Friday, December 31, 2010

Thinking about Christ in 2011

As I preached through Philippians the last year and a half, I came to chapter 4, verses 8-9 a few months ago-

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Despite having taught on this passage many times over the years, not to mention translating it from Greek as part of my advanced Greek studies at Moody, I missed a profound application of this text. It struck me that thinking about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, etc. has to refer most vividly to thinking about Christ. There is only one person that fits the description above- the Lord Jesus.

So, as I was coming to the end of Philippians I was praying about what to preach next. This passage basically says that thinking about "these things" will work toward the practicing of the various directions the Apostles gave. Thinking on Christ will help us be obedient. So, as we think about Jesus, we will be compelled to follow His commands and as a result, experience God's peace. This thought process led me to the gospels where the most vivid picture of Jesus is given. I want to study Jesus in 2011. Yes we study Jesus every time we open the text of Scripture, but for 2011 we are going to imagine being in the early first century crowd that witnessed Jesus while He was ministering on earth.

Which gospel? Well, I have already preached through John in my time at Redeemer. I refer to Matthew and Luke constantly (and will get to those as an exposition some day, Lord willing). That leaves Mark. So Mark it is. Probably the oldest gospel account and the swiftest moving.

We are going to think about Christ as we study Him in the gospel of Mark in 2011 at Redeemer. I am putting the finishing touches on sermon #1 right now. May God be honored and His people edified.


Brother Titus said...


Jim said...

Yes, definitely teach the Gospel. And, yes, we see these things represented in Christ par excellence.

But regarding the Philippians passage I think you ran too quickly to Christ. After all, Paul says to look to him (Paul) in order to receive the blessing of peace:

"What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me —practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."

Paul says something like this fairly often. Now, to be sure, I do not at all believe that Paul is saying to look to me rather than to look to Christ, but rather that they (we?) should look to him because Christ is so vividly reflected in him (Paul).

Still, Paul inviting this type of inspection from church members raises a bunch of really interesting questions - are we to regard the apostolic Paul as a special case? Or given that he is also "chief of sinners" is this invitation something that mature Christians should expect to invite, and most particularly those who join Paul in the pastoral office?

Uncomfortable questions, to be sure. But looking immediately to Christ from this passage, I would humbly submit, lets us off the hook relative to doing what Paul actually writes for us to do in looking to himself, the apostle/sinner, to receive the promise. After all, Jesus is sinless, but Paul isn't.

Reepicheep said...

I think it's never to early to run to Christ...Paul had no problem doing so.

The things we are to think about, here referenced by Paul, are manifested most perfectly in Christ.

Absolutely Paul bids us to follow him as we follow Christ. Absolutely, no question. Saying that Christ is the perfect embodiment of goodness, purity, etc. doesn't discount following Paul's example.

Jim said...

Well, if we're trying to read the Phillippians text itself, then we should read it as Paul actually wrote it. Reading the promise as being attached to following Paul's example -- which is what Paul actually says -- raises a host of challenging questions and puzzles that reading Christ into the passage brushes away.

I do not disagree with the theological point you make, but rushing past what's actually written in a text to make even an accurate theological point is not commendable exegetical practice.

Reepicheep said...

I am not "rushing" past anything here Jim. I've actually spent years exegeting/translating this passage.

I'm certainly no expert on exegesis, but I get your point. Thanks.

Exegesis is part of the overall interpretive process. After one has done his/her work with the text, it must be seen in light of the whole of Scripture. Paul is a model of a person who was striving to be like Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. This particular passage is Paul telling us to think upon certain things. I am not suggesting all we do is think about Jesus and thus the passage is fulfilled. No, I simply mean that it is a reasonable connection, when one considers the virtues that Paul bids us to contemplate, to see that Jesus is THE embodiment of these things.

When I am frustrated with my inability to consistently think on what is good, noble, pure, etc., I am drawn to think upon Christ, which essentially means the same thing.

Woody Woodward said...

There is no more compelling passage about New Year’s resolutions than Paul’s commanding exhortation in Philippians 4:8. Even ties in with your first Advent message. “Treasuring these things and pondering them in our hearts.”