Today, I’m continuing the Thursday series titled, “Butchered Bible Verses.” You can see the other posts in this series linked at the bottom of this post. The letter to the church at Philippi was written by Paul as he was in a lockdown house arrest situation in Rome. Paul loved the church in Philippi and was disturbed to hear of some problems they were facing. He had planted the church through the preaching of the gospel during his second missionary journey. Upon arrival, Paul preached the Gospel to a woman named Lydia and the Bible tells us that God literally opened her heart that she would accept the things which were preached by Paul (Acts 16:14). There was also a remarkable event that happened to the jailer who was saved after a great earthquake that opened the prison doors (Acts 16:25-35). Through the preaching of the gospel – God saved people and raised up a congregation of believers that would be known as the church at Philippi.
In his letter, Paul had a few main goals:
- Reassure his fellow Christians in the faith.
- Thank them for their gift of love (financial gift).
- Address the women who had problems against one another that had caused conflict and division in the church.
The overarching theme of the letter is joy! It almost doesn’t seem possible that Paul would write to a church and encourage them to find their joy in Christ as he was in prison for preaching Christ! The perspective that Paul gives in this letter is tremendously centered in the joy of Jesus – even through suffering, pain, discouragement, betrayal, and disappointment. Not only had Paul experienced that in his preaching ministry, but Jesus had ultimately experienced it – all the way to the Roman cross! Paul’s point was – find joy in Jesus alone.
Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Explanation of how this text is misused
If you’re a sports fan, you don’t have to go too long before you hear Philippians 4:13 quoted or cited within the context of “God giving us the power to rip the heads off of our opponent.” A few years ago, the Sherwood Baptist Church produced a film titled, “Facing the Giants” where a football coach led a group of “not so great” players to a championship. Through that movie, Philippians 4:13 was used to state that God has promised to give them the power to defeat their opponent. Is that what God intended by that verse?
In more recent days, we have seen Tim Tebow with the reference to Philippians 4:13 under his eyes as he took the field to play football. I personally like Tim Tebow and think he is being used by God to point people to Jesus Christ. So far in his career, he has proven to be the real thing rather than just a man using Jesus as a “good luck” charm. Tim truly loves the Lord and is seeking to impact our sports culture with the message of Christ. “Tebow Mania” has swept the nation and continues to dominate many sports talk shows during this present off season. Tim is an outspoken Christian who desires to show people that Jesus is more valuable than football or championship rings. In fact, in one game where Tim had John 3:16 painted under his eyes, that very night John 3:16 was the most searched phrase on Google. You can see the top five Bible verses used by Tebow as eye black here. Like Sherwood Baptist Church, Tim Tebow had no desire to misuse the Bible, but in the context of how he used Philippians 4:13, it seems that the true meaning of the text was missed!
Explanation of the text
When we see this verse used as eye black for football games, on shirts for wrestling matches, tattooed on arms of MMA athletes, and in every situation you can imagine, we must ask – are they using that verse for personal motives? The majority of the time when this verse is used in the realm of sporting events they miss the meaning of the text. We must learn to rightly divide the Word of God and refrain from perverting the Word of God for personal motives.
Most of the time – this verse is used as a reminder that some athlete can push himself beyond normal measures to achieve the victory. However, that isn’t what Paul was speaking of here. He was speaking of an ability to lose and be satisfied with it. The emphasis isn’t on the winning as much as it is the losing in the context of this passage. Paul might lose in the eyes of society. He may not be successful and part of the inner circle of Rome’s elite society, but he was content. In many preachers’ eyes – he was a loser. In some eyes within the church – he was a loser. In the eyes of the Jewish population he was a loser. However, he was satisfied being a loser – so long as that was God’s will for his life.
Paul’s point was that we as followers of Christ must be willing to lose in this life in order to be winners for Christ. Many of the Philippians were poor and struggling. Yet, Paul wanted them to know they were not to find their joy in their finances. That is exactly how Adoniram Judson could go to Burma, Lottie Moon could go to China, William Carey could go to India, Jim Elliot could go to Ecuador, and Paul could go to prison! Just as Jesus died to win, we must look at this life from a different perspective.
While it does take the strength of God to live as a faithful Christian in the spotlight of college and professional football as Tim Tebow is clearly doing, we must seek the original author’s intent of Philippians 4:13. What if two committed Christians line up against one another in a football game on opposing teams with Philippians 4:13 plastered under their eyes? Someone is clearly going to win and someone is clearly going to lose. What does that say about that verse? Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” God can give me strength to withstand persecution. God can give me strength to leave the security of my job and enter the ministry. God can give me strength to leave family and go to the mission field. God can give me strength to do what is impossible in the flesh and through logic – in order to accomplish His will for His eternal glory.
The next time you see that verse on a bumpersticker or football player – remember the true meaning and press on for the cause of King Jesus!
John Piper said, “My quest for happiness is now nothing other than a quest for God. And He has been found in Jesus Christ.”1
Pastor Josh Buice
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Loving God as Yourself – Part 2, May 7, 1995, www.DesiringGod.org.
One of the most difficult times in life is often connected to death. The news may come through a knock at the door, a phone call, or even through a news broadcast. The result of the news often causes the heart to swell up with pain that leaves us vulnerable, exposed, afraid, and a dozen other emotions sweeping through our minds and hearts. Death is often unexpected, harsh, cold, and powerful. The effects of death can often lead to desperation, despair, and lingering discouragement.The night of Sunday, September 21st, the people of Douglasville, Georgia (my hometown) went to bed in the midst of storms and constant rain. Unfortunately, for several families, the real storm came later as they discovered that their loved ones were swept away by flash floods while driving down familiar roads and crossing familiar bridges in their community. Although family and rescue workers scrambled to the scenes after receiving phone calls from their loved ones, they were overtaken by the powerful flood waters and died trying to escape the fury of the flash floods.The flash floods forever changed the landscape of many rivers and surrounding landscapes. However, unfortunately, the flash floods also forever changed the lives of many families. Funeral services were held for those who died in the floods this past weekend. Family and friends gathered to remember those who tragically and suddenly passed away. The funeral homes were packed with people and the funerals were filled with those who came out to remember those who had been taken away from their lives without warning. As the funeral homes were packed with people, it was wonderful to know that even though death is no respecter of persons and it often comes with swift force – those of us who are part of the family of Christ will never be overtaken by death! Jesus Christ has defeated death!
1 Corinthians 15:51-58: Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
It is with that truth and promise of victory in Jesus that the child of God can have the joy of Salvation blooming in the midst of death’s dark shadow. Who or what shall separate us from the love of Christ? For the child of God, death is merely a change of address. Death has been defeated by the power of Christ – and therefore, those of us who find ourselves walking down the pathway of death’s dark shadow, we need to remember the words of the Apostle Paul – O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.For the child of God, there remains a strange joy and peace in the midst of discouragement. Like a brilliant rose blooming in a dark place – the joy of Salvation and victory over death blooms bright in the midst of death’s dark shadow. Philippians 4:7 – And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.Pastor Josh Buice
In the famous sermon preached by Jesus widely known as the “Sermon on the Mount,” He warned that people would speak evil against Christians. According to Jesus, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12). When someone gossips, lies, and speaks evil against you – it is extremely difficult to rejoice in that moment. However, the Christian life will be full of opportunities to learn this behavior that Jesus teaches. In fact, those in the ministry will have a double dose of opportunities.
Recently it was made known to me that someone was speaking evil against me – even behind my back. I knew that it was untrue and that the intentions of the person were not pure, but the ability of my heart to rejoice in that moment when I received the phone call was very difficult. When evil speech comes from a critic on a website or anonymous letter – it hurts – but not near as bad as when it comes from someone that you know and once trusted. The flesh wants to strike back. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked – so it desires to get even. Just when I felt my blood pressure starting to rise, the Holy Spirit brought to my memory a verse of Scripture that I had been soaking in and meditating upon in my study as I had been preparing to preach it. It was found in the text cited above when Jesus warned that people would speak evil against the children of God. However, not only is there a warning, there is a command to find joy and rejoice in that moment. Often when the Holy Spirit brings these things to light it has a tendency to reveal how much sanctification is needed in my own life.
I found myself going out on a run that afternoon and I found myself thinking about the evil speech that had been spoken against me. It was ringing in my ears. Although it had an opportunity to bring harm to me, during my run, as I pounded the pavement around the country roads near my home, I became convinced that the birds that fly through the air and peck on the ground in the fields near me as I pass by do not worry. Therefore, my God is much larger than those who seek division, speak evil, or gossip behind my back. He is the mighty God. He is the faithful Creator. He is powerful. He is the Lord of Hosts. He is the Sovereign King. If a blue bird is not going to worry – neither will I. Furthermore, the words of Jesus also soaked into my heart and mind and as I rounded the corner on my run, I realized that I should be happy that people would speak evil against me. That means that I am actually doing what my Christ has saved me to do. I am fulfilling my purpose. If I must suffer evil speech for doing what Christ has called me to do – than so be it.
Although the daggers of evil speech do hurt (especially when your heart is pure and innocent) – they are nothing compared to the sweet satisfaction and sufficiency of God’s Word. It is amazing how God always has His Word there and ready to bandage up the open wounds that are inflicted by the world of sin. God’s Word is sufficient to every Christian – even those who preach it on a weekly basis.
To God be the Glory!
Pastor Josh Buice
As we all know, it is easy to experience a let down on Monday morning after a full day of worship on the day set aside for remembering the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many experience pre-resurrection day depression due to the fact that they feel forced to attend a worship service. Others experience post-resurrection day service joy as they walk into the parking lot on a bright sunny Easter Sunday afternoon. Their minds are filled with Masters Golf, backyard BBQ, family gatherings, coffee and conversation with friends, and various other things. However, for another group of people, Monday morning after a great Easter celebration can seem like a drag, a let down, and even depressing. Below are ways that I avoid such thoughts of depression on my post-resurrection day celebration and worship.
I. Remember – He Is Alive Today
Jesus Christ came up victoriously from the tomb three days after being crucified on the cross. However, what we often forget is that each Sunday is a celebration and worship service that is held on the Lord’s Day (the first day of the week). After the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the disciples and the early church started gathering for worship on the day of the resurrection rather than on the Sabbath day.
II. Remember – Because He Lives – I Can Face Today
Many church assemblies sing the famous hymn, “Because He Lives” on Easter Sunday. It says, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.” That tomorrow is today. We can awake and face the new day that is before us because Jesus Christ is alive today and as a Christian we live for Him. No matter what we may face in this world, He is our hope and our salvation.
III. Remember – Jesus Is Our Joy
It is not the worship gathering, the drama presentation, the choir cantata, or the preaching of the Word that is our joy. Our joy is Jesus and Him alone. Therefore, we can live today seeking Christ above all other things and when we do that – we will be filled with true joy.
IV. Remember – Death Is Swallowed Up In Victory
Paul told the church at Corinth that death had been swallowed up in victory. What victory? The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Jesus is our victory. Therefore, even if we find ourselves walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil – because Jesus lives.
1 Corinthians 15:54b-58:
Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Because He Lives!
Pastor Josh Buice
Yesterday I was reading some information about Adoniram Judson, and I came across the following story:
Adoniram Judson, the renowned missionary to Burma, endured untold hardships trying to reach the lost for Christ. For 7 heartbreaking years he suffered hunger and privation. During this time he was thrown into Ava Prison, and for 17 months was subjected to almost incredible mistreatment. As a result, for the rest of his life he carried the ugly marks made by the chains and iron shackles which had cruelly bound him.Undaunted, upon his release he asked for permission to enter another province where he might resume preaching the Gospel. The godless ruler indignantly denied his request, saying, “My people are not fools enough to listen to anything a missionary might say, but I fear they might be impressed by your SCARS and turn to your religion!”1
As I have read and learned about many missionaries in the history of the church, a few stand out above the others for the many hardships they endured. One of those missionaries that is forever burned into my memory is Adoniram Judson. As we consider that story regarding the conversation Judson had with one of the rulers of Burma, we are left with a profound truth related to suffering. If people are willing to listen to us when the skies are blue and the storm clouds are nowhere in sight, how much more are they willing to listen to a message when the messenger is a man of sorrows and afflicted with grief? The suffering servant is much more effective than a man driving a fine automobile and flaunting large sums of money. The health, wealth, and prosperity message is like a cloud that sweeps in over fields boasting of potential rain – but continues to blow without a single drop.
Consider the Suffering of Paul
Paul had already been sent out from Antioch on two missionary journeys. His second journey ended with a severe beating and stoning that nearly cost him his life. As he returned to Antioch at the conclusion of the missionary journey, Paul told the people at Antioch, “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Now, in Chapter 21-22 we see that Paul is nearing the end of his third missionary journey. The last journey ended in much the same way – with suffering.
In Acts 21:27-40, Paul is taken into captivity and beaten for preaching the gospel. The Scripture tells us that they intended to kill Paul (31). As Paul is rescued by the Captain of the guard, he is allowed to speak to the people as he is standing on the steps of the Castle. He turned to the crowd and told them of his joy in Jesus. He shared his testimony of conversion and commission as an apostle.
As I consider the typical Christian in our present culture, it seems that they are only happy while things are good. They are able to smile when Wall Street is up, the big three auto makers are prospering, and no terrorist attacks are being threatened against our land. However, as we look back at Paul, he was nearly beaten to death by an angry mob, but then turns and allows the joy of his salvation to be poured out of his heart onto the people. As I recently studied that passage of Scripture to preach it, I was left wondering how many people in our church would be able to do that if they were placed in Paul’s position?
Do you still have the joy of your salvation in your soul? Is the sweetness of Christ still fresh upon your heart?
For the sake of Christ!
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1 Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.
Why do people who claim to be saved look like they have no reason to rejoice? Either they have no joy in their hearts or they have supressed it by sin. It is strange when people come sit in a church congregation with a blank look of disinterest and absolutely no joy! How can people who have been saved and redeemed by Jesus Christ live without joy?Paul penned the following words under Holy Spirit inspiration in Romans chapter five (Romans 5:10-11):
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
When we consider our past life without Christ, it is important that we understand the severity of our past condition. We were not merely sinners. We were enemies of God Himself! We had trampled His commands under our feet and served our flesh rather than Him. Paul points out very eloquently that we were reconciled to God by the death of Jesus Christ. Why would a Holy and righteous God send His only Son to die for our wretched souls? God would have been right, honest, just, and fair if He had sent all of humanity to Hell for eternity. As sinners we did not deserve salvation. Yet, God planned the cross of Christ before He created the world in order to save us by His marvelous Grace (Acts 4:27-28; Hebrews 4:3; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8)!Paul continues by saying, “And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” In other words, we as Christians should have joy in our hearts because of what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross. By the blood He shed on the cross, we who have trusted Him as Savior have received the atonement which covers our sins and cleanses our wretched souls. That blood sacrifice redeemed us from the bondage of sin. We were once slaves to sin and Christ Jesus purchased us off of the auction block of sin by His blood. It is for that reason that we have joy in our hearts as Christians. It is sad when people in the world have more superficial joy than professing Christians.Reasons to have joy:1. Christ Jesus has snatched us from the sure judgment of eternal Hell.2. Christ Jesus paid for our sins on the cross of Calvary.3. Christ Jesus placed our sin as far as the east is from the west.4. Christ Jesus plunged our sin into the depths of the sea.5. Christ Jesus has cleansed the stain of sin upon our souls.6. Christ Jesus has covered our sin with His righteousness.7. Christ Jesus has imputed His righteousness to our account.8. Christ Jesus has taken our sins upon Him on the cross.9. Christ Jesus has accomplished our victory through His resurrection.10. Christ Jesus has reconciled us to the Father through His blood.Therefore, as we go to work, school, or to worship with our church family – we should not have a blank look of disinterest as we sing and study God’s Word. We as Christians should be the happiest and most joyful people on this planet! Not because of what we have done, but because of what God has done for us through His Son!For the glory of God!Rev. Josh Buice