The other day I was sitting at my dining room table doing some devotions. I had no intention of being profound or of doing anything other than reading the Bible for that matter. I was reading the 1st chapter of Philippians when these verses caught my attention.
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Philippians 1:9-11 “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
My musings this morning concern the first half of the verse
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When I first read this, my initial reaction was “huh?” How can love gain knowledge and insight? I understand love growing deeper and fuller and richer. I understand love going through a maturation process—but that my love grows in knowledge and insight? Paul uses love as the subject and prays that our love actually increases its understanding and its perception. Notice our love for the Lord is not just a feeling. Our love encompasses our intellect and our spiritual awareness or intuition. We don’t just blindly follow our impulses or our emotions. Don’t get me wrong here. I think emotions are extremely important. In my opinion, they’re part of what make like worth living. Emotions give us information about the world around us; they inform our decisions, but they are not the sole reason we chose what we chose. Okay, back from the rabbit trail.
Notice the “so that.” Anytime you see ‘so that’ in Scripture, realize that the entire previous section is ‘so that’ the second part happens. In this case, Paul wants our love to mature so that we can discern what is best. At first glance, most of us shrug our shoulders and keep reading. Try to slow down for a second. Let your mind get a hold of this. As your love for God increases it actually helps you differentiate between the good and the bad. As our love grows, our eyes are opened to a deeper reality. We begin to see through the facade, the projection of what everyone wants us to believe. We begin to see glimpses of the truth behind the show. It’s as though when we fall deeper and deeper in love with Jesus everything else comes into focus without trying. As our love matures, so does our discernment.
Okay, all of that was to talk about this little phrase tucked away in the middle of the verse. [click to remove text except discerning the best]
As Christians we are not governed by a list of rules but from relationship. We are dead to the Law. We now live under the law of Grace. Instead of following a checklist, we follow the heart of our Lover and King. Let me try to explain for a moment. It’s like the difference between not lying because you’re afraid to be punished if you get caught and not lying because you’re afraid you’ll hurt someone’s feelings. Our society lives by the rule “it’s only wrong if you get caught”. You can see it in how people respond to being pulled over for a speeding ticket. Almost no one is sorry that they were speeding. Instead, they are angry with the police for catching them doing something wrong. There’s the difference. The Christian is not supposed to be governed by threats of harm if we don’t get in line. We are supposed to be governed by the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit on our sides, not the bit in our mouth.
Back to the text: notice that we do not just discern right from wrong—well at least that’s not the goal—we discern what is the best. We have all sorts of allowable options in front of us. As teenagers, you can technically listen to any kind of music and still be a Christian. But does all music pull your heart closer to your Heavenly Lover? The real question is ‘What do you want?’ and ‘Are you willing to pay the price for it?’
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1 Corinthians 3:13-15 (New International Version)
…his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
If you want to do the least amount possible and still get into heaven, then I guess my hope is that you’ll be inspired to raise the bar of your expectations. For the rest of you, if you want your life to have an eternal impact, then you have to be willing to pay the price. If you want to hear the Spirit’s whisper and feel his gentle push, then you cannot continue to harden your heart and fill your spiritual appetite with meaningless things. If we are only concerned with what we are allowed to do—how close we can inch up to the line without going over then we have already failed the test. We already show ourselves untrustworthy.
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1 Corinthians 6:12
"Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial.
Several of you have mentioned you would like to see revival happen here at our school or in our community. Personally, I would love to see God move powerfully in McBain. My question to you is “what do you think revival looks like?” Does revival look like everyone in the school falling on the floor underneath the weight and glory of God? It might. A more likely scenario is that our personal breakthroughs will slowly begin to change our school and our town. As we begin to seek the Lord in our own lives and as a community, something awakens inside of us that longs for more.
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Matthew 5:6 (New International Version)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
It’s a hungering and a thirsting fueled by our recognition that we currently lack righteousness. But when we come into an awareness of our own weakness and our own need, God says it’s there that he meets us. We cry out to him in our brokenness longing for his Presence to be more than just something we talk about.
O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
We ask God to awaken a groan in our hearts. Those of you who want revival are already feeling it. Something inside of you says there has got to be more than this. And brothers and sisters, there is more. Absolutely there is more. But understand that God is not going to move simply because you’re spiritually bored. He’s not interested in entertaining you. He’s interested in you falling madly in love with him; throwing caution to the wind in order to get him. He is our great reward. He is our pearl of great price. We are the treasure buried in the field, which he gave up his very life to purchase out of slavery. Friends feel the pulling at your heart and know that He is calling you out of the kiddy pool into deeper water.
But also know the initial exhilaration is not enough to pull you through. We’ve all felt it right. We’ve all been on a retreat and come back fired up for God. Within a week we feel normal again. Why? Because the flame needs to be tended. The hunger stirred up over that weekend can be filled with things that aren’t God. You must learn to discern the best. Just because it’s allowed doesn’t mean it benefits our hearts. Just because we can rationalize that it has a good beat doesn’t mean that it isn’t helping our heart grow calloused. In the Song of Songs, our hearts are referred to as gardens. Places, like Eden, where the Lord comes to be with us. Left alone, gardens become filled and overrun with weeds. The Christian life is the same. If you do nothing to tend your relationship with the Lord, just like an untended garden goes to weeds, your heart will grow hard and calloused.
In a moment we’re going to pray together. I want you to pay attention to what the Lord is doing in your heart. We’re going to ask the Lord to change our hearts. Some of you already want this. Your spirit is crying out. Others of you want to want it. That’s enough. Hungering and thirsting begins with recognizing we are poor and needy and He is the only one who can bring satisfaction to our aching hearts. Again, I’m not talking about a salvation issue. I’m talking about your life having an impact. I’m talking about you learning to bring restoration and reformation wherever you go because you are an ambassador of the Living God.
Holy Spirit, we invite you to move in this place. Hover over us and birth life in us. Change our hearts. Give us a willingness to lay down our rights in order to receive the best. Don’t let us be satisfied with meaningless things. Don’t let our hearts be so easily entertained that we never get around to hungering and thirsting after righteousness. Remove the callousness. Remove the hard parts of our hearts and replace them with a willingness and a desire to please you God.
Awaken a groan in our hearts for righteousness. We want to hunger and thirst. We want our bodies to long for more of you Jesus. We don’t want to be satisfied with other peoples’ stories. We don’t want to be satisfied with stories of how you’ve moved in previous generations. With the psalmist, we want to see your power and your glory. We want our faces to shine like Moses. We want to gaze on your beauty and be transformed into your likeness. We want you. We want nothing but you. Teach us to tend our hearts. Teach us to discern the best.