I am working through a series I’ve called “Live Dead.” I am using the missions theme our denomination uses that is building teams to go into the hardest areas of the world and from that exploring what it means to “live dead” as American Christians. I’ve been drawing from the New Testament readings each week in our services (Revised Common Lectionary). This week is Phil. 4:1-9.
At the same time I have been exploring some books for discipleship material and downloaded N T Wright’s book After You Believe. The title sounded like a “discipleship” book, but knowing N T Wright’s style, I knew it wouldn’t be exactly what I was looking for. It wasn’t. It was exactly what I needed. It is flowing seamlessly into my study of “live dead” because his whole contention is that when Scripture tells us to do things we kind of pass on quickly (like “be anxious for nothing”), the Kingdom really means us to live this way.
If we are truly flowing in resurrection power, we are taking on the character of the Kingdom. We are living in the gifts of the Kingdom, which empower us to live in an entirely different realm from what this world offers.
So Paul can confidently write these words:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Phil. 4:4-9)
He can confidently write these words because that is joyous expectation of the Kingdom!
Wright says this:
This is how virtue works. Keep your eye on the goal of a “complete” character — in the Christian case, the full humanity promised in the resurrection, through which we are called to be a royal priesthood. Practice the skills in the present which will gradually enable you to do and be what will go to make up that complete character. This will seem “unnatural” at first, but eventually it may, if we stick at it, become “second nature.” When you do this, he says, you will turning into a genuine, God-reflecting human being. The world will see in you a reflection of who God truly is. God will see in you a reflection of the world as it has been and will be renewed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So… be anxious for nothing. Really.