand out in a crowd.

Translating Philippians 1:27-30

(September 16, 2017) 5:12 AM Still working on my translation of Phil. 1:27-30. Here’s the latest iteration:

Now the only thing in life that really matters is that you live out your Kingdom citizenship in a manner required by the Gospel of Christ, so that, whether or not I’m able to go and see you in person, I will hear that all of you are standing side by side with one common purpose: to work together as one team to see people put their trust in the Gospel. Don’t allow your enemies to intimidate you in any way. Your boldness in the midst of such persecution will prove to them that they will lose and that you will win, because it is God who gives you the victory. For God has granted you the privilege, for the sake of Christ, of not only believing in Him but also suffering for Him. It’s your turn to take part with me in the battle I’m fighting — the same battle you saw me fighting in the past and, as you hear, the one I’m fighting now.

There are 3 themes here:

1) The church must act corporately and cooperatively (with one common purpose and goal) if others are to come to faith in Christ.

2) Since unbelievers are devoted to another “lord,” persecution and opposition will be inevitable. Hence boldness is required — a kind of uncommon courage that will prove to one’s enemies that they are headed for certain destruction.

3) The Christian life is a struggle, all of it, from beginning to end. If our Lord was crucified, should we expect any less? The path to heaven always leads through a cross.

What does this say to a 65-year old Greek prof? Today’s news is frightening. There are wars (Afghanistan) and rumors of wars (North Korea). International tensions abound. Increasing numbers of the elderly are putting an almost overwhelming strain on Social Security. I realize I am growing older. Some day my children will have to become parents to me. They should understand my joy is found in serving Jesus. Even though I feel nostalgia for the days gone by, I am living in the “now.” Yes, I need time for renewal and reflection, but I also want to be active. I want to remind my students (and blog readers) that partnership in the Gospel includes mutual suffering. Discipleship is always costly. If it isn’t costing us anything, then it isn’t discipleship. Christ is our only paradigm. By living the “cruciform” life, He showed us the way forward. It’s the path of downward mobility. It means having a genuine interest in others’ welfare. It means putting aside our own selfish interests. It means adopting Jesus’ definition of “rich.” (Farewell keeping up with the Joneses.) It may mean risking one’s life for the sake of Christ. It is not enough to be citizens of America. The Gospel proclaims only one Lord, who is the incarnate Savior. Nothing is more important today than living out a Christlike vision of the kingdom. The United States can never be the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom looks just like Jesus, and no amount of pom-pom waving will ever lead one person to salvation. To miss this central focus on the Lord Jesus is to miss the focus of the entire book of Philippians. Christ is the focus of everything God has done and everything He will yet do in this world.

Dear reader, may we “join together” this very day in “imitating” Paul by “walking” as he walked (Phil. 3:17). For, you see, “the only thing in life that really matters” is truly the only thing in life that really matters.