What Is In It For Me?

Text: Matthew 19:27-30, NLT

Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?” Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”

INTRODUCTION

We live in a “Me Culture”. If we would take the time to look into our hearts, we would see that our ultimate concerns are about our self. We are preoccupied with our comfort, entertainment and bank accounts. None of these things are worthy of our devotion and yet we exalt these temporal things to the level of deity. These things become our god. John warned us {I John 2:15-17, The VOICE}…Don’t fall in love with this corrupt world or worship the things it can offer. Those who love its corrupt ways don’t have the Father’s love living within them. All the things the world can offer to you—the allure of pleasure, the passion to have things, and the pompous sense of superiority—do not come from the Father. These are the rotten fruits of this world. This corrupt world is already wasting away, as are its selfish desires. But the person really doing God’s willthat person will never cease to be. Wow, this needs no commentary. Don’t fall in love with this Christ hating culture. The only thing they can offer is [1] seduction to sin [2] a passion for greed [3] and a spirit of pride.

When Peter witnessed Jesus in conversation with the Rich Young Ruler, his first question after the young man walked away stunned and in grief was: We have left everything to follow you, what’s in it for us.” That guy just refused to leave his possession behind but You promised him a treasure if he gave them up, well that is what we did, we gave them up. Now what should we expect?

Three things I want to say about this selfish question…

[1] I am not amazed at the question but I am amazed at Jesus response. It is a self-centered question that reveals a selfish motive.  I am shocked and stunned that Jesus did not chew Peter out for being so self-centered. I suppose Jesus understood that Peter was simply articulating what all of them were thinking. We have given up everything, what are we going to get in return? Do you ever think such thoughts? What is in this for me? I concluded years ago that either I am a lot like Peter or else he is a lot like me. I talk too much and listen too little. I always have an answer even if it is wrong. Remember the proverb, “Remain silent and folks may think you are a fool but if you speak up, you remove all doubt.” Hey, I remove the doubt. In this story we have impetus Peter at his best, talking before thinking. Surely had he given thought and meditation to what he was thinking, he would not have asked Jesus such a selfish question. I bet the other disciples cringed thinking…Peter is fixing to get it again. The last time this happened, Jesus told him he was full of Satan. But Jesus does not rebuke Peter. Maybe this is a question that we humans cannot help but ask: perhaps it is our nature. Whatever, Jesus does not go off on Peter.

About three years ago our staff was traveling together, two men and two women, and we stopped to eat. Of course it was my favorite restaurant and I knew what I wanted. The waiter got our drinks {tea and coke} and came back to take our order. “Are you ready to place your order or do you need more time?” I blurted out, “I know what I want,” and my son who is my associate gave me a funny look. I said, “What?” By this time both the ladies in our party are laughing. So I repeat, “What is so funny, what did I do?” My son said tactfully, “Its customary to let ladies order first.” Then I said, “But I am paying for the meal.” He said, “It doesn’t matter who is paying, to be polite, you let the ladies order first.” I didn’t like what he said but I knew he was right and I felt a bit of shame, very little,  I suppose, because it did not effect my appetite. So, I decided that day to make a change. LORD, with your help, I am going to give preference to others and go last. Long story short, it has been a struggle.

So Peter ask a self-centered question that reveals a self-centered nature. It is not like we are shocked but the gentle way that Jesus deals with Peter is amazing.

[2] I am equally amazed that Christ would share His kingdom. Jesus said, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. As a matter of fact we find an amazing verse in Luke 12:32…“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” Can you believe this? God has already made a decision to give us the kingdom. Luke 22:28-29…You have stayed with me in my time of trial. And just as my Father has granted me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right 30 to eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Tonight we are going to get into Chapter 20 and the story that Jesus tells to illustrate the Father’s nature in giving. The parable is an illustration of God’s infinite and gracious generosity. God is generous to the infinite degree. Let’s say that together…God is generous. God gives and gives and gives again. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 8:9…You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. In 2 Corinthians 9:6, Paul teaches us about giving… Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.  You cannot out give the LORD of the Harvest. You have no chance of being more generous than God. The more you give, the more He gives and He has deeper pockets.

I like 2 Corinthians 9 in the VOICE…The same One who has put seed into the hands of the sower and brought bread to fill our stomachs will provide and multiply the resources you invest and produce an abundant harvest from your righteous actions. You will be made rich in everything so that your generosity will spill over in every direction. Through us your generosity is at work inspiring praise and thanksgiving to God.

I want you to think about the resources that God has blessed you with.

There are over 7 billion people on earth: 68% have a net worth that is less than $10,000…23% have a net worth of less than $100,000 which due to debt would include some of us…7.5% are under the 1 Million dollar mark and .5% are over 1 Million. I’m not sure how accurate these stats are: we have several multi-millionaires in Morgan County.

Anyway you cut it, we are rich. The Democratic Republic of the Congo {Zaire} has an average annual income of less than $300 per year for a family. You are rich and so am I. Why did God allow us to have such wealth? For the same reason He gives us the ability to work, it is so we can give. In Ephesians 4:28, Paul said, If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. God has blessed us with wealth so we can give generously. We are never more like Christ than when we give generously. {Block Party}

[3] The third thing that amazes me is the rate of return that Jesus promised-100 fold. No one pays those kind of dividends. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. Jesus said, “I will multiply your investment into my ministry 100 fold and then I will throw in ETERNAL LIFE as a bonus. Folks, you cannot beat an offer like that. If you have $10,000 in your 401-K and you got blessed 100 fold, you would have a million dollars. If you have $100,000–you would have 10 million dollars. Before you misunderstand, I need to clarify something, Jesus seldom pays in cash but He is good for His word and you will reap 100 fold.

I left home when I was 22 years old. I moved from Athens, Alabama to New Orleans, La. where I enrolled in Seminary. I’ve been gone 43 years. My Father retired the year after I left and he lived 20 more years after retiring. I missed his retirement years but fortunately I was only 45 miles away. All my siblings see each other every Sunday, I see them about 4 times a year. When I surrendered to the ministry, I thought I was making a sacrifice but looking back, it doesn’t seem like a sacrifice at all. I can say that Jesus has blessed me 100-fold. I’ve had a mother on every church field and a good one. I have had father figures on every field and some very good ones. I have countless brothers and sisters. I pastored a church in rural Mississippi for 18 months way back in 1973-4 and just last month, three of my dear sisters came for a visit. I talked to another friend in that same church today. Just last Friday, the church I pastored right out of Seminary called and ask me to meet them at the Amish Restaurant which is near Danville. I went up and spent more than an hour with these friends.

We are going to talk about God’s generous nature tonight but let me say in closing: you, nor one billion like you are going to out give God. Your pockets are not deep enough to out give Jesus Christ. Listen, everything in this creation belongs to HIM. If He wants something, He can take it or create it out of nothing. You and I are not trying to bail God out when we give to His kingdom. What He really wants from us is our heart. He wants a clean and pure motive. He does not want us to give to get but to give to get to give again so we can be like Him.

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Paul’s Optimism

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 1:20-26

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. 26 And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what He is doing through me.

INTRODUCTION

Not many of us can state our life’s purpose in one word but Paul could. Most of us have many interest: Paul had only one. I have a wife to please but Paul was married to Jesus. His entire life could be summed up in one word–Christ. He had narrowed his interest to one thing–Christ. He was passionate about one thing–Christ. Tonight I want to share the message under four headings:

I. PAUL’S EARNEST EXPECTATION.

I know we do not think of the great apostle as a worrier but literally translated, earnest expectations means ‘an anxious looking ahead’. Personally, I don’t see how Paul could have been human and not had some anxiety. He was in prison and Nero was the Emperor. If I were awaiting trial under Nero, I would be worried. Nero was a sexual pervert and he was insane. Since Nero was gay, he would have probably made me a human torch. Evangelist Phil Glisson from Memphis was preaching at our local Pastor’s conference a few weeks back and he said, “There is coming a day in the near future, when preachers will be locked up for preaching the truth about the evil of homosexuality and Jack Bailey will be one of the first they arrest. He puts out a news letter that would burn a hole through one of these tables.” I have some earnest expectations just like Paul. Paul was tested; he was tried and true. To date, all I have done is run my mouth. I don’t know what I will do when they come to get me. I pray God will give me grace but I have never been persecuted so I don’t know what I will do. Paul had three concerns that were sincere desires of his heart.

  1. He did not want to be ashamed of Christ. Paul had never, since his conversion, been ashamed of Christ but he does not want to make the same mistake that Peter made and become over confident.  This is a deep concern to Paul: to deny Christ would be paramount to an unpardonable sin to him. I doubt that your average professing Christian gives much thought to this fear. I am not in Paul’s league but I think about this often. What would I do if put to the test? Like Paul, I do not want to be ashamed of Jesus but I have acted cowardly before. Paul had a great track record, I don’t but I am telling you, it is a source of anxiety with me. Will I be faithful to stand unashamedly for Christ? Paul’s prayer was that he would ‘never’ be ashamed of Jesus.
  2. Paul’s second desire is that he will continue to be BOLD for Christ. Paul was a little man but he had a big heart and a lot of back bone. He confronted Peter in public: how much courage did that take? I heard Adrian Rogers do something that upset me. He got on to a woman because her baby was crying. It was blood chilling. I know the big wigs enforce nursery and do not allow infants into the sanctuary but that is offensive to me. I guess that is why they are huge churches and I am at a rural cross roads but I do not think Jesus got glory out of what he did. Would I have confronted him? No way Hosea! I reached a point where I did not even stand in line to speak to the man. I admired his preaching and I stood in awe of his brilliance but I lacked the courage to confront such a man. Paul would have if he had felt the need.
  3. Paul desire was to magnify Christ. The Greek word Paul uses is megalynō and you know what mega means. Mega means great, big, huge and lyno means to make. So literally, the word means to make big. I have to have glasses to read. The lens in my glasses make the letters bigger. It the print is large enough: I don’t have to have glasses. Paul wanted to make Christ big by the way he lived. He wanted to bring honor to Christ. I think this desire make a great purpose statement for an individual or a church. I think it would be huge to keep in mind always that our goal is to honor Christ.

II. PAUL’S CREED

As I mentioned earlier, few people can state their creed in one word; Paul said for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain{1:21, NASB}. The NLT says…For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. The CEV reads…If I live, it will be for Christ, and if I die, I will gain even more. The GWT…Christ means everything to me in this life, and when I die I’ll have even more. The ERV… To me, the only important thing about living is Christ. And even death would be for my benefit. The VOICE which I am currently reading translates it…For my life is about the Anointed and Him alone. And my death, when that comes, will mean great gain for me. I have translated this verse, “For me to live is Christ and to die is a promotion.” I seldom use the words funeral or death in regards to a fellow believer. I refer to them as being ‘Promoted’ and I use the term CELEBRATION OF LIFE in place of funeral. I don’t like the way funeral sounds. I have my celebration planned and so does my wife. I think she is kidding but she tells folks that they are going to sing “To God Be The Glory” when I am promoted. I agree with Paul, physical death means a promotion. Jesus saves the best for last: heaven is infinitely better than earth. For a child of God, physical death is a gain, a win-win.

III. PAUL’S DELIMMA

The AV translates verses 23-24 like this…For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. The NASB reads…But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. When it came to departing this world, Paul had mixed emotions which I think is rather common. Who does not want to be free of sin and temptation. Even young believers with good healthy bodies should have such a desire. Most Senior adults are ready to give up the temple of clay because with time, it develops a lot of problems. Life is a process of giving up things and the older you get, the more you give up or lose. I am losing hair, sight, hearing, brain cells, muscle, energy and on and on I could go. When Paul wrote this letter, he was about my age so I do not think he minded giving up the physical body. The dilemma he faced was to be with Christ or to be with His Church here on earth. He felt that heavenly tug and longed to be with Christ but he knew that he was needed here on earth so he felt a tug in both direction. Paul said, “I think about both and I really don’t know which is better for me.” Before he finishes this passage, he is confident that he will stay here on earth longer but there were times when he did not know what he wanted the most. It is not a bad problem to have.

IV. PAUL’S CONVICTION

Paul begins verse 25 with the word pā’-thō , convinced, persuaded…literally it would read, “Convinced I am or Persuaded I am”. As best I can understand, the word indicates a very strong confidence, like a conviction. Paul feels strongly that he will remain here on earth to complete the mission God has called him to. This conviction he has is so strong and deep, that Paul has no doubts. He is assured that he will stay on a while longer.

Let me tell you what is amazing about this conviction. There is a lot of evidence, although not clearly stated in N.T., that Paul was acquitted because the Jews never brought an official charge to Rome. Many scholars believe that Paul stayed in Rome two years under house arrest and then was set free. There is evidence that he traveled to Troas and other places after this imprisonment. Some even believe he returned to the holy land and to Antioch of Syria. Some think he made a trip to Spain. Here is something to consider: if Paul is not freed from this imprisonment, then his heart played a cruel trick on him because here he is confident that he will return to the churches in Macedonia. We do know this: In II Timothy, his last letter, Paul had a conviction that the end was near. This leads me to believe that there was indeed two imprisonments in Rome. How and why he was arrested the second time we do not know. Some have suggested that between his first and second imprisonment, Nero declared war on the Christians; probably about two years after Paul was released. When Paul came back to visit the Roman church, he was arrested and executed along with Peter and others. The first persecution was Jewish; the Romans did not get into it until Nero about 65 AD. The Romans would lead the way for the next 300 years.

CONCLUSION

This section closes with verse 26…And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what He is doing through me. The NASB translates verse 26…so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again. The word abound means to exceed the fixed measures, to over flow, to burst out like steam in a pressure cooker. It means a joy that is uncontainable. A joy you can’t keep the lid on. The VOICE has the right idea…When I return to you, we will celebrate Jesus the Anointed even more. Heaven will be an eternal CELEBRATION OF JESUS and Paul said, “The next time I come to you, we are going to have a celebration of Jesus.” The Tyndale Commentary says, “Rejoicing is too mild of a word for the word Paul uses here.”

Paul’s Passion

SCRIPTURE

Philippians 1:12-19

And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. 13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. 14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear. 15 It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. 16 They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. 17 Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. 18 But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. 19 For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.

INTRODUCTION

As you can see from the highlights in the text, the subject is the Gospel, the good news, God’s message about Christ and it being preached. There is no doubt, Paul’s ultimate passion was to preach and praise Jesus Christ. I don’t think he thought about anything else. I think this is what separates Paul from most preachers: we have other interest, we think about other things but Paul was totally obsessed with spreading the gospel and it is phenomenal what God did through this tiny Jew who at one time was a Christ hater. We are going to divide the text under four headings.

I. PAUL CIRCUMSTANCES

Many refer to Philippians as the joyful letter, yet Paul wrote it from prison. Twice in the text above Paul mentions his chains. We believe he was placed under house arrest which gave him freedom to see his friends and adequate accommodations but he was not free and he had a Roman Guard chained to his wrist night and day. My point is this: his circumstances were not ideal. Most of you do not dream of being in prison; it would be more like a nightmare. If you retrace Paul’s steps, a series of negative things have happened.

  1. He was falsely arrested in Jerusalem. He was guilty of no charge. Actually, he was sent to Rome without an official charge.
  2. He is detained in Caesarea for two years without a formal charge.
  3. He experiences a ship wreck and a snake bit on the way to Rome.
  4. He is placed under house arrest which is both good and bad. Decent living quarters but no privacy.

Paul knows that the Philippians are concerned about his welfare, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically so he says to them, “I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. Paul really believe what he said in Romans 8:28, “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” When he said, Everything that has happened has helped to spread the gospel, the Greek word for spread is prokopē which means to progress or advance. William Barclay says it is a military word used to describe the forward movement of an army.

In other words Paul is saying, “Don’t be discouraged by my circumstances, God has worked through them for the advancement of the gospel.” The imprisonment as that bound the gospel message. Paul assured them that the gospel was being preached more than ever and a lot of this was due to his circumstances. When other preachers saw what Paul had done, they grew bold and began to preach without fear. Fearless preaching can change the world. I wanted a video in 1980-81, somewhere in the early 80’s about abortion. I have to be honest, I did not know what abortion was or what it involved. I’m going to confess a sin: I voted for the idiot Jimmy Carter knowing in the back of my mind that he was for abortion. That little video stirred me up. I repented of my sin and began to do everything I could do to set things right. I began denouncing the democratic party from the pulpit for their role in promoting abortion. Trust me, I didn’t cut Jimmy any slack. I denounced abortion as murder, even constructed a billboard in our front yard next to highway {10X14} that read, ABORTION IS MURDER. The man who painted the sign for me did not agree with what I was doing. The man who gave me the materials to build the sign did not agree with me. No one agree with me. The sign stayed there for over 10 years and finally the State of Alabama forced me to take it down. I’m not going to tell you that I had no fear but I was compelled by conviction to preach the truth. Then I attended a Southern Baptist Convention and heard Dr. Adrian Rogers denounce abortion. A group around me heckled him for making the statement and I got very angry with them. Hearing this man make this bold statement among the unbelieving critics gave me even more courage. I think Paul’s arrest and his unceasing passion to preach the gospel even in prison inspired other preachers. Bottom line, Paul was saying, “This thing as backfired on the devil and it is working to our advantage. God is using my incarceration for the spread of the gospel and for His glory. So, there we have Paul’s circumstance and none of them appear good but God worked through them.

II. PAUL’S CHAINS

Literally, Paul was handcuffed to a Roman guard 24-7, even when he slept at night. I had rather be in a cell. Paul had no privacy whatsoever which would drive me insane in no time. But Paul thought it was great because he was getting to share the gospel with all the guards, plus they had to hear everything he taught when he did bible studies and shared with his friends. These guys worked in shifts and I have no idea how long the shifts were…could have been 4,6, or maybe 8 hours. He was with from 3-6 guards per day and rotation was constantly changing which meant Paul got to know practically every guard in the building. So Paul took a negative circumstance and made something positive out of it. He had the chains working to his advantage.

III. PAUL’S CRITICS

No man of God worth his weight in salt is going to work without opposition. Dr. R.G. Lee once said, “At my funeral, if a preacher stands over me and says, ‘Here lies Dr. Lee who never had an enemy in this world,’ I will raise up out of the casket and say, ‘You sir are a liar.'” I think preacher can err on either side, some seem proud to be offensive and they gage their success by the number they offend and on the other extreme, we have our diplomats, who think twice before saying nothing. Their sermons are appealing and entertaining but there is no real substance to what they say. People walk away bragging about their sermons but they there in no conviction and no one is offended which of course is their goal. Some people call them seeker preachers, I call them compromisers but the truth is: they are popular and I am not. They are giving people what they want; they target their message to meet the desires of the congregation. They preach with fear, the fear of offending someone, especially, the big contributors. It is this kind of preaching that has America in a pit of sins and despair.

Paul’s critics interpreted his bad circumstances has an advantage to them. Moffatt calls them rivals. They were actually in competition with Paul. Paul’s attitude was, “I don’t care whether they like me or not, this is not about me. I rejoice in the fact that Jesus is being preached.” Paul said, “I don’t know their motive, whether good or bad and I don’t care so long as Christ is being preached.” I am with Paul: God can hit a hard lick with a crooked stick.

Years ago I overheard two evangelist having a conversation and they were taking about this very subject. If the message is presented, can God use it even if the messenger is terribly flawed. Both agreed that there is power in the gospel no matter who presents it. This conviction has become so strong in my life that I will correct people when they make a statement that God cannot use certain people or kinds of people. Jack Taylor says that God even uses the devil. There have always been preachers with the wrong motivation. I believe there are some today who preach for the wrong reason but they are preaching Jesus and like Paul, I rejoice. The main thing is that Jesus be preached.

Could our preaching be impacted by a closer walk? Of course, there are preachers and there are preachers. There are preachers that I have heard many times and I always enjoy their sermons. There are those who every time I heard them, I became deeply convicted. Preachers need to be real, we need to be holy men set a part for God’s special use but we can never limit God and we should never say that God can not use this preacher or that preacher because of flaws or even their insincerity. God can use any one He choses.

IV. PAULS CRAVING {Longing, desire}

Notice verse 19, For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.

  1. The first think Paul craved was prayer. I have never known a Missionary that did not crave prayer. Prayer is their life line. I read the story just today of an elderly woman who lost her husband. Her heart was filled with grief and friends wondered if she would survive the loss. She was a frail woman to begin with so most thought the grief would crush her but it didn’t. One day a friend was honest with her, she said, “We didn’t think you would make it but you have.” The dear lady said, “I would not have made it had it not been for two things…the word of God and prayer.” Paul knew the Philippian believers prayed for him and he was full of gratitude. He connected their prayers to his success and deliverance.
  2. Paul also craved the Spirit of Christ anointing his life…He craved the LORD’s help. I generally pray on Sunday morning before I get out of bed and I ask the LORD Jesus for His help. I would dread the thought of approaching this pulpit without His help. I think basically the same thought every Sunday night when I get home, “LORD, you are good to me. You helped me today. No one may realize it but I do, thank You for helping me today.”
  3. Paul craves his freedom. He wanted to be delivered from his chains. He did make the best of his confinement but he longed to be free and he knew that prayer was the key. Paul said, “Pray for me, this will lead to my deliverance.”

 

 

Bless Be The Tie That Binds

 

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 1:3-11

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus. I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

INTRODUCTION

As we stated in the first message: Paul had great affection for the two churches in Macedonia, Thessalonica and Philippi and for good reason. These churches were good to Paul. They showed the sincerity of their love by supporting him financially for the rest of his life. Paul would not have been human had he not had special feeling for these two fellowships. We will see this in tonight’s text.

I. FIRST PAUL SAYS, YOU HAVE A SPECIAL PLACE IN MY MIND

Notice how he begins this section in verse 3, “Every time I think of you…” Do you enjoy being thought of? Would you prefer to be forgotten? I don’t think anyone wants to be forgotten. This is the great value of cards, letters, calls, texts, emails and visits. It lets people know that we have not forgotten them. Right now, I need to visit the nursing home. I have not been in over two months, perhaps longer. Do you think the people there may be wondering if I have forgotten them. I have not but do they know that I have not? I would imagine that everyone in the congregation, everyone in the world would like to know right now that someone is thinking especially of them. So Paul begins by telling the Philippians that He is thinking of them and when he does…

  1. He gives THANKS for them. Now it is one thing for a person to be thinking of us but for that person to be thanking God for us is even better. Are you thankful for every person that crosses your mind. Be honest, some people don’t bring thanksgiving to mind but Paul was thankful for the Philippians.
  2. He PRAYED for them. To have someone thinking about me is one thing but to have them pray for me, wow, that is awesome. I am a prayer glutton. I love hearing that people are praying for me.
  3. He rejoiced when he thought of the Philippians. He rejoiced that they were his partners is spreading the gospel. He rejoiced in the fact that He knew what God had initiated in them, He was going to consummate. I absolutely love Philippians 1:6…And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. What an encouraging verse.

II. NEXT PAUL SAYS: YOU HAVE A SPECIAL PLACE IN MY HEART

Notice verse 7…. So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. Loyal friends are hard to come by. He is not poor who has a loyal friend. Joseph didn’t have one even among his brothers. Jesus didn’t have one, everyone deserted Him. Jeremiah had one, possibly two: his secretary Baruch and a black eunuch named Ebed-Melech. Most of us probably don’t have as many as we think but we must appreciate those we have. I came to Danville over 35 years ago and I would not have survived a decade had it not been for two men that proved to be loyal friends. These men put other friendships at risk to stand with me. You have to appreciate friends of such caliber. Most people are not going to stick their neck out for a preacher and there may be some reasons for that but to have folks lay it on the line for you in an humbling and moving experience.

I could tell you that I treat everyone the same and I do try but God knows and so does any reasonably intelligent person that some people have a special place in my heart and like Paul, it is those people who have proved the sincerity of their love. Paul said, “God knows how much I love you and how I long to be with you.” Is it a sin to want to be with people who love you. Is there something wrong with a man who had rather dine with supporters than be in the company of critics? Paul was human and like the rest of us, he longed for love and acceptance.

III. LAST BUT NOT LEAST: PAUL HAD THE PHILIPPIANS IN HIS PRAYERS

Paul said,  “I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” First of all, Paul prayed…

  1. For love to overflow more and more. This word overflow, translated abound in NASB means to exceed a fixed number of measure, to be left over and above a certain number or measure. It’s like pouring a bushel an a half in a bushel basket. It was a good place for Paul to begin praying: what an incredible difference it would make if our love was overflowing: if we had an abundance, more than needed.
  2. For them to continue to grow in knowledge and understanding
  3. For them to understand what matters most
  4. For their sanctification that they would not be a disappointment to Jesus
  5. For them to be filled with the fruit of the Spirit
  6. For righteous character to be developed.
  7. For them to bring glory and honor to God.

The Christian Life

Philippians 1:1-2

This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus. I am writing to all of God’s holy people in Philippi who belong to Christ Jesus, including the elders and deacons. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

INTRODUCTION

Of all Paul’s introductions to his epistles to churches, Paul begins with some statement in regards to his apostleship. But Paul does begin Philippians and Thessalonians in his customary way. For example: Paul begins Romans like this…This letter is from Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, chosen by God to be an Apostle…I Corinthians 1:1…Chosen by the will of God to be an apostle or Galatians 1:1…Paul an apostle, not appointed by men but by Jesus Christ Himself…Ephesians 1:1…This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ… and to Colossians 1:1….Chosen by the will of God to be an Apostle.

So why didn’t he begin Philippians and Thessalonians this way? Because these two churches never questioned his authority. Of all the churches that Paul founded and ministered to, these two had a special place in his heart. In 1 Thessalonians 2:20 Paul said, “Yes, you are our pride and joy.” Philippians 1:7, “So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart,” and in 4:1, “You are my joy and crown.”

The church at Philippi was good to Paul. Not only did they not question his authority, they proved the sincerity of their love by supporting him financially for as long as he lived. No other church of record could make such a claim. Philippi was the first church Paul founded in Europe. The great Apostle realized that the further West he went, the better the response. Some believe he had no intention of going in any other direction but of course his heart was set on taking the money to Jerusalem personally for the poor which proved to be a mistake. We know that Paul had his eye on Italy and Spain, both to the West.

As we get into an introduction of Philippians tonight, I want to center our thoughts around the CHRISTIAN LIFE.

I. FIRST, WE WILL DISCUSS THE CHRISTIAN CALLING WHICH IS SERVANTHOOD.

Note the very first sentence…This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus. The Greek word for ‘slaves’ is doulos and it means slave or bondman. Both slave and bond slave were property of their master. Some were born in slavery but others became slaves to pay their debts, this would be a bond slave. In either case, Paul realized that he was not his own, that he had been bought by a price and that he was Christ’s slave.

Our culture does not like the word slave: we prefer servant but a servant is free to come and go. He has the right to quit and seek a new master. A slave is owned by his master and must be devoted to his masters interest. He is more than a servant who works for wages or who comes and goes at will. The slave has no will; only a master. Every thing the slave does is in regard to the master’s will. The slave has nothing, even his time, that does not belong to his master. The slave owes his allegiance and life to his master. It would be unheard of for a slave to say, “I want.” It would always be about what his master wanted. Read the story of Abraham’s slave searching for Isaac a wife in Genesis 24..

.  “I am Abraham’s servant, and the Lord has greatly blessed my master; he has become a wealthy man. The Lord has given him flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, a fortune in silver and gold, and many male and female servants and camels and donkeys. “When Sarah, my master’s wife, was very old, she gave birth to my master’s son, and my master has given him everything he owns. And my master made me take an oath. He said, ‘Do not allow my son to marry one of these local Canaanite women. Go instead to my father’s house, to my relatives, and find a wife there for my son.’ “But I said to my master, ‘What if I can’t find a young woman who is willing to go back with me? He responded, ‘The Lord, in whose presence I have lived, will send his angel with you and will make your mission successful. “So today when I came to the spring, I prayed this prayer: ‘O Lord, God of my master, Abraham, please give me success on this mission.

There is more to the story but you get the drift: it was all about the Master’s will. The servant’s will never came up. As I alluded earlier, slavery has a very negative connotation. There are many things about slavery that we all should hate. The Africans may have suffered some indignities that others have not but I doubt it. The Israelites were slaves multiple times but most notably to the Egyptians and the Babylonians.  In the Roman Empire, there were more slaves than free men. Slavery is not a racial issue; it is a moral issue; practically all ethnic groups have been slaves at one time or another. The slaves in the Roman Empire were not predominately black; they enslaved all those they conquered: race had nothing to do with it. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. Slavery is still big in the Sudan where they have operating slave markets.

In ancient times the deciding factor on whether or not slavery was good or bad was the MASTER. Abraham’s slave had a good master. Technically, Joseph never gained his freedom but he became a highly exalted slave and his master was very generous with him. Paul’s master was Jesus. Slavery is not a bad thing when Jesus is your Master. In giving his full allegiance to Jesus Christ as his LORD and Master, Paul discovered a whole new life that he did not know existed: a life that was hidden to him and only revealed through his allegiance to Christ.

There is no question is my mind, the key to joy in the Christian life is in service. Unhappy church members are always takers, never doers. Instead of serving others, they want to be served and get upset with the service.

II. SECONDLY, NOTE THE CHRISTIAN DISTINCTION–WE ARE SEPARATED

Paul said, I am writing to all of God’s holy people in Philippi who belong to Christ Jesus, including the elders and deacons. I prefer the NASB here which reads…To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons. It was nice of Paul to include Deacons and Pastors. The word translated ‘saint’ or ‘God’s holy people’ in NLT is ‘hagios’ which originally meant to be set apart. The vessels of gold used in the temple were like all other vessels of gold except they were set a part and dedicated for a special purpose. They were distinguished from the other vessels in terms of their purpose. Jesus used this same word in Matthew 7:6 when He said, “Do not give what is hagios to the dogs.” Dogs have little sense of discernment or value. If you leave your bible laying on the front porch, the dog will chew it to pieces. The dog does not distinguish between what is holy and what is not. He does not recognize the special purpose the bible has. The thing that distinguishes me from a man of the world is my purpose. I’ve been separated by God for a purpose which is to serve and to share. Priest were ordinary men in one sense but the thing that distinguished them was their purpose for which they were set aside. The tithe is money but it is distinguished because it is set aside for special use. You can say the same for the Temple or the nation Israel.

III. NEXT: NOTE THE CHRISTIAN POSITION-IN CHRIST 

Paul said, …To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons. {NASB} We are in Christ like a bird is in the air, like a fish is in the water, like a man is in a room. When I am in the sanctuary, I know where I am. I don’t walk around in circles looking for doors because I am already in. You cannot get into a room that you are already in. Positionally, I am in Christ, like a letter in an envelop. I am hidden with Christ in God. Paul references being in Christ 132 times. Always, everyday, I know where I am: I am in Christ. He is my ARK of shelter from the storm of God’s holy wrath.

III. LAST BUT NOT LEAST: THE CHRISTIAN BLESSING–GRACE AND PEACE

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. Grace speaks of benefits, status, gifts, rewards, favors, thanks, tokens, kindness, strength, knowledge, good-will, loveliness, sweetness, delight, pleasure and joy. Grace includes all of God’s goodness and gifts. Notice that in the bible, Grace always precedes peace. We cannot have peace until we experience grace. Peace is not the absence of conflict, turmoil or trouble: peace is he calm in the middle and midst of the storm. When Jesus came walking on the water to His troubled disciples, he brought a peace and calm. Matter of fact, He said to the elements, “Peace, be still” and all became calm.

As a pastor I am called upon to minister to the terminally ill. What do you say to a friend who is dying of stage IV cancer. They know it and you know it so what are you going to offer them. I have given this a lot of thought and I try to put myself is their place: what would I want them to pray for me if it was me who had the cancer. Knowing me as I do, two things come to mind instantly: COURAGE and PEACE. Courage is a grace gift and I could just say grace but I always pray for COURAGE and PEACE. Think about it, if you have those two things, you have all you need.

I was never guilty of worshipping my earthly father. He was a hard worker but he had glaring faults. One of the things I held against him for years was his lack of courage to confront. Mother on the other hand, lacked no courage: she would definitely confront. Daddy loved peace I am sure but I questioned his courage. At age 82, my daddy had a series of strokes. He could articulate but barely. He could not walk and had to have a round the clock care. I guess the strokes brought out the hidden man. All his life he had been impatient but in those last months, he had patience galore. He was ready to go home, no fear, none and I have never been more proud than in those few days before he departed. He had perfect peace and no fear. He was packed and ready to go. After his departure I realized that I am not the man my daddy was; I can only pray for the grace to be so.

Forgiveness

Matthew 18:21-35 NASB

21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27 And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30 But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

INTRODUCTION

In Matthew 18 Jesus talks a lot about relationships and the key to good relationship is the spirit of humility. Whether at home, work, school or church; it always helps when we have a spirit of humility. In verse 7 Jesus said that it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come. We live in a fallen world. People do and say things that hurt others. You cannot go through life and not be offended by something that someone says or does: it is going to happen. Offenses are going to happen: they are inevitable Jesus said. So what do we do with our brother offends us? What do we do when someone injures or hurts us? We forgive! It is the only way to maintain a lasting relationship. When you love someone, forgiveness is much easier.

I have four children and nine grand children. I am sure at some point and time they have sinned against me but I have no record of any such offense. Love doesn’t keep records. When Jesus began to talk about making things right with your brother, Peter understood that He was talking about FORGIVENESS. Impetus Peter, always seeking the lime light: he comes to Jesus and ask, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Peter felt confident that Jesus would commend him for his willingness to forgive seven times but Jesus was not impressed. The Rabbis taught that men were to forgive three times. Peter had doubled that and added one for good measure. Surely Jesus was going to commend him for going the second mile but He didn’t. Jesus said to Peter, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. This is 490 times. Who could keep up with 490 infractions? That is the point Jesus is making: we do not need to keep track of offenses against us.

Recently, I heard of a father who had kept a record of every dime he had spent on the children he brought into this world. I don’t have a clue what I’ve spent on my children or grandchildren. You can search through my journals and records and you will find nothing because I have never recorded one thing. Love does not keep records. We need to forgive and I’m going to tell you why…

I. THE FIRST REASON WE NEED TO FORGIVE IS THAT WE CANNOT RECEIVE FORGIVENESS IF WE ARE UNWILLING TO GIVE IT

Notice what Jesus says in verse 35….My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”  In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” James 2:13, For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. Mark 11:25, Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” In the midst of the model prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Have you said something or did something in the pass that you need forgiveness for? No one wants to take ownership for our responsibility in the death of Christ but we are all guilty of His blood. He was crucified because of our sin. Do you need God’s forgiveness? On the day of Pentecost Peter said, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” Peter puts the death of Jesus on the Jews but we are all responsible. It is not only the Jews and Romans who are guilty, we are all guilty. Jesus died because of our sins and we need His forgiveness. I’ve been living 65 years and I’ve never met a person who did not need forgiveness.

Is it human to struggle with forgiveness? You better believe it! C.S. Lewis said, “Everyone thinks that forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.” I have struggled with forgiveness more than once but if you are a child of God, forgiveness is going to win. A child of God is going to forgive because they know their need of forgiveness. Over 40 years ago, I bumped into a lady that told me she hated her son-in-law. I happened to know that she was a professing Christian and so I told her, “You are confused, you think you hate your son-in-law but you do not hate him, you are hurt and angry at him for what he has done to your daughter but you cannot hate him.” She quickly retorted, “I am not confuse, I do hate his guts.” I said, “Then you are confused about your salvation, you are not really saved. A Christian cannot hate nor refuse to forgive.” She never responded but I think she gave it a lot of thought and as far as I know she got along with her son-in-law perfectly until the day she died. If you hate another human being and you professed to be a Christian: you are confused about your emotions or your salvation.

Everyone needs forgiveness and everyone needs to be forgiving.

II. THE FORGIVENESS WE GIVE IS INSIGNIFICANT COMPARED TO THAT WHICH WE HAVE RECEIVED

Notice the drastic difference in the debts. The first servant owed his king 10,000 talents, at today prices, this is over a half billion dollars. Note, I said billion, not million. The lesser servant owed hundred denarii which is around $2,000. The first man could not have repaid his debt in 500 lifetimes. The second man, earning a standard wage could pay off his debt in four months. The difference is so significant that there is really no comparison. Would you rather owe $600 million or $2,000? Here is the point: What Jesus is asking you to forgive is insignificant compared to what He has forgiven you. Your sin against Christ is far greater than anyone sin against you. Forgiveness is rooted in our relationship with and love for Jesus Christ. Unforgiveness is rooted in selfishness. 

III. REFUSAL TO FORGIVE ENSLAVES US

This wicked servant put himself in prison. The king had already forgiven his debt. He did not go to prison for his debt, he went to prison because he refused to forgive. Warren Wiersbe says, “The world’s worst prison is the prison of an unforgiving heart.” The wicked servant not only went to prison, he was tortured and tormented. The most miserable people you will meet on this earth are people who refuse to forgive, they are tormented night and day. Every waking minute they are imagining ways that their offenders should suffer and they do not realize that they are the ones being tormented and it is all their fault. I talk to a woman this week who is struggling to survive in an unpleasant marriage. Several years back, she made the mistake of confiding in him about her pass. Things that happened before she knew him. Thing that happened over 40 years ago but he refuses to forgive. She has forgiven the people who hurt her but he will not forgive. He has become so obsessed with pay back that he is miserable 24-7 and the people he despises are prospering. He is not only driving himself crazy: he is driving her crazy as well. All he has to do to be set free is let go and he refuses to let go. His wife is on the verge of despair and he is the cause of it all. He is destroying the very woman he professes to love because he is more concerned about revenge than he is her needs.

Several years ago I walked into a home were a man was in the process of dying. They were not members of our congregation but at the time a granddaughter attended our church and so I went out of courtesy to her. The room was filled with people and most of them I did not know, as I walked in one door, one woman got up and bolted out. I didn’t really pay any attention to her departure and it had no affect on my spirit because I didn’t know what was going on. Later, as I was living, her sister apologized for her behavior. I assured her that no harm was done because I was literally in the dark and had no ideal why she got up and left and did not dare ask her sister. I just got into my vehicle and left. A week or so later, I bumped into a friend who was very acquainted with this family and I told him what happened. He started laughing. He said, “Bro. Jack, you really don’t know what is going on do you?” I said, “I don’t have a clue.” He said, “Bro. Jack,  that woman hates your guts.” I said, “That’s impossible, I have never seen this woman before, I don’t know her from Adam’s house cat.” He said, “She knows you and she despises you and that is why she got up and left.” To make a long story short, she had got hold of some gossip that was totally unfounded and she did what most do, she assumed I was guilty. She spent all that time hating me and I didn’t even know anything was going on. If you worship your popularity, you don’t want to be a preacher. Every God-fearing truth-telling man of God has to live with being hated. The young people have a term for folks like this…they call them “Haters.” You can almost pick them out just by the expression on their face. Don’t let hate and unforgiveness enslave you. Let it go and get free so you can live the rest of your life. This second servant ended up in prison being tormented and it was all his fault. He put himself in prison by not forgiving.