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I’ve recently started a study of Philippians. I have read the book many times. It’s one of my favorites in the Bible. Most Bible scholars will tell you the theme of Philippians is joy. I tend to agree, although reading the first chapter, I was surprised to see, or to notice for the first time, how Christ centered it all is. It seems to me that the theme for the letter to the Philippians and the driving force of Paul’s life, is Christ Jesus. In the first 30 verses Paul mentions Christ Jesus 18 times. To get a sense of the overwhelming importance of Christ Jesus for Paul and the church at Philippi, I have put the verses below:

  1. servants of Christ Jesus – vs. 1
  2. God’s holy people in Christ Jesus – vs. 1
  3. Grace and peace from … the Lord Jesus Christ – vs. 2
  4. the day of Christ Jesus – vs. 6
  5. the affection of Christ Jesus – vs. 8
  6. blameless for the day of Christ – vs.10
  7. fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ
  8. I am in chains for Christ – vs.13
  9. some preach Christ out of envy – vs. 15
  10. (some) preach Christ out of selfish ambition – vs.17
  11. Christ is preached – vs. 18
  12. God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ – vs. 19
  13. Christ will be exalted in my body – vs. 20
  14. For to me, to live is Christ – vs. 21
  15. I desire to depart and be with Christ – vs. 23
  16. your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me – vs 26
  17. conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ – vs. 27
  18. on behalf of Christ you believe in him and also suffer for him – vs. 29

Can you imagine writing a letter or sending an email to someone and mentioning Jesus 18 times in the first eight paragraphs? I can’t. Paul was a man obsessed with Christ Jesus. Jesus influenced every thought, action, word, motivation and desire of Paul. His whole life revolved around the Messiah in a way that is hard for me to wrap my mind around.

Thinking about Paul’s obsession with Christ reminded me of another letter Paul wrote to the Romans. I think we are all encouraged by Romans 8:28, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” But what is “the good” exactly? Paul goes on to clarify what the good is in the next verse, “be conformed to the image of his Son” who is, of course, Jesus Christ.

There was nothing more important to Paul than to be like the Messiah Jesus. To be conformed to his image. What a challenge that is to me. Reading Philippians 1 shows me how incredibly I fall short in being conformed to the image of Christ; how far I have to go in the faith; how much I have to learn and experience to be the man of God that Jesus wants me to be. Lord have mercy!

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Oh that Thou wouldest altogether by Thy presence, kindle, consume, and transform me into Thyself; that I may be made one spirit with Thee, by the grace of inward union, and the melting of earnest love!

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis

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One podcast I regularly listen to is The White Horse Inn. This Sunday it began a series on the topic of The Good Life, and what we can learn about the good life from scriptures. In the introduction, the show host talked about a conversation he recently had with a man who was concerned about his lack of ambition. His brothers were all very ambitious to advance in their careers and put in a lot of time at work. This man said he just wants to put in his eight hours on the job and then get home to enjoy his family and friends. He wondered if something was wrong with himself because he wasn’t more ambitious. The host quoted 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. Paul writes, “…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands.”

I love that verse! It has been instrumental in helping me to think about my priorities and living the good life. People are ambitious about so many different things that in the long run don’t lead to the good life, but to the tired, anxious, stressful life.

I have been thinking a lot about the good life since I listened to that White Horse Inn episode. I have been considering what the Bible has inspired me to believe about what the good life is and how to live the good life.

First of all, what is the good life? The Bible has a ton of verses that relate to what the good life is, but for me, in a nutshell, the good life is contentment (1 Timothy 6:6), peace (Philippians 4:6), and joy (1 Peter 1:8). These aspects of the good life, an abundant life (John 10:10), come from Jesus. Those who put their hope and trust in Jesus should find these elements rich in their lives.

Putting our hope and trust in Jesus means studying His Word, and applying it to our lives. Here are a handful of verses that have helped me to live the good life:

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands. (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

Seek first the kingdom of the Father, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you. (Matthew 6:33)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs. (Ephesians 4:29)

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God. (Ecclesiastes 2:24)

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. (Colossians 3:2)

One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. (Proverbs 11:24)

These are the main verses that help me to enjoy the good life in God. When I start feeling a bit stressed, frustrated, bitter, resentful, anxious or worried, I turn my thoughts, my focus, from me and my problems, to God and his Word, and soon enough I am back on the sunny side of life. These verses work for me. They may not bring the good life to everyone, but I’m pretty sure that the Word of God has truths in it for everyone, that will enable everyone to live the good life, full of contentment, peace and joy.

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Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it one thousand times.

This confidence in God’s grace and knowledge of it makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and with all creatures; and this is the work of the Holy Ghost in faith. Martin Luther

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