8 For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,
10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,
11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
As believers, it may be nice to think that once we have accepted Christ, that is all we ever need do, and in a very literal sense that is true. If we have truly repented of our past life and believe in Christ as Savior and Lord, then that is certainly the right step in the right direction. But NOWHERE in the Bible are we told to stand still in our faith. Whether we are doing works God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), working out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Ephesians 6:5), or simply making sure of our calling and election by God (2 Peter 1:10), we are constantly exhorted to DO something, to act on our faith, to build our faith and grow in Christ. Our faith is never perfect, never truly complete until the day we face Jesus, our Savior and Judge, and then we shall no longer need faith nor hope but only our love for Him. (1 Corinthians 13:10-13) In the meantime, as the apostles continue to remind us, we are to become mature, to no longer be simply children of God but men and women who show they are siblings of the Son of Man.
In today’s verses from his letter to the Philippians, Paul is telling the church (the body of believers) that he loves and prays for them. But please note that Paul doesn’t leave it at that. His prayer for them is that their love (αγαπη, “agape”) will abound “more and more in knowledge and all discernment.” Paul is praying that believers will grow in their understanding of the things of God. Peter wrote something very similar:
2 Peter 1:5-8
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,
6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,
7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul tells the Philippians that their love and knowledge of God will enable them to “approve the things that are excellent.” The word “approve” is δοκιμαζειν (“dokimadzein”), which means “to test” or “to prove by testing.” It comes from the word δοκεω (“dokeo”), which is often used in the New Testament in regards to believers testing or being tested. So, the Philippians’ love will enable them to prove or test things and “carry through” (διαφεροντα, “diapheronta”) the better things. In short, our love for God in Christ enables us to grow in discernment and to hold on to the things that bear up to the scrutiny of a Spirit-filled knowledge of God.
The end result of growing in love and discernment is that believers will be “sincere.” This English word is so inadequate for the Greek word, which is ειλικρινεισ (“eilikrineis”)–literally “sun-judged” or “distinguished in the sunlight.”
20 “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
21 “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
Jesus does not say we must merely believe in the “truth” but actually DO it. (v.21) Then, when our lives are examined in the light of Christ, our deeds will be seen as having been “done in God.” Or, to use Paul’s phrases, our deeds will be seen as “the fruits of righteousness” (Philippians 1:11) or “the fruit of Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Throughout his epistles, Paul constantly speaks of testing ourselves and examining our deeds in the light of the gospel–or else he warns us that we will be tested ourselves, that our faith will be put through the wringer and laid out in the searing light of God’s truth. Writing from a Roman jail, literally in chains, Paul knew a thing or two about testing and being tested. And yet his great joy was that he DID see such well-tested faith in the Philippians, and his hope and prayer were that they (and all believers!) would continue to bear up under their suffering. (Philippians 1:27-30)
The questions we must ask ourselves are these: Is my conduct worthy of the gospel of Christ? Can my actions stand up to the testing of the light of God? Am I able to test things myself, proving and keeping those things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy? (Philippians 4:8) Am I growing and maturing, allowing Christ to complete, to perfect my faith until He should come? (Philippians 1:6)
In short, brothers and sisters, are we DOING our faith and exercising the muscles of the gospel? Or are we simply standing in our faith, just waiting for Christ to do what we ourselves ought to be doing? Are we working on our own to grow in knowledge and discernment, or are we still being bottle-fed by pastors who lament our childish faith? Yes, we are called to be innocent as children in our love and trust for the Lord, but we are also called to grow and be perfected in love and faith. Such maturity doesn’t come from standing still but from running the race set before us, from DOING the truth rather than just believing in it.
Today, let us test ourselves. Throughout this day, let us be critical of our own actions, constantly asking ourselves if the things we do are done with God in our hearts. Let us hold up our lives to the unending light of the gospel of Christ, and see if such “sun-judged” lives are truly worthy of Him.
Holy Father God, we praise Your name above all names. We seek Your light, Your truth, that we may DO it. Lord God, guide me in that truth today, help me to judge my own life as You would, to see with Your eyes the blemishes that need washing away. Help me, Lord, to repent of those things I see, so that I may receive Your mercy and salvation. Amen.