The Fellowship of Joy; Philippians 3:1-11

“The terrible condition of man’s heart will never be recognized by people who assess it only in relation to other men. Romans 14:23 makes plain that depravity is our condition in relation to God primarily, and only secondarily in relation to man. Unless we start here we will never grasp the totality of our natural depravity…Religion is one of the chief ways that man conceals his unwillingness to forsake self-reliance and bank all his hopes on the unmerited mercy of God (Luke 18:9-14; Colossians 2:20-23).

John Piper

Intro

Paul takes us from one glorious thought back to another; Rejoicing! And at the heart of Paul’s joy is the gospel! Only in the gospel story are we truly set free from the plethora of self-saving mechanisms that end in frustration and pride.

Big Picture: “Rejoice in the Lord” because, “It is a safeguard for you.” Verse 1 is more than a transition; it’s a connection connecting what Paul has said, to what he is going to say. To “Rejoice” is a major theme of this letter.

So in a way, Paul is coming back to a theme he began in 1:18-19. Paul has been showing the Philippians that joy comes through being “in Christ,” it is practically played out by working through our bitterness and tension and humbly serving one another.

In our passage today Paul’s shows the Philippians how to rejoice in spite of further intrusions and roadblocks to their peace and joy. Let’s take a look at Three Pathways to Rejoicing

 

From the Head…

Rejoice In The Lord (Philippians 3:1)

Isn’t this the point? How can we rejoice by rejoicing? Because rejoicing is an action, not a result! Now that leads to 2 potential dangers; the First, is trying to produce Joy/Rejoicing by manipulating our emotions, and even using other means to find that joy and pass it off as spiritual. A Second, danger is people showing up as “posers.” Simply pretending to have joy with fake smiles, knowing all along there are being hypocritical. But a true joy is a realization of a truth; that we are “In Christ.” A true joy does not short our emotions, and create a false contentment based on denial. It’s an attitude that stems from knowledge of truth. The “Same Things Again” for Paul either means that he is talking about Rejoicing again, or the fact that he’s going to repeat himself three times in the next verse. Either way, Paul is explicit in his point, and it is going to be “Safe” or it’s going to be a safeguard for their spiritual/emotional condition.

Lose Your Religion (Philippians 3:2-6)

One of the greatest robbers of joy is religious people. They flash their self-righteous behavior before everyone in order to be seen and commended, and are often quite judgmental toward those around them. In these verses Paul uses a rather lyrical irony. First he uses an alliteration to make his point. “Dogs” (Kuon), “Evil” (Kakos) and “Mutilators” (Katatome) all start with the letter K in the Greek. The he uses “Watch Out” (Blepo) three times in an ironic sense. He calls them dogs, which is the term the Jews often used for the gentiles. He called them “Evil” (Bad Works), which is contrary to how they felt about their own works of the law, and lastly he refers to them as “Mutilators.”

Then he contrasts the behavior of the religious, with those that know Jesus, and worship Him in Spirit, and trust in Him and His work, rather than putting any “Confidence in the flesh.” Religion is in its core unbelief! It shapes its own rules and self-saving mechanisms. As theologian Karl Barth said, “Faith is never identical with piety.” Piety is a work; faith is a confident trust in something other than yourself, or your work.

Paul himself, gives ample testimony to his own accomplishment, but he counts them as a “loss” for the sake of “Knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” It is important here to stop for a moment and take a look at what “Circumcision” meant, and what was its significance. Genesis 17 gives us a clear picture that circumcision was a sign of the covenant that God was going to bless Abraham’s offspring, and subsequently bless the nations too (See Genesis 12). The Jews (Or Judaizers) were nationalists. They made two errors; first they mistook the sign or the means, and secondly, they failed to realize the blessing wasn’t exclusive, but very inclusive. Religion, by nature is extremely exclusive. It has many barriers, and rules in order to belong, but true religion is based on grace and confidence in someone or something other than you. It is recognition that your way isn’t the right way, and that trusting in God because of your own inability to be god is the beginning of worship.

Come To Know Jesus (Philippians 7-11)

Coming to know Jesus begins with losing the things you thought were gain. Worship begins here, when we know Jesus, and know what He did for us, and place our confidence in His work, not in our own work and righteousness. Knowing Christ produces joy and as one author said, “Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” Our joy and contentment is an indictment of the empty joy of religious piety. Coming to “Know” Jesus involves receiving the righteousness that comes from him (Not our own Self Righteousness). The righteousness we gain from religion is our own, but the righteousness we gain from God (See 2 Corinthians 5:21) comes from faith in His work and person. This righteousness not only causes God to see Christ when He looks at us, and exchange our guilt for Christ’s innocence, but it declares us truly innocent, and like the Father in the Prodigal Son, He runs to be with us! At the heart of our faith is a relationship with God the father through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit!

To know Christ however has more than a relational and/or emotional bent to it; To Know Christ means faithfully obeying Him. We do so because we trust Him, it’s a by-product of faith (See Romans 1:5). In spite of the fact that Christ’s suffering is often part of the deal here on earth. We can do so because of future grace and the fact that Christ was exalted to the right hand of God.

 

…to the Heart

At the heart of Paul’s message is the reality that any attempt to impose religious activity on His grace for salvation is a perversion of His “good News!” Biblical faith is a confident trust in the person and work of Christ, which leads to obedience and the work of righteousness (See Ephesians 2:8-10).

Therefore, we need to be aware and wary of religious systems that rob us of joy by making ethics the heart of the gospel.

A secondary point is clear that trying to find God and His joy in other means and religious paradigms are empty, as witnessed by Paul’s resume of righteousness. This passage destroys the notion that “Good Works” are what make you right with God. Good works are the heart of every religious and ethical system, and the reason why many people can rightfully argue that Christianity doesn’t make you any better than anyone else; because it doesn’t!! The fact is our own righteousness most often lead to self righteousness and frustration with God for not “Coming through.”

A last reality is that it is easy to shift our eyes away from Christ and His work, and on to the world’s system of salvation; variegated as it often is. The world finds salvation in religion, sex, fantasy, money, hard work, substance abuse, family, accomplishments, etc. All of which end as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.”

 

Further Questions to Ponder

  1. What does it mean to “Know” Christ?
  2. What does it mean to know His sufferings?
  3. Why do humans choose piety over grace?
  4. What does Paul mean that he wants to “Know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings?

 

For Further Reading

Philippians: The NIV Application Commentary, Frank Theilman

Commentary on Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians, John Calvin

Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (New International Commentary on the NT), Gordon Fee

Philippians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the NT), Moises Silva

Paul For Everyone: The Prison Letters, Tom Wright

The Letter to the Philippians (Pillar NT Commentary), G. Walter Hansen

Life Lessons Study Guide: Philippians, Max Lucado

Philippians (Reformed Expository Commentary), Dennis Johnson

 

Also Check Out Our Twitter @anchorlongbeach

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The Fellowship of Joy Philippians 2:19-30

Intro

Paul has been hammering on this idea of humility worked out in community for the sake of the mission. Last week we looked at what it means to “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling.”  We do this in community, for the sake of mission. We can’t work on our relationship issues by ourselves, and most of our sin is evident in the midst of community/relationships.

Paul started this thread of thought way back in chapter one verse 27, when he exhorted the Philippians to “Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel,” as they became of the same mind, and acted courageously in the faith. He then proceeded to show them that in order to do that, they would need to be like Jesus and show humility (See Philippians 2:1-11). Last week he continued his assault and selfishness, by exhorting them to work out their salvation, stop complaining and rejoice with him.

In our passage today, Paul gives us two live co-workers who have exemplified a service oriented humility, showing the Philippians that it is possible>

Big Picture: Men that are led by the Spirit and faithful to the gospel can be an example to the people and a joy to the heart.

From the Head…

Paul begins in verse 19 by connecting his joy to what God is doing in the hearts of the people he has ministered with (See too Philippians 2:2). Once again, we see that Paul’s ultimate joy is in Christ, while his proximate joy is in the work that God is doing in His church. The fact is, Paul loves people (See vv. 1:7, 9). While many of us still struggle to find joy in things, using people, technology, money, etc., Paul continues to root His joy in God and His work.

There are two examples Paul uses to give as examples for the Philippians, and to show that godly leaders, can have the “mind of Christ” as they grow in Him.

Timothy Is An Example of Humility (Philippians 2:20-24)

Note Paul commends him because he is “Genuinely Concerned,” displaying that mind of Christ (See vv. 4-5), and that he has Proven Worth.” He’s not commended for being a great leader, speaker, musician, etc., but for his character as a leader. 1:15-17 reminds us that there are many capable leaders who lack character. Timothy’s humility shines, as he is willing to submit “As a son” to Paul’s lead. Timothy was a “proven” leader, because he cared for and loved people. According to Timothy’s profile in 1 Timothy, he was a timid wallflower, but he gained strength and courage through his obedience, and willingness to humble himself, and learn from Paul; even to the point of letting Paul circumcise him for the sake of the gospel (Acts 16:3).

It is too easy to lose sight of the gospel (The gospel), and turn our salvation inward. To this Theologian Leslie Newbigin writes, “I suddenly saw that someone could use the language of Evangelical Christianity, and yet the center was fundamentally the self, my need for salvation. And God is auxiliary to that… I also saw that quite a lot of Evangelical Christians can easily slip, can become centered in me and my own need for salvation, and not in the glory of God.”  This is the tendency of the human heart, to make the gospel about us. The fact is as Pastor/Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and cancelling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.

Have you tamed God, or are you controlled by Him?

Epaphroditus Is An Example of Sacrifice (Philippians 25-30)

Epaphroditus was a Philippian, yet he sacrificed his time away from his family to tend to Paul and his needs. In a sense, God cancelled his plans for comfort, and it almost killed him. He “Risked his life” to help Paul. He was willing to sacrifice it all in service to the apostle.

This is why Paul exhorts the Philippians to “Honor Such Men!!” Leaders that display humility and sacrificed, are worthy of honor. Not the honor that we give to Christ whose humility and sacrifice is our grand example, but when men and women act out in bold courage, humility and sacrifice, it is ok to note their example, and honor such people.

 …to the Heart

Following Jesus is costly, mostly for Him; but the reality is, we are giving up poverty for riches, slavery for freedom, yet the cost is denial of the self that we proceed needs to be in charge.

We have many examples of humility in the scriptures and in the church, and yet, we continue to live our own life, because we are comfortable with it. We don’t really believe that I can give that life to the Lordship of Jesus, so we struggle to realize the grace and truth found in Christ.

Jesus remains our prime example, and it is because of His example that we can trust Him, for what He promises.

Further Questions to Ponder

  1. Why do we struggle so much with humbling ourselves before one another?
  2. In Verse 23, Paul says he’ll send Timothy “just as soon as I see how it will go with me.” Why so?
  3. How is following Jesus a great benefit?
  4. How is following Jesus a great cost?

For Further Reading

Philippians: The NIV Application Commentary, Frank Theilman

Commentary on Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians, John Calvin

Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (New International Commentary on the NT), Gordon Fee

Philippians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the NT), Moises Silva

Paul For Everyone: The Prison Letters, Tom Wright

The Letter to the Philippians (Pillar NT Commentary), G. Walter Hansen

Life Lessons Study Guide: Philippians, Max Lucado

Philippians (Reformed Expository Commentary), Dennis Johnson

 

Also Check Out Our Twitter @anchorlongbeach

Philippians: The Fellowship of Joy Philippians 1:12-20

Preached @ Anchor Church on August 25th, 2013

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it

Matthew 16:17-18

Intro

Yahoo News recently reported, “Religious people are less intelligent than Atheists.” What the criteria for the study, or even how they defined “Religious” was not made known in the article, but it isn’t surprising that those that are most likely less religious would find that they, and those like them are most intelligent. Over the course of history there has always been attacks in one form or another on those that are religious, some warranted, and some not so warranted. However, sometime it feels as though the media has it out for Christians in particular, even though that may not be the case. There are times that the church warrants a strong rebuke and even the comical jabs many media personalities take at it, but there is also a long history of abuse and persecution that still occurs in our world to this day. The fact is, there are times that it appears that the church is being squashed, and the gospel will be eradicated from the world’s mindset. However, many generations think that they have it worse than the previous, but that’s not the case. The early church, as well as many generations of the church were persecuted, and there were times that it seemed that God was absent, that’s how many in the 1st Century must have felt even though Jesus had clearly indicated that “The gates of Hell wouldn’t prevail” against the growth of the Church in the world. In our passage we see how imprisonment and even personal attack doesn’t stop Paul or the gospel from moving forward. Today I want to take a look at the Gospel from 3 different Angles:

 

From the Head…

Angle #1 The Gospel and Negative Circumstances (Philippians 1:12-14)

For some, it doesn’t take much to throw them off course. We struggle with pain and/or suffering, because ultimately, we believe we are deserving of a better life, and God isn’t good enough or powerful enough to make that happen. In our limited understanding, we see pain and suffering as the worse thing possible, and relief from our existential pain as the best thing. But what if there was something worse than suffering here on earth, and something much better than the relief of our temporal pain in this world? This is the angle by which Paul views his circumstances. In spite of a horrible circumstance in his life, he can rejoice because of two things that are more important to him:

  • The gospel has become known throughout the whole imperial guard” (v. 13)

Paul’s mission (Bringing the “Good News” to Macedonia) became more important than Paul’s circumstances. He saw things differently, and was able to rejoice because the persecution didn’t thwart the gospel, but it helped it to grow. The fact is, God is the only one who is able to take that which is evil and turn into a great circumstance (See Genesis 50:20). This was true of the cross of Christ. They thought they were destroying the plan of God, but they were actually carrying out the purposes of a sovereign God (See Acts 2:27-28; see too Acts 8:1-4)

  • “Most of the brothers…are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (v. 14)

Secondly, Paul shows joy because, not only was he able to have great success in prison, but others were gaining a boldness because of it, and they too were sharing Christ boldly with others.

Angle #2 The Gospel and Negative Relationships (Philippians 1:15-17)

The second angle in our text is from the arena of personal relationships, and the pain that is often caused through bad relationships. Paul’s imprisonment is enough to send anyone to question their faith, and the God they believe in, but personal relationships can cause a depth of pain that physical pain doesn’t touch. It’s important to realize that these people weren’t false teachers; they were ministers of the gospel, who had turned their ministries into a self-aggrandizing mission to glorify themselves while hurting Paul in the process. They preached out of “Envy and Rivalry” working for “Selfish Ambition.” Unfortunately many people are in the ministry for all the wrong reasons. Their aim was to hurt Paul with bitterness and slander, but Paul remains ok, because he’s not worried about defending himself as much as he is the gospel going out into the world. While their motives were horrible, their message was pure. This really shows us that we can be preaching orthodoxy (Right Teaching), but living a duplicitous life. St John of the cross explained this ugliness in the church, “As far as envy is concerned, many experience displeasure when they see others in possession of spiritual goods. They feel sensibly hurt because others surpass them on this road, and they resent it when others are praised!” This is the sad, but true reality of many in ministry. When we focus on ourselves, trying to prove something to someone, we end up worrying more about accolades than the glory of Jesus.

 Angle #3 The Gospel and Our Hope (Philippians 1:18-20)

Paul rejoices because Christ is proclaimed, and he himself is being sanctified. This is interesting in that he says, “This will turn out for my deliverance (Salvation). The Greek construct of this statement is exactly the same construct that we see in the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament) for Job 13:16. He quotes this in the context of Job saying, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” Our Hope, and Paul’s hope is not in the things that we can get here on earth, our hope is in God’s redemptive plan. He is reminding the Philippians that “This” (His present circumstances) will bring forth his “deliverance” (Salvation, sotarian). He knows that all of our circumstances bring forth God’s redemptive purposes in our life, which brings forth life and joy, rather than death and depression.

This is why we, as believers in Jesus can deal with both the physical and psychological persecution that we face. This is why we can serve this earth, without pretense. We simply don’t need anything that God can’t give us. This is in stark contrast to those who are preaching out of envy and strife, and who are trying to find their reward amongst humanity instead of God. 

 …to the Heart

3 Quick Observations

  1. Maintaining Hope and Courage in Adversity Comes From the Object of that Hope
  2. Being Hopeful in Hopeless Times Does Not Mean You Are Unaware of the Pain
  3. The Ability to Glorify God In Our Bodies Comes From the Power of the Spirit

 Is God your all in all? Or are you looking for something else to comfort you, or to kill the pain?

Do you see yourself in a purposeful mission from God, or in an aimless, rudderless existence?

Is Christ proclaimed your great hope? Or has it become a mundane message you are struggling to believe?

Christ has gone to the cross to field our pain, take on our burden, so that we could be relieved of our existential angst, and the real guilt of our shame, so that we could be made whole, and worship God with overflowing joy in spite of the pain we feel on the inside.

 

Further Questions to Ponder

  1. Why is so hard for us to practice this truth?
  2. Why is the “Progress of the gospel” so important?
  3. What importance does the gospel have in my own life?
  4. What kind of pain do you think Paul felt in our verses?
  5. How was he able to cope with that pain?

 

For Further Reading

Philippians: The NIV Application Commentary, Frank Theilman

Commentary on Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians, John Calvin

Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (New International Commentary on the NT), Gordon Fee

Philippians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the NT), Moises Silva

Paul For Everyone: The Prison Letters, Tom Wright

The Letter to the Philippians (Pillar NT Commentary), G. Walter Hansen

Life Lessons Study Guide: Philippians, Max Lucado

 

Prayer and the Fellowship of Mission (Philippians 1:3-11)

Preached @ Anchor Community Church on August 18th, 2013

Intro

There’s something about being on Mission together with other people. It unites people from different backgrounds, race and socio-economic places in life. In the Fellowship of the Ring, we saw 9 very different creatures come together for one united purpose. In our passage today, we see Paul praying and thanking the Philippians mostly because of their “Participation in the Gospel.” The word there for participation is the Greek word Koinonia, which has the idea of “Fellowship.” In the church that often means meeting up and eating, watching a game, maybe even praying and having a bible study, but that often seems mundane and ok if we like each other, and like hanging out, but isn’t anything much beyond that. When we forget that we are in a real war, the spiritual disciplines, and bible studies can often become narcissistic meanderings.

It is possible that the Philippians were struggling a bit remembering what they were they were purposed to do? Maybe persecution, and Paul’s imprisonment had derailed them a bit, and this prayer by Paul was as much a reminder as anything else. Often times we need a reminder of what Kingdom Praying is like. Our prayer has lost its fervor because it has lost its direction.

The Mission implored Paul to pray, and to pray with thanksgiving because of the joy he had by watching God work grace into people’s lives. When’s the last time you have thought of that? What we see is that, Paul’s prayer is missionally minded and people focused, which brings Him joy in what God is doing.

From the Head…

Our passage today show us Four Key Aspects of Paul’s prayer for the Philippians.

1. How He Prays (1:3-4)

Paul Prays with “Thanksgiving” and “Joy.” Thanksgiving is a product of Joy, you can’t manufacture it. The Thanksgiving is motivated by why he prays, which leads us to the second point:

2. Why He Prays (1:5-8)

Paul prays for them with Joy, because of their “Partnership in the Gospel” and the fact that God was evidently at work in their lives. Not only did Paul see the evidence of Grace, but he didn’t want them to miss it too. Sometime you need encouragement in the midst of hard times. Paul also wrote this letter, because he had a deep affection for these people, who were compadres with him in the Gospel, by aiding him in his imprisonment, and by “Defending” and “Confirming the Gospel. They labored with him. They stood side by side contending for the gospel, which is a strengthening tool, and a binding activity. This led Paul to pray for their continued growth, so that the result of the Gospel preached could be gospel lived, which leads us to our last point:

3. What He Prays (1:9-11)

Note the Progression. He prays that their “Love would abound.” Biblical love is not a sentimental emotion or a romantic expression. It is a verb that increases with “Knowledge” and “Discernment.” AS good a church as the one in Philippi was, they did struggle some with one another. Maybe they struggled with their diversity? Whatever the issue was, Paul knew that this kind of strife would destroy the testimony of the gospel, and he wanted to remind them to continue their growth in love for God and one another. His prayer clearly indicates that this occurs through Knowledge” and “Spiritual Discernment.” Biblically to “Know” something or someone, was intimate (See Romans 8:29). Jesus tells us that to “Know” God is tantamount to eternal life (See John 17:3). This is why it’s an important prayer for Paul (See Ephesians 1L17; Colossians 1:9-10; Philemon 6). But knowing something without “Spiritual Discernment” to understand what to do is useless. Paul prays for both, and then gives us the conclusive clause “So That…”  His so that leads to ability to execute the knowledge and discernment so that the church at Philippi would be Pure and Blameless. Why so? So that they’d be filled with the “Fruit of righteousness,” (See Galatians 5:22), which glorifies God, which is Paul’s end game.

Paul then reminds them that being pure and blameless is not their own accomplishment, but it is “Through Jesus Christ” for God’s glory! I pray we realize that God’s desire for praise is not inimical to our desire for happiness and joy!! However joy and happiness are never found by pursuing it through circumstances.

…to the Heart

Further Questions to Ponder

  • Is your prayer life connected to Mission?
  • Is “Loving” God a means to an end, or the end in of itself?
  • How aware of you of what it means to be “In Christ?” or that your greatest achievements spiritually are “Through” Him?

For Further Reading

Philippians: The NIV Application Commentary, Frank Theilman

Commentary on Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians, John Calvin

Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (New International Commentary on the NT), Gordon Fee

Philippians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the NT), Moises Silva

Paul For Everyone: The Prison Letters, Tom Wright

The Letter to the Philippians (Pillar NT Commentary), G. Walter Hansen

Life Lessons Study Guide: Philippians, Max Lucado