Real Joy in Real Life: Life Group Study
Who are some people you look to follow as “life examples”? What things would you identify as their “focus”? In what things do they work toward?
- Read Philippians 3:15-17. Paul speaks of those who are “mature”, as those who share the same “view of things” that Paul describes in the narration of his own life in Philippians 3:4-14. Summarize in your own words some of the elements of what you think Paul means by this mature “view of things” (look back at 3:7-14 in particular).
- The mature mindset Paul is referring to (v.15) includes the view that knowing Christ ‘relativizes’ all other goals in life: nothing else compares to participating in life with Christ. Paul’s mature perspective recognizes that it is through Jesus’ work alone that we are made right with God, through faith – not our performance or family or religious history. We simply trust in the grace that comes through faith in Christ. Further, Paul’s view includes the desire to participate in the way of life that Jesus models (3:10-11), one that is “cross-shaped” and focused on giving of ourselves for the sake of others, especially that they might know the good news of Jesus (see Paul’s example in chapter 1:12-26; and the example of Jesus’ own life in Phil 2:1-11). Paul’s view also includes the ability to see that he hasn’t fully attained his goal of a perfect, self-giving life, but he doesn’t let his past define his future. He is pressing on to continue in the work that God has given him.
Think of examples of people who you might consider to share the mature view of things that Paul is speaking of. What do you find attractive and inspiring about their lives?
- Paul is encouraging the whole community to share the perspective of the ‘mature’ here. But for those who don’t yet share this perspective, what does Paul believe will happen? How does that encourage you?
- Read Phil 3:18-21. Paul wants the community in Philippi to follow the pattern of life he models, along with all those who share this way of life (3:15-17). He then gives a contrast: those who are “enemies of the cross of Christ.” Given what Paul has just said about participating in Jesus’ sufferings (3:10), why might it be significant that Paul doesn’t just speak of those who are enemies of Christ, but of the cross of Christ?
- The cross is the central symbol of Christianity, since it is the means by which God makes our forgiveness and new life possible. Only through the finished work of Jesus on the cross are we made acceptable to God! The cross is also central to a life of discipleship. Jesus commands all those who would be his followers to “take up your cross” and follow him (Lk 9:23). What words does Paul use to describe those who are “enemies of the cross of Christ” in v.19? How does his description differ from the way of life Paul has adopted and called others to follow (See question 2 again)?
- When Paul speaks of those whose “destiny is destruction”, whose “god is their stomach”, and who “glory in their shame”, he is pointing to the way of life that is self-focused; a mindset directed to self-gratification, and on the ‘here and now’ only – on “earthly things” – rather than the way of the cross, or of citizenship under God’s gracious, unending reign. Paul then reminds the Philippian church (see 1:27) of their true citizenship in v. 20-21. How could focusing on our ultimate identity and our future hope – a promise of experience God’s renewed world, and the renewal of our bodies with it – change how we live in the present? How could that changed focus enable us to live as friends of the cross of Christ (not enemies of the cross, and the way of life it represents)?
- Read 4:1-3. Paul begins with an appeal to this community as he loves and delights in, even calling them his joy and crown! He then turns to address two of his co-workers in the gospel: Euodia and Syntyche. His request to these women is simple: they are to “be of the same mind in the Lord”, which echoes his words in 2:1-4, and are a plea to adopt the attitude that Jesus himself had (2:5-11). Paul also invites Clement, another trusted co-worker, to be of help in working through the issues. He functions as a peace-making third party.
This text shows that, to the best of our ability, followers of Jesus are to seek peace and reconciliation with others when we are in conflict (see Romans 12:17-21), and may need the help of a third party to do it. This will mean putting aside our pride and stubbornness, acknowledge whatever part of a dispute we are responsible for, and seek reasonable, positive ways forward.
a. What makes conflict situations difficult for you?
b. How is Christ honoured and gloried when we make the effort to work through it?
c. How does the message of Philippians in general, and this section in particular, help equip you for being a person who seeks reconciliation?
As we read in Philippians 2:12-13, we are called to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” – in light of the awesome nature of God and his love for us. But we are reminded that the desire and ability to do this is enabled because “God is working in us.” Pray for each other, than in conflict we will all have a humble, responsible approach. Pray that we would be willing to seek restitution wherever relationships need to be mended and that as a church, we would be people eager to find positive ways forward in any conflict.