Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. Phil. 4:9
How can this be? How can God allow such words by a man to be inscribed into His holy scriptures? The man is talking about himself here! Indeed, it would appear he is boasting.
But the Apostle Paul, who it is that is speaking here, was no mere man. And his boasting was no ordinary bragging. Everything that he wrote in the Bible was approved by the Holy Spirit before it was even written down.
At any rate, a person would have to be either grossly egoistic or painfully ignorant to even hint at downplaying the significance of a man whose writings God allowed to make up for more than half the entire New Testament. Not only so, but Paul was he who was chosen and commissioned by God to bring about the revelation of the gospel of God’s grace in its absolute entirety and clarity to the church. Were it not for Paul’s writings, we would not understand the gospel as we do today.
And yet, amazingly, neither of these two things comprises the most important fact about Paul. The most remarkable thing about the Apostle Paul is that he lived the words he wrote. In other words, he lived the very life he preached and, in so doing, Paul became a model of God’s character and God’s grace. This is the single most important thing that sets Paul apart.
Make no mistake: preaching the gospel is extremely important. But whatever we do for the gospel’s sake we do it to the end that men and women may change and live the gospel. Living the gospel is the single most important thing that God is looking for in our lives.
Now, living the gospel might sound easy – until God pries the scales from off your eyes and you discover there are not too many people who can quote Philippians 4:9 for themselves with any sense of conviction. I am sure you would need to search far and wide indeed to find a single person who can perfectly fit the words that Paul writes about himself here. This is not a judgment on anyone. But the Bible makes it abundantly clear that not many people are willing to accept the crucified life. If, on the other hand you can find a man or woman who lives such a life, you’ve hit gold. You will have found someone you can follow, for such a person will lead you to Christ. And Paul was such a man.
Actually, when it comes to talking about his life, Paul does so extensively in his epistles. But his is no ordinary talk. Every word that Paul wrote he wrote under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Today, we will consider just one scripture among many, where Paul talks about himself. This scripture is a goldmine.
“16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. 17 For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. (1 Cor. 4:16-17)
Notice Paul talks of his “ways which be in Christ”.
“Ways”. What a strange word! I believe this speaks of his entire manner of life. His ways, he says were conducted “in Christ”!
I cannot comprehend the boldness that Paul had. For here he is telling the Corinthians that he will be sending Timothy to remind them of how he lived and walked among them according to the gospel of Jesus Christ that he preached to them. I wonder what Paul wanted them to remember about him?
Personally, there are many things that I as a preacher would wish people not to remember about me. Many times my ways were not “in Christ”, despite my belief to the contrary. May the Lord be merciful to me. But Paul’s ways were all in Christ and he had nothing to fear. What a price he must have paid to arrive at such boldness!
And it was not just to the Corinthians that Paul took his ways which were in Christ. It is recorded in the Bible that he took these same ways to all the churches that he set his foot in – “every where in every church”.
What an incredible feat this was in the Spirit! It is through such insights that we can begin to appreciate the greatness of this man, Paul, in the Spirit.
Unfortunately, people ‘export’ all kinds of things to God’s churches. A couple of decades ago, someone brought the ‘Toronto Blessing’ to Africa, and people were laughing in churches like crazy. Today, I do not hear of the ‘Toronto Blessing’ any more. Where did the ‘life’ of the ‘Toronto Blessing’ go? Why did the laughter, and the barking, and the drunkenness not endure? It is because these things were not “in Christ”; they were not of Christ. Whatever is not of Christ cannot endure the test of time.
But Paul’s life, which was in Christ, and which he lived thousands of years earlier, is still with us. And it gets sweeter and more powerful the more we get to know it.
Paul did not go ‘slaying people in the Spirit’ in the churches. Rather, he took to them his ways which were in Christ, and these endured. And they will endure to the end.
Unfortunately, false doctrines like the ‘Toronto Blessing’ and other deviant doctrines are all that most preachers can bring to God’s people. The result is that, at the very least, believers are not taught the cross, they have no example to look up to, and they end up living a grace-less life. At the end of all the hype, they find themselves fighting a losing battle against depression, anger, pride, envy, lust, division and every work of the flesh because in essence these believers are products of preachers who have no “ways” of Christ in them.
Even worse, however, is that these doctrines damage people spiritually in other, more sinister ways.
Much too many preachers today have nothing of Christ in their lives to show to God’s people.
Today, God is looking for preachers who will bring their “ways which be in Christ” to the churches.
To be fair, the ‘Toronto Blessing’ caught God’s people when there was no spiritual father in the church. But that has been the problem of the church throughout history: the lack of a spiritual father within the church. In such an atmosphere, anything goes.
The church’s spiritual father is the apostle, and the apostle reveals the crucified Christ to the church. He does this through showing them his ways which are in Christ!
The challenge to us, the church, is that exactly what Paul says here – a life lived “in Christ” – should be what every preacher and every believer have to say of themselves. This is the core of our salvation: the life we live, the words we speak, the spiritual deposit we impart to others; and the way we relate to people, especially believers. This can only be a life founded upon the revelation of the cross in a person’s life. When we are crucified with Christ, Christ lives and proves His works in us, as He did in Paul’s life. Paul makes this clear in Galatians 2:20:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Notice, “the life which I now live in the flesh…”
We ought, first and foremost, to ask ourselves the question: What kind of life do I live?
We can only live a life of grace and true holiness when we have crucified our flesh on the cross. Any other way is mere religion and it will not produce spiritual fruit in our lives.