The Characteristics and Path of Devotedness

Philippians 1‑4  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Phil. 1-4
THE characteristics of devotedness are largely set forth in this epistle. It is, to have in us "the mind which was in Christ Jesus;" like Him, to be "blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation....... lights in the world, holding forth the word of life." As redeemed by Christ, standing in Christ, and aiming to be like Christ, it is easy to understand that such would therefore see everything in relation to Christ, and this is remarkably brought out in the first chapter of this short epistle. Thus if, as in the sixth verse, he thinks of God's present work, or, as in the tenth verse, he is occupied with the walk of the saints, he looks at both as they will appear in the day of Christ—that day when everything will come out according to God, when all will be made manifest, and all His saints shall have reward from Him according to their works.
If his heart goes out after the saints, he thinks and feels for them, not as they are seen of men, but as they are precious to the deepest feelings of the heart of Him who loveth them, and washed them from their sins in His own blood. He could say, "God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ." (v. 8.)
If he looked at the heavy chains that bound him, and so painfully pressed upon him, as a prisoner for the truth's sake, he could think of those heavy irons as associated with the person of the Lord Jesus, whom he served, and for whom he suffered.' Hence he called these fetters his "bonds in Christ." He saw Christ, as it were, written on every link of his chain. His faith so looked to Him, so dealt with Him, and so received everything out of His hand, that he knew himself to be the prisoner of Jesus Christ, and felt his chains to be as he said, "my bonds in Christ." (v. 13.)
Then as to preaching. Here too the person of his adorable Lord was everything. It was not merely the quantity, as people now call it, of evangelical machinery, but whether Christ—that blessed Man in the glory—were exalted in it. It was not enough for the 'apostle that persons preached about Christ, but whether the person—Christ Himself—were exalted; that was the point; and if so, no matter by whom it was, he could say, "I therein do rejoice, yea, and I will rejoice." (v. 18.)
If bodily health or bodily suffering were the subjects, he seemed to have had but one desire animating his soul; and what could that be in one who knew Christ in the glory to be the one absorbing object of his heart? Could he consider his own body apart from Him? Certainly not. It was therefore that "Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death." (v. 20.)
As to this present life, he could say, "For me to live is Christ." Blessed testimony! True mark of the faithful! It is not merely holding doctrines about Christ, however orthodox they may be, but expressing Christ, showing forth His characteristics, exhibiting His ways, habits, and spirit continually,—being really yoked with Him who was meek and lowly in heart. What is devotedness but this? Happy those who, rejoicing in Christ, are seeking in all points to be like Christ—obedient, faithful, meek and lowly in heart, not seeking to do their own will, but subject in all things to His will. Wondrous expression, "For me to live is Christ!" (v. 21.)
Then as to departing. It was not rest, or joy, or heaven, or happiness, that fired his soul with hope when he thought of putting off this tabernacle. No! As in other matters, so here he looked at it in relation to the great object of attraction before his heart—Christ Himself. His joy in the prospect of departing was to be with Christ. Blessed prospect It was not the crown, the deliverance from sorrow, or even the positive and eternal enjoyment of the place. No; it was to be with Him, as it must be with every truly devoted heart; Christ there as well as Christ here—"having a desire to depart, and be with Christ." (v. 23.)
In the second chapter we read that his sorrow was, that "all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's;" that other interests came in, to displace the paramount claims and interests of Christ; that self became an object, and therefore Christ was so far set aside. He could speak of Epaphroditus as sick nigh unto death for the work of Christ, and that he should be received in the Lord by the saints with all gladness. Nor does the apostle fail to mark out the lowly, obedient Son of God, as the true and perfect pattern of devotedness, and that it was marked with humiliation and rejection here, and the highest exaltation above. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself; and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and in earth, and under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The path of devotedness is blessedly marked out in the third chapter. The pursuer resembles a runner at the games, pressing on most perseveringly toward the mark for the prize. This "one thing" absorbs his energies. He has but one object—that he may win Christ—be actually where He is, in the sweet enjoy-pent of the person of the Lord face to face. He seeks knowledge, power, and position, while enjoying the place of highest possible privilege, and finds every step of the path lighted up with the most blessed hope. To sight and sense the way is fraught with difficulties, while faith knows no halting-place, and counts nothing worthy of a moment's delay, and promises itself no rest till with the Lord. Its longings are that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith.
Let us look a little at these four marks of the path of devotedness, knowledge, power, position, and hope; and is it not remarkable that the path of worldliness and unbelief proposes the same four subjects, yet alas! how wide the contrast as to their true worth.
1. As to knowledge: the press can scarcely print copies fast enough to supply the craving of the world-teeming millions for knowledge in the present day. It is found too among all classes. The cheapest forms of periodical literature abound to meet the growing desires after knowledge, among the poorest of our neighbors. But what is the object and end of all such knowledge? Does it climb a step beyond the range under the sun of vanity and vexation of spirit? How different is the heart-longing of the devoted saint! That "I may know Him," is his constant, most fervent desire. What he had already known of Christ had so captivated his heart (and who ever knew Him so well as Paul), that his whole soul went out after Him; to know more of the infinite worth, unsearchable perfections, and moral excellencies of the Lord Himself, was the knowledge that he so craved.
My Christian reader, are we growing in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Are we desiring it? Are we searching the Scriptures, and having such personal intercourse with Christ as to ensure our better acquaintance with Him, His fullness, offices, grace, faithfulness, unchanging, perfect love?
2. With regard to power; what is there that men will not give for a little increase of power over their fellow-men? What sacrifices do they not make to obtain it? But after all it is only power that exercises its jurisdiction in a world that is under judgment, and lying in the wicked one, and limited by the chilly hand of death. But the power which the Lord's devoted servants desire is not that, but "the power of His resurrection." It is known only on the other side of death. It is a fact that Christ died, and that we died with Him; it is a fact also, that Christ rose from the dead, and that we have life in Him who is risen; hence the apostle so craved the power of this new risen life in his soul, that he might live in it, and not in the flesh, outside the world and above it, and manifest the walk and conduct of one who is risen with Christ, one with Christ. Beloved, are we ardently desiring this power?
3. The third point is position. Men will work night and day, and persevere for many a year to raise their position over their fellow-men; but the position Paul desired so earnestly, was to be cast out with Christ—to be hated, despised, and to suffer for being like Christ; to suffer for righteousness' sake for well-doing, to have "the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." Is this, dear Christian brethren, the position in this world that we are honestly seeking? If so, like the apostles, we shall rejoice at being counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of the Lord Jesus.
4. As to hope: the world professes to hope for better days, but alas, how it flatters itself in its own eyes. What boasts are heard of "peace and safety." How largely too it talks of "progress" and "advancement," thus refusing to listen to the divine verdict, "Now is the judgment of this world." But the Christian's hope is eternally bright and glorious, shedding its gladdening rays back on every part of the path of devotedness—it is Christ Himself. As already risen with Christ, seated in Him in heavenly places, one with Him by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, having too already, by the eternal purpose and grace of God, and the precious blood of His own Son, citizenship in heaven, "we look," not for earthly things, "however pleasant in some respects, but" we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ," to come from heaven, when, redemption being applied to the body, we shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air; this body of humiliation changed and fashioned like unto the glorious body of Jesus, and thus we shall be like Him, and with Him forever. The body then, as well as the soul, will have capacities for entering into and enjoying our eternal inheritance as joint-heirs with Christ.
Such is the climax of the Christian's path of pilgrimage, and how glorious it is! Then we shall "win Christ." The race will have been run. Days of faith and times of failure will be over. The wilderness will be an event of the past. Hope will be realized. The glory of God and of the Lamb possessed and enjoyed. The path began with our being "in Christ," and ends with being with Christ, and like Christ forever. There is no room for doubt as to the end. He said, "I will raise him up at the last day," and "He is faithful that promised." Hence we can truly sing,
“We nightly pitch our moving tent,
A day's march nearer home.”
It may be well to notice two things that may hinder our pursuing the path of devotedness hinted at in the fourth chapter; a want of yieldingness, and the heart burdened with cares. "Let your moderation [yieldingness] be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand." You never find Christ contending for His rights, though He alone had a right to anything. He yielded everything in obedience to the Father's will. A Christian leaves the path of devotedness the moment he insists upon his own rights. He, can afford to yield, and he should be known as such, for "The Lord is at hand." We are enjoined too, to "be careful for nothing," but to pray about everything with thanksgiving, casting all our care upon Him, because He careth for us.