“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
Before you buy that t-shirt, bumper sticker, hat, wristband, coffee mug, bookmark, poster, or get that tattoo, let’s talk.
We often see this scripture quested when one completes an extreme physical challenge, like a marathon, triathlon, or in my case, two flights of stairs. I don’t doubt their sincerity when they say it’s God who gives them strength to get up at 4:30 in the morning to run, to get plenty of sleep, and stay out of the fast food line. (all disciplines which have eluded me) And while I would never questions God’s role in such an accomplishment, there’s so much more to “all things”.
The Amplified Bible defines it as that [which He has called me to do]. Again, who am I to say that God hasn’t called you to a marathon, triathlon, or me to fully abandon the escalator. But if we were to put Philippians 4:13 in context, we should recognize that what it’s really saying is that God will empower us to live the life He has called us to live.
To become Christlike.
If we had a “Narcissist Version” of scripture, which from experience, I could be a contributor, it may read something like, “I can do all things [Things I want to do when I feel like doing them. Things that will be of direct personal benefit, requiring little or no sacrifice on my part] through Christ [my personal interpretation of scripture] who gives me strength. [The power to get what I want]
We are called to present our lives as a “living sacrifice”. To die to ourselves, and put to death the “works of the flesh”. What are the works of the flesh? Sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Not an exhaustive list, and no, you can’t pick just three. I’ve heard it said that the problem with be a “living” sacrifice is that it can crawl off the altar.
Paul said, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”. (Gal 5:24) The word “crucify” means “to stake, drive down stakes”. Here, it is used as a metaphor to describe the process of destroying the power of the flesh, and implying it comes with great pain.
Crucifying our flesh is not a suggestion, it’s a commandment. And what God commands us to do, He empowers us to do. This is a battle that should be happening in the life of every believer. In Galatians 5:16 −17, the Apostle Paul said, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” Our goal is to daily walk in the Spirit. To be led by the Spirit to fulfill the purpose of God in each of us.
Galatians 5:17 ends by saying, “…so that you are not to do whatever you want”. That seems harsh. Not doing whatever we want can be extremely difficult! Like when someone posts something on social media with which we vehemently disagree. Many times I’ve seen things that tempt me to respond in a way that’s not very Christlike. Things I find highly offensive that seem to be begging for a response. I can feel this tremendous need to “set the record straight”, and let my voice be heard. In fact, there can be an overwhelming sense of responsibility to defend my beliefs, and not let these things go unchallenged. Then I remember what is arguably the most effective merchandising campaign the church has ever known. “WWJD?” What would Jesus do? He would do what he told us to do. Bless those that persecute us, and love our enemies. Extend grace and mercy, exercise forgiveness, and walk in humility.
This is where I begin to wonder if I can do “all things”.
Faithful Wounds Alert! (Reading the following paragraphs may cause uneasiness, nausea, or conviction which may result in an internal desire to repent. In the event you experience this desire, it is strongly recommended you respond accordingly. Failure to do so could result in the hardening of your heart, which has been known to have negative long term consequences. If you experience these, or any other “symptoms”, please consult the Great Physician immediately)
We live in a world that is becoming increasingly more and more hostile toward God. This seems to come as a surprise to some Christians, and I have to say, I’m surprised you’re surprised. Throughout scripture we are reminded the world is at war with God. Satan will continue to oppose the things of God, and even more so as we near the return of Christ. Remember, if you are a Christian now, even you were an enemy of God before you came to faith.
I understand why those who do not know God oppose Him. I understand why they would be hostile in their thoughts and actions. They are blind to the things of God and cannot know them. It is in fact, impossible for them, and they act out of ignorance. But what concerns me is those of us who say we identify with Christ, and yet don’t submit to His word. Jesus said, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) “Lord” means “master, or supreme authority”. To call Jesus “Lord”, and not do what he says is a contradiction. And even worse, a great deception.
If you don’t believe we’re living in the “last days”, you aren’t paying attention. I don’t know how long the “last days” will last, nor do I know when Jesus is coming back, but the signs are evident. Paul told Timothy that the time would come when some would depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. It doesn’t take much discernment to see how prevalent this is today. I hear people say they’ve “evolved” in their thinking. If that evolution has taken you away from the truth of Gods word, it’s a seducing spirit leading you to a demonic doctrine. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. He never changes. His word never changes, nor does it “evolve”. (Hebrews 13:8)
As Believers, it is imperative that we become Christlike. To grow in spiritual maturity, because if we do not, we will be “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming”. (Eph 4:14) If in this moment you think you are immune to deception, which ironically would be proof you’re not, remember that scripture tells us that there will be such a great deception on the earth, that even the elect would fall away. False messiahs, and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders. (Mat 24:24) To mature spiritually, we are to speak the truth in love. So here’s the “love”.
We all need to die.
Die to our carnal nature, and crucify the deeds of the flesh. To be obedient to do what Jesus tells us to do, so that when we call Him “Lord”, it means something. To commit to study his Word, and correctly handle the word of truth. No longer conform to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. To respond with those who oppose the truth with love, not hate or sarcasm. To pray for those who persecute us. To stop posting things on social media that disparage another person, group, or political party with whom you may find offense. To take the high road, no matter how painful and lonely it may seem. When everything in us screams, “What about me!?”, you remember it isn’t all about you. Live without shame, and walk in humility. Have the courage to stand for truth in the midst of an “evolving” world, no matter how much persecution may come.
So let me ask.
Can you really do “all things” through Christ who gives you strength, or does it just look good on a T-Shirt?