A Letter from Prison (Philippians, pt 5)

This is the fifth in a series of posts on Paul’s letter to the Philippians. These posts are written from devotional reflections on the Scripture.

Paul is driven by an all-consuming desire to know Christ. In one sense, Paul already knows Christ, as he writes: “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (3:8).

Because of this saving knowledge of Christ, Paul has set aside all earthly accomplishments or religious means of proving himself. He even counts those things as rubbish – or dung – so that he can “gain Christ” and a righteousness of Christ by faith. Paul has a focused perspective on Christ’s impact on his standing before God.

But, in another sense, Paul has more to know of Christ. He says immediately after this: “I want to know Christ” (3:10). There is a sense that something needs to be filled in with Paul’s knowledge of Christ. Paul outlines i this way: “I want to know the power of the resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection of the dead” (3:10-11).

Paul wants to know Jesus’ death and resurrection, His suffering and His glory. This all seems to point toward an experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ that is far beyond what Paul knows now. He has not yet fully experienced this sort of knowledge of Christ (3:12).

How are you growing in your experiential knowledge of Christ these days?

[If you want to explore Philippians further, consider viewing the 2018 preaching series, “Unshackled: Joy Beyond Circumstances,” beginning with the message, “The Joy of Faith.”]

Making a Daniel: Alan Jacobs on counter-cultural catechesis

daniel-in-the-lions-den-briton-riviere.jpgIn light of my recent exploration of the book of Daniel at Eastbrook Church (see “Daniel: Apocalyptic Imagination and Exile Faith), Alan Jacobs’ blog post earlier this week seemed well-timed for me. Jacobs interacts with Adrian Vermeule’s review of Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed, in which Vermeule offers an alternative to Deneen’s plea for a renewed localism, and to the related counsel of Rod Dreher in The Benedict Option. He writes:

So a key question arises: If you need people who are sufficiently skilled in negotiating the liberal order to work effectively within it, but also committed to its transformation, and who can sustain that difficult balance over decades, you have to figure out how to form such people. And it is just this that the churches of the West – all the churches of the West — have neglected to do, have neglected even to attempt. With the (in retrospect quite obvious) result: the accelerating collapse across the board of participation in church life.

What is required, in the face of a general culture that through its command of every communications medium catechizes so effectively, is the construction of a powerful counter-catechesis. Who will do that, and how will they do it? The likely answer, it seems to me, brings us back to the very localism that Deneen and Dreher advocate and that Vermeule rejects. Though I also might reject certain elements and emphases of the communities that Deneen and Dreher advocate, I don’t see a likely instrument other than highly dedicated, counter-cultural communities of faith for the Josephs and Mordecais and Esthers and Daniels to be formed. Those who do see other means of such rigorous formation need to step up and explain how their models work. Otherwise we will be looking in vain for the people capable to carrying out Vermeule’s beautiful vision.

I appreciate Jacobs’ suggestion of a counter-catechesis but empathisize with his questions of “who will do that?” and “how will they do it?” As I suggested in my first message in our series from Daniel, “Faith in Exile,” we must give attention to the role enculturation and socialization in our faith and discipleship. The counter-catechesis that he suggests is something that goes so much deeper than most of us realize. The book of Daniel seems to be a perfect primer on this, combining both the narratives of exile faith (chs. 1-6) and the visions of an apocalyptic imagination (chs. 7-12) as two halves of the necessary aspects of living as a people transformed at the deeper level of social imaginaries for more meaningful engagement with the culture around. This helps us to develop a different grammar flowing from a different imagination.

Somehow, we must live in the tension of our double identity as “citizens of heaven” (Philippians 3:20) who also “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:7).

The Church: A Multi-Ethnic, Kingdom-Oriented Community

Church Vision Series GFX_16x9 Title.pngThis past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I continued a two-part reflection on the nature of the church. My working title for this series is “The Multi-Everything Church,” which is an outworking of our vision to become a Revelation 7:9-10 type of church with attention to some other aspects beyond multi-ethnicity.

Following last weekend’s message on the church as an intergenerational family, this weekend I looked at two more important aspects of the church, first as a multi-ethnic community and second as a kingdom-oriented community.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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