Friday, May 23, 2008

Deliverance from Ourselves

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, he was under house arrest in the city of Rome. Paul spent his days and nights chained to a member of the elite Praetorian Guard, awaiting a trial that would determine whether he lived or died. Yet Paul never lost sight of the fact that nothing in his life happened without a purpose. In his earlier letter to the Romans (8:28), he wrote: “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Paul was acutely aware that his physical circumstances were not what mattered. His bonds had no power over him other than in how God chose to use them to accomplish His purposes. In Philippians 1:19-20, Paul wrote: “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance . . . that Christ will be exalted in my body . . . by life or by death.” What kind of deliverance was Paul talking about? Deliverance from the shackles he now wore? The context does not seem to indicate this. I believe Paul was speaking of the kind of deliverance we all need: deliverance from ourselves.

Earlier in his letter, Paul had assured the Philippians that “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” This “work” had already begun yet would not be completed until time on earth was finished. Therefore this “work” couldn’t be their salvation. Their salvation was already a done deal, purchased and paid for by the blood of the Savior. So what was the work God continued to do in them and in all of us?


God was and still is in the process of changing, or transforming, all believers into the image of Christ. Paul understood that suffering would bring about this desired change. Peter wrote of this same idea in 1 Peter 4:1: “He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased to sin.” Suffering difficult circumstances, especially to the extent that Paul did in his lifetime, has a way of allowing us to zero in on the main thing.

When my mother was sick with leukemia in the hospital, she sent me a card I will always treasure. In it she told me she was not sorry for this illness that threatened (and eventually took) her very life. Her circumstances had allowed her to gain a perspective she had never had before. She now clearly understood what was important and what must be brushed aside in her priorities. She had gained an intimacy with the Lord she had never before experienced. In her mind, it was worth it all.

Less of me. More of Christ. For Paul, the deliverance was worth the suffering he endured. That Christ would be exalted in his body, by life or by death, was Paul’s greatest desire.

Two things enabled Paul in this process. “This will turn out for my deliverance through [1.] Your prayers and [2.] the provision of the spirit of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:19, numbers added) We, too, have the same resources available to us. I am blessed to have several people that are committed to pray for me on a daily basis. My Aunt Margie lifts me and my family up to the Lord each morning, as do my mother and father-in-law. Those that pray for us are an important part of our enablement. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am to have family members committing them to prayer. Lest you worry that no one is praying for you, think again. Hebrews 7:25 tells us that our Great High Priest, Jesus, lives to intercede on our behalf. You have the King of Kings and Lord of Lords praying for you. Be assured, you are covered in prayer.

Secondly, all who have believed in Jesus as their Savior have another enablement as well. God’s Holy Spirit dwells within us (Acts 2:33), teaching us (Luke 2:26), empowering us (Acts 1:8), guiding us (Acts 16:6), and renewing us (Titus 3:5). Our “deliverance” is a sure thing, and all has been provided to bring it to pass.

When we look at what we are being delivered from: destructive attitudes and thoughts, pride and a self-serving agenda, corruption, greed, and a host of other faults imbedded in our old nature, we welcome the change God is bringing about in us. Deliverance from things such as these is a deliverance from a slavery to sin to absolute freedom in Christ. We are being transformed from a grotesquely corrupted caricature of what God intended us to be all along. He is changing us into what will best reflect His glory. It is a welcome deliverance. Even when done through sometimes painful circumstances.

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