I think people have a religious view of this book. I felt the same way for many years which is why I want to “de-religify” our understanding of it. This just means to focus on Christ as life. Religion is anything we do for God or even anything we think about God that is apart from Christ. God is made known in the person of Jesus Christ, and apart from Him there is no light. When we have concepts about God that are not tied to His Person and Work, they are religious and dead. They do not have any life in them. This also makes It uninteresting and dull. However, when we put Christ in it, everything just opens up. We say, “wow! There is all this rich food here that wasn’t here last time I read it!” The last time you read it, you read Philippians as an ethical book on how to be nice person and how to be happy. No, forget about that. Let us focus on Christ! Let Him produce the fruits of righteousness in us. Let us not worry about us producing the fruit of righteousness. Let us let Him produce it. How do we do that? As we are seeing see, it is by “approving that which is excellent.”
Php 1:9-11 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; (10) That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; (11) Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
Many people talk about love, but what they mean is “tolerance”. What they mean is not discerning, not distinguishing, not rightly dividing, not judging, not testing and not making a difference between what we approve and disapprove of. As a result, they are stumbling over things they do not even know and become offended. The offense comes because you are engaging in so many things that your conscience does not agree with. You are going to damage yourself and damage your conscience and you are fighting against yourself. You are fighting against the registration of truth in your own being. Of course, that is going to produce enmity and offense. I think that is one of the reasons why some get carried off and get so offended over such small things while we are contending for truth. They are not fighting us, they are fighting what their own conscience is dealing with them about. It is an internal struggle and they have to harden themselves and resist the prodding of the Spirit to fight against the truth. That is why they become so angry.
When Paul was on the road to Damascus, he had orders to go round up the Christians and persecute them. Finally, the Lord showed up and threw him off his horse. What did the Lord say? He said, “Paul, it’s hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 9:5). The picture there is like the Lord was riding him and trying to break him like a wild horse. The “goads” are what horse riders will use to train and break horses. Their little spurs hurt and as long as the horse is resisting the rider there is this “kicking” against the pricks of the goads. It is easier to just go along with the Lord than to fight Him. You are not stronger than the Lord! His “pricks” are harder than your “kicking.” Paul was “kicking” against Him so that is where the rage comes. It says he was “murmuring blasphemies and breathing threats” (Acts 9:1). He was literally breathing murderous threats. He was caught up in a mania where he was walking around or riding around, and if you were close to him, you would hear him going “Oh, these $#!@ing Christians….” He could not stop. He was breathing threats. His very breath was part of his fight against the Lord, and that was not his hatred for the Christians, it was his fighting against the Lord trying to break him.
So, this is where offense comes from sometimes. It comes from within you. You are kicking against what you should be approving, or you are approving what you should be resisting! Ironically, this is often being done in the name of “love.” That is the funny thing. Many of the people who are so offended all want to talk about love. They think they talk about love more than we do. If it were genuine love it would abound in all wisdom and understanding and judgment and discernment so that they could approve of that which is excellent. They would separate it from error.
Our love is to abound that we may “approve things that are more excellent” so that we may be sincere and without offense. Sincere is the same thing as “guileless”, without hypocrisy, not phony, not pretending. Phoniness comes when you endorse things that your conscience disagrees with in order to go along with the religious crowd and keep the peace.
Instead of having offense and guile, we are to be filled with the fruits of righteousness which are “by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God.” The fruit comes from Jesus Christ through discernment – by our approval and setting our seal on that which is excellent. This is a different way of saying “Walk in the spirit” (Rom 8:4). To walk according to the spirit means to set your mind on the things of the spirit (Rom 8:5). We have talked about how this means that I agree with my mind with the things that the Spirit bears witness to concerning who I am in Christ and who He is in me (Rom 8:16). It makes my mind “life and peace” (Rom 8:6). To be at odds with the truth is to have a mind that is at enmity with God, but to agree with the truth gives us the mind that is life and peace. This is the same thing as “approving that which is excellent.” Walking in the spirit is agreeing with the witness of the spirit, agreeing with God’s testimony concerning His Son, and His witness concerning you in Him. John says, “those who receive God’s testimony set their seal that God is true” (John 3:33). This is the same as “approving that which is excellent.” You are approving of God’s testimony. That is how you are brought into harmony with the Spirit and how you walk in the spirit and bear fruit.
If we consider the Garden, we see that this was Adam’s job. God brought the animals to him so that he could name them (Gen 2:19). His job was that of discerning, classifying, seeing, and designating. It is the same thing. That is our function. Our function is in a sense “passive.” We are just approving of what God has set forth. God sets something before us, and our job is to approve it and set our seal that God is true and separate out the light from darkness. We separate out what God has shined on versus what is in the world, what is unclean, what is from Satan, the flesh, the soul.
The word is a dividing sword to separate (Heb 4:12). When God speaks, He separates. When God said, “Let there be light” in Genesis, He separated the light from the darkness and called the light Day and the Darkness Night (Gen 1:4-5). In 2 Corinthians, Paul says, “God who called light out of darkness has shined in our hearts” (2 Cor 4:6). His calling things into existence is a calling out. When God decrees something it is separated from everything else. This is a kind of sanctification. In a sense, sanctification is being separated unto what God has decreed, which is ultimately Christ. This all comes about by our approval and agreement with what is true. That is really the only thing we have power to do (spiritually speaking).
Our eternal destiny and fruitfulness are entirely based on what we approve of. If we don’t learn to distinguish truth and error, the clean from the unclean, God from Satan, Babylon from Jerusalem, the Bride from the whore, then we will be offended because we’ll be fighting in ourselves and “kicking against the goads” of our own conscience. Friendship with the World is enmity towards God (James 4:4). But, if we agree with God’s distinctions and judgments on the world, on the darkness, on the flesh, on sin, and approve of what He has accomplished and provided in Christ, we’ll be sanctified through the knowledge of the truth (2 Cor 2:13; John 17:19). We will be separated from the offenses and made “sincere and without offense” unto the day of Christ.
Notice this is connected to His coming. Paul connects this to the rapture! Someone asked me again what does “watching” mean with respect for watching for the coming of the Lord for the Church. This is so much more important than just knowing what is going on in Israel. Are you aware of what is happening in the Church? Are you aware of what is happening in the fellowship around you, and are you keeping yourself in the light? I am not talking about works, but I am talking about walking in the Spirit. This kind of watchfulness produces a thankfulness in your heart. It produces joy to learn to approve of what God approves of. You will also be separate though, and you will be persecuted. You will be singled out, but that comes with the territory, because you are separating yourself from the darkness. Of course, the darkness hates the light. That is what watching really is. It means to guard your crown (Rev 3:11) which comes from the treasure of the Gospel which we have been given. We guard it by learning the difference between the Gospel and the counterfeits, good seed and bad seed, shepherds, and hirelings. This is all a product of love abounding in discernment and approving that which is excellent.