I have been trying to write this post for at least two weeks, but other things got in the way. This may be considered Part 2 of the post I titled On Memorizing Scripture.
In that post I said I have been memorizing the Book of Philippians. I also mentioned that when I read the Bible I go very slowly, and sometimes it takes me days to move forward because I keep thinking and thinking about one particular word, or verse, and then I go on rabbit trails.
So I was in the book of Philippians for probably two solid months – reading it every day, and reading my commentary along with it. It is not a particularly long book. You can read it in one sitting, and be done with it in less than an hour. My commentary, however, has at least five to ten pages to read for every three or four verses. So it took me a long time, but I just finished two days ago 🙂
I truly loved Philippians 3:1-16.
I was fascinated by diving deeper into this section. I was convicted by the words of Paul, and I was also deeply encouraged in my walk and my pursuit of Christ. I felt a lot of love for my Savior. And that might sound cliché, because every Christian should love Jesus, correct? But I personally never had emotions and/or affections that arose deep from within my heart when I was exposed to the Word of God.
I had never experienced that until I began studying Biblical Doctrine.
Paul has so much passion when he talks about Christ – it is contagious. He wants to know Christ. He wants to gain Christ. He wants to be found in Christ. And as I have said, I usually go on rabbit trails trying to find out what all that means. There are things that I cannot relate to when I look at Paul’s life. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have anything to teach me, of course. But there are other things that I can practically apply to my own life.
So that whole section in Phil. 3:1-16, really gave me hope. It also made me ponder on questions like: How do I gain Christ? What does it mean to be found in Christ? How do I keep pressing on to make Christ my own? How do I forget what lies behind, and keep pressing on what lies ahead?
I want an answer to all these questions because I want to follow Christ as Paul followed Christ. The fact that I am not Paul does not grant me an excuse to not pursue Christ in the same way Paul pursued Christ. Actually, Paul is instructing the Philippians to imitate him, and to keep their eyes on those who walk according to the example they had in Paul (Phil. 3: 17). So Paul is assuming we will be doing this – imitating him as he imitates Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). As we do so, we in turn can encourage others to do the same.
I want to do that. I want to look for people who will encourage me and keep me accountable to live a life worthy of the calling to which I have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3).
I want my love to abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment so that I may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (Phil 1:9-10). I want to orient my heart towards God in such a way that I can confidently say, without the shadow of a doubt, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21).
The whole Book of Philippians was amazing.
Something that truly struck me was the fact that the apostle Paul was actually hard pressed between two choices – to remain in the flesh or to be with Christ. He was just not using figure of speech. And it convicted me deeply because I am not struggling with that choice. I know that were God to give me an option today, I would choose to remain. There is so much work left for me to do – or at least I think so. My children need me.
I am pregnant. The child in my womb needs to hear the gospel. I know Christ is more valuable than life itself, but I want to remain in the flesh for their progress and joy in the faith (Phil 1:25). I don’t feel like Paul yet, but it was good for me to understand that I should be fighting my self-desires that go against the self-dying that is necessary for my family, and that as time passes, God willing, my desire to be in heaven should be ever growing.
It was good to know, that Paul’s conviction was rooted in his knowledge of God’s sovereignty. Paul was trusting in God’s will – regardless of the outcome. So his joy was the result of growing closer to the Lord Jesus.
The whole book of Philippians sings with joy, and Paul’s desire for his entire life to revolve around Christ – his Savior. It made me want to sing, too.
When studying theology does not prompt us to adoration, we must question whether we are more concerned to puff ourselves up with knowledge than to glorify God. I have sinned greatly in this area. I have confessed that, and I have repented of studying theology for the sake of head knowledge in the past. The Lord has been very gracious to me in that arena. I know He has forgiven me.
But now more than ever, when I think about the ways my life has been transformed within the last four years, I have come to the realization that it wasn’t counseling what transformed my world. It wasn’t a book on how to deal with abuse that produced perseverance, forgiveness, and compassion. It wasn’t a magic formula on how to raise godly children what has helped me remain faithful in my parenting when I don’t see the fruit of the Spirit in my children’s lives. Nothing special about me has made me mature spiritually.
My life has changed as a result of being taught the Word. This has happened through many means: podcasts, Bible Study, and particularly, my local church. And this is something that didn’t happen in one day, it was a long process. That process is still happening and will continue to happen until the day I see Christ. As I read my Bible, listened to sermons or podcasts, God worked in me.
By God’s grace I am living like Paul lived. I am not talking about sinless perfection for I sin every day. But it is a mercy and a grace from God to be able to see that I am growing in holiness – even my husband has noticed some of that change. So I know it’s actually happening, and that I am not making that up.
And you know what? That process has actually involved suffering. Granted, maybe not like Paul’s, but suffering nonetheless. I have struggled with seeing my idols being stepped on, and fighting for the Lord to be my portion. I have had to confess my unbelief to God in times of anxiety. I have had to recognize that my desires and my wandering often pull my away from Christ. Sometimes I really think I can do all things through ME.
But with Paul I can say, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Phil. 3:12).
Paul did not consider that he had made it his own (Phil. 3:13). Me neither. But with Paul, I do one thing: forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:14)
This section comes after Paul lists his pedigree as a Pharisee, and lists all the things that could have made him rely on his own righteousness, rather than the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ – the righteousness of God that depends on faith (Phil. 3:9).
The most astounding fact is that in this spiritual growth in my life, God has been the driving force – not me. That is not to say that I am NOT pursuing Christ because I am. But the fact that I am pursuing Christ springs from God himself, who is working and orchestrating that desire in me.
Who, then, does the actual work? Is it God, or is it I?
The answer is: YES!
Philippians 2:12-13, says:
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
This comes as Paul’s instruction to the Philippians after he has explained the humiliation and exaltation of Christ, and the reason why we, as Christians, should be the most humble of peoples – willing to sacrifice for others and serve them.
Therefore – because of all that Paul just said in Philippians 2:1-11 – they should be working out their salvation with fear and trembling. This has nothing to do with earning one’s salvation. Paul is very clear in his other epistles, that justification (being declared righteous, having peace with God and not condemnation from Him) is by grace alone, through faith alone. And we contribute nothing to that process.
But in the process of sanctification (which is becoming more and more like Christ) we do play an active role. We have the responsibility to actively pursue obedience. And as we do pursue Christ, the Lord by His indwelling Holy Spirit is who actually produces the good works and spiritual fruit in our lives.
Now everything that I just said is doctrinal in nature. The whole Bible is a doctrinal book. I have personally grown in these areas because I have been exposed to great sound teachers online, but more importantly because my pastor feeds me the Word of God. He cares for my soul as he preaches on Sundays.
I am always beating the horse on social media that we, women, are biblically illiterate. Men are biblically illiterate, too, but I am not talking to men here.
Now, I am not saying women do not know how to read. But I am saying that we are not provided, for the most part, with the tools we need in order to read the text, contextualize the text, apply a good hermeneutic to the text, and exegete the text in such a way that we can actually detect false teaching. So I am not surprised when many women think I am a hater when I tell them their favorite Women Bible teacher is a false teacher, or when many Christians are falling for false gospels like the ones espoused in the Woke Church Movement.
This has been obvious to me for a while, the fact that we need to learn biblical doctrine. But it wasn’t until I had a conversation with a friend of mine the other day that I realized I was wrong in assuming people knew what I meant. I wish I had all the time in the world to write every single thought that comes to my mind regarding this, but I will try to provide some examples of what I mean when I say we should go deeper, and pursue Christ harder.
I was listening the other day to a sermon I heard by John Piper. He preached it in 1984, when I was a one year-old. I’m not entirely sure if Piper has gone fully Woke – that would be a disgrace. I can tell you I trust the John Piper of 1984, and that’s why I am willing to write about this sermon.
Piper quotes from the book The Pursuit of God, written in 1948, in which Tozer writes:
How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything is made to center upon the initial act of ‘accepting’ Christ . . . and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him, we need no more seek Him.
According to Piper, the Spirit is not deadening; he is addicting. I agree with that. The evidence that you have HIM – the Spirit, indwelling you – is that you want more of HIM. Continued indifference to growth in grace is a sign of NO grace.
Matthew Henry is right: “Wherever there is true grace there is a desire for more grace.”
Paul went hard after Christ, forsaking all the things people normally boast about; and he did it in order to know Him. Why did Paul do this? Because knowing Christ is a value that surpasses everything else. The evidence of conversion is whether or not you continue to pursue Christ, obeying Chrsit, and walking in holiness (Heb. 12:14).
Again, that doesn’t mean you never sin again, or that Christians cannot fall into grievous patterns of sinning. But if you have been really given a new heart (Eze. 36:26), if you have been made alive after being dead in sin and trespasses (Eph. 2:1-10), if you have been transferred from the dominion of darkness into Jesus’ Kingdom (Col 1:13), then now you are not who you were before Christ. So it is literally IMPOSSIBLE that if you have the Holy Spirit indwelling you, you will remain loving your sin.
A born-again person has a new heart with new desires. He wants to please the Lord in everything he does. A genuine convert enjoys fellowship with Christ (1 John 1:6), she is sensitive to the sin in her life (1 John 2:3), she is obedient to God, she rejects the world (1 John 2:15-17). She loves other Christians, she experiences answered prayer, she sees a decreased pattern of sin in her life (1 John 3:5-10), she is rejected by her faith in many cases (Phil. 1:28). She is able to discern between spiritual truth and error.
All this is doctrinal in nature. It involves an understanding of the Doctrine of Regeneration, and what it means to be truly converted. Is it a simple prayer you pray, or is it God who causes you to be alive, and therefore, you put your faith in Christ as a result? What happens at conversion? More importantly, who makes it happen? God in His Sovereignty or you in your Free Will? And while I respect what you think, it is not about what you or I think, but about what the Bile actually says.
These are things that may not matter to you right now, but I can guarantee you, they will matter when your daughter is crying because she doesn’t know if she is truly saved. She sees her sin, she sees that God is holy, and she has this sinful pattern of behavior that she can’t seem to break away from. God forbid I give her a false assurance based on that one time where she said she repented, and that prayer that she said she spoke. That is NOT what the Bible tells me to tell her. The Bible never calls her to accept Jesus into her heart, but to repent and believe. And to keep repenting and to keep believing is the Christian life.
Paul commands my daughter to examine herself to see if she is really in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). You may say, “Well, Paul is not Jesus. And Jesus loves her.”
Sure… I guess?
To accept that answer would only reveal a lack of understanding of the Doctrine of Inspiration, and who exactly wrote the Bible. Are Paul’s words to be taken as commands, or just as good advice for wholly living? Paul indicates what he writes are God’s commands (1 Cor. 13:37). This actually is one of the many loopholes female Bible teachers use in order to say they can actually be pastors. They are following Jesus’ calling for their lives, you see. They have this deep desire in their hearts, and if the desire is there, then it must have come from God, right?
Uh… no. They are being disobedient, because the same apostle who commands us to rejoice in the Lord always (Phil. 4:4), also says, “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” (1 Timothy 2:12). Very unpopular now a days, but that’s what the Scripture says. Are we going to submit ourselves to it or not? You can watch this debate if you’re interested to know more about those passages.
The same with homosexuality. Was that only forbidden back in the Old Testament days, but really, Jesus is pleased with those relationships as long as they are monogamous and committed as Jen Hatmaker says? Is homosexual so-called marriage even a marriage? What is marriage? Why was it created by God? Who says it has to be between a man or a woman? By what standard are we supposed to evaluate the culture? Another great debate on that here.
So we need to go deeper in pursuing Christ and His Word so that we can be rooted and grounded firmly in our faith. We need this not only to be able to defend it, but so that we ourselves are kept from following false teachings, and are not tossed back and from by the winds of this godless culture.
You see, it is not that I was not a Christian before becoming intensely persuaded that women need theology. It is not that I was not secure in Christ. But there was really a way in which I did not really know the God I worshipped. I was very content knowing Jesus. However, I was not really pursuing Him. I think I romanticized Him, and I thought everything was about me, when in reality it is all about Him. And in our minds, we have no trouble saying God is in control, but when things really get rocky, we cry, “Why is this happening to me?”
The fact that I was struggling in my marriage, and my child was out of control, really made me bow down to the God of the Scriptures, and for the first time I saw Him in ways I had never done before. I understood what grace really is. Again, while not vocally confessing it, I was living for my glory – not God’s.
Going deeper in my knowledge of who Christ is has also helped me to become a better mom, and a better friend. I also hope I have become a better wife. I will ask Emerson. LOL!
Biblical doctrine has helped me to fight the daily battles in my mind. Sometimes I get sad out of the blue. I recognize lies that are whispered by the enemy of my soul. And that’s why I have loved memorizing big chunks of Scripture with the children. When Libby was sad about her sin, I was able to pray for her, and all that was coming out of my mouth was the Scriptures. I was able to confront her in her sin, encourage her to pursue Christ, and assure her that she will never be sinless. I also told her that if indeed the Holy Spirit lives in her, then He will keep on testifying to her that she is a child of God (Rom. 8:16). And that if so, then no one will ever be able to separate her from His love, and we began quoting together the new chunk that we are memorizing beginning in Rom 8:28.
When life brings suffering, I want to rely on the Doctrine of the Sovereignty of God. I want to trust that my God ordains all the things that come to pass for my good (Rom 8:28-32). I want to trust that even on the days when I’m feeling like trash (because I have days like that), my God has blessed me with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3).
It is the Doctrine of Election that takes a hold of my heart, and helps me focus my attention and redirect my heart to the God who chose me in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). And his choosing had NOTHING to do with my performance, or how I would be feeling on that particular day, but He chose me so that I would be holy and blameless before Him, and to the praise of His glorious grace (Eph. 1:5). He chose me according to the purpose of His will (Eph. 1:5) in order to demonstrate that it does not depend on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy (Rom 9:14-18).
He gave me mercy. He gave me compassion. What else do I need?
Maybe I have been saying these things regarding theology, and people think my life is boring and consumed by books. Well, of course I read books. But I am talking about devouring the Bible. Doctrine comes FROM the Bible.
In days when I feel worthless or super unproductive (that has happened lately as I have grown super tired because of my pregnancy ), I remember the Doctrine of the Atonement. And no, I don’t say, “Atonement is the reconciliation of God and humankind through Jesus Christ. DONE. I feel much better.”
No, I tell myself that no matter how I am feeling, I am not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. I tell myself that I have been crucified with Christ, and it is not longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And that the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I tell my heart not to put its trust on how much I can do with the children for school lately because if righteousness were through the law, or through all these things that are good in themselves – if Christ really died for those, if I begin to rely on all I can do to make myself feel better – the Christ died for no purpose (Gal. 2:15-21).
I can go on and on giving more and more examples on how this has helped me personally in my faith. But I guess I just want to encourage the women who might be reading this that they can do this. It is not rocket science. People go hard after the things they really care about. We do make time for the things that we love, don’t we?
Start reading. Start listening to podcasts and/or sermons of pastors who preach in an expository fashion. Technology is – LITERALLY – at your fingertips.
You don’t know who preaches that way?
Here are some names: Paul Washer, Steve Lawson, Tom Ascol, John McArthur, Josh Buice, Richard Caldwell, John Bray (YAY for my Pastor), Jeff Durbin, James White – that should get you started. Many of those pastors also have either a blog, or a podcast.
Find a healthy church that preaches the Bible in this way. You want to learn more? That’s fine, but it begins with your local church. It is actually your Pastor’s job to watch over your soul. He will give an account one day (Heb. 13:17). You may want to read this article.
So really, the question is:
Do you love Christ?
Do you want to know Him, and the power of his resurrection, so you may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death? (Phil. 3:10-11)
Do you desire to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in you hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God? (Eph 3:14-19).
Do you want to advance the gospel regardless of the consequences it may bring in to your life? (Phil. 1:12-14). Do you want to learn contentment? It will involve suffering (Phil. 4:10-13).
If you really desire that (and there are many more promises in the Scriptures), things are not just going to happen. You need to actively pursue Christ knowing that you won’t be perfect in your pursuit, but that the God who bought you with his blood is the same God who will hold you fast as you run hard after Him. What He starts, He finishes (Phil. 1:6).
HE WILL HOLD ME FAST
When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast;
When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast.
I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path;
For my love is often cold; He must hold me fast.
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.
Those He saves are His delight, Christ will hold me fast;
Precious in his holy sight, He will hold me fast.
He’ll not let my soul be lost; His promises shall last;
Bought by Him at such a cost, He will hold me fast.
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.
For my life He bled and died, Christ will hold me fast;
Justice has been satisfied; He will hold me fast.
Raised with Him to endless life, He will hold me fast
‘Till our faith is turned to sight, When He comes at last!
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.
- Philippians For You. Commentary by Steve Lawson.
- Founders Ministries. Tom Ascol.
- Alpha and Omega Ministries. James White.
- Ligonier Ministries.
- The Sword and The Trowel Podcast. Tom Ascol, Jared Longshore.
- Just Thinking Podcast. Virgil Walker, Darrell Harrison.
- CrossPolitic Podcast. David Shannon, aka The Chocolate Knox.
- The Women’s Hope Podcast from the Master’s Seminary.
- Delivered by Grace. Blog by Josh Buice.
- Grace To You. John McArthur.
- Sheologians Podcast. Summer White.
- Christ Church. Doug Wilson, Rachel Jankovic.
- Founders Baptist Church. Walking In Grace Ministries. Richard Caldwell.
- North Houston Baptist Church Podcast. John Bray.
- Apologia Radio Podcast. Jeff Durbin.
- Sovereign Nations Podcast. Michael O’Fallon.
- Relatable. Allie Beth Stuckey.
- The G3 Conference Podcast. Josh Buice.
- HeartCry Missionary. Paul Washer.