There are millions of adjectives to describe things today. Countless meanings given by certain words. Although we have such an enormity of descriptive words, we still do not have words that describe our lives effectively. We don’t have a single word to describe the very essence of who we are in its entirety. The closest we come to reaching a word that fits this description is our name. When those of you who know me think of “Dillon”, many different things may come into your mind, half of them I probably don’t even want to know, but the most effective way of describing me seems to quite simply be “Dillon”. Names are our best way of differentiating ourselves. That said, God seemed to have a way with names. You most likely know of the apostle Peter. Well, what if I told you he wasn’t always called Peter? In fact, up until Jesus came into his life, he was known as Simon, but Jesus just changes his name to Peter. Now, of course, there is meaning behind the name and the reasoning for Jesus changing it, but I just want to look at the fact that Jesus changed his name. Up until this point, Simon had been building a reputation on this name. He had been ‘making a name for himself’ as today’s society would put it. When people heard “Simon”, a few things probably went through their mind. They probably already had a description of Simon, if they knew him, but Jesus calls him Peter. When we come into contact with Christ, we are a new creation. Old things have passed away, and new things have come. Who we used to be doesn’t matter. It didn’t matter that Simon used to be the son of John. It didn’t matter that he used to be a fisherman. It didn’t matter that he had been a lowly sinner. Because Jesus had come into his life, he had become the “Rock” that Christ’s church would be built upon. Another situation where a name goes through a bit of a change is the apostle Paul. Many of you have probably heard of Him. Wrote a bunch of books in the Bible. Devoted His life to God. Major part in the development of the early church. This Paul guy seems pretty awesome, huh? Well, before he was Paul, he was Saul. Now, Saul went around, persecuting Christians and fighting the Christian faith. He was a liar. As far as sinners go, he was as bad as they come (considering that all sin is equal, even yours). One day, he came into contact with God. God revealed Himself to Saul. Once again, it didn’t matter who Saul used to be. Because, now, he was Paul. He was the man who would play a huge role in the development of the early church. He was the man who would write many books of the Bible. God came and radically changed Saul, making him a new creation. Hence, we have Paul. Now, as you hopefully know, I was not always the guy I am. I wasn’t always in the church. I didn’t always try my hardest to refrain from sin. 3 or 4 years ago, “Dillon” meant something a lot different than it does now. When people thought “Dillon”, there weren’t many good thing to think of. As much as I regret that time now, it doesn’t matter. That isn’t who I am anymore. I am a new creation in Jesus Christ. Old things have passed away. When you accept Jesus into your heart, you can’t help but change. You can’t help but speak differently, think differently, walk differently, or even stand differently. It’s as if a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. If you don’t know Jesus, feel free to ask me about Him. Regardless of what may be going on in your life now, He can make you an entirely new creation! You probably won’t get your name changed, but the concept will remain the same. Although your name stays the same, the way people think of it will change radically. In the two examples from Scripture, the changing of these men’s names are symbolic of the changing of their souls, in my opinion. Their roles have changed. They have become entirely new. This is what happens when you accept Christ. If you do know Jesus, maybe you’re reading this and thinking to yourself,” Man, I really like what he’s saying, but I’ve done some bad things.. I used to be a pretty bad person. I don’t know if I can really be forgiven.” If that’s you, let me just suggest that you look a little deeper into the Saul->Paul transformation. God takes the most broken people and does the most beautiful things with them. You don’t have to be held back by who you used to be! That isn’t who you are anymore! Regardless of what people say, God can and WILL use YOU! No matter what you’ve done and no matter where you’ve been! You just simply have to lay yourself down to Him! Just give your life over to Him and watch Him work around you! Whoever you are, I hope you have a blessed day and let God make you into the new creation that you are!
Alright. I’m going to try to start doing these blog posts as series with a few interjections here and there. If it works, it works, and if it doesn’t it doesn’t. Whatever way you are able to contact me, I would love any feedback you have on my blog posts and what you think does or does not work. My goal is to use this blog to help fellow believers grow in their walk with Christ while also trying to help others become followers of Christ.
In this post, we are going to be looking at Philippians 1:1-11, but first, I want to start with an introduction to the book of Philippians. The name of this book comes from the name of the city that the church it was written to was located in. If that was confusing, it basically means that Paul was writing to a church in a city called Philippi. This is how the book got its name.The reason he is writing this letter to the church of Philippi is that this church is the first church he started in eastern Europe. In Philippi, there were many retired Roman soldiers, and there was a great dedication to the Roman Empire, including the king. This means that Paul definitely suffered some persecution in starting a church that was based on the idea that Jesus was the true king. When Paul continued on from Philippi, the members of the church faced the same persecution that Paul had faced when starting it. Regardless of this, though, the Philippians remained faithful to Jesus. Now, a very important thing to know going into Philippians is that Paul is writing this letter from a prison cell. The Philippians have sent someone to bring Paul a gift to support him while he is imprisoned. The book of Philippians is meant to be a thank-you note and a reminder to the Philippians to try to make their lives parallel to Jesus’ life on earth.
Verses one and two are Paul’s greeting to the Philippians. In his greeting, he introduces himself and Timothy as bond-servants or slaves of Christ Jesus. Here, Paul is using a word that means two things. Slave, in one sense means to belong to a master. In another sense, it means to be dependent upon God. Here, Paul is saying that he and Timothy belong to and depend on God. He then states who he is writing this letter to. He says that he is writing to all those who are saved, including those who are leading, in the church. He then begins thanking the Philippians and stating his prayers for them. He first states that he thanks God whenever he thinks of the Philippians. He goes on to say that he always asks God to give them joy because they have been faithful from the beginning of the church in Philippi until the time in which Paul is writing this letter. Paul then says, in verse six, that he is confident that God will perfect the salvation of the believers until the day they receive final glorification in Christ. In this verse, Paul assures the eternal security of the believer by saying that God will perfect their salvation. The salvation is where God “began the good work,” but He is going to complete it, helping those who are save to grow closer and closer to Him. Paul defends this statement by saying that he has the Philippians in his heart due to their partaking of grace both in Paul’s imprisonment and the defense of the gospel. Here, he is saying that the Philippians have shared in God’s blessings on his ministry, giving him confidence that their salvation and faith will one day be perfected. He goes even further to say that he loves the Philippians from the core of his being and that God is his witness to this. He then states another of his petitions to God on behalf of the Philippians. He says that he prays that their love will grow due to their increased knowledge of the Scripture and the application of this knowledge. He prays this so that the Philippians will be able to discern true priorities and live lives of integrity that do not cause others to fall into sin until the day of Christ. In verse eleven, Paul wraps up his prayer for the Philippians by saying that he hopes they are filled with the fruits of righteousness that begin at salvation. His ultimate hope is that the Philippians glorify God.
Now, if you’re like me, I know what you’re thinking. “He just wrote a lot… What does any of this have to do with me?” The truth of the matter is that this has everything to do with you! If you are a believer, then Paul’s prayers hold true for you! He is writing to all who are saved, including the leaders! If nothing else, we should use this passage of scripture as an example of how we should live and pray for others. I’ll start with Paul’s first prayer for the Philippians (which holds true for all of those who are believers in Christ Jesus). In his first prayer, Paul asks God to give joy to all believers. We should ask God for joy in our own lives and be loving enough to ask God to bestow joy upon others. Many people have probably heard verse six of this passage before, but I’m going to cover it just in case. In verse six, Paul says that he is confident that God will carry out the work of salvation to completion in the lives of believers. This should encourage us! This shows us that we are secure in salvation and God is working in our lives to help us grow in our relationship with Him! We don’t have to depend upon ourselves after we are saved because the One who started it WILL finish it! In verse eight, Paul talks about how much he loves his fellow believers. This should be an example to us about how we should love other believers. We are called to love others as Christ loved us, and Paul serves as an example of someone who loves others with an unselfish love. He ends this portion of his letter with another prayer on behalf of the Philippians (and any believers of Christ). He says that he hopes that love will abound in their lives due to them studying Scripture, gaining knowledge of it, and applying it to their lives. Here, we see what Paul’s hope was for the early church and for today’s church. He wants us to dive into God’s Word and learn from it. He wants us to apply God’s Word to our lives. He wants us to make God our priority and use our lives to glorify Him.
So, take a look at your own life. Are you getting into God’s Word every day? For the longest time, it was hard for me to set aside time each day to try to dig deep into God’s Word, but I want to encourage you that it is more than worth it. Scripture can give you strength to resist temptation, and it acts as nutrition to the soul. Just like you don’t go without eating for long periods of time, you shouldn’t go without reading God’s Word for too long. If Jesus needed to get into Scripture, how much more do we need the same thing? Have you been trying to complete what God started when He saved you by yourself? It won’t work. If we need God to save us, then we need Him to sustain us. Turn to Him today and ask Him to help you to grow closer to Him. We can’t do it on our own. Do you spread joy? If not, I want to encourage you to ask God to give you joy. God gives in an abundance, so take the abundance of joy that God gives you and let it overflow and spread to others.
If none of this really applied to you because you’ve never accepted Christ into your heart, I want to encourage you to go to someone you know, whether it be me or someone else who you know is a Christian and ask them about Christianity. Ask them what you need to do to be saved. Salvation changed my life. Before I got saved, I was struggling to try to fill this void in my soul with things of this world. I want to encourage you to turn to Christ today. Nothing else will fill the empty hole inside. Nothing else will fulfill you. And nothing else will give you joy so abundantly that you can share it.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Like I said, I am open to any feedback on what I should or should not do. If you have any suggestions or comments, I would be delighted to hear them. God bless and have an amazing remainder of your day!
Ok, guys. This is the first post on this blog that I have been feeling God lead me to start for a while. I’m gonna be totally honest with you. I’m kind of nervous to lay all of this before public view. I’m going to start with my testimony. I just want to tell anyone reading this where I came from and show them what God did in my life.
I was raised in a moral home. I knew about God, and I knew He was supposed to be in control of everything. I did not, on the other hand, know that He loved me and wanted what was best for me. If you’re in a place where you do not know how God feels about you right now, I just want you to know that He loves you. He sent His Son to die for you. (I’ll definitely post about the whole idea of the gospel and God’s sacrifice for us at some point, but, with this post, I just want to cover the basics of what went down in my life.) Not knowing that God loved me (or at least not quite knowing what that meant) was a big reason for my reaction to my parents getting divorced. When they got divorced, I was angry with God. I was outraged. I could not believe that this “God” who was in control would allow my parents to get divorced. This anger at God kept me away from Him. The problem with this is that, without God, there is a void in our souls. Whether you know it or not, if you do not have God, you are missing something inside of you. So, when I realized this void, I decided that I needed to try to fill it with friends. When I made this decision, I quickly realized that making friends is difficult. Being kind of stuck up and only wanting popular friends did not help. So, what would happen is I would start hanging around the popular people, and I would want to be popular just like them. I thought that, in order to be happy, I would need to be popular because the popular people seemed happy. This drive to be popular caused me to start cussing because that was what the “cool kids” did. I did not particularly enjoy cussing before this, but I figured I would have to make some sacrifices in order to be happy. Well, this sacrifice led to me being around people who cussed more often, but they still didn’t LIKE me. They just kind of tolerated me, so I figured that I would start hanging out with other kids who were popular. These people smoked, so I figured that I would smoke in order for them to like me. Smoking had once been something that I swore I would never do. These people still didn’t like me, but they laughed at my jokes, making me want to stick around. Eventually, these people pressured me into smoking marijuana. I say pressured, but they really did not have to put much pressure. I was willing to do anything to be “cool.” When I smoked marijuana, I would feel like the void inside me was filled for just a bit. The problem was that, when I came down off of my high, the void was bigger and more painful than ever. By February 23, 2014, I had been smoking (cigarettes and marijuana), cussing, stealing, disrespecting my parents, and bullying people all so I could be popular. February 23rd was a Sunday, and my aunt and cousin were getting baptized. My mom drug me, kicking and screaming (not literally), to go to the church to see it, and the only reason I went was because I thought I was just going to see people get dunked in some water (not have to listen to a message). So I watch the people get dunked in the water, and just when I thought I couldn’t stand sitting in that place any longer, the preacher walked onto the stage. Now, I’m not going to tell you that I remember what the message was on or what the preacher was wearing (to be honest, the only reason I know the date is because the baptism was recorded on my mom’s phone), but I do remember this voice of outrage in my mind. It was screaming about how I was in this place where people worshipped this God who obviously didn’t care about me. Behind this screaming voice, though, I heard a whisper in my mind. The whisper was calm, and it simply said,”listen.. just for a moment.. Listen.” So, I listened, and I heard this preacher talking about God’s love and how He cares about us no matter what we’ve done. After the sermon, I went and spoke to the youth pastor of the church, and he encouraged me to read 1 John. That night, I went home, dug around to find my Bible (I had not even wanted to look at it for years) and opened it to 1 John. That night was the turnaround point of my life. That is when I felt the void being filled for the first time without becoming larger afterwards.
Fast forward at least a couple months. I’ve been going to church whenever I can. God has filled my void and left me with an abundance of joy and peace that I had never felt before, and I needed a way to express it. I needed a way to let the joy and peace pour out of my soul. I watched a spoken word video by Clayton Jennings, and I figured I would write to express my passion. I wrote a lot of poems, but I would never share them with a group. I was not the type of person to get in front of groups. The summer of 2015, at a youth camp, I was talking to one of the leaders who was really encouraging, and I decided to show him one of my poems. He read it and started talking about me trying out for the talent show. I told him that it really wasn’t that good, and I could never get in front of a large group and speak, but he insisted. So, I ran up a mountain (literally) in order to try out for the talent show. I made it (pretty sure everyone who tried out made it.. It was a Christian camp.) and that night, I was literally crying out of terror before I went on stage. When I got onto the stage, I read my poem and the crowd went wild. Afterwards, people came and talked to me, telling me that my poem really encouraged them and asking if I had written anything else. It was absolutely amazing to know that I could write and speak words, and those words helped people. I knew from that point forward that God wanted me to speak. It was my passion. It was what I wanted more than anything in the world. I felt that God had called me into the ministry, and that is where my heart is today.
Each day, I try to grow closer to Him, and a lot of times, I fail. Failing is a funny thing, though, because true failure isn’t messing it up or totally fumbling. True failure is when you don’t get back up after you’ve fallen flat on your face. God loves you, and it does not matter how many times you have messed up.
To close up this enormously long first post, I just want to summarize and tell you why I just poured out my heart on this computer screen. I want YOU to know that you do NOT have to be popular in order to be happy. The smiles you see from the people that seem to have tons of friends are simply masks that they wear over their own sorrows. Popularity does not equal joy. And you should never compromise your morals to make friends. If people don’t like who you are, then maybe they aren’t meant to be your friend. I want you to know that, no matter what you have done, God loves you, and He has always been there for you. He has never left you alone. You may not have acknowledged His presence, but He is there, and He cares. Lastly, I want you to know that God has a plan for you. He has a will for your life, and, sometimes, His plans do not line up with yours. For the longest time, I wanted to be an engineer because they made a lot of money, but God called me in a different direction. I want to encourage anyone who has their life planned out to make their plans adjustable. Plans are great and all, but, a lot of the time, we will totally miss out on the GREAT things God has planned for us because we are too focused on the good things we have planned for ourselves. God can use you. No matter where you came from or where you are, He can use you, and He WANTS to use you. Open yourself up to His will today.
A verse that has really encouraged me lately is Psalm 16:11. It says “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” God will make the path of your life known to you. If you’re the type of person who needs the next few years planned out, you might be disappointed. A lot of times, God reveals the path He has made for us step by step, and while it may be difficult to walk only knowing where your next step should land, God is in control. He has your life, and He will do great things with it. In His presence, you will experience true, full joy. I can be a testimony to this. Joy is an amazing thing, and I had never experienced a full, unwavering joy before I chose to let God have my life. Joy is this amazing thing that is always there, no matter what happens to you. It is the ability to look past your current circumstances and know that you will make it through the rough times. And, finally, in His right hand there are pleasures forever. When you begin to focus on what God is calling you to do and actually do it, the pleasure is inexplicable. It is truly amazing to know that you are headed in the right direction. It is unlike anything I have ever experienced.
So start today, and look at your life and your soul. Do you know the joy of Christ? If not, I want to encourage you to find someone who you know is a Christian and ask them to help you to be saved. Are you resisting His will in your life right now? If so, I want you to know that there is more joy than you could possibly imagine in letting go of your life and letting God have control. Do you feel like you aren’t good enough for God to use you? If so, I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that, if He used me, then He can use anyone. My prayer for this life is to be able to help people grow closer to God (or be sanctified) little by little. I am praying for anyone who is reading this, and I pray that God tells you what you need to hear, whether it be from this blog or from someone else, I pray that you Give God control in your life. I hope that you have an amazing remainder of your day, and I hope that my words can reach the person who needed to hear them.