TODAY’S READING: Philippians
Paul wrote Philippians from prison, most likely in Rome, between 61–63 A.D. Philippians is a deeply personal letter showing how much Paul loved Jesus, the people, and the church. If we are to be biblical missionaries, we must share these same sacred loves.
Love Jesus. We know well that Paul’s stated ambition was to preach Christ where He had not been named, but Paul’s sacred ambition was much more enduring. He wanted to be with Jesus and to know Jesus. Paul knew that to die was to gain Christ and he considered this so much better. Paul was driven by the understanding that Jesus wanted all nations to hear the gospel before He returned in glory, so for Paul the quickest way to his deepest desire was to labor as a missionary. To be a missionary was not Paul’s satisfaction—Jesus was. To live a long life was not Paul’s hope—being with Jesus was. Paul was driven all his days by the heavenly “far better” and the “gain” of being with Jesus, eagerly waiting for the Savior. Paul loved Jesus; it was the center of His missiology, as it must be ours. Let it be our longing to be in the eternal presence of Jesus that drives us to the presence of our enemies. Let us indeed count all things loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus.
Love People. Paul longed for his multi-cultural friends and disciples with the affection of Jesus Christ, and he stayed around on earth for their good. He called his friends beloved and longed for, his joy and his crown. Paul also loved the lost and in imitation of Jesus humbled himself that every tongue had a chance to confess Jesus as Lord. How often do we take critical Bible concepts and untie them from their missions mooring! We are to humble ourselves in love so that unreached peoples confess Jesus as Lord. Why are we to work out our own salvation and not complain? So that in love we shine as lights in the world. When we love people, we don’t care what happens to us; all we care about is that the gospel is preached, and in that loving act we will rejoice. Missionaries must not view the lost as statistics or trophies. If I am to represent Jesus well, I must view the Saudi who just called me a kaffir (hell-bound unbeliever) as my beloved, my joy, and my crown.
Love the Church. We are sometimes better at loving the lost than we are the found. We tend to have more patience with unrepentant sinners than struggling saints. Today it’s even considered advanced to think “beyond church.” Post-modernism is skeptical about organization and hierarchy and thinks naively that we can embrace the organic life of the church (calling it anything but church) while ignoring the cumbersome organizational aspects. Paul was under no such illusion and wrote to the saints with their bishops and deacons. If we are going to plant churches, we must love the church, mess included. Christ through Paul implores us to love one another, even the messy parts. To rejoice always, be gentle with all men, be anxious for nothing, and pray about everything was a missionary request for two squabbling sisters in the church Paul planted and loved. Missionaries deeply love the church that sent them in order to just as deeply love the church they are sent to establish. We can’t truly be Christlike nor missionary if we don’t lay down our life for the church.