Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! – Philippians 4:1 (NIV)
The sermon on Sunday was one of those gentle, but insistent nudges from God to redirect and refocus; an arm around the shoulders and a hand under the chin showing a child the right way forward. Pastor Bill was taking us through a passage in Matthew 5 about asking the right questions, about keeping our eyes in the right direction and living life for something instead of against something. While he was preaching, Philippians 4:1 kept coming to mind.
Chapter 3 of Philippians really is a new prescription for life that if applied will help us be more like Christ. Paul encourages us to keep our eyes on Christ, to put our past achievements behind us and to press on. He is clear that fulfillment of the law by outward action is rubbish compared to being transformed by the one who fulfills the law completely. This is what Paul is referring to when he says, “that is how you stand firm in the Lord.” But this truth, this defining movement toward Christ, challenges me to rethink more than my relationship with Him and ask, “How does this change the way I am a husband, a father, a son or an employee?”
For example, as a father, I have a great deal of experience saying various words and phrases to my children: “No,” “Don’t touch that!” “Stop doing that to your sister.” They are boundary-setting statements, intent on controlling my girls so they will know how to act. While there are certainly times where boundaries are important, I am not so certain that they will have the results I am hoping for if they are used without consideration. I fear that I would only be teaching them how to act without showing them why or why not to act. Then, all I would have given them is a nice script for being well-behaved and never hearts or minds practiced in being the Christ-like children of God He designed them to be.
I don’t want my children to be actresses, performing their way through life, slowly becoming less and less real. I want them to be as real as they can possibly be and that means helping them move toward Christ. And that means that I must move toward Christ ahead of them, showing them the way. I want to be more about pointing them in the right direction than pointing out their indiscretion. I want to encourage their growth in Christ and not their blind adherence to rules and boundaries. I want them to look like Christ more every day not like the Pharisees He struggled with again and again.
Help me Lord to point others in the right direction.