Christianity for Dummies (4): Applications and Paraphrase.
by Katie N. and Josh S.
1. Rejoice in the Lord:
In what do you find your greatest delight and value? Your beauty? Your grades? Skill in exegesis? Ability to live a moral life? Your friendships and relationships? We need to look for and enjoy the goodness of God’s creation, but if our greatest delight is found in anything else but the Lord Jesus Christ, we will worship created things instead of the Creator, and in doing so, will destroy our relationships with both. Examine, if you will, your “assets/liabilities” chart for your life. If it looks no different than the rest of the world’s, then delve into the gospel, seek to see Jesus more clearly as the exalted Messiah of Philippians 2:5-11, and seriously question whether the things we all commonly value are really that valuable in comparison to knowing Christ.
2. Be Reasonable:
How often do we allow circumstances to influence our behavior and attitude toward others? How often have we “apologized” for anger or sarcasm to a friend by merely attributing it to having a bad day? As we approach finals, do you find yourself abandoning gentleness and instead demanding your “rights” for silence, for sleep, for relaxation? The stronger the link between our attitude and our circumstances, the weaker our unity with other broken human beings. When other people fail to meet your expectations, examine your expectations. If you expect others to be gracious with you, which we all do, you should also be willing to be gracious with them when they don’t perfectly meet the high standards you set for them.
3. Avoid Anxiety Through Prayer:
Anxiety and failing to be reasonable usually go hand-in-hand. When others fail to meet your expectations or when you are placed in a difficult situation, do you find yourself overcome with anxiety that your own personal needs will not be met, whether it’s for peace and quiet, validation and approval, or comfort and agreement? This runs antithetical to a spirit of taking delight in the Lord who abandoned the benefits of equality with God to take on human form and die alone on a cross. The truth is that all the things we think we ‘need’ and the things we expect from others are often left unfulfilled, and we don’t deal with it very well. If we would relinquish our selfish requests and expectations to the Lord through prayer in every situation, I think we would be amazed at our growth in trust in His provision and our decreasing anxiety in response to life’s unmet expectations.
4. Spot Grace Everywhere and in Everyone:
Delighting in the Lord should lead us to delight in the evidences of his redemptive work throughout creation, especially in other human beings, and perhaps most especially in our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Examine how you treat your friends: does it bug you exponentially more when they wrong or disappoint you than it delights you when they exhibit manifestations of God’s grace and that which is excellent and worthy of praise? Do you find yourself dwelling on those little things that bug you about your roommate or parents rather than choosing to focus on the things that make you glad they are in your life? Spotting God’s grace helps us to rejoice in the Lord more and more. Spotting God’s grace in other people makes it that much easier to be reasonable toward them and to avoid anxiety even when they don’t meet our “needs.” Failing to do so makes it much more difficult to rejoice in the Lord, to be reasonable, and to avoid anxiety. Instead of turning upward and outward, we go inward. Our personal “needs” take first priority, severing our unity with God and others, and the gospel cause stagnates in our life. This is where vertical and horizontal harmony is made or broken. Spot the grace of God, leading you to rejoice in the Lord and allowing you to be reasonable and avoid anxiety with other people, and the peace you will experience will allow you to advance the gospel that much more effectively.
5. One further note:
Do not take lightly those who have exemplified these principles and qualities in their lives. Whether you study the character of biblical characters like Paul or observe someone in your own life who is living out these principles, do not neglect the resource of mature and godly people that are before you to use as an example and springboard for your own growth in godliness. Be intentional about watching them, and follow their example.
MODERN DAY PARAPHRASE:
I’m pleading with both Euodia and Syntyche to set aside their differences, to love one another as sisters in Christ Jesus, so that the gospel can be better proclaimed through your church.
Please, dear friend, help these two women to be unified in whatever ways you can, for they are very dear to me and to God; they have fought for the gospel by my side along with everyone else I’ve ever worked with for God’s kingdom.
Everyone now, for this is not just the key to Euodia and Syntyche’s conflict, but to all of you:
Find your deepest delight in Jesus Christ, and in nothing and no one else.
Value him above all else, and it’s amazing the harmony and the unity (with God and with others) that it will bring to your life. And as you are rejoicing in Jesus, allow that to influence your attitude and actions towards the people you know! It should make you more reasonable and gentle towards them, instead of selfish and abrasive. Why? Because we must all remember that the same God we are delighting in is present with us now and is coming back quickly, when He will right every wrong and meet every need perfectly. Speaking of needs, stop worrying so much that your needs will not be met! Trust God! And if you worry about anything, don’t waste time taking it out on others, but go straight to God in prayer and ask him for his grace and wisdom in every area of your life, big and small. As you do these things, you will become whole, unified with God and with other humans, just like you were originally meant to live!
Finally, my dear brothers and sisters, spot evidences of God’s grace everywhere around you, and especially in other human beings. Focus and dwell on the things that are true, respectable, just, pure, lovely, and admirable — basically everything excellent and praiseworthy, in the truest and most God-honoring sense of those words. To help in this process, please make sure to follow my example and the examples of other godly men and women. After all, you can’t follow Christ in a vacuum! You need your older brothers and sisters in the Lord, like me, to help you along in these things. The result? Brace yourselves. In addition to being made whole and truly alive, as I said earlier, the God who authored that wholeness and life will actually be present with you.
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