Approve What Is Excellent

Hovering over Paul’s opening words to the Philippians this morning. Though the prayer he prays is for them, I’m pretty sure it was preserved for us. That, as Paul yearns for the saints at Philippi “with the affection of Christ Jesus” (1:8), the heart and desire he has for them reflects the heart and desire the Bridegroom has for His Bride, the Church.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.

(Philippians 1:9-10 ESV)

Love, knowledge, discernment. Not sure how intuitive it is for me to link those three words together. Sure, knowledge and discernment make sense. You need the former in order to be any good at the latter. But that they would be integral for loving with a love that abounds more and more? Hmm.

I wanna go with love being emotional and knowledge being cerebral. That love is what I feel while knowledge is . . . well, what I know. However, if we’re going to love with the highest form of love then, it would seem, its going to be informed by knowledge and discernment, so that we can approve what is excellent.

Approve what is excellent. Test, try, examine, scrutinize, prove the authenticity of something. Deem something worthy because it’s been validated as worthy after examination. Sounds a bit counter-cultural to me — especially in these days of behind-the-scenes curated social media feeds and trigger-happy thumbs ready to “share” the latest and greatest “facts and data.” We might pass it on out of care and concern, but is it really loving if we haven’t invested the effort to know it’s true? Haven’t taken the time to discern it’s origin or prove that it’s authentic? Is it loving or caring if what we pass on isn’t really sterling?

Approve what is excellent. Kind of hard to do with all the what’s we’re exposed to in our “information age.” Too much to really know. So many sources from which to discern and approve. So, maybe we consume less, whittling it down to a source that we have approved and found excellent. Better yet, to have two or three approved sources — and not from the same camp or tribe — so that “every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (Matt. 18:16). Or, if we’re not going to filter what our devices are feeding us, then at least discern that this knowledge should be taken with a grain of salt, and just keep it to ourselves until we have approved it.

Approve what is excellent. What’s the tie between that and being pure and blameless for the day of Christ? We know we’ll never perform our way to pure and blameless. We know that it is Christ who will present His Bride “to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish”, and that “by the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26-27). So, I’m thinking that to the degree to which our knowledge, and our discernment, and our approving, ultimately keeps us focused on the Only One who is truly excellent — and on our desperate need for Him to give us His mind, lead us to repentance, cleanse us with forgiveness, and fill us with His Spirit — then to that degree will we be pure and blameless. And then, able to love as we should love and love until the day of Christ.

Hmm. Approve what is excellent. So that we might abound with Christ’s love. So that we might depend always on Christ’s love. So that we might be presented to Him on that day pure and blameless.

Only by His grace. Only for His glory.

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