Summary: Learn four steps each of us can take to develop godly character.
Last week, we identified the adversaries Paul overcame so that he could progress in his resolution to know Christ and to make Christ known to the world. These adversaries are arrogance, arrival, affections (plural), accomplishments of the past and apathy.
Throughout the week, I got feedback from some of you regarding your resolutions for this year. Some of you set out to study certain books of the Bible or even to read the whole Bible on your own. Some of you planned and began taking action toward becoming a woman of prayer. Others made a commitment to pray with your wife every night. These are all exciting and worthwhile resolutions that will grow your relationship with God and with your spouse.
Earlier this week, I was driving from my home to the office, and I saw along 101 by Lucas Valley, the YMCA sign that said something like, "We are the solution to your resolution for a fit body!" A fit body is great, and so is a fit mind. But neither a fit body nor a fit mind guarantees healthy relationships.
My mission as the pastor of this church is to learn and to assist members and friends of this church to live a right and healthy relationship with God and with one another through Jesus Christ. Having a right relationship with God is easy. God did the hard part of sending His one and only Son to die on the cross for our sin. We simply have to trust Jesus Christ as God’s solution to making things right between us and Him. But living a healthy relationship with God and with one another is not as simple.
Fourteen years ago, I was given a Bible, and I wanted to relate better with my parents, sister and friends, and I wanted to be a better person. So I slept with the Bible in my bed, sometimes under my pillow. You might think this is silly, but at the time, I knew something was special about the Bible, but I didn’t know what.
After I became a Christian, I was told that reading and studying the Bible will help change me into the person God wanted me to become and will help me with my relationships with others. I read the Bible and went to Bible studies for two years, but I didn’t change. I was still an impatient and angry young man. I was about to give up, until I discovered some of the things I will be sharing with you this morning.
I learned to integrate God’s influence into my life. What I was reading from the Bible and what I was studying became real to me, and I started to change. Now, I will not tell you about the changes in the last ten years in my life, but I will share with you the same steps that I took for these changes to occur.
In short, God’s influence dominated my life and the relationships in my life became healthier and healthier. Instead of allowing the influence from my habits, circumstances and prejudices to dominate, God’s influence became integrated into my life. But how do we integrate into our lives God’s influence?
This morning, Paul gives us four steps, that I wish someone had told me right after I became a Christian, to integrate God’s influence into our lives. As God has greater influence in our lives, we move from immature and unhealthy relationships to mature, healthy relationships. Let’s look at Philippians 3:15-4:1.
The first step to integrate God’s influence into our lives for healthy relating is to ask God to give us clear thinking in all things. We see this in verse 15.
Paul expected but was not afraid that the Philippians didn’t agree with his passion and perspective in life. After all, they were not as mature in their relationship with Christ, and they had different cultural backgrounds. But Paul did encourage them to seek God for clarity of thought in all things.
Every one of us brings with us preferences, prejudices, life experiences and cultures that color the way we see, do and react to things. But if we ask God for clarity of thought regularly, we have the chance to integrate God’s influence into our lives to reduce conflicts and immature reactions due to misunderstanding life’s situation.
I got a call this week from a person, not a part of this church, who needed some help. She had a major conflict with her Dad, to the point he kicked her out of the house. The Dad is currently paying for her hotel bills.
Both she and her Dad were born overseas. She told me that her Dad didn’t love her, was very negative with his words toward her and the conflict was due to her changes because she became a Christian but her Dad was not a Christian. The more she described the situation, the more confused we both got. So I asked God for clear thinking.