Monday, August 4, 2008

Philippians - Not Being Bound to the Past


So, on my very first post, my first comment was one of encouragement. Thank you! LisaM, who runs the blog Those Headcoverings, which I love, mentioned the letter to the Philippians. It just so happened that I was getting to that letter in my reading of the Bible. (No, I haven't read the entire Bible yet. I'm close though!)

I think that Philippians is a wonderful letter. I mean, they all are, but in most of the letters Paul is correcting some problem that the church he is addressing is having. We don't know the exact nature of the issues because we only have one piece of what I am certain was a more lengthy exchange. And all of it is useful, it helps guide us by showing us that these problems existed, and what the solution for them is. How the early church handled the questions and problems that arose.

But Philippians seems to be a letter of praise. Paul praises the Philippians for their generosity, their faithfulness to Christ's teachings which Paul brought to them. And he still offers advice, perhaps in a preemptive effort. He speaks against clinging to the past, to actions that offered nothing of spiritual value as they had been superceded by a newer, perfect covenant. He is speaking, it seems to me, specifically of the old laws, circumcision, keeping kosher, etc.

However, the lesson that I'm taking from this is that when taking the new path, when breaking from your old life, you have to evaluate the pieces of your old life and if they are of true value, or not. I, personally, know that there are habits, things that I enjoyed, that I would still enjoy if I let myself do them, that are of no true value. They are, in fact, harmful. And there are other things that aren't. It's figuring out which things are which, and how to phase everything over to the new way of life without a massive shock to my 'system' that is difficult.

For example, there are certain websites, certain things, that I know are harmful, that I know I need to not look at anymore. (I leave it to the imagination what the content of these might be.) And I deleted those links, and emptied the trash. Good. Done. Byebye, I won't be able to find them again, so the temptation is gone. However, the desire was still there. And I wished that I'd kept the links, and then I 'cleverly' realized that I hadn't cleared the cookies and the history of the computer, and there the links were. Yay! And I went right back to it.

I regretted it, afterward. I deleted the links again, and I wiped out the cookies and the history, and everything else. And then I did it all over again. So, delete, delete, delete. And this time I prayed, I asked God to help me, because it was perfectly clear that my simple determination to not do something that I know is bad was not going to be enough. Thankfully, God is listening, and I haven't had the desire to return to that habit, and I know that it's not through my efforts, but His grace and help.

So from Philippians, I take the lesson that we must break from the past, leave what is not just harmful, but also not of any help. It's painful sometimes, it really is. But the pain is a temporary thing. The goal, the end result will be so very, very worth it. And clearly, we can't forget our past, but, you know, that should just help us as well. We remember the past, but we see it through new eyes, with a new desire, and with the help of God to turn to, so that we can avoid falling back into our old mire pits.

It's probably a cliche, but I like this verse especially: 'Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.' - Philippians 4:8


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