Category Archives: Discipleship

What is “That” in Philippians 3:12b?

Periodic Encouragement and RemindersTM

What is “That” in Philippians 3:12b?©

by Robert E. Alderman, Jr.

Philippians 3:7-16 has long been a focal section of the Scriptures for me.

My initial fascination was with the word “that” in verse 12b of the NIV 1993 translation:

…I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

It is crucial, however, to read all verses 7-16 in order to see how pervasive the hold of “that” (whatever  “that” is) had on the Apostle Paul – being so comprehensive as to not only become the sole objective and pursuit in his life – but also being a reflection and imitation of the “that“for which Jesus Christ Himself, had taken hold of Paul

I wanted to know (I needed to know) what “that” was.

Now, almost forty years later, the one answer I have repeatedly found is this: 

The “that” of Phil. 3:12b is having a single, primary life purpose and mind-set of, continuously, constantly and uncompromisingly doing the work and the will of the Father.  

That” (the knowing, gaining and living a life in the likeness of Christ) is the life Paul was pursuing and had captivated him to his core.

It is the same “that” by which Jesus had taken hold of all the apostles; and the prophets in the Old Testament and of all the individuals mentioned in the “hall of faith” of Hebrews chapter 11.

AND, it is the same “that” all professing followers of Jesus are commanded to engage in as disciple-makers – as well as closely related to, if not identical to, “the work of the ministry” in Eph. 4:12 (ESV) – in which leaders are instructed to equip and train their congregations. 

It is also the same “that” to which all believers are to daily admonish, teach and exhort one another. (Heb. 3:12-19)

The goal/prize of engaging in “that” is knowing Christ, gaining Christ and being found in Christ (Phil. 3:8-9) for which God has called us heavenward. (vv.14-16).  It is eternal life and the ultimate joy of existence! 

Although no human during his or her life on earth can ever attain the full maturity and perfection of a “that” life exemplified by Jesus, perfection was Paul’s target and IS to be the target of every professing disciple of Jesus – to be pursued with all our mind, heart, soul and strength. The three, primary elements of which are: 1) being positioned in Christ, 2) having the priorities of Christ and, 3) engaging in the practices of Christ

For further study of a “that” life expressed in Phil. 3:12b true discipleship in Christ, the following thoughts and references are recommended:

  • We are to seek “that” with all of our mind, heart, will and strength. (Lk. 14:27)
  • We will be able to “that” by taking Christ’s yoke upon us; understanding He will never leave us or forsake us, even as we experience and encounter rejection and persecution of different kinds and degrees; for wherever we go and whatever we do, He will be with us. (Jos. 1:9, Matt 11:29, and 28:20)
  • Living a “that” life means doing everything, all the time for the glory of God. (Col. 3:17, 1 Cor 10:31)
  • Having Christ’s priorities and commitment to a “that” life are the requirements of true discipleship and, without them we are not and cannot be His disciples. (Lk. 9:62, Lk. 14: 26-27 and 33, Jer 29:13, 2 Chron 16:9 & 15:2)
  • Those who are truly disciples/apprentices of Christ seeking His “that” likeness will do the same work of the Father that He did. (Jn. 9:4, 14:10b-c, 14:12, 17:4, 17:18)
  • Those who are truly disciples/apprentices of Christ seeking His “that” likeness will testify to the Truth as He did. (Jn. 15:27, 18:37 and 20:21)
  • A “that” life of true discipleship to Christ will always be seeking first and foremost His kingdom and righteousness (Matt 6:25-34) as “that” is the very foundation of the Gospel  and every Christian’s personal ministry. (Prov. 3:5-6, and Matt. 16:26)
  • Matt. 5:1-11, 7:21-23, 7:24-27, Rom. 8:28, & 12:2 are all pertinent to living or not living a “that” life.
  • Lk. 6:40 and Eph. 4:11-16 are epitome verses related to the equipping, training and ultimate result of a “that” life as disciples of Christ.
  • A “that” life, “the work of the ministry” (Eph. 4:12a NASB), primarily means “bringing” and sharing the Gospel (see – e.g. for going and making disciples (Matt. 28:18-20.

* * * * *

Perhaps the two, most potent, hitting-the-nail-on-the-head prayers by Jesus and the Apostle Paul in the Bible applicable to the calling and needs of true disciples of Christ, in the pursuit of perfection of a “that” life, are found in John 17 (paying particular attention to vv. 6, 9, 13-15, 19-23) and Eph. 1:18-20.

May every person, who professes or seeks to be a disciple of Christ, fully embrace and constantly engage a “that” life as branches of the Vine for our desires, our focus and our strength. (Jn. 15:1-8)


Have a great week!


(And to my family, Love, DAD)

2021.12.22-P.E.A.R.s- What-is-“that”?

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How Did Jesus Do What He Did?

Periodic Encouragement And RemindersTM

“How Did Jesus Do What He Did?”©

by Robert E. Alderman, Jr.

[Originally written for my P.E.A.R.STM blog on 10/29/10]

Good morning!

The transformation of someone who has received Christ as Savior and Lord into the “likeness” of Christ is the bedrock of Christianity and the substance of eternal life.  Pastors frequently encourage their congregations to emulate Jesus and be Christ-like in their behavior.

It is understood that Jesus, though embodied as a man when He was on earth and subject to all the same temptations faced by each of us, lived a sinless life of holiness and perfection.  Moving to that same manner of living is what we are called to as well.  (Matt 5:45, 1 Pet 1:15-16)

Fortunately, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel or engage in a trial and error approach to find a way to do that.  The answer to the question, “how did Jesus do what He did?” is given to us in the Bible.  The bottom line is Jesus wasn’t a “do-er” (in the sense of relying on His own power or abilities) but rather was a “be-er”.  He rested and relied entirely on the strength and presence of the Father working through Him.

A 24/365 (24 hours a day/365 days of the year) absolute reliance and dependence on the indwelling of God the Father in Jesus is how Jesus did what He did.  

The same is what is offered and is available to us through Christ and the Holy Spirit dwelling within us – as we grow in our understanding and acceptance of that reality with all our mind, all our heart and all soul as Christ did with the Father.  It is God, not us, Who enables us to do whatever He calls us to do.

Our only responsibility is to “be” available to Him and to “be” willing to accept His power, love and wisdom in the place and stead of our human frailties and inadequacies.  Such is the substance of a “be-er” in Christ.

Bob Alderman 

P.S.  For more on this, a great book to read is “The Saving Life of Christ” by W. Ian Thomas.


P.E.A.R.s™ Periodic Encouragement And Reminders

Human Rationalization and Spiritual Malpractice©


Robert E. Alderman, Jr.

Have you ever worked yourself into a tizzy over some little thing, or perhaps gone the other way and convinced yourself that whatever you were doing or not doing was acceptable conduct?

I know for me personally, my emotions or desires will frequently lead my mind in either of those directions if I don’t filter the process through a litmus test of God’s Reality or carefully compare the tint and color to His Palette of Truth.

This is very important, because the rationalization capabilities of the human mind (if left to its own devices and not Spiritually guided) will all too often produce color blind results.

Most all of us have heard and/or used the following rationalizations:

“Everybody’s doing it.”  (The “Aw, gee, Mom!” argument that somehow large numbers of participation (whether real or perceived) make it right.

“No harm, no foul.”  (Well, God didn’t strike me dead, so what I did must not have been too bad.)

“Live and let live.”  (He doesn’t bother me; I won’t bother him.)

“It’s not my place to say anything.”  (It’s not in my job description.)

Recently, I listened to a dialog of pros and cons between members of a professional listserv to which I belong through my estate planning law practice.  The question raised by one member was whether or not there could be legal consequences (maybe even criminal charges) brought against a client who married a third party just to obtain social security benefits as a “surviving spouse” when that party dies.  This marriage of convenience was being considered, because the inquiring member’s client and the client’s real “spouse” were homosexual and not entitled to social security surviving spouse benefits from one another.

Within a short time, the dialog grew into a discussion with several members participating and quickly became an argument as to the “rights” of homosexuals with one side of the argument being that since 4-10% of the population (the accuracy of those numbers was also debated) is now homosexual, they should be recognized and given the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples.  If that were to occur, the argument went, there would be no need to fabricate a marriage of convenience to obtain social security surviving “spouse” benefits.

One of the elements of that argument was the human rationalization that:  “Everybody’s doing it, so we should accept it and change our laws to accommodate it.”  (It’s the “Aw, gee, Mom, all my friends are doing it, so that makes it an okay thing to do” argument.)

Though as humans we may want to rationalize in that direction and reach out to others in love as a commendable action, we have to remember that God is the One who provides the rules for living.  For Him, the argument that “everyone’s doing it” or that the percentages of participation have increased will not cause Him to alter His holy ways.

Perhaps the two best known examples of this in the Bible are:  “Noah and the Ark” and “Sodom and Gomorrah” found in Genesis chapters 6 and 19, respectively.  Though virtually “everyone was doing it” (living a life style contrary to God’s teachings), the known world, except for Noah and his family, was destroyed in the first instance, and in the second, the entire population of two cities and the surrounding valleys, except for Lot’s family, were destroyed because of their iniquities.

In the latter, even Abraham used human rationalization during his conversation with God seeking to save those cities if just a few righteous men could be found (beginning with fifty and moving down to ten).  Though God said he would spare the cities under those circumstances, it was not for the sake of the multitudes violating His laws, but for a few who might be found striving to live as God required.

A few years back (possibly even ten or more), I read an article in the Los Angeles Times arguing that the Bible needed to be re-written in order to be more tolerant of mankind’s society and culture.  The writer’s position was actually one step past rationalization.  Knowing that the Bible could not in any way be reasoned or interpreted as approval or acceptance of what the world has become, his solution was for mankind to write their own rules.  

In other words, if the Creator and Ruler of the universe doesn’t suit your fancy, then declare and reason that you have the right and ability to be the creator and rule maker yourself.   Such is perhaps man’s most egregious rationalization.

The second rationalization phrase set forth early in this P.E.A.R. is closely related to the first and need not be addressed separately.  However, the third and fourth present a slightly different twist to the human mind’s rationalization process – somewhat like the flip side of the same coin.  They’re similar, yet different from the first two.

“Live and let live.”  (He doesn’t bother me; I won’t bother him.)

“It’s not my place to say anything.”  (It’s not in my job description.)

The reasoning of the mind on these is basically this:  if we can’t change something into what we want it to be, just ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist.  Don’t get involved.

When it comes to the Bible and God’s teachings, this is what I call Spiritual Malpractice.

Ken Sande in his book “The Peace Maker” puts it this way.

Any doctor who diagnoses cancer but fails to report it to a patient would be guilty of malpractice.  After all, a patient can be properly treated only after the disease has been identified.  Sin [all disobedience of God] works in the same way; left undiagnosed and untreated, it causes grief and spiritual deterioration – leading ultimately to death [eternal separation from God].

Every believer and follower of Christ is charged or entrusted (somewhat like a doctor) with a biblical Hippocratic oath of ethical conduct to save as many in the world from the disease of sin as they possibly can.  It is part of their Christian job description whether they want to admit it or not.  If they remain silent, they commit Spiritual malpractice and will be held accountable for their inaction on judgment day.

* * * * *

Avoiding the errors of human rationalization (trying to make Reality into something we’re willing to accept) rather than honoring God’s Word, or stepping forward to be ambassadors of Christ and proclaimers of His Kingdom are not easy to do.  Both will bring consternation from the world and charges of being intolerant, judgmental and self righteous.

So, what’s the answer?

Do it anyway, because that’s what God commands.  Believers are to be watchmen and to warn those who are dying and if the believer fails to do so, the blood of those who could have been saved but were not will be on that believer’s hands.  (Ezekiel 3:16-21). 

Even exposing the darkness (speaking against conduct occurring contrary to the light of God’s Word) is an affirmative requirement.  If action is not taken, a tacit acceptance or approval may be inferred.  (Eph. 5:7-16)

Always speak the truth in love, however, with the goal of salvation not condemnation.  Those who hear what you say may still take offense, and you may even feel that you bumbled the opportunity.  Yet, the Holy Spirit will use it for good and perhaps be the beginning of a seed that leads to Life.

The bottom line is this: Whatever you do, don’t engage in human rationalization or Spiritual malpractice when it comes to God’s Word and commandments.  Be the messenger and take the ridicule just as Christ did as that is your purpose on this earth.

Have a great week!  (and to my family, love Dad)

Bob Alderman

083105 – updated 8/26/08

Light of God in the Coming Darkness of Socialism©

P.E.A.R.s TM





Light of God in the Coming Darkness of Socialism ©

by Robert E. Alderman, Jr.

Anyone in this country who still thinks the democrats’ “cancel culture” agenda of hate will be directed against only a few, big targets and never against heretofore law abiding and God fearing  American citizenship needs to think again, and again and again – until they wakeup to the writing on the wall and reality as to what is happening in America!

The ugly head of progressive-socialist-Marxism has already begun – faster and more hateful than most people may have expected. 

This includes Parler being shutdown as a social media conduit for free speech; music artist Pink having his contract cancelled for simply being present at a Trump rally; big tech and media executives acting as self-appointed, quasi antichrist czars totally disregarding the provisions of our Constitution and biblical principles; book publishers engaging in censorship by breaching their contracts with conservative and/or Christian authors; and companies discriminatorily terminating or threatening to terminate employees as well as seeking to block all prospects of future employment to anyone who has supported Trump or in anyway stands-up for moral decency, individual freedoms and absolute truth.

The January 2021 issue of “DECISION” magazine has several articles addressing this issue. I touch on two of them in this P.E.A.R.™ – one on the darkness of socialism and one on the Light of God.

The Darkness of Socialism – is made clear in “The Coming Socialist Storm” by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. – and needs to be fully grasped in the minds of all Americans:

Socialism…is a false faith…which has its roots in Marxism.  …one of the deadliest and most destructive ideologies ever to effect humanity. It produces poverty, not wealth. It undermines human dignity and destroys economies. Promising utopia, it delivers disaster.

True socialism requires state [government] ownership as the means of production, the means of distribution and the assignment of labor. Socialism sacrifices liberty as it promises equality. But the equality never comes. The only winners in a socialist system are the bureaucrats in the vast, all powerful government that socialism requires.

Socialism contradicts or subverts everyone of [God’s] economic principles: …the dignity of work (Eph 4:28), that those who refuse to work should not eat (2 Thess 3:10), …affirms private property (Ex 22:7), condemns theft (Ex 20:15), covetousness (Ex 20:17), Saving (Prov 13:22), land ownership (Acts 4:34-37), investment (Matt 25:27) and that the laborer is worthy of his wages (Luke 10:7)

[The progressive left] may say they only want a welfare state, but the policies they now champion, like the “Green New Deal” or a national health care system, actually require some form of hard socialism and socialism means taking someone else’s money and sacrificing individual possessions[Thus] they cannot escape demanding policies that lead to human misery, economic deprivation and denial of liberty.

The policies they are proposing are more radical than most voters realize.

It is market capitalism, not socialism, that since 1990 has lifted more than a billion people worldwide out of extreme poverty.

[We] need to also recognize that socialism thrives on driving antagonism throughout the culture…packaged often…as a movement toward unity. That is a lie.  It’s a call for class warfare in the United States.

In his courageous 1978 commencement address at Harvard University, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn declared that “socialism of any type and shade leads to a total destruction of the human spirit and to a leveling of mankind into death”.

[Underling and bold emphases added]

* * * * *

The Light of God:

Yet, even in the coming darkness of socialist Marxism, every person having a personal relationship with God has the assurance and joy of God’s inextinguishable Light – expressed by Robert J. Morgan in his article “An Unstoppable Church in an Unstable World”:

I have found comfort in a handful of words spoken 2,000 years ago by a non-Christian.  His name is Gamaliel, a leading Jewish rabbi in New Testament days …who watched as thousands of people began turning to Jesus [when the governing rulers then were also trying to restrict and control Christians].

Paraphrasing famed preacher Vance Havner’s words [who expressed the perspective of Christians as they endured the persecution witnessed by Gamaliel]: 

They can’t take away our wealth, because it’s stored up in Heaven. They can’t take away our freedom, because we’re free in Christ. They can’t take away our happiness, because our joy is within us. They can’t defeat us, because we’re more than conquerors. They can’t silence us, because the Word of God cannot be chained. They can’t kill us, because we have eternal life.

[Emphasis added]

This is why “In God We Trust” has been and always will be the Truth, the reality, the ultimate strength and hope of Americans living as spiritual aliens in this country whose supreme citizenship is the kingdom of heaven.


Have a great week!

(And to my family, Love, DAD)

Ready or Not; You’re at War!©

P.E.A.R.sPeriodic Encouragement And RemindersTM

Ready or Not; You’re at War!©

by Robert E. Alderman, Jr.

[Preface: This P.E.A.R. TM was originally written and published in 2013 – prior to the existence of this blog. In light of 2020 and the in-fighting occurring in America and likely to escalate in 2021 in our political arenas and against individual freedoms, its content seems even more applicable now.]

Have you ever had a day, a week or longer when you just got hammered by life but you couldn’t seem to figure out why?  Or, maybe you’re currently going through a period of time in which the dice of living keep coming up snake eyes.

This can be especially true – actually even more so – if you’re trying seriously to find your way to Christ and to live as His disciple, because there’s a war going on for your soul.  And, whether you’re ready or not, you’re at ground zero of that battle!

You’ll understand a little more about the what and the why of the happenings in your life by taking a moment to briefly review the history of the world and the battle that’s been raging for eons within it between God and the devil.  It’s a battle in which the human race (you, me and others) serve as both the focal point of the battle as well as potential warriors for one side or the other.  

The existence of this war is why Walter Henrichsen in “Disciples Are Made Not Born” says that Jesus “invaded” the world of human history.  It’s also the reason Jesus said Himself, “Do not think I came to bring peace on earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  (Mt.  10:34)

A short explanation of why and how this war began is found in Revelation 12:1-5, 7-8 and 17:

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.  She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.  Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red Dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads…  The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child at the moment it was born.  She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter…  And there was war in Heaven.  Michael and his angels fought against the Dragon, and the Dragon and his angels fought back.  But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven…  Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring – those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

Thus, the devil became the Prince of darkness and ruler of earth bent on making war against those who are drawn to God and seek to follow Christ.  Because of that, the world (until Jesus frees it) is “enemy territory” – with much of mankind caught in the devil’s prisons of deceit and lies  – designed and intended to prevent us from receiving the treasures of life with Christ.

This is why Jesus said (John 10:10), “I have come that they [meaning you, me and all others who accept the message of the Cross and follow Him] may have life to the full.”  His purpose is to make available to us that which we can never have in the prisons of Satan- where, the thief [the devil] comes only to steal, kill and destroy.” 

It was in the Garden of Eden that the red Dragon (the Devil) used his lies, trickery and deceit to take Adam and Eve as his first prisoners.  From there, he moved on to their children and all who have been born into this world since then; continuing thereafter with his same successful strategies in all aspects of our lives today.  

This is the war, ready or not; want it or not, that we’re in; fighting not for earthly direction – which is trivial and of short duration – but for the eternity of our souls.

John Eldredge in “Waking the Dead” (with “dead” being what we are spiritually in our souls if we’re not living for Christ) reminds us that having life to its fullest is not only what God intended for us in the Garden of Eden, but also is what He offers to restore to us through His invitation to join the Army of Christ.  It is because of that invitation that the war exists.  

The devil’s attacks against us will happen not only after we’ve joined God’s Army, but also in the very process of our recruitment – because the devil, as the Enemy of God, wants to impose different marching orders and a different destination for our lives.  

In this war, Jesus’ plan or purpose was foretold in Isaiah 61:1 which reads: “God has sent me…  to heal the brokenhearted; proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners.”  Mankind, (you, me and others) are those prisoners, captives and brokenhearted.  So long as we remain in the grips of the devil held by the invisible bars of lies and deceit that he speaks to the thoughts of our minds – just as he did in Eden – believing that we don’t need God or can do quite well without Him, the devil is perfectly content to leave us alone.  

However, if you try to escape for yourself or to lead a rebellion to free others from his prisons, the devil will come hard against you.

Walter Henrichens (again in Disciples Are Made Not Born) calls this war “a battle against the gates of hell”.  To succeed in that battle or war, we need (as the Apostle Paul tells us in Eph. 6:11), “to put on the full armor of God so that you’ll be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”

The reason we need the armor provided by God is because this war is not of the flesh, but of the spirit (it’s a battle for our souls), and thus our weapons cannot be of the flesh (of our own making and effort) for our flesh and strength are weak.  Instead, we need weapons of divine power to destroy the devil’s fortresses. (2 Cor 10:4)

* * * * *

In closing this P.E.A.R., it’s important to remember that we are not on this earth to kill time.  We are here with the opportunity to keep our souls from being killed – and then to serve in God’s Army to free others as well.

Satan desires to keep us from knowing that and, thus, to keep us from fighting this battle.  He would be perfectly content to have us stick our heads in the sand and pay no attention to the war.  If that doesn’t work and we begin leaning toward God, the devil sends his demons and warriors to discourage and intimidate us.  At other times, he will try to entice us into his snare or to sweet talk us into believing this is not our war to fight.

Do not let him do that (to you or others you know).  Wake up and dress yourself in God’s armor and join the fight for your life and your soul.  Because…ready or not, you are at war.

Have a great week!  (And to my family, Love Dad)

Bob Alderman