When Good is not Good Enough
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Last week we looked at Lydia, the first convert in Europe. She was a business woman and head of her household. She led her family to be baptized under Paul's ministry and offered hospitality to Paul and his fellow missionaries who had come to bring the word of God to Philippi.
Acts 16 also tells of a second household being converted to what was known as “The Way” - Followers of Christ. This second household was that of the Philippian jailer. He was ready to fall on his sword when he thought the prisoners he was responsible for were gone, but Paul and Silas were still there. Philippi now had two families who were disciples of Jesus Christ. The church of God had doubled in Philippi.
Paul is now in prison, most likely in Rome, and the church at Philippi has sent him help and he writes to express his gratitude, his love and his hopes for this congregation he had helped to establish years before. In verse 6 he expresses confidence that God will complete the work He has begun in their lives. He later expresses a similar idea about his own relationship with the Lord in 3:14 stating that he has not yet obtained the goal, but that he is pressing on to gain it. Our walk with the Lord is a partnership with God. He has a plan for our lives. He will bring that plan to completion.
God is not finished with us. He WILL complete the work in each of us that He has begun. You can count on Him. That small spark of faith that burns within you needs to be fanned into flame. He planted that seed of the Word in your heart to trust God and He will bring it to completion. God will not give up on you. Don't give up on Him.
Paul expresses his heartfelt desire for these fellow believers. “9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.”
Take this as a personal message from God. This is God's desire for each one of us:
that our love may abound in knowledge and depth of insight. God expects us to continue learning. His Spirit will lead us into a greater knowledge of the will of God for us. Our righteousness comes through Jesus Christ. We have spoken about being attached to the vine. It is our connection with God through Jesus Christ that makes us holy, that sets us apart for His purpose. We give up our own purposes and seek to follow Him as Lord of our life.
Paul prays that our love may abound. What does that mean? Webster says it means “to be plentiful”. Our love should be plentiful and should be increasing. Do you remember the last chapter of the gospel of John? We finished looking at that gospel just before I left on Wednesday evening after Resurrection Sunday. Jesus had come back to the disciples after His resurrection. He met them on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. They had gone fishing at night and caught nothing. The Master appears on the shore and Peter hurries to meet him.
After feeding them a meal of fish Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. Two times he asks him using the Greek word we know as Agapao. The third time Jesus used the word Peter had responded with: Phileo. I was thinking about this after I taught that last lesson before I went on vacation. It was not wrong that Peter loved Jesus with affection, that is the Phileo kind of love, that he had warm feelings for Jesus. But, Jesus was calling Peter to a deeper love. A love that had to do with commitment. He was calling him to abound in love, not just have affection for, but to serve the one loved, to do what is best for the one loved.
This is like the difference between romantic love when young people “fall in love”. They feel great affection for one another and miss each other when they are not together. This is a great kind of love. But when a couple takes the vow of marriage, they are making a pledge to commit to one another for the rest of their lives, whether or not they still have that feeling kind of love, that affection, or phileo. Now they are committing to be together and seek each other's well being for the rest of their lives. They are committing themselves to the Agape kind of love.
It is great to love God and be thankful and appreciative of all He has done for us. But our love should go deeper. We are called to be servants of God and of one another. When Jesus told us that the first and greatest commandment is to love God and the second to love our neighbors He did not use the word Phileo. He used the Greek word Agapao. This is a word of action. It is not just feeling good about someone. Agapao has very little to do with feeling.
When Paul told men to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it, he used the word agapao. It is great to have affection for and to be friends with your wife, but we are to give ourselves for our spouses, not just have warm fuzzy feelings for them. We are to make commitments to be with them and live for them for the rest of our lives. It is not enough to do good, we must work at doing the best; to seek what is excellent, not just what is good.
Paul's prayer in verse 9... “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.” NIV
Paul is praying that our love may grow and be more and more plentiful as we grow in knowledge and depth of insight. We come to understand more and more what it means to love God. Loving Him for what He does for us is great, but it is not enough. We need to develop our love into a commitment to follow Him wherever He leads. We are not just lovers of God, we are servants of God; living for His praise and glory.
Paul wants us to grow so that we may be able to discern what is best. As young Christians we ask “what must I do to be saved” and that is a good thing. But as we mature, we come to understand that we are not saved for our benefit, we are saved to carry out the work of God in the world. We move from what is in it for me to what can I do for Him!
We are to move from being people who are always praying to have our needs met to being people who are seeking to meet the needs of others. We move from knowing we are loved to sharing that love with others.
As immature Christians we are looking at the Christian life trying to decide where the bottom line is. How much can I get by with and still be in the kingdom, and still be saved? What is the minimum standard of God?
The flesh, the old man, wants to know how little it can do and still be loved by God. The Spirit is seeking to help us see that the old man just whats to know what is good. The new man, the spiritual man that was born in us when we first put our trust in God, wants to know what is best. What is excellent?
What is best, what is excellent is that our love would abound more and more as we grow in knowledge and depth of insight. As we walk with Christ... As we live in the Spirit... as we deny the flesh and live out a proper relationship with God we come to understand more deeply what Jesus meant when He said that whoever would be great in the kingdom of God must be the servant of all.
Life is not about being happy. Life is not about what is in it for me. Life is not about piling up enough to last me until I die.
Life is not just about what I can do FOR God. Life is about what God wants to do IN and WITH me. How can I demonstrate to the world that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives? By living that life before them.
Looking for what is good falls short of God's plan for us. We must seek what is best. We are called to love God and to love people. This is the agapao kind of love, not the phileo; not the affection that feels good, but the commitment that does good.
When Jesus told us to love our enemies and do good to those who do us dirty, He was talking about the Agapao kind of love. The kind of love that does what is good and right even when it does not have warm affectionate love for that person. Jesus purchased our forgiveness on Calvary. He purchased theirs as well. We are to love even when they do not deserve to be loved.
When a couple is having difficulties, you often hear one say “I do not love her any more.” They are not talking about Agapao. They are talking about their feelings. They are talking about romance. But when we take a vow before God and one another to love one another until death do us part, we are talking about going beyond what is good to what is excellent. We begin moving into the area of what is best.
Not one of us deserve God's love. But He gives it to us anyway. He loves us when we are at our worst. He does that to help us get up and be our best. When we understand that truth, we begin to live out what Paul was saying about growing in our knowledge and understanding. His prayer for the Philippians, and my prayer for you today is that “your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.
When Good is not Good Enough – When we settle for less than God's will. When we love God and others with the Phileo kind of love and God is calling us to the agapao kind of love. When He is leading us to love even when it does not feel good to do so.
Don't settle for what is good. Move up to what is excellent! Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Love one another with God's kind of love. I pray your love abounds to the glory and praise of God.