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SCRIPTURE TEXT

Philippians 3:1

Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith. [NLT]

 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. [NASB]

INTRODUCTION

When you hear a preacher say “finally,” you assume he is closing or wrapping things up. But to preachers the word finally does not always mean they are closing. I think that use the word as a teaser. In Philippians 3:1, the word is loipos and it is not an easy word to translate. According to Strong, it means the remaining, the res; the rest of any number or class under consideration, the rest, who are not of a specific class or number or the rest of the things that remain. So for Paul here is Philippians 3:1, it is a connecting word. Actually Paul digresses to some degree and goes back to repeat some of the basics. Paul said, To write the same things again is no trouble to me. NKJV reads, “To write the same things to you is not tedious.” The NRSV reads, “To write the same things to you is not troublesome to be but a safeguard to you.” So in Chapter 3-4, Paul is going to get into some of the basics that we learn by repetition.

Our granddaughter Chloe is two years old and she loves to watch video’s on the I-Pad. She has basically taken my I-Pad away from me. One of her favorite video’s is FIVE LITTLE MONKEY’S JUMPING ON THE BED. In a subtle way, the video teaches her to count. The key to Chloe learning to count from the video is to watch it over and over which she does. Repetition has always been the number one form of learning.

So Paul said, “We are going to repeat some basic truths that you need to know. These truths will safeguard you from error.” My dilemma is how to organize my thoughts and present them in such a way that you will be helped. I think there is too much in verse 1 to attack it to the next session but verse 1 is not easy to outline but I will try.

I. I SEE THE THEME OF THE LETTER “Rejoice in the LORD”

  • There is joy in prayer: Philippians 1:3-4…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.
  • There is joy in the gospel shared: Philippians 1:18…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. 
  • There is joy in faith: Philippians 1:25…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.
  • There is joy in unity: Philippians 2:2…Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
  • There is joy in suffering for Christ: Philippians 2:17-18…But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.
  • There is joy is Christian Relationships: Philippians 2:28…Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you.
  • There is joy in Christian Hospitality: Philippians 2:29…Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard.
  • There is joy in Christ: Philippians 3:1…Rejoice in the LORD.
  • There is joy in Christian fellowship: Philippians 4:1…Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.
  • There is joy in giving: Philippians 4:10…But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.

So there is no doubt, Paul repeats the Theme of the letter in 3:1.

II. I SEE THE HEART OF MESSENGERTo write the same things again is no trouble to me

Paul modeled the joy that he spoke of; he loved to preach and teach the truth. He did not mind giving the Philippians instructions even if some were a repeat, He said “to write the same things I have written before is no trouble to me.” I like his spirit and his attitude.

  1. Teachers have a lot of responsibility…Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you’d have a perfect person, in perfect control of life. With increasing age and experience, I find myself very concerned about what I say and how I say it. I want to be like John the Baptist is that it was said of him, “Everything he said about Jesus was true.” There is no question that I have made mistakes and will be held accountable for them. Some things I have said in pride have already come back on my head. I approach the sacred desk with greater caution and hopefully greater humility than ever before. To believer error is bad, to teach it is much worse.
  2. Teachers have a lot of joy. I get blessed in my study and preparation and then blessed again when I share it from the pulpit and then blessed again occasionally by someone repenting in response to the message. The first church I served as pastor was during my college days back in the early 70’s. My chairman of deacons was a very educated man but very humble. He loved to smoke a pipe. I was green as green beans in those days but I preached a message on Temperance and he came to me after the service and said, “The LORD convicted me today, I am giving up my pipe.” I was shocked. That was 45 years ago and it has never happened since; not in regards to smoking anyway. I saw a woman a couple of months ago that I had not seen in 35 years. I preached at her church one time, and she quoted me word for word. The only reason I remembered was that I got the quote from Jack Taylor. What amazes me is how God works to plant a thought or truth in a mind while the preacher or teacher is speaking. I have been to huge conferences where the best of the best preached but one of the most significant moments of my life came at an Associational meeting in which an old country preacher spoke from Colossians 1. He pastored small rural churches all his life. Paul was not annoyed with Philippi, he was thrilled to get to instruct them. It is a huge responsibility to teach but also a joy, a great joy.

III. I SEE ALSO THE PURPOSE OF THE LETTERand it is a safeguard for you.

Paul has suffered for Christ sake but he is not discouraged by the suffering. I think Paul gloried in the suffering; it drove him deeper into the faith. The Philippian believers were in a position to similar to Paul: they were not in prison but they were being persecuted for their faith and there was a good chance the persecution was going to get worse. Paul wants to prepare them for the worse.

The Philippians were dealing with at least two things: [1] A pagan culture and a world view that was antichrist and [2] the false teacher who were Judaizes. Jews pretending to be Christians who taught that Salvation was by works and they especially emphasized circumcision. They basically undermined everything that Paul had taught.

The spiritual war we are in is a war between truth and error, light and darkness, good and evil. As the hymn says…

Give of your best to the Master;
Give of the strength of your youth;
Clad in salvation’s full armor,
Join in the battle for truth.

What is the true gospel. The Judaizers were teaching that it was Christ plus circumcision and obeying the law of Moses. Paul taught SALVATION BY GRACE and this was offensive to Jews. Paul’s gospel was good news that Christ had died for all and that salvation was a gift [Rom.6:23] that we receive by faith. It is all grace from start to finish. This gospel of grace is under attack today by a sect within the domination. It is a revival of Calvinism, also known as REFORM THEOLOGY, and it teaches Salvation by Election. It is a monoergistic salvation which simply means “God alone”. In other words, Salvation is not a gift and you cannot receive it. God chooses whom He will regenerate and the rest are firewood for hell. It is a heretical teaching that over emphases one truth to the neglect of the paradoxical truth on the other side. God is a God of LOVE and wrath. He is both. He would not love good if He did not hate evil. No believer questions the sovereignty of God but it is the sovereignty of God that allows Him to save us anyway that pleases Him. His way is repentance of sin and faith in the LORD Jesus Christ.

This is not new theology: this is basic stuff. Our culture is into the novel, the new, the sensational and our young people are not grounded in truth: plus these folks are subtle. Calvinist are like Judaizes, they can’t start new churches because they have gutted the gospel. They will however, come in to a fellowship by stealth and undermine what some orthodox pastor has taught for years. They are masters of spinning doubt and they will have you questioning everything.

Paul would have liked spending all his time evangelizing but he had to defend the faith from these false teachers. Folks I could write a book on the destructiveness of a lie. One reason I long for heaven is to get away from the lies. There are some who are filled with envy and jealously and they overtly lash out in violence. These are the minority: the majority handle envy and jealously in another way: they use gossip, innuendo, insinuation, suggestion, lies, slander…in other words, they use tongue or pen. Listen to what James said about the tongue…It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. Just recently, a heart broken woman came to me because someone had started a vicious rumor on her and she was defenseless to stop it…like one person fighting a raging grass fire. She had enough intelligence to know that I could not stop it either. People love gossip. People use lies to get even with people they don’t like. This is a sad truth.

People lied, gossiped and slandered Jesus because they didn’t like Him and it is going to happen no matter what kind of life you live but I am inclined to believe that I have brought some of this on myself. I will say this, you cannot underestimate the power of a lie nor the power of those who are willing to use them to get their way.

So what Paul is doing here is Suring up the Philippians faith. He wanted them to be grounded in truth so they can withstand the evil days that are inevitably coming. Yes, their faith must be in Christ. If they keep their faith in Christ, they will have joy no matter what the circumstances and will be able to stand against the lies of Satan.

CONCLUSION

I remember my first steak dinner. I was 17 years old and our football team ate at Gil-Mar in Athens, Alabama. I was seated there totally unaware that everyone else had been through this experience except me. They brought the salads in a wooden bowl and ask me what kind of dressing I wanted and I did not know how to respond. A buddy sitting beside me said, “Give him Thousand Island.” Thank God, they invented Ranch a few years later. I ate that salad like it was a piece of corn bread right out of the oven: it was gone in seconds. I looked at my friend and said, “I’m still hungry, is this all we get?” The entire table erupted in laughter. Then my friend explained what would happen. How was I to know, it was my first steak dinner. I have had a lot of steak dinners since and I don’t remember but one or two of them. I don’t remember what I had for lunch last week but I am getting my nourishment. I am healthy and ready to resist a virus or what have you. You may not remember my last sermon, you may not remember this one but God is using me to feed your soul and whether you remember or not, His plan is working. When the lies come, you will know the truth. The truth begins and ends with Jesus. You need to know HIM and know HIM intimately. Jesus will not make you arrogant or angry. He will make you humble and merciful.

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The Parable of The Great Feast

Scripture Text: Matthew 22:1-14

Jesus also told them other parables. He said, “The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify those who were invited. But they all refused to come! “So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’  But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business. Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them. “The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. And he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor. Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see. 10 So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to meet the guests, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for a wedding. 12 ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how is it that you are here without wedding clothes?’ But the man had no reply. 13 Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

To understand this story, you need an Eastern mind set which we Westerners don’t have. It is hard if not impossible for us to imagine a monarchy, a system of government where one person has all the power. Some parts of western Europe still have kings but they are figure heads who have no real power. In the old eastern monarchy, one man, the king had all the power. There was no parliament or congress and no supreme court. In ancient Israel, the king was sovereign. He held the power of life and death. No trials, no lawyers, no judges, no courts, no juries, no appeals: the subjects had no rights and the king had every right.

In this setting, what should rule number one be? DON’T OFFEND THE KING because He is Sovereign and we live in His kingdom. So remember…

I. THE KING IS SOVEREIGN: DON’T OFFEND THE KING

 Think of the king as David. He had a hair trigger. If you caught him in the wrong mood, he would have you executed for bringing him bad news or in some cases, good news. So your first rule of survival is “don’t tick the king off.” You have a few servants but he has an army. What are a few grubbing hoes and pitch forks against a fully equipped cavalry with horses and chariots. So rule number one is RESPECT THE KING.

This is the motif of this story, the religious Jewish leaders had no respect for God. Whereas they professed to have great respect for God they showed little regard for His word, His messengers and now His Son. They are on the verge of offending the king and Jesus is giving them a stern but subtle warning to change their attitude about the King. You do not want to offend the king.

They had ignored his messengers and rejected his invitation. This was not an intelligent move since He had all the power and everything legally belonged to him: it was his kingdom and they were merely subjects living in his kingdom. Tenants should know better than to disrespect their land Lord.

The truth is this: The earth and the cosmos is the LORD’s. When Al [bless his heart] Gore talks about “Our planet having a fever,” he is wrong on two counts….[1] It is not our planet [2] It does not have a fever. Right now, it is in a cooling cycle. The fact is, we live in God’s world and He is sovereign over all His creation. He can send out invitations if He chooses to, it is His world and we are subject to Him whether we like it or not. We are also free to decline the invitation but we are not free of the consequences of offending Him by dishonoring His Son.  No one was at the feast that did not choose to accept the invitation. They were all invited and they all accepted the invitation.

II. THE INVITATIONS ARE OUTDON’T GET DISTRACTED.

Life is about choices, priorities and making wise decisions which the people in this story did not do. The King sent out invitations but the people refused to come. Actually [v.5] they ignored the invitation and went their own way. This leads to a question: why would anyone ignore an invitation from a king? You know that declining or ignoring the invitation is going to offend the king so why do it? I am going to suggest three reasons, there could be more.

1. Secularism: Worldly cares, encumbrances, secular business, or the concerns of this life, in providing earthly things.

2. Materialism: The riches, or love of wealth, busy amassing more wealth. [Building a little mini-kingdom]

3. Hedonism: Sensual satisfaction, or the inordinate love of pleasures, sports, entertainment, pursuit of power and pleasure: these are the things that destroy the soul: for this sort says, “they cannot come.”

Did these people realize how terribly they had offended the king? I don’t think so. They were busy in their own little kingdom and had failed to give the greater kingdom any thought. They were careless. Most of them did not hate the king, they simply didn’t give him any thought.

III. WE ARE SUBJECTS AND THIS MEANS ACCOUNTABILITY

God is sovereign: He is king and we live in His kingdom [like it or not]; the earth is the LORD’s. We are living on His land. We are breathing His air. We need to keep this in mind. We are not little mini-kings building our own kingdom.  The only possibility of us having a kingdome would be for God to give us one, other wise, we don’t have one and we cannot build one. God invites us to be a part of his KINGDOM and He has sent out invitations…it is called the gospel. Listen to some of the whosoever’s in the bible…See if you can hear God calling you?

  • Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.
  • Whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.
  • Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled.
  • Whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
  • Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”
  • Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.
  • Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
  • Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
  • Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
  • Whoever believes in Him will have eternal life
  • Whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
  • Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst.
  • WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.
  • WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
  • Whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.
  • Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
  • Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in Him, and he in God.

Also think about the word “Come.” Sounds like an invitation to me.

  •  Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
  • “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them!
  •  “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”
  • Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear.
  •  “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
  •  “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me!
  •  “Lazarus, come out!”
  • The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say,Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.

Your on the guest list: you have been invited so please give the invitation some thought. You are free to choose but you are not free of the consequences of making wrong choice. I’m going to be honest; I believe God does have a furious side like the king in this story. He is a God or wrath and His wrath is like an unquenchable fire. BUT He is also a God of love and mercy. Which is greater, darkness or light? Which is greater, sin or grace?

I am not going to compare myself to the king or a king and obviously I have not prepared a feast of this magnitude but I have prepared for guest, sent out the invitations and had no one show up. Actually, we had 8 and was prepared for 80. It hurt but I didn’t get angry. I had no moral right to get angry but with God it is different. I’m not a king and I don’t have my own army so there was never any threat of me sending my men to your place and burning it to the ground. This is just a story but it illustrates a truth: it would not be wise on your part to disrespect God or to dishonor His Son.

Jesus was addressing the Pharisee’s who were guilty of disrespecting the Father and dishonoring the SON. I have no doubt that Jesus loved Pharisees but they refused to repent and Jesus cannot not help any man who refuses to repent. 

I think it all boils down to verse 5, But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, anotheCr to his business. I think Isaiah 53:6 nails it…All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all. Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase reads like this…We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, {Jesus}. Jesus has made sufficient payment for our sin but we cannot get His Father’s forgiveness for His death unless we repent. Jesus said twice in Luke 13…Unless you repent, you will perish.”

 CONCLUSION
Many years ago I heard a story about a huge city church that had many prominent members. We are talking about civil leaders, celebrities, successful businessmen, etc. It was a First Baptist type church: the church that the affluent want to be identified with. A woman of great wealth moved into town and after talking to several about the various churches, she decided that this was the church for her. What she did not discover in her investigation was that the pastor was a God fearing man who preached the bible and believed what he preached. When the invitation was given, the wealthy woman walked proudly to the altar to take the pastor’s hand. She told him who she was and why she had come. Sensing the air of pride in her voice and demeanor, he ask her if she had ever repented of her sins. When he mentioned sins in connection to her personally, she was aghast, startled and unnerved. “What do you mean?” Said the lady, “repent of what sins? I have no sins to repent of, I came to join this church so I could be a member and give it my financial support. I did not come to be embarrassed or labeled a sinner.” The pastor humble but resolutely said, “I am truly sorry madam but I cannot receive you into the fellowship of this church until you repent.” She turned in whirl and marched to her seat, mad as an old sitting hen. When she got to her seat, she fumed and replayed his words in her mind over and over. He will not get the best of me she muttered to herself and out in the aisle she went for a second trip to the altar but the pastor was resolute. He insisted that she repent and he called attention to her pride, stubbornness and self-will. She wheels around and considered marching right out of the building and never coming back but mysteriously, she returned to her seat. She felt humiliated and embarrassed. She was confident that everyone was watching. Suddenly a conviction came over her that she was in error and that in fact she had never repented of her part in the death of Christ. At that moment, her heart was broken and she began to weep. For the third time she stepped out into the aisle and went to the altar but this time it was different. She took the pastor’s hand and said, “Pastor, you are right, I have not repented but I do now, I know that I am guilty of the death of Christ and I am truly sorry. The Pastor smiled and said, “Now you are ready to become a member of the body of Christ.”
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and he repented. Joseph of Arimathea was a Pharisee and he repented. All Pharisees are not destined to hell, just those who refuse to repent.

 

Celebrate Jesus

Philippians 1:20-27

20 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

Philippians is sometimes referred to as the Epistle of Joy, the word joy and rejoice is used 12 times in this rather brief letter. I am not shocked that it is usually the first book I finish when I read through the bible. Ironically, Paul wrote this letter while he was under house arrest in Rome. As Dr. Eugene Peterson points out in his introduction to Philippians, none of Paul’s circumstances could contribute to his abounding joy. [1] He was in chains; bound wrist to wrist to a Roman Guard. [2] His person and work were under attack by critics who celebrated his incarceration. [3] Paul was not a young man and his travels and the persecution he had endured had taken a toll on him physically. Paul was tired and welcomed some relief.

When I study Paul declaration of faith in this passage, I think about the little girls who ask her daddy…”Daddy is Jesus bigger than you?” [Dad] “Sure honey, Jesus is much bigger than your dad.” [Girl] “Daddy, does Jesus live in you? [Dad] “Sure darling, Jesus lives in me.” [Girl] “Daddy, if Jesus lives in you and he is bigger than you, then He will stick out somewhere, want He?

I get my title for this message in verse 26…The Voice…”When I return to you, we will celebrate Jesus the Anointed ever more.” The word translated ‘Celebrate’ is perisseuō and it means to overflow, to abound, to exceed the limits. It is a word stronger than rejoice, it is a CELEBRATION, an outbreak of wondrous praise and joy. It is joy overflowing.

We have organized our thought around for headings…

I. FIRST, THERE IS PAUL’S PRAYER [His earnest expectation]

To express himself here, Paul uses a word that he may very well have coined, it is three Greek words in one which means “an anxious [excited] look ahead”. So we are sure that Paul was looking at the future and although he is confident in his faith, he is a bit anxious about what is going to happen. His first appeal went well but his main hearing is yet to come and it could be before Nero who was insane and sadistic. He was also a pervert. I don’t see how Paul could have been anything other than anxious, do you?

I think most of us in these circumstances would be focused on survival but this is not Paul’s main concern: Paul’s hope, his prayer is threefold: [1] He does not want to be ashamed of Christ or the gospel. To this point Paul has never been ashamed and he doesn’t anticipate that he will be but he doesn’t want to make the same mistake as Peter, so he make it an issue of prayer. Paul said, I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed but remember, the Greek word translated expect involves an anxious waiting. None of us want to be ashamed of Christ but practically all of us have acted ashamed on more than one occasion.  [2] Secondly, Paul said, “I want to continue to be bold as I have been in the past.” Paul’s boldness makes me feel timid. I’m probably more of a John Mark type than a Paul but I do admire him for his boldness and I long deeply to be bold as well. [3] Paul’s third prayer desire was that his life would honor Christ. So Paul does not want to be ashamed of Jesus; he wants to proclaim Jesus boldly and he wants to honor Christ with his life. My purpose is life is to honor Christ by being obedient to His word. No human can block this life goal. If my life goal was to Pastor DBC, lots of people could block that goal but I am the only person who can keep me from living a life of obedience that honors Christ.

II. PAUL’S PASSION AND PURPOSE

Paul say in verse 21, “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. The NASB reads, For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” The Greek word for gain is kerdos and it is used only three times in N.T. Twice in Philippians 1:21, 3:7 and Titus 1:11 where it is preceded by an adjective and means sordid gain, or dirty money. The word simply means gain or advantage. I have always translated it promotion. “For to me to live is Christ and to die is a promotion.” For the Christian, dying is far better than living. One thing we can count on, heaven will not be anti-climatic. It will be far better, infinitely better. But the real issue here is not Paul’s promotion but his passion, he said, “For me,” personally, “to live is Christ”. In other words, Christ was Paul’s life. Paul did not say, for me to live is sports…for me to live is my children. You’ve heard people say, “He lives for sports” hadn’t you. That man lives for Alabama football. He lives for hunting. Christ was Paul’s greatest passion so for him to live was Christ. What do you put where Paul put Christ? For you to live is ____________. What goes in the blank? What is your greatest passion? What do you think about most? Where do you invest your money? For some folks, for me to live is my garden, yard, house on the lake. Some people live for their job. Paul lived for Christ. His passion was Christ. If Christ goes in the first blank [For me to live is _________] then gain, something better, promotion goes in the second. But if something other than Christ goes in the first blank, something other than gain will go in the second. For me to live is money and to die is to lose it all. For me to live is popularity and to die is to be forgotten.

III. THIRD THERE IS PAUL’S PROBLEM

The AV translated 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 if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 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. The New Living simplifies it…I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me.

So Paul is feeling some inter conflict. He is having a struggle because he has contrary desires. A part of him longs for heaven and rest but another part wants to live and labor. I think most Christians suffer from this conflict. Sometimes we get tired, our burdens get heavy and we long to be at rest and peace. We long to say goodbye to this sin cursed world that neither appreciates us or our Savior. Paul knows what is best for him but he doesn’t know what is best for the Philippians.

When Paul said “I long to go and be with Christ,” [v.23] the word is epithymia and it denotes the strongest possible desire. It is even used in connection with lust. Paul longed to be with Christ like a lover longs to be with the one they love. Nero is a bad dude and beheading is not the dream of most but Paul longing was so strong that death had an appeal to him. He knew that the moment the ax severed his head from his body, that he would be with Jesus. So he wanted to be with Christ but he knew the Philippians needed him more.

IV. PAUL’S PERSUASION

After thinking this thing through, Paul was persuaded that he would be staying on. This meant, he would be delivered from the present danger. Was Paul deceived in his thinking or did he get released? Those who have done a through study of Paul’s Epistles believe that it was likely that he did get released the first time. What is unclear is how he got there the second time. It seems evident that the apostle Paul was imprisoned twice at Rome and that 1 Timothy and Titus were written during the period between the two imprisonments and 2 Timothy during the second imprisonment. Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon were written during Paul’s first imprisonment. Paul is convinced that he is going to be delivered and many folks believe that this happened because the statue of limitations or so to speak ran out before formal charges were brought. So Paul would have been in Rome under house arrest for two years.

It all makes sense: Paul makes it clear in II Timothy that no man stood with him in his defense. This suggest a second imprisonment because we know that he was never alone in the first. Nero’s persecutions began in 64, Paul was probably released one year prior. There is strong historical evidence that he visited the Southern part of Spain and returned to Asia Minor, Syria and even Palestine. We believe he was martyred in 66 by Nero. He probably returned to Rome and was arrested for being a Christian. His presence there would be cause enough for the arrest since Nero had started the persecution. It is believe that Peter got there some time after Paul’s death because it is inconceivable that Paul would not mention him in II Timothy if he had been there.

So here in Philippians, Paul is confident that he will remain alive and be reunited with the Philippians and we they come together, there will be a huge celebration. A celebration so big that joy would not be adequate to describe it. It was greater than joy, it was the overflowing of joy. It was joy to the tenth power. Perhaps joy divine.

He Is Exalted

Scripture: Philippians 2:9-11, NLT

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,to the glory of God the Father.

 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [NASB]

INTRODUCTION

Therefore or for this reason, God highly exalted Him. In the previous verses, Paul talks about Christ condescension or His humiliation. Note verse 8, Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Paul said in Ephesians 4…Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things. Note: Christ descended before He ascended. Christ came down before He went up giving us a pattern of God’s way.

  • This world depreciated Christ…Heaven adores HIM
  • This world rejected Christ…Heaven gave HIM full affirmation
  • Man dishonored Christ [tried to stone Him, eventually crucified Him]…Heaven honors Christ
  • Man mocked Christ…God exalted Christ
  • Man put Him down…God raised Him up

1. THE REASON OF HIS EXALTATION

For his willingness to become man, to take on the garb of our flesh and humble Himself though He is truth was greater than the greatest king; for his willingness to become poor, to become a servant, to come under the law, to be subject to the law and most of all for His willingness to die on the CROSS like a common criminal…for these noble reason, God has highly exalted HIM.

2. THE MEANS OF HIS EXALTATION

It is interesting to note: Jesus did not exalt Himself. He never denied His deity: had He done such, He would have been dishonest but on the other hand, He never put Himself on a pedestal. He had the attitude of a servant. Though He was God, He did not look on man in a condescending way. He looked up to the woman caught in adultery, He looked up to His disciples when He was washing their feet. They were sitting, He was kneeling. When you kneel to serve, you are always looking up. Jesus did not exalt HIMSELF. He was God and I suppose He could have but He didn’t. Paul makes it clear that God the Father exalted Christ the Son. We have before us the perfect example: our calling is to serve. We are never to exalt ourselves, never! We are told time and time again to “humble ourselves” but we are never commanded in Scripture to exalt ourselves. If we humble ourselves in service like Christ, God will in due time exalt us as He did Christ.

My Pastor and mentor was Calvin Coolidge Inman. He was a very humble man who taught me to allow the host to do the setting. He would tell me the story in Luke 14“When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!” He grounded me in the truth: “Always allow God to place you so that when the storms come, you have the assurance that you are where God put you. Do not promote yourself or try to get a bigger or better church. Let God place you where ever He wants you.” I totally agree with my mentor. For 45 years I have served small rural churches. I heard a preacher says once that he had pastored every church in Alabama that ran less than 100 in Sunday School and I can identify. I don’t have a resume and it wouldn’t do me any good if I had one. I have never had or used a resume. If I exalt myself, it will mean nothing in the long run. Even if friends or relatives exalt me, eventually it will mean nothing. God the Father is the exalter. When He moves you to a table closer to the front, it means something. I’m just glad to be in the banquet hall.

3. THE ENTEND OF HIS EXALTATION

God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name. God exalted Christ above everything on earth, under the earth and I would assume that means hell but also above everything in Heaven. God HIGHLY exalted Christ. He gave HIM a name which is above every name.

Moses and Abraham are good names in the Hebrew family. Job had an excellent name. I rank Job at the top of humans with the exception of Jesus and John the Baptist. Martin Luther is a good name. Christopher Columbus is a good name. George Washington is an excellent name. The eleven Apostles and the Apostle Paul have great names. David is mentioned in the bible a lot and there are probably more boys named David than any other name. I had a granddaddy named David, two uncles named David, a brother named David and now a son named David who has a son named David. That is four generations of David’s in the Bailey Family. BUT God gave His Son a name that is above all other names…JESUS.

Have you noticed that unHollywood likes to take the name of Jesus in vain. They never use Mohammed’s name in vain. They never use Buddha’s name in vain. Why is it that men want to use God’s name in vain? Thousand of Jewish males were crucified by the Romans, can you name two of them? No but you can name one. The people in Hollywood and New York city can name one. I’m telling you, God has exalted the name Jesus above every name. Walk into a bar or honkey-tonk and talk about Jack: they will ignore you. Go in a bar and start talking about Jesus and see what happens. The Muslims know the name Jesus: they hate it but they know it. When it comes to notoriety and power, there is no name like Jesus. God has given Him a name above all names.

The name Jesus is so exalted that at the mention of His name, knees will bow and tongues confess. We sing songs in worship that we do not mean. We sing about clapping our hands but we don’t clap our hands. We sing about bowing before Him but we stand proud and tall. We were singing one of those songs last Sunday that talks about worshipping Christ in a bowed position and I called a time-out. I said, “We are going to sing this chorus again and when we come to the part about bowing before him, I want you to bow. If you can’t get out of your seat, just sit and bow in the fetal position: if you can get to an isle, I want you to bow on your knees.” Then I went back to my seat on the front row where I sit alone. I have an entire pew to myself. I kneeled by the pew so I could use it to get up. As I was getting up, I noticed in the area in front of the altar, a group of students bowing prostrate on the floor.

Remember the old FRAME oil filter commercials: “See me now or see me later.” Well, “You can bow now or bow later but sooner are later, you will bow.” EVERY knee will bow. Kings will bow. Presidents will bow. VIP’s will bow. Communist will bow. Muslims will bow and every knee will bow. I was on one knee last Sunday but a day is coming when every knee will bow. Folks, I am not above doubt but I just don’t have any doubt that this is going to happen. The world system that conspires against Christ and persecutes His followers will one day bow both knees and confess that HE IS LORD.

4. THE RESULTS OF HIS EXALTATION

Every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15…For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death. For the Scriptures say, “God has put all things under his authority.”(Of course, when it says “all things are under his authority,” that does not include God himself, who gave Christ his authority.) Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere.

Ultimately: God the Father will be glorified in God the Son just as God the Father glorified His Son…John 17…The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

CONCLUSION

What is our response? Is this a thrilling passage of hope that encourages you? To those who have a relationship with Jesus: it is a thrill and we look forward to the day when every knee will bow and Jesus will get the credit He deserves. A RELATIONSHIP with Christ is the key. Kinfolk rejoice over the accomplishments of their kin. If you are a sports fan, you have seen it time and time again: The camera scrolls through the crowd and lands on the parents of a player on the field. Then when that player does something outstanding on the field and the camera goes back to his/her family, do they look sad and ashamed? No, they are happy and proud. They celebrate their child’s accomplishment. There is no jealousy or envy.

 

 

The Marks of A Missionary Servant

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 2:19-24

19 If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. 20 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. 22 But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News. 23 I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. 24 And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.

INTRODUCTION

The passage before us tonight is a brief interlude in which Paul commends his servant Timothy. Many years ago, I heard and adage that stuck in my mind….”He who praises all, praises none.” I don’t think Paul, the highly driven Type A personality was guilty of praising all. Actually, what we see here in Philippians is quiet rare. The setting must be considered: Paul is in prison in Rome and his future is uncertain. We do believe that he will get released because the Jews did not have formal charges against him and his case got thrown out of court, we believe but we have no proof of this theory. Either way, Paul does not know what is going to happen to him from one day till the next so he begins this passage with, “If the LORD Jesus is willing, I hope send Timothy to you soon for a visit.”

It is not certain, but we think He chooses Timothy because [1] He is perfect for the job [2] He is trustworthy and [3] There is no one else available. Some how Paul’s other associated had gotten wrapped up in their own ministries and were no longer available to serve Paul.

After spending some time studying this passage and reflecting on previous study; I have conclude that Timothy is the perfect servant, a much better servant than Paul. Paul was a leader. He was a Type-A, heavenly driven lion {Choleric}. Cholerics  are leaders and directors. They seek to be in control of situations, to be on top, to be the best. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are all driven to reach the top of the corporate ladder or anything, or that they all want to have leadership roles, but in day-to-day interactions with other people, they have a tendency towards one-upsmanship. They use imperative, commanding language, wording things as orders rather than requests. Compare “get me a drink” to “can I have a drink?”. They probably use phrases like ‘deal with it’, ‘get over yourself’, ‘stop being such a wimp’, etc, or may start sentences with “look”, or maybe “look, buddy” or “listen, pal” or things like that.

They word things with confidence and certainty.  They are firm and forceful in their approach to problems. They believe in ‘tough love’, and try to ‘help’ others by challenging them to prove themselves, as they themselves would. If met by opposition, they react confrontationally to defend themselves. They are constantly trying to be ‘dominant’ in every situation, subconsciously, either by being louder and better than those around them, or more restrained and therefore superior to those who lose their cool.

Most bullies are choleric, but few cholerics are bullies. Many will in fact stand up to those who bully others, rather than letting them get away with things. Their confidence and demanding natures make them natural leaders, though this doesn’t mean that they would necessarily enjoy leadership positions; they’re just more likely to take charge if necessary rather than fumbling around worrying. They will ‘challenge’ others aggressively in order to show their respect for the person’s strength. They believe that it is important to ‘prove oneself’. They have a tendency to argue for reasons that are different to the melancholic. They’re more driven by a desire to prove themselves greater than whoever they’re arguing with, to assert that they are right, rather than to reach some kind of truth or compromise.

They love competition… but hate to lose. They are defiant of authority, challenging them as if to knock them off the top spot and assert their own dominance as the alpha of this pack, the leader of this tribe. They can be very condescending to those that they look down upon. They may take pleasure in the pain, misfortune, or humiliation of people they are not on good terms with. This is because it brings them pleasure to feel superior to others. “Haha! Look at that loser messing up! Hilarious!” Just of opposite of a Phlegmatic who is apt to show compassion.

Long story short: Paul was a great leader but he did not play second fiddle to anyone other than Jesus. In other words, he would have made a poor servant. I’ll put it this way, if I get to choose teams, I’ll go with Barnabas and John Mark. Timothy is another story. He has the temperament of a servant, of a number two man. Paul said in verse 20, “I have no one else like Timothy.” I believe Paul was being sincere.

I. First of all, Timothy had a genuine servants attitude. Timothy was a phlegmatic. Timothy was meek, gentle, submissive, quiet and introverted. He probably uses as few words as possible. He was not necessarily timid. His name means “God honoring” but he may have been lacking in self-confidence. He certainly did not have the confidence of Paul. Phlegmatics are easy to get along with: they often take the path of least resistance. They love peace and hate conflict which means they have a tendency to avoid conflict if possible. They are the opposite of a know-it-all: they generally know more than they let on. They think of others first and always work for a win/win. They have little trouble obeying authority. Rebellion against established rules makes them uncomfortable. They are afraid of bothering others and are anything but pushy. They are quick to apologize and will even take blame to avoid conflict. They are calm and easy going and they do not like to stand out in a crowd. They have no desire to lead but are perfectly happy to follow.

Sometimes Phlegmatics are viewed as lazy and indecisive but they can show courage and leadership: they are much more cautious than their counter parts. Generally speaking, they do not like leadership roles and will hand off the first chance they get. Obviously Timothy was cut out to be a Servant. Some things that are hard for us were easy for him. Sometimes there is not a trustworthy lion in the crowd and I had rather follow a faithful camel as an unfaithful lion. Sometimes camels have to lead and sometimes lions have to follow.

II. Secondly, Timothy had a genuine concern for others. This is big. Paul wanted someone he could trust but ideally, he wanted someone who felt the same way he did about the Philippians and Timothy was the man. Paul said, He has a genuine concern for the Philippians welfare. The Greek word for welfare can also be translated State, it refers to everything around you: body, soul, estate, etc. Every part of our being and surroundings. There are 50,000 Southern Baptist Churches. The average SBC has 396 members which is more than enough for one shepherd. Southern Baptist strategist believe that bigger would be better but that has not proved to be true: Southern Baptist or in decline. I have friend that says in comical way that he has pastored every church in Alabama that runs less than 100 in Sunday School. We often make fun of the small churches and the pastor’s who lead them but we may have overlooked an important part of ministry, “Making people feel genuinely loved and cared for.” I wonder if people believe that we care about their welfare. Paul did and Timothy did also. A good servant has to care about the welfare of the people he is serving.

III. Timothy had a Genuine Faith. Paul said in 2 Timothy 1…I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

When we think of genuine, we think of what is actual, true or real. The Greek word Paul uses goes beyond our definition somewhat. To be genuine is to be unfeigned, undisguised, sincere, real, true, hones, unaffected by the false, unforced, heartfelt, whole hearted and bona fide. In other word’s Timothy was the real deal.

A part of his genuine faith was his conditioning and his experience. Timothy had good roots. His mother and grand mother had grounded him in the OT scriptures and this served as a great foundation to his ministry. I too had great mentors when I was a child. I spent last Saturday with an old friend and those we are in our 60’s, we could recall our beginner teacher, primary teacher, junior and so on. We talked about each one of them and what they contributed to our lives. They along with my mother laid the foundation of our ministry.

Paul took Timothy along on his second Missionary Journey. Timothy was probably in his early 30’s. He became Paul’s disciple. Paul used Timothy as his envoy, his ambassador. Timothy suffered the same conditions as Paul. He was imprisoned with Paul on a couple of occasions. Paul loved Timothy. He claimed him as a son. Paul was anxious in Athens. He was worried about Timothy and relieved when Timothy and the others showed up. Timothy grew in faith and became more than a son to Paul, he became a fellow worker [Rom. 16] and brother [2 Cor. 1:1]. You can hang out with the likes of Paul and not get your faith tested. Timothy was tried and true. He had proven his trustworthiness.

CONCLUSION

Paul said, I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon. Paul’s future was uncertain. He was in prison and would face Nero who was sexually perverted, mentally unbalanced and morally bankrupt. We are talking about a man he poisoned his own mother three times, then put her to sea in a sinking boat [she swam back to shore] so he dispatched an assassin to beat her to death with a club. How would you like to be awaiting trail with this man as the presiding officer of the court? Life is filled with uncertainties even for the believer but it is never without HOPE. Hope is what kept Paul going. Hope is what keeps us all going. Hope kept Christian going en route to the Celestial City. Do you have hope tonight: real genuine hope.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand: all other ground is sinking sand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Nature of Salvation

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 2:12-18

12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. 14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. 16 Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. 17 But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. 18 Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.

INTRODUCTION

We are going to use verse 13 as our key, God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. I love this verse. To me it is very encouraging. Our salvation has two sides just like a coin. The upward side is the divine side [Regeneration, Sanctification and Glorification] the bottom side is repentance and faith. So salvation has a divine side and a human side. This kind of talk infuriates the Calvinist who believe that salvation is monoergistic–God alone–and man has no part in it. The Calvinist believe that God regenerates the elect a part from human will or desire. Faith comes after regeneration because a dead man cannot express faith. The New Testament teaches clearly that the human side of salvation is repentance and faith. Paul said in Acts 20:20-21,  I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes.  I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus. It is worthy of note that repentance always precedes faith in the N.T. and both precede regeneration. Note verse 12…Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. Here in Philippians 2 we have the human side and the divine side. Let me ask you a question: did Jesus have a human side and a divine side? If you say human only, that is heresy. If you say God only, that too is heresy. We don’t have to explain it, simply believe that Jesus was both divine and human. Granted: we cannot work out something God has not worked in. When we repent and believe in Christ, we experience the new birth. Jesus takes residence in out life. Christ is in us, indwelling us and this is our hope of glorification. Paul said in Colossians 3:3-4…For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. The Christ in you is invisible to the world. When you walk down the street, no one comes running up and says, “Wow, I see Christ in you.” He is in you but He is hidden in you. Paul is saying here in Philippians, “Don’t keep Him hidden. Let the Salvation in you work out, become visible.” This is what tonight’s message is about, the keys to letting Salvation work out. God is much more intelligent that people give Him credit for: He has so designed salvation that it is grace from start to finish. Let me say…There is nothing in our human nature [a part from regeneration] that has the power or the will to magnify Christ. The flesh has no desire to please God and even if it did, it would lack the power. So where does our energy and desire to glorify Christ come from? It comes from God who is at work in you to do his good pleasure. Paul echo’s this same thought in Ephesians 3:20…Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. I am amazed at how powerful this grace works in us and I have story after story to validate this but don’t have time to get into them tonight. Let me just say that if God is not at work in you presently, you have serious spiritual issues that need to be attended to promptly.

…Paul gives us a list of ways to glorify Christ and make HIM visible

I. I call the first one ATTITUDE which Paul has discussed earlier in the chapter…verse 5 “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”

  1. You must be a doer. Christ was a minister or a servant. In Matthew 20:28, Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” A black preacher on YouTube has a sermon “Watch Them Dogs” and in this sermon, he compares the habits of various church members to the habits of various dogs. He says that some members at “Setters”. They don’t do nothing; all they do is set and point. They point out what the “Doers” are doing wrong. The first word in verse 14 is a verb, “Do.” People will never see Christ in a “Setter”.
  2. We must do but with a gracious attitude. We must be thankful for the opportunity to serve Christ. If we are complaining incessantly about whatever it is that we are called to do, Christ will not be exposed. Our bad attitude will keep HIM covered. He will not be glorified by our complaining. Most of us do not see ourselves as complainers but I dare you to monitor your words tomorrow. I want you to listen for any form of complaint. You are going to be shocked.
  3. We must do but with kindness. Paul said do everything without complain and arguing. It is natural for me to argue. Daddy use to say, “Son, you would argue with a sign and throw rocks at it if it didn’t argue back.” Christ is not magnified in our arguing. In business, the rule of thumb is that the customer [consumer] is always right. I have said before that if I would live daily in the same mode as going out on church visitation, I would do much better. When you are soul winning, you cannot engage in trivialities like politics, religion or sports. If we let people lure us into an argument, we have failed.

II. The second thing I call LUMINOSITY…Paul said we need to shine like a bright light.

Paul said we live in a crooked [skolios] and perverse [diastrephō] or distorted world. A world that has been corrupted. Paul suggest that the way to shine in this dark world is to live clean and innocent lives. The Greek word for clean means pure, unmixed, uncorrupted. We must be the opposite of the world pattern. If we conform, we will not shine. What ever the world view, we should have the opposite. In politics, I always went by the Kennedy’s if they were for it, I was against it. To shine, you have to stand out. When we conform, we blend in.

III. The third key is PERSEVERANCE.

You have to know the word and cling to it: hold firm to the word of life. You are definitely going to be tested. This world system is not only antichrist, it is anti-bible. The system hates Jesus and it hates the word of God. It hates the living and written word of God. I know that God’s grace is the key but aren’t you thankful for the word that encourages us and gives us valuable guidance in this crooked and perverse world. One of many ways in which I see God’s grace working in me is a love for His word. I sure wish that I had loved the word as a young man. I use to study to preach and teach but I had no pure passion for the word itself. God has changed this and I am grateful. I am thrilled that I can read. What a blessing to be able to read God’s word. I have a friend who is 92; she told me some time last year that she was no longer able to read.

One thing is certain: if we do not persevere and live a consistent life, we will not shine as lights in this dark world. As a teenager I was up and down like a cork in water. Toward the end of my teens, God convicted me about my inconsistency. We have no hope of being a witness when we are inconsistent.

IV. The fourth key is to REJOICE.

No one is attracted to sad people. I know some sad people who are broken hearted but I also know some who have always been miserable. They have never been happy. Paul was in prison yet he was upbeat. If he could rejoice in prison, it does look like we could rejoice out of prison. Most of us do not make good commercials for the full and meaningful life. We don’t look happy. We appear to be having as much fun as the cruise director on the Titanic. We look like we were born in vinegar and weaned on deal pickle juice. We appear to be somewhere in between a migraine headache and acid indigestion. Our witness is covered with doom and gloom. People can see the light in us because we are under the circumstances.

The Mind Of Christ

Scripture Text: Philippians 2:5-8, NLT

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.  7Instead, He gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

INTRODUCTION

What is the primary cause of division in our churches? This was covered in our LCBS lesson last Sunday and we have been discussing it on Wednesday nights. The cause of division can be summed up in one word, “Selfishness.” Yes, I am quite sure the devil is involved at some level, but he works through our selfishness. The church at Philippi is divided but we do not know the details. We do know the root of the problem; people were not acting Christ like; they were being selfish. Paul understood that the solution to the problem is to adopt the mind-set of Christ. If we all take on the attitude of Christ, there would be no division in our churches.

William Barclay says three words sum up the “Attitude of Christ,” humility, obedience and service. I am going to add one additional point and make this our outline: HOSS…Humility, Obedience, Service, and Sacrifice.

  1. HUMILITYThough He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.  7Instead, He gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled himself…
    • Christ condescended. Jesus is the Great I AM the God of Abraham. He is the One that was, is and will always be. Jesus is God. However, He did not cling to His rights and privileges as God but took on Himself the form of a human being. The Greeks have two words for form, morphe and schema. Morphe is the essence, the essential nature of a thing. I am a human being. My morphe will never change [not in this life]. Schema is appearance. My appearance may change but my nature will not: I will always have a human nature. When Jesus, the Prince of Heaven condescended, He came down from heaven and entered into our humanity through the portals of Mary’s womb. He became flesh and pitched His tent among us.
    • Christ became Incarnate…He became flesh and dwelled among us. I agree with Dr. Wiersbe and many others that Jesus will always be human. He did not take our humanity for 33 years. His condescension means that He took it for eternity. Taking on our flesh with all its limitations and frailties is one thing but He came in the form of a servant. Jesus was born into a peasant’s home, born in a stable, not a palace. Jesus did not live like a king with people waiting on Him. He took the form of a servant.
    • Christ became obedient. It is much easier to give orders than to take them. Some people cannot take orders. They lack the humility to obey. They want to lead but do not have the humility to follow. In Christ kingdom, you don’t lead until you learn to follow.
  2. OBEDIENCEHe humbled himself in obedience to God.
    • Matthew 26:39— “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”
    • John 5:19–Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever fnthe Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.
    • John 5:36–“But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.
    • John 8:28–So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that fnI am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.
    • John 10:18–“No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
    • John 12:49–“For I did not speak fnon My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.
    • John 12:50–“I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”
    • John 14:31–I do exactly as the Father commanded Me.
  3. SERVICE–“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus not only became a human, He humbled Himself to be a servant to other humans. Jesus served the needs of others…Time and time again, we hear Him ask, “What can I do for you?” These are the words of a servant. I don’t think a better illustration can be found than that in John 13….Jesus, knowing that He had come from God and was going away to God, stood up from dinner and removed His outer garments. He then wrapped Himself in a towel, poured water in a basin, and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with His towel. Incredible! Jesus washing the disciples feet on the eve of His death. He did what one of them should have done but they lacked the humility to do it. I am afraid our denomination is divided. The Reform movement, which they refer to as a REFORMATION, is generated by pride. They talk about DOCTRINAL PURITY but they do not have the heart of a servant. As a matter fact, they are devoid of all forms of humility. One of their calling cards is arrogance. There is not much that they don’t know. They have solved most of the mysteries that surround God, I look for them to be giving us an explanation of the trinity in a year or two. I know quit of few of their persuasion and none of them have a servant’s heart, they have the uncanny ability to get others serving them. They do speak a lot of truth but not in love. Their attitude betrays them. Jesus was a servant. He never used pressure to persuade any man to serve Him. He challenged and invited but never used force.
  4. SACRIFICEHe humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. At a religious festival in brazil, one of our Missionaries spotted a sign hanging over one of the booths that advertised “Cheap Crosses.” He thought to himself, that is what many people are looking for, a cheap cross. The Cross of Christ was anything but cheap. We will never know how much it cost for Him to become our sin upon the cross. The CROSS is a mystery of LOVE that is so great that no finite mind will every fully comprehend it. The love of Christ, how rich and pure, will never be fathomed. It is so incredible that no man can fully take it in, not more than one could drink the ocean dry. Since it is incomprehensible, it is also indescribable.

The Cause and Cure For Disunity

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 2:1-4, NLT

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from His love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

 

INTRODUCTION

As we have pointed out previously, the Philippian church is a good church but a divided church. When Epaphroditus brings Paul the love offering from Philippi, he also brings word that they church  has a disagreement. Actually, they had two problems: [1] False Teachers and [2] two women who are in a debate about something. I’m sure Paul was glad to get the offering but he would have preferred good news about the congregation working together over an offering.

Paul appeals to their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I love the way it is stated in the CEV … Christ encourages you, and His love comforts you. God’s Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others. Let me share with the JEV…If Christ is standing along side you; if His love is compelling you and if the Holy Spirit has given you fellowship with other believers you will have concern for others. In simple English, if you have been saved and you are full of the Holy Spirit, you are going to be concerned about others and you will have the ability to put their interest first.

Next Paul states the CAUSES of Disunity…

  1. SELFISH AMBITION: Paul said is verse 3, “Don’t be selfish.” This is the basic cause of disunity. Individual members insisting on having their way. In Baptist churches, it is not usually theological debates that divide us although theological debates to happen and one is going on in the SBC presently. Most of the time, disunity in Baptist churches are caused by individual members are factions who want their way and many of them have a rule or ruin mentality.
    • I did a revival in a church that I do not have to worry about offending because they no longer exist but this was many years ago and at that time it was a small rural church that ran less than 100 in Sunday School. I noticed during the week that everyone sat basically in the same seat every night with one deacon on the front pew to my left and one to the right. I asked the pastor what was going on and he told me. Each of the two deacons had a following and they had forced everyone to declare their loyalty. The pastor said, “We can’t agree on anything.”
    • The first church I served out of Seminary had a good man who served as deacon but he was head strong and determined to get his way. He would have meeting before the meeting, lining up all his ducks. He knew in advance who would vote for his idea and it was impossible to lead the church: whatever I said, he took the opposing view and more people followed him than myself. He was not an immoral man but he did not practice integrity. He worked behind the scene to manipulate his way. Finally, after a lot of frustration, I got the deacons to oppose him. Matter of fact, of the seven deacons, no one agreed with him on this project. He was also the church treasurer and he did it anyway. I consciously went against my will and the will of the deacons and nothing was said or done about his insubordination. Did it hurt the church? I don’t know but it hurt me and it was one of the reasons I resigned a few months later. The tail was wagging the dog and I could not do anything to correct it. One selfish member can do a lot of damage.
    • In John 8 Jesus has a confrontation with the Pharisees. They were very jealous of Jesus because He drew large crowds and was very popular with the people. This is what Jesus said to them…I am not pursuing My own fame. If I were trying to make Myself someone important, it would be a waste of time. That kind of fame is worth nothing. In is My Father who is behind Me, urging Me on and Praising Me. The One who sent Me is with Me and I always do what pleases Him.
  2. PERSONAL PRESTIGE also in verse 3, “Don’t try to impress others.” I want to share with you what William Barclay says about personal prestige. It is so good, that I will not elaborate. “It is in many ways true to say that prestige is for many people an even greater temptation than wealth. {WOW} To be admired, to be respected, to have a platform seat, to have one’s opinion sought, to be known by our name or appearance, to be listened to, to have a certain degree of fame, or even the desire to be flattered is for many the most desirable thing.”  Let me tell you a parable of two friends. These men had known each other for a long time and had shared both hard and good times but they were as different as daylight and dark. One was very humble and the other was cocky and brash. One was very intelligent and the other was convinced that he was more intelligent. The least one in intelligence would brag about what he said or did and would sometime make light of his friend in his very presence. His friend was never offended. Anytime he wanted to get his cocky friend to do what he wanted, he would began a battery of flattery and it would work every time. The man was a glutton for prestige. It was like feeding candy to a baby. The sad thing is that everyone picked up on what was going on except the man that was susceptible to flattery. His vanity betrayed him. The irony of the relationship was that the fellow who thought he was smart was being out smarted by a fellow he felt superior to in intelligence.
  3. PRIDE…also verse 3 where Paul says, “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Paul uses three examples of humility in the following verses…Jesus, Timothy and Epaphroditus. Timothy was rather reserved but he had a deep concern for others and a genuine desire to please the LORD Jesus. Epaphroditus risk his life to serve Paul and to be a courier between Paul and the church. He certainly did not put his interest first. Of course, the best example of humility is Jesus who although He was God, did not reach out and grasp His divine rights. He emptied Himself, becoming a man, a poor man and a servant of men who eventually died willingly on the cross for our sins. Had Jesus at any point put His interest first, we would be lost in our sins. It takes unbelievable humility to endure the suffering He endured when you are the Son of God. I would have had to endure out of weakness but He did it through meekness. Of course, you have probably figured out by now that there is a connection: pride promotes selfishness and the desire for prestige. Pride is the root of the tree.
  4. SELF-INTEREST:  Verse 4, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Obviously the key to any long term relationship is to take an interest in the other person. Sometimes our interest is limited to what the other person can do for us. We all need more than that, we need to know that the person cares about us and the best way to show love is to take an interest in a person. Some people are so self-absorbed that they do not have the capacity to take an interest in anyone else. This literally happened a couple of years ago. A woman was checking out at a store where her granddaughter was a clerk and she went through the check out lane and never recognized her own granddaughter. She had not seen her in so long that she did not recognize her. This was the grandmothers choice. She asked that holidays not be celebrated together so it had been four years since she had seen  her child or grandchild. They live less than 8 miles a part.

So that is the CAUSE…What is the CURE? [we find the answer in verse 1-2]

  1. RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST. Dr. Billy Graham once said the greatest harvest is in the church. He believes that 60% of church members are lost. Why? Because they show no fruit of repentance. Repentance is a life time process. I began my journey of repentance at age 9 and I have been repenting every since. I go to the altar almost every Sunday. When I am preaching, I am looking at cold hard faces. I have to be honest, I see no contrition on their face. I see stubborn determination but no contrition. They will not follow. They have no inclination to follow. They have the nature of a goat not a sheep. It took me a long time to come around but I agree with Dr. Graham, I believe a lot of church members need to repent initially. They do not have a relationship with Christ: they have religion but it is not the same as a relationship.
  2. AGREE WITH ONE ANOTHER. I do not know what Euodia [Fragrance] and Syntyche [Fortunate] were fussing about but I can almost guarantee that if they would sit down together and hear each other out, they would find a solution. Much of our problem comes from misunderstanding. Differences just pop up. We don’t have to work to create differences of opinion but solutions have to be worked out. I am a big believer in talking things out. If you can resolve differences and come to an agreement it is much better than beginning with an entire group disenfranchised. I am not defend the ethics of trouble makers. Once a church declares its will, people should move on or move out but that is not how it works. Divisive people stir the stink. They are subtle, they pick their spots but they do not allow the fire of discontent to go out. We can say what we want but they spell trouble. They have a rule or ruin mentality and they will sabotage everything you do. Some of this could be avoided if we would take the time to talk to each other.
  3. LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Love is kind of a fix all. If we could get everyone loving each others, things would work themselves out. Again, the problem is our differences but love enables us to love those that are different and those that we disagree with.
  4. WORK TOGETHER with one mind and purpose. I used to do things backwards, I tried to get people to follow me because I was the leader but that doesn’t work. I have learned that the SHEEP will follow you if you follow the SHEPHERD. No rule applies to GOATS. Goats are like the 800 pound gorilla, they do what they please and dare you not to like it. Goats worship at the altar of self-will. You will not instruct them, you will not lead them and you will not get them to work together. The best shot we have at unity is to find the will of Christ and do it. The only way to get Christians on the same page is to get them in line with Christ’s purpose. When we have one mind to do His will, we have unity. When we have unity, we have dynamic power.

Together We Can Do More For Christ

27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.

INTRODUCTION

The Church at Philippi is a good church and Paul has already stated in verse 7 that the Philippians have a special place in his heart. They had worked with Paul as partners in spreading the gospel. But there is a division in the church and we believe the conflict centered around two women, Euodia {yü-o-dē’-ä} and Syntyche {Sün-tü’-khā}. We know there was a disagreement but we do not know the particulars. In the passage before us, Paul entreats the Philippians to remember who they are and where they are. It is understood that they were living in this world but Paul said, “You must live as citizens of heaven.”

I have been on several mission trips, most recently to Guatemala, and I have never forgotten at any moment that I was an American on foreign soil. My interest in Guatemala are very narrow. I don’t drive, don’t vote, don’t buy land, don’t make any plans to live there permanently. I remember who I am and where I am. It is the same way for me as a Christian, I live in this world but I am not of it. I am a foreigner, a pilgrim just passing through. I will not be staying here: this is not my permanent residence.

We do not belong to this world but we do live in it for the moment and we have to remember that we are being observed by the citizens of this world. We must walk in a manner that does not compromise the gospel we preach. If we are not careful, what we do will drown out what we say. Paul is simply reminding the Philippians that they are on stage, being watched and the infighting is hurting the gospel message. To live worthy of the gospel is to refrain from doing anything that will compromise our message. If you have a dirty mouth, clean it up, you are hurting the cause of Christ. If you are not honest; you don’t pay your bills, you over charge, deceive or defraud….You must stop. People will not hear our gospel if we are living in contradiction to the very message we preach.

So the problem at Philippi is disunity and it is shorting out the power of the gospel. The disunity in the church is hurting the cause of Christ. So Paul gives them a motivational speech about TEAMWORK and togetherness. First Paul says…

I. WE MUST STAND TOGETHER [v.27]

I love the story of Ben Franklin and the Continental Congress. After a period of argument and debate, Ben said, “Men we must stand together or we will all hang separately.” Standing alone, they were traders: standing together they were a more perfect government. Ben Franklin understood clearly, their success depended on standing together.

How do you get a congregation to STAND TOGETHER? Obviously, I do not know how to make this happen but I do know the entangles involved. We must be of one Spirit. We must have the same spiritual breath. Paul told the Corinthians….The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. [I Cor. 12:12-13,NLT] All humans breath oxygen and all Christians breath the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the principle unifier of the Church. This was the sign that God had accepted the Gentiles, He gave them the same Spirit as He did the Apostles. Thus Paul said to the Ephesians…He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. [Eph. 2:17-18, NLT]

So the Spirit of God is a unifier but Paul mentions a second and that is the mind. We are to have the same Spirit and be of one mind [psyche]. Literally, we are to be of one soul. The psyche is the seat of man’s feelings, desires, affections and aversions [strong dislikes]. I had a great mentor who was a servant-leader but somehow I didn’t get it and my idea of pastoring a church was for me to tell the congregation what to do and for them to do it. I can tell you one thing for sure, that is not the right way to get a church unified. I discovered in time that this was not God’s way. The church is not a democracy although we do vote from time to time. To me voting is a necessary evil, something we have to do because we are too lazy to pray things through. The key to unity is to get everyone committed to following Jesus who is the head of the Church. I don’t care what our members want and they shouldn’t care about what I want: what we should be focused on is WHAT JESUS WANTS. Unity is not a problem when all want to please and honor Christ.

So we have to STAND TOGETHER in ONE Spirit and ONE mind.

II. WE HAVE TO FIGHT TOGETHER FOR THE FAITH [v. 27]

Contrary to popular opinion, we do have an enemy. The devil doesn’t want us to get on the same page. He loves a fragmented fellowship. He loves to get us seeking our own agenda. As Paul said, “The devil is the author of confusion.” As Gideon learned: a small unified group can be more powerful than a large disunified group. Paul told the Philippians: “Do not be intimidated in any way by your enemies.” The devil will sow seeds of discord among the wheat. He is going to do everything he can do divide us but he will also do everything he can to intimidate us. The devil is a terrorist. He is the father of terrorism. This is why I can say with confidence that Islam is a dark and demonic religion. They advance their cause by intimidation and terror. God never uses either of these to advance His kingdom.

The key to victory is to FIGHT TOGETHER by staying together, close knit and tight. The Amalekites were human scavengers. They were like jackals, wolves, coyotes who stalk the weak and helpless. When Israel was journeying across the wilderness, the Amalekites would pick off the stragglers one at a time. They lacked the courage to attack the body. The key to enduring was to stay with the group. We are in a spiritual war and the fighting is intense. We must stay together to survive. One of my favorite all time movies is the GLADIATOR. I do not go to movies as a general rule but one of my children said, “Daddy, you have to rent this movie when it becomes available, you will love it.”

Maximus Decimus Meridias is emperor Marcus Aurelius most trusted General. Before his death, Marcus Aurelius made Maximus the ruler of the Roman Empire instead of his cowardly son Commodus. Before Aurelius can make his decision public, Commodus smothers him to death and assumes the role of Emperor, he gives orders for the death of Maximus and family. Maximus escapes execution but cannot save his family. Taken into slavery and trained as a gladiator by Proximo, Maximus lives only that he might someday take his revenge and fulfill the dying wish of his emperor. The time soon comes when Proximo’s troupe is called to Rome to participate in a marathon of gladiator games held at the behest of the new emperor. The event is staged in favor of the Roman soldiers who are to reenact a former battle for the pleasure of the crowd. Maximus and his troop of gladiators are facing overwhelming odds. Maximus gives orders for all to stay close together. He warns that survival depends on them sticking together. A half-dozen chose not to obey the order by launching their own attack but all were killed. The rest come close to Maximus in a huge huddle: they respond to his every command and they win a great victory over overwhelming odds. “Completing one another is better than competing with one another.”

PAUL SAID, YOU HAVE TO FIGHT TOGETHER AGAISNT YOU FOE…YOU CANNOT WIN BY FIGHTING EACH OTHER

Unfortunately, our Convention is divided and this time it is about theology. There is a growing wave of Calvinism and I’m talking hyper-Calvinism…they are more Calvinist than Calvin. They believe God created all men for His good pleasure, some to grace heaven and some to fuel hell. I believe that Christ loves and died for all men. I believe that God in His sovereignty gave us a chose about eternity. I believe men go to hell because they reject Christ. They choose hell over heaven because of their rebellion. I believe man is responsible and accountable to God. I don’t understand it but I believe Jesus commissioned us to get the gospel to the ends of the earth. A hyper-Calvinist does not believe in Missions or evangelism. They make fun of market place evangelism. They go to seed on Worship and Bible Study. There Mission has little to do with the gospel: their Mission is to propagate Reform Theology. I think this is a subtle way for Satan to divide us. I have to be careful not to be a source of the division because I have strong feelings about Calvinism. The devil doesn’t care what it is that divides, so long as we are divided. I believe as Paul said in Philippians 1:29, “We have been given the privilege to trust Christ.” If we have the privilege to trust Him, do we not have the freedom to distrust Him?

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

III. WE MUST STRUGGLE TOGETHER [v.30]

The word for struggle is agōn from which we get agony. The exact same word that is used of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. The KJV and NASB translates it conflict. Holman and NIV struggle. I like the VOICE, ‘Agonizing Conflict’. Paul said, “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.”

  1. First of all, we all struggle but there are different degrees of suffering and agonizing conflict. I have no idea what Jesus experienced in the Garden. The weight of our sin, the sin of the world literally crushed Him. His agony was so intense they He was sweating pure blood through the pores of His skin. The agony in the garden almost killed Him. I don’t know what Job felt. I don’t know the agony of Paul there  in prison. I do agonize from time to time, I do have conflict and of course I struggle but at a different level.
  2. Even though I have not been in jail for preaching the gospel, I believe we can trust the testimony of Paul. If he says it is a privilege to suffer for Christ, then I say amen, although I have suffered very little for Christ. Paul looked upon suffering as a grace gift, it is a privilege that God gives us. I think of Paul and Silas in jail at Philippi and Peter and John arrested by the Sanhedrin. In both cases they were over joyed to be counted worthy to suffer for Christ. As I said, it is not my experience but by faith I can see it.
  3. When a general has a tough mission, he picked his elite soldiers, his very best to accomplish the mission although it means endangering or sacrificing their lives.
  4. I suppose the greatest comfort in our suffering is that we are not alone. We suffer together. Peter had John and Paul had Silas. We suffer but not alone, we are in fellowship with other believers.

In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul defends himself against his critics. He breaks a cardinal rule by making himself vulnerable. Thirty years ago I got hit in the back of the head with a softball as I was going from second to third. The ball glanced off the back and top of my head and went over 50 feet into another ball field. I continued home and went into the dugout. Everyone was laughing so I laughed too but really I was hurting. When everyone turned there attention back to the field, I rubbed the knot of my head. That is the way we humans are: we stumble and fall, then jump back up immediately, hoping no one saw us. We act tough by hiding our pain. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul lays on the ground and cries; he calls attention to his pain. Did it help? I doubt it. Paul was hurt they no one in the Corinthian church defended him. He was deeply disappointed because he thought he had some friends there but this is a part of the agony we share. Every preacher better understand that they will hang us out to dry just like they did Jesus and like Corinth did Paul. When your name comes up, people go to piling on and no one defends you; if they do it is rare and you had better appreciate them. The good thing about all-out persecution is that they will not discriminate between preachers and members, they will lump us all in the same basket and that will be a good thing for us. At least we will be together for a change.

 

 

 

 

Epaphroditus

Scripture: Philippians 2:25-30

25 Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. 26 I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. 27 And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.

28 So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. 29 Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. 30 For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away.

INTRODUCTION

We have to remember that Luke wrote the book Acts which gives us many details of Paul’s missionary journeys but not all the details. For example: Luke never mentions himself. Paul was rarely if ever along. In his three journeys, he had 19 different traveling companions. The only time that Paul was alone was in Athens. He was escorted there and told to wait for Silas and Timothy to join him but there are the escorts who are not mentioned by name. Long story short, Paul was not a loner, he worked in the context of a team.

Epaphroditus is a leader from the church at Philippi. According to tradition, he will become their bishop or senior pastor. I don’t think he held this title when he takes a love gift in behalf of the church at Philippi to Paul in prison at Rome. Many advancements have been made since the days of Epaphroditus: Travel these days is far less dangerous and much quicker. Of course, the advancement in medical science is incomparable. Epaphroditus managed to get to Rome but somehow he became sick and almost died. Paul was worried that he would die and was extremely relieved when he pulled through.

Tonight, I want to speak to you about the character and person of Epaphroditus [Charming] but I want to make it a single point and then move on to some interesting things about Paul.

I. FIRST, NOTE PAUL’S COMMENDATION OF EPAPHRODITUS [Make no mistake, Paul is commending this man. There is not the lest tone of criticism in what Paul says. Epaphroditus is…

  1. A True Brother–there is no problem between he and Paul and not question concerning his loyalty to Christ.
  2. A Co-Worker–the Greek word is synergos from which we get synergy…it is two people working together to accomplish a common task.
  3. A Fellow-Soldier–This term suggest trust. You don’t go into battle with comrades you cannot trust because they have your back.
  4. A Messenger–The Philippian church made Epaphroditus their courier, messenger to get word and money to Paul. A trusted messenger is one who has no hidden agenda. This means Epaphroditus was a man of integrity.
  5. A Minister–The Philippian church sent him to minister to Paul’s need. The Greek word means to serve. NLT renders it ‘help.’ [all this is in verse 25-26 but there is more]
  6. Epaphroditus was an Honorable man [v.29]. Paul said, “When he arrives, you celebrate and honor him because he deserves to be honored.
  7. Epaphroditus was a Courageous Man–He was willing to risk his life for the work of Christ [v.30]

So Paul who is not careless with praise, praises Epaphroditus lavishly. But there are a couple of things about Paul that I want to point out because I think they will encourage. We usually think of Paul as super human but he was just a man, an extraordinary man but never the less a man.

II. NOTE PAUL’S SYMPATHY FOR EPAPHRODITUS–Three times Paul says, “I am sending him back to you.” [25, 26, 28]. Why did Paul go to so much trouble explaining Epaphroditus returning home.

  1. Paul said Epaphroditus was longing for home [v.26]. In other words, he was homesick.
  2. Do you remember what Paul did when John Mark got homesick on the first Missionary Journey? This is a complete 180 from that experience. Paul had no sympathy for John Mark but here he is filled with sympathy for Epaphroditus.
  3. Paul repeats “I am sending him,” to let the people in Philippi know that Epaphroditus had not quit: Paul had re-assigned him. Paul saw that Epaphroditus was homesick and distressed and Paul believed that he would be more help at Philippi than in Rome.
  4. You can see the process of sanctification working in the great Apostle’s life, he is growing kinder and more gentle.
  5. I also believe that Paul is concerned with Epaphroditus health and he thinks it is best for everyone that Epaphroditus return home.

III. THIRD, I WANT YOU TO NOTE PAUL’S HUMANITY

  1. This is the same man who says, “Death, where is your sting?” and “For me to live is Christ but to die is gain.” In this passage he says….I am all the more anxious to send him back….then I will not be so worried.
  2. Anxiety and worry are things we deal with daily but sometimes we live under the illusion that the great saints like Paul had no anxiety and never worried. This passage indicates that Paul was a lot like us when it comes to stress and anxiety.
  3. I don’t think Paul was afraid to die but death was a source of sorrow for him. He said, But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.

CONCLUSION

I don’t think dying was that big of a deal for Paul but having his team members depart before him was a big deal. No one knows how they will react to bad news but there are things worse than our personal departure. When our friends, family and young people precede us, it can be a source of grief and sorrow. This story reveals Paul’s humanity…Physical death is a stresser but the good news is in verse 27…”God had mercy,” because He is Merciful.

STORY–SHREK THE SHEEP

Shrek was Merino Sheep from Tarras, New Zealand, who gained international fame in 2004 after he avoided being caught and shorn for six years. Merinos are normally shorn annually, but Shrek apparently hid in caves, avoiding muster. He was given the name Shrek after a character in books and films who loathed cleanliness.

After being caught on 15 April 2004, Shrek was shorn on National television in New Zealand by a professional in 20 minutes on 28 April.  His fleece contained enough wool to make 20 large men’s suits, weighing 60 pounds — His fleece was so heavy that he had to be carried to safety. He could not walk more than a few feet. Had he not been found, he would have surely perished.

Isaiah 53:6 comes to mind….All of us, like sheep, have strayed away We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him [Jesus] the sins of us all. We are sheep in need of a merciful shepherd.