Use this devo as you are able, in whole or in part. Don’t feel compelled to read it all. Simply read and meditate upon whatever catches your attention. The goal is enjoying time with God through His Word and in prayer. Questions about the devotional elements?
Call to Prayer
A little Christmas in July:And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)
Prayer of Confession
Confession is formative. It trains us to recognize the ways our hearts have become de-formed and how Christ is at work bringing redemption in our lives. Pray with this in mind.
CONFESSION Gracious God, our sins are too heavy to carry, too real to hide, and too deep to undo. Forgive what our lips tremble to name, what our hearts can no longer bear, and what has become for us a consuming fire of judgment. Set us free from a past that we cannot change; open us to a future in which we can be changed; and grant us grace to grow more and more in your likeness and image; through Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Amen.
PARDON (try committing this one to memory this week!) Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6)
Take a moment to confess your sins, knowing that he hears you.
This reading plan will help you to develop the habit of being in God’s Word each morning and evening. Come to this time with expectation. Expect God to reveal himself to you. Expect that he delights in you being there, even when you’ve wandered away. Growing a spiritual habit is a slow, patient process. So be kind to yourself as you grow!
Readings are hyperlinked. Simply hover over the passage or click Morning/Evening Reading (email version).
Praying the Psalms: Read slowly. Take note of words and phrases. Bring them before the Lord in prayer and personalize the passage as you pray.
NT Context: Matthew provides the comprehensive context by which we see all God’s creation and salvation completed in Jesus, and all the parts of our lives—work, family, friends, memories, dreams—also completed in Jesus. Lacking such a context, we are in danger of seeing Jesus as a mere diversion from the concerns announced in the newspapers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Meditate on the passage, noting a few words or a phrase that stood out. Take them to God in prayer.
OT Context: First, God. God is the subject of life. God is foundational for living. If we don’t have a sense of the primacy of God, we will never get it right, get life right, get our lives right. Not God at the margins; not God as an option; not God on the weekends. God at center and circumference; God first and last; God, God, God. Genesis gets us off on the right foot. Genesis pulls us into a sense of reality that is God-shaped and God-filled. It gives us a vocabulary for speaking accurately and comprehensively about our lives, where we come from and where we are going, what we think and what we do, the people we live with and how to get along with them, the troubles we find ourselves in and the blessings that keep arriving. Reflect on the passage. Who was the original audience, and what was their situation? How is that relevant to you today?
This section of the Devo focuses on the passage(s) from Sunday’s sermon. Use it to reflect upon the ways Christ has been working in your life this week. Makes a great midday reflection, or group discussion guide. Follow along with our Philippians Reading Plan + Study Guide as we all read Philippians every day this summer.
Read: Philippians 1 + 2 (and the whole letter if you have about 14 minutes)
What is a citizen? The theme of our passage this week centers on this concept. Your translation may obscure this a little, but here’s what the Greek says, “Only let your manner of life [as citizens] be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” So what is a citizen?
A quick return to the civics class of our youth recalls that citizens require a country to which they belong. Our American imaginations envision the scenery we’ve experienced: rolling pastoral hills, craggy mountains, painted deserts. Created things which citizens are called to steward. Citizens also need places to live. So up pop towns, villages, townships, counties, and cities that dot the landscape.
This is the precise image that Paul is hoping to evoke in usas he uses a Greek verb (politeuesthai)which has the same root as the word polis or city. So Paul is simply telling us to be good citizens in whatever country we live in? Well, yes in part, but to really understand what Paul is saying, you have to follow his logic throughout the letter. And when we do this, we see that Paul is actually describing Christians as having “counter-citizenship.”This would have been revolutionary to the church in the Roman colony of Philippi who so prized their Roman citizenship. It should be revolutionary and instructive to us today as well in how we view our citizenship.
We are familiar with the concept of dual citizenship, where one’s loyalties are split between the two countries to which he or she belongs. But notice here that the primary citizenship that is emphasized is the one we receive through the gospel. That is why Paul says later on that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus” (3:20). So what is Paul saying?
Paul is telling the Philippians and us that the church is a “colony of heaven” whatever she is planted. Kent Hughes puts it this way, “The town of Philippi was enjoying the personal patronage and benefactions of Lord Caesar, but the Philippians were subjects of the one who alone is LORD and to whom every knee (including “Lord” Nero’s) will bow.”
Christians are loyal to King Jesus alone. We live out what we really are: blood-bought, sons and daughters of the true King. More on what this looks like tomorrow!
Questions to Ponder: What do you see when you read Paul’s words? What images and sounds come to mind? Looking ahead, what do you suppose it looks like for the church to be a “colony of heaven” filled with “counter-citizens”?
Evening Prayer of Examen
Where did you move with or feel close to Jesus today?
Where did you resist or feel far from Jesus today?
Where is Jesus leading you tomorrow? Ask for joy as you follow him.
He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove / The glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love, and wonders of his love, and wonders, wonders of his love. (Joy to the World, Isaac Watts. Hymn based on Psalm 98)