Hope and Encouragement for Spiritual Formation

I have been meditating on the book of Philippians for the past few weeks now. It’s so rich and chock full of encouragement, exhortation, exaltation, and plenty of other e- words. I will probably be writing a number of meditations on this book, but won’t be going through in any order other than as the Spirit brings verses to light in my mind.

Today, I would like to share my devotional on Philippians 1:9-11. This is one of Paul’s famous strings of statement and clauses. Each one builds upon,and enriches, the one before it. These verses have provided for me great encouragement and direction for the pursuit in spiritual formation and sanctification. I hope they provide you with a similar encouragement and passion for righteousness.

Philippians 1:9-11

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (ESV)

Verse 9 opens with Paul praying for the believers at Philippi. In this prayer, we see that our love should “abound more and more”. Not that our love should only exist, but that it should abound. Also, we should not be content in our “level of love”, but that it should grow “more and more”. As believers of Christ, our lives should be marked, and even defined, by a growing love that permeates all that we say and do.

Our love should not abound aimlessly at the whims of our heart, but “with knowledge and all discernment”. There are good directions we ought to guide our love in, and bad directions we ought not. If we blindly act out of misguided love, we find ourselves very quickly following our emotions and sinful desires in the name of love. This is incredibly pervasive in our world today, and has been as long as man has existed.

Adam did not humbly lead and correct Eve when she ate the fruit, but ate it as well out of misguided “love” for her (Genesis 3:6) The battle of Troy, however historical, was caused by blind love and lack of discernment. Today, the homosexual agenda has grown explosively on the back of our nation’s blind and misguided sense of “love”.

To the contrary, our love ought to be guided with knowledge and discernment to direct its effect in God honoring and glorifying ways.

Paul tells us in Verse 10 why we should abound in love that is directed by knowledge and discernment. He says, “so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” This is our calling as Christians – to be holy and set apart as pure and blameless. Of course we can never truly achieve this standard, but we are called to strive after it nonetheless.

Verse 9 offers a foundation and method for pursuing this calling – by being transformed in our hearts and minds to abound in love and approve what is excellent. We are to be discerning in what we love and desire so that we may, more and more, only love and desire that which is excellent. To this end, we are commanded to saturate ourselves in God’s word and in prayer. In Matthew 4:4, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 saying, “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (and countless other places in the Bible) says, “pray without ceasing”. These are to be the Christian’s daily sustenance and more precious to him than anything else in this physical world.

By doing so, our hearts will become more and more pure and blameless as we no longer saturate them in sinful thoughts and desires.

In verse 11, Paul tells us that we are to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God”. Instead of being filled with sin, our hearts are to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness”.

The fruit here is synonymous with the fruit of the Spirit. Notice also that this fruit is the product of “righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ”. Philippians 3:9 – “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith”. This righteousness is the free gift of justification by Christ’s death, and the fruit of that righteousness does not come of our own strength and efforts to be better or try harder next time. The word used in the greek for filled is peplērōmenoi, and it carries with it connotations of having something done to us or to be liberally supplied. As we immerse our minds and hearts in his truth, that righteousness before God begets fruit in our lives by his power and blessing. We are to saturate our minds in him and his character and his word and he promises to do the work in us and even to give us the desire to do the work! Philippians 2:13 – “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure”.

Never forget the last phrase of this verse – “to the glory and praise of God”. This must be the goal and purpose of our lives kept always at the forefront of our minds. If we are pursuing righteous for our own praise or glory – a very easy trap to fall into – our efforts will be in vain.

Therefore, immerse and saturate yourself in prayer and God’s word, so that your mind and heart will be transformed to desire to please Him. Through this immersion and pursuit of God, He will sanctify you and fill you with the fruit of righteousness for his own glory and praise.

-Jared

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