Monday, May 25, 2009

PLFC Philippians 3

Philippians 3: Confidence in the flesh? Don't know how to translate this for younger children. Kids need to grow confidence. Maybe for older ones. Maybe for the over-confident. Again, our example will probably speak louder than any lesson.

Paul could have put his confidence in his circumcision, being an Israelite, being of the tribe of Benjamin, being a Hebrew of Hebrews; being a keeper of the law - a Pharisee, being zealous- persecuting the church, being faultless about keeping the rules but that's not what he stood on. Those things didn't matter to Paul anymore. Jesus mattered to him. Are there things in our lives like that? Are there things in the lives of our children like that?

Translate that for children - think confidence - think identity - think honor. These are all things we want to grow in children.

What was Paul saying? "none of this matters to me - knowing Jesus is more important to me than all of this . . . Everything that gives me status is like cow manure or dog poop compared to knowing Jesus . . ." (My understanding is that the translation of that word rubbish is closer to the word "dung" than it is to "trash". "I will wipe it off my shoes and do whatever I need to do with my strengths or without them in order to know Jesus better.")

"I'm the best singer in my class."

"Thank Jesus for that. What have you learned about Jesus being the best singer in the class?"

In my church as a child, my mother was the organist. My grandmother taught Sunday school. My dad and my grandfather were elders. My family was very involved and I had the run of the place. :) I had a reputation that wasn't just mine, it was my family's reputation. Maybe you know children like this? Maybe your church has a reputation. Maybe being part of your church gives you a reputation or a sense of identity and honor. Paul is saying, "Compared to knowing Jesus, it's all rubbish."

Not sure this is something you can present a lesson on and still get the full impact. Jesus meant more to Paul than all of his credentials. Paul was willing to throw it all away to know Jesus better, yet it also openned doors for him and he was able to use skills he had.

Paul didn't feel like he'd attained to the reputation we give him. He saw himself as a runner running a race for a prize - not a sprint - more like cross-country - a lifelong cross country race...and he would keep running towards that finish line and he'd keep running to win but he hadn't gotten there yet. He hadn't crossed the finish line. He hadn't won the prize. The prize was to know God. Jesus said back in John that eternal life was to know Him.

Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV). This is one of my most favorite verses: "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

You can encourage kids to let go of things (or a past) that keep them from their quest to know God better, things that keep them from pressing forward to take hold of "that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me..." I am learning things about God training dogs that I never learned teaching Sunday school. I learned things about God teaching Sunday School that I hadn't learned as a camp counselor. Different seasons of learning, different places to give.

And if the Philippians thought differently? Paul didn't lecture. He didn't try to persuade them that he was right. He was willing to let it go and let God show them what they needed to understand. Interesting?

"Join with others in following my example..." Paul said. Paul was an example to follow but there were others (even in Paul's time) who were living a pattern like Paul's for the Philippians to follow. Ask a child, "who do you want to be like when you grow up? Why? Who reminds you most of Jesus? What do they do that reminds you of Jesus?"

Those who live as enemies of the cross of Christ, who followed their stomach, who gloried in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things grieved Paul to the point of tears. They made him cry. Do they make me cry? Do they make you cry? Who are these people? Are you sure?

Paul reminds the Philippians: You are citizens of heaven. What does that mean? What does that look like? Sound like? Smell like? Taste like? Feel like? Jesus came from there. Paul reminds the Philippians and us to wait for Him. He reminds us that Jesus has the power "to bring everything under his control . . ." and that He ". . . will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." Sometimes kids need to hear that, too.

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