Philippians 1:9 "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."
Abound more and more - this speaks powerfully of positive growth and change. We spoke of this yesterday and we will go deeper today because it is a part of of the good news that has almost become bad news in some minds and I'm starting to understand why. Paul doesn't just think positive change is a possibility, he prays for it and fully expects it. He believes that someone who loves can love more and that someone who loves more can love more and still more.
I have a friend of mine who has really gotten into body building. She couldn't do a chin up when she started but now she is on competitions and can out lift me by a long shot which no one would ever expect if you saw us standing side by side fully clothed to hide her chiseled physique. She can lift so much more than she could when she started but guess what? She can still train to lift more. More.
However before we go any further I want to make sure we understand that becoming more like Jesus and weightlifting have some similarities but some vast differences as well. You can train to lift more by effort but you can't become more like Jesus by effort, at least not in the way we think of effort. Typically religious thinking tackles sin and sin becomes the focus of our endeavour. We need to get rid of a certain habit or tackle a certain behaviour. In this mode the sin becomes our main focus. Have you ever noticed that when you decide to go on a diet and either eat less or eat differently that suddenly all you can think about is food? It consumes your thoughts, you think you are hungry even when you aren't. Sometimes you even dream of food. The harder you fight food the larger it becomes and the more it fills your mind. Does this sound like a recipe for success? Suddenly food has gone from occupying too much of your life to occupying all of your life!
Remember what Jeremiah said? "Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard his spots? Then can you do good who are accustomed to do evil? (13:23) No no no, a billion times no.
Paul doesn't just expect positive growth though, he actually describes how it happens. First we discover the truth about the grace of God. We discover He loves us so much that He sent Jesus when humanity still hated Him. Jesus didn't just come but died for us while His own church, those who were supposed to love and believe in Him cried "Crucify Him". They did that to remove all doubt about Their love and to demonstrate Their grace.
Grace is unmerited favour. God favour us not because of what we are but because of who He is.
Let me give you an example of how love creates more love:
The Jews had a teaching tradition that you were to forgive a person three times and then walk away. As Peter traveled with Jesus and watched Him interact with people he began to realize that Jesus forgave more than the law required. One day he finally burst out with a question. "Master how many times are we to forgive? Up to seven times?" See Peter didn't know the answer but he knew the answer was more. He had be raised to think love meant three strikes and you are out but his time with Jesus was revealing that love forgives more than that. More...
Jesus answer was powerful beyond the number. Jesus said "No but seventy times seven". This was not a random number. In the book of Daniel there was a time prophecy that was 70 weeks long (7 days x 70). That prophecy was well known to Peter and all Jews because it was all prophecy about the Messiah. The prophecy says that in the middle of the 70th week the Messiah would be cut off for the sake of others. Jesus later died exactly in the middle of the 70th week of that ancient time prophecy.
With 5 brief words Jesus taught both infinite forgiveness and the purpose of His death - to make infinite forgiveness available for all. No one will miss out on heaven because they weren't forgiven. They will miss out because they threw His infinite forgiveness away.
The point is simple. Peter began to understand love was more than he had been taught by walking with Jesus. You can fight food or anger or lust if you want but you will lose. Or you can walk with Jesus and abound more and more until His love is so huge in your heart that the other stuff will have to go to make room. It's all about Him. It's all about His love which in time produces more and more of the fruits of righteousness which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self control. These are all fruits produced by an ever deepening knowledge and discernment of His love and grace.
Turn to Him and immerse yourself in the Truth, in True Love. Today. Grace. Always.