Paul to the Philippian church: “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.” Philippians 1:9-11
The holiday movie begins with the small dog bounding through the snow as his owner watches from the picture window, drinking a cup of coffee. The dog disappears in the deep snow and doesn’t come out. The owner runs out to save her dog, and, at the same time a man who was walking down the street, saw the dog disappear. They both ran to save the dog and ran into each other, falling in the snow with the dog licking both their faces. The plot then thickens as these two both love the dog, but dislike each other. By the end of the movie, they are getting married and living happily ever after with the dog. This is not what Paul is praying for the Philippian church to experience. What does it look like for the church to abound in love?
Paul prays here that the love of the church would abound with knowledge and discernment. He is wanting more for the church than just a “feel good, mushy feeling” for others. The love he is praying for is one that is deep and wise. What part do we have in fulfilling the answer to this prayer? As the church of Jesus Christ, we need to learn more about what it means to follow Jesus. We can’t just think that all things will fall into place for us because we believe in Christ. There is work we need to do in the gaining of knowledge and discernment. As followers of Christ, we may look at the following list and say, “yeah, yeah, yeah!” But let’s take some time and really look at it because what we know to do and what we actually do are two different things.
- Read God’s Word regularly. We are in a much different place than the Philippian church. We have the complete Word of God to help us to grow in Christ-likeness. This reading is one that can be done as a matter of habit with a mind occupied by other things, or as a time to learn. So many times we treat the Word of God as a check on our list for the day. God’s Word doesn’t work that way! It is alive and active! The Words of God are powerful! If we truly believe these things, then the words will make a difference to us. Do we pray before we read? Do we read enough to learn but not so much that our mind wanders to other things? It’s important for us to gain knowledge so that we can love well.
- Pray for others and yourself. This is a funny thing to have to write down, but so often, we pray for other people but not ourselves. We need to pray for God’s leading in our lives and bring before him all our feelings and concerns. He can handle it! Our dependence on God is shown in our prayers to him for our next step. Why is it that we are hesitant to pray for our own lives? It’s because we’re prideful and think we can handle our lives without any help from God. Maybe we feel our situation is not such a big deal to bring before the throne of grace. The truth is God cares for every part of our lives, and he wants us to depend on him. As we seek him to help us understand our own lives through the knowledge of him, our discernment will grow. Decisions will be easier to make when we put ourselves before God and rely on him to help us. As we pray for ourselves, our goal is for God to change our hearts, drawing us closer to himself. As we live closer to God, we will be freer to love others well.
- Be a part of a church body. The purpose of the body of Christ is for the proclamation of the gospel and the encouragement of one another to grow in Christ. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25 We are here for one another. The church body is one way our love will abound more and more in knowledge because we will be challenged to learn from others. Our fellow believers will also challenge us to love each other well. Our existence in Christ is not a solo thing. We need each other.
The bottom line is that when we grow in our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus, we will be able to discern excellence and be obedient to God with joy. Paul reminds us that Christ is coming back, and we are living for that day. Let’s face it, we want to be found pure, blameless, and filled with righteous fruit when Christ returns.
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20