As we continue our study in Philippians, remember that the theme of Chapter One is THE JOY OF CHRIST, MY LIFE. In this section of scripture, we have a look into the mind of Paul.
Paul knew who he was. He saw his role in life as that of being a BONDSERVANT TO JESUS CHRIST. In verses 2 - 4, he prayed for the Philippians. He blessed them in his prayers by praying for God's grace and peace in their lives.
GOD'S GRACE . . . That phrase brings to mind a book I read entitled Not Me, God, by Sherwood Wirt. In the book, the reader listens in on an imaginary conversation between an overwrought businessman and God. It begins one ordinary Monday morning. Nerves taut with the thought of the day ahead, he finds that his razor blades are dull. He yells to his wife, who doesn't hear him, and finally he cries out in exasperation, "Oh God, how can I stand another day of this?"
Clearly, quietly, a voice answers him. A conversation follows during which he becomes concerned that he is having hallucinations. The next morning, however, God is there again, and God continues to pursue him.
Slowly this average family man, living beyond his means, tempted, at times, to infidelity to the wife he loves, harried by the pressures of surviving in the world of today, finds himself succumbing to a call against which he fights, at first, with all his might; the call of God's GRACE as we find it in John 15:16. "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain." In other words, I have chosen you to accomplish My work.
At first, this reluctant disciple thinks the world around him is changing, and the people in it. It is some time before he realizes with awe, that it is he, himself, who has changed. By God's GRACE, he has been reborn - in Christ.
I want to share the conversation that takes place in the book between this man and the Heavenly Father when he first confronts the idea of God's GRACE:
"You are early son."
"I couldn't sleep."
"How do you feel?"
"I don't know. I can't figure it out."
"That is not surprising."
"What happened to me Father? Everything seems to have a queer cast. Was I drugged?"
"No. It was nothing unusual. It takes place every day."
"What happened to you."
"Father, tell me what I did. I have the weirdest memory of last night."
"Last night, you made a decision that altered your status as a human being."
"Why? What was I? What am I?"
"You were someone headed for personal disaster. Since last night, you have become a man in the process of being restored to normal manhood."
"Well, it's going to seem good to feel natural, after this."
"Not 'natural' son, 'normal'."
"Is there a difference?"
"Your 'natural' self was annihilated last night. You are now a new man."
"You mean, I'm dead?"
"No. For the first time, you are fully alive."
"I remember spending an hour in a dull meeting in a church that was about one-tenth filled."
"Quite true. Yet what happened to you there was something that the most versatile minds of history have longed for but never found; something that kings would have sold empires to gain."
"What did I receive?"
"Never heard of it, so far as I can remember. I don't know anything about it. I don't even remember what they were talking about last night."
"You understood enough."
"How can you say that?"
"You asked my forgiveness."
"I recall puzzling over some doubts."
"I do not speak of your mental processes."
"And I thought the place was stuffy and the the minister's voice had an annoying quality to it."
"Nor of your feelings."
"And I was trapped at the offering with nothing but a five dollar bill in my pocket."
"Nor of your works."
"What are you speaking of, Father?"
"I am speaking of your response to my beloved Son. What you received is GRACE."
"I still don't understand that word."
"GRACE is the love the I show for you, my son. It is what I do for you, what I have done, and what I purpose to do."
"But didn't I do anything? Not one measly thing? You said yourself I made a decision."
"You did. In that church, when no one else knew what was happening, you reached out your hand and took what I offered."
"You mean that what I did, you did first? I'll buy that. I saw it underlined in the Bible:
"You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you."
"Yes, you will learn that lesson many times."
"That is GRACE?"
"Yes. It is favor unmerited by you, gladly given by me, and you accepted it. Welcome home, son."
What can we learn of God's GRACE as we listen in on this conversation?
GRACE. GOD'S GRACE. Paul prays that you and I will know and experience GOD"S GRACE.