Happy – Philippians

Paul and Timothy, servants[a] of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers[b] and deacons:[c]

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace,[d] both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

The Advance of the Gospel

12 I want you to know, brothers,[e] that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard[f] and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word[g] without fear.

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

To Live Is Christ

Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy[h] of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.


Christ’s Example of Humility

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Lights in the World

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Timothy and Epaphroditus

19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s[d] proven worth, how as a son[e] with a father he has served with me in the gospel. 23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.

25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died[f] for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

Righteousness Through Faith in Christ

Finally, my brothers,[a] rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God[b] and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law,[c]blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Straining Toward the Goal

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.


Therefore, my brothers,[a] whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Exhortation, Encouragement, and Prayer

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion,[b] help these women, who have labored[c] side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness[d]be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned[e] and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

God’s Provision

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

14 Yet it was kind of you to share[f] my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.[g] 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Final Greetings

21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.

23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Happy – Philippians2019-02-18T00:38:10-07:00

HAPPY: Diving Into Contentment Philippians 4:10-23

HAPPY: Diving Into Contentment   Philippians 4:10-23

Somewhere on your bulletin, I want you to write down (your best guess) how long you think you can hold your breath under water.  How long do you think you can hold your breath?  Everybody raise your hand.  If you think you can hold your breath for at least a minute, keep your hand in the air.  If you think you can hold your breath for a minute and 30 seconds or more, keep your hand in the air.  If you think you can hold your breath for two minutes or more, keep your hand in the air.  Three minutes or more, keep your hand in the air.  We had one or two people at the two minute mark and now we have zero people who think they can hold their breath for over three minutes.

I was doing research this week and came across a new sport called free-diving.  It’s people who spear fish or dive underwater and they compete and see who can dive the farthest under the ocean (without dying) and who can hold their breath the longest.  Any guesses on how deep the record is as far as somebody swimming down into the ocean?  (Guesses were 175 feet, 300 feet and 1000 feet.)  813 feet is the record for an unassisted free dive, which is without a breathing apparatus.  They had a rope and weights to help them go down.   Guess the record for somebody holding their breath.  (Guesses were four and five minutes.)  Eleven minutes and 35 seconds!!  It’s the world record.  I heard this conversation with a free-diving instructor this week and here’s what he suggested.  He said if you’re of average health, he could teach you in three days how to hold your breath for at least four minutes and dive down to at least 100 feet down in the ocean.  His point was that we are capable of far more than we could ever dream or ever imagine.  The free-divers talk about the Mammalian Dive Reflex that’s sort of wired into us.  They call it the master switch.  We’ve all been under water when we’ve felt that moment when we think we’re going to drown.  They said it’s your body’s reaction to carbon dioxide and there’s a way, in your mind, to address that and say, “No, I’m not going to die.”   They call it the master switch that you can flip, metaphorically speaking, and stay under water far longer.  Your heart rate starts to drop.  If you ask any free-diver what the secret to it is, here’s what they’re going to tell you:  Relax!  You can’t freak out!

I started thinking about that idea.  I think a lot of us live in a world where we feel like we’re running out of air. I think a lot of us have walked through seasons of life that have been painful, they’ve been difficult.  We would never want to go through them again.  Maybe you’re in one of those seasons of life right now, today.  What I want to share with you this morning is that I believe you are capable of not only surviving, but in thriving in far more difficult circumstances than you could ever possibly imagine.  Thomas Edison said, “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”  I want to suggest to you that you’re not running out of air.  I want to suggest to you that you can stay under longer—I know it’s painful, I know it’s hard, I know it’s difficult—and not just survive under, but actually thrive.

Will you open to Philippians 4:10 as we study the last section of this great letter.  Remember, the Apostle Paul is writing to his friends back in Philippi.  He’s in Rome on house arrest.  Philippi is a city in which he planted a church over a decade before.  From house arrest, he writes this letter back to church in Philippi.  If you were here last week, you’ll remember that Paul instructed us….do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  Then he went on to say be careful.  Think about what you’re thinking about, because whatever you magnify in your life, you’re going to multiply in your life.  From jail he goes on to close the letter like this:  I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me.  You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. {You didn’t have a way to show it.  Paul’s writing to this church who supported him financially.  If you’ve been here over the course of this study, you’ll remember that when you’re in jail in the first century, the state wasn’t supplying your every need, they didn’t feed you.  It was real important if you were going to commit a crime to have good friends, because they were the ones who, literally, fed you while you were in jail.  So Paul is saying thank you for the gifts that you gave.  Thank you for the way you provided for my very practical needs. You helped keep me alive.  Then he goes on to say this.}  Not that I am speaking of being in need, {He goes listen, thank you for your gift; I didn’t really need it, but thanks for giving it.  He’s going to explain what he means in a little bit more depth.  He says, “It wasn’t that I was going to die without it…..} for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 

This word ‘content’ is a fascinating word in the Greek.  It’s only used in this way, in this tense, this one time in the Scriptures.  The word literally means ‘to be sufficient within oneself.’  To need nothing from the outside, in order to not only survive, but to thrive.  So, a country that’s content has no need for outside imports in order to sustain its way of life.  When Paul writes about contentment, he has a group of people in mind who are called “Stoics.”  They were this Greek philosophy group.  In Paul’s day, they taught a lot about contentment, because contentment was a huge value for people living in the first century.  Here was the Stoics’ teaching about contentment in a nutshell:  If you can distance yourself from any needs, if you can distance your heart from being hurt, or by having any sort of outside influence needed in order to sustain it, then you will be content. The Stoics way of teaching people how to achieve contentment was what the Buddhists would call ‘detachment.’  “I don’t need anything from anybody to be okay.”  “I am content, I’m happy, I’m pleased, I’m okay within myself.” Here’s how scholar T.R. Glover said it: “The Stoics made of the heart a desert and called it peace.”  He’s saying listen, they dried it up.  They took all emotions, all dreams, all hopes, all love and all care for another….they sucked that from the human experience and they called it contentment.  If you don’t need anything from anybody else, you can be content.

So when Paul uses this word, it has a ton of understanding, a ton of baggage, in the culture he’s writing to. What you’ll notice if you read through this passage is that Paul is using this word very different than the Stoics.  It’s very different to say, “I need nothing,” than it is to say, “I have everything I need.”  Those are two different approaches to life.  Those are two different approaches to contentment.  Paul is not saying, “I’m cold and I’m emotionless and I need nothing.”  What Paul is saying is that I’ve found the secret that addresses everything I need and Jesus is the epitome of what the human soul longs for.  The Stoics would have taught that you need to be self-sufficient in order to be content.  What Paul teaches is that we need to God-dependent in order to be content, because in Him, we are invited to the very thing that our souls were designed to step into.  Saint Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless, o Lord, until they find their rest in Thee.”  That’s what Paul’s inviting us to.  He’s inviting us to this way of contentment that’s based on dependence.  Here’s how we’ll say it this morning:  A posture of dependence leads to a life of contentment.  The Stoics would have suggested self-sufficiency was what we needed in order to be content.  I don’t need anything else coming in in order to be okay.  Paul goes no, no, no, no, no, that’s not how we achieve this peace for our soul.  The way we achieve the peace that our soul longs for is by meeting the one our soul was designed for and stepping into relationship with him.  It’s not ‘I have no needs,’ it’s ‘I have everything I need’ as I’m attached to the One who loves me and who gave himself for me.  Christ-dependency, NOT self-sufficiency, is what leads to a life of vitality.  Here’s how A.W. Tozer, the great author, put it:  “The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One.”

Paul doesn’t just leave it there and go okay, I’m just going to change the word ‘contentment’ and leave you to sort of figure it out on your own.  He actually, in this passage, unpacks what it means to live a life of contentment.  Here’s the first thing he says—Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have LEARNED….. It’s like I became a student of contentment.  I started to study my own soul, I started to study my own desires, I started to study my own passions and my longings, and throughout the course of my journey in life…..   You think about Paul—shipwrecked multiple times, beaten, flogged, jailed.  He goes through it all life was my laboratory and through the course of life I learned how to hold Jesus so supremely that I was able to say, in any circumstance, “I’m okay, because my soul found the one that I long for.”

I’ve LEARNED it, Paul says, which means that it’s not the natural default setting for life.  Have you ever noticed that? That naturally we don’t drift towards contentment.  We actually push back against it and we find a number of reasons to not be content.  Which is why the great preacher, Charles Spurgeon, says this: “Now, contentment is one of the flowers of heaven, and if we would have it, it must be cultivated; it will not grow in us by nature; it is the new nature alone that can produce it, and even then we must be specially careful and watchful that we maintain and cultivate the grace which God has sown in us.”  Isn’t that awesome?!  Here’s what I just want to press on us this morning a little bit—you’re going to have opportunities, my guess is within the next few days, to practice contentment.  If you’re having people over for Thanksgiving, may I suggest that it may not go exactly as you think in your head or dreamed that it will go.  I mean, we are talking about family here!  If you’re going over to somebody else’s house, it may not go exactly the way you think it will go there either.  One of the hard things about contentment is that it’s forged in the midst of discontent.  We learn this. Paul calls it a secret, so it’s not on the surface.  It’s not something we stumble across and go there it is.  It’s something we have to excavate from our lives as the Spirit stirs it up.  My guess is that you’re going to have some opportunities over the next few days to say, “Alright, Father, if life is my laboratory, how might you be instructing me in the way of contentment?  Because I want to be sufficient within you.”

Sometimes it takes a little bit of a different perspective.  There’s an old story about a Jewish man who went to his rabbi.  He said to the rabbi, “Rabbi, we have nine people living in a one bedroom house.  It’s loud.  It smells. It’s miserable.”  The rabbi listened and says, “Do you have a goat?”  The man answered, “Yes, we have a goat.  I don’t know that that has anything to do with a one-bedroom house with nine people in it.”  The rabbi tells him to bring the goat into the house for the next week.   The man looks at him like he’s crazy and the rabbi says, “Just believe me and come back in a week and let me know how it goes.”  So he came back in a week and said to his rabbi, “This is ridiculous!  Our house is loud.  It smells.  It’s absolutely horrific in there.  It seems like a war zone.”  The rabbi replies to the man, “Here’s what I want you to do now.  Let the goat back outside and come back and talk to me in a week.”  The man comes back in a week and says, “Oh my goodness!  It’s beautiful! Our house is quiet; our house smells good!  It is remarkable in there!”

That’s the way contentment works, doesn’t it?  It’s all about perspective.  It’s about how we look at the world and what we think we need in order to be happy.  Paul says see, I’ve learned it.  I’m on this journey of stepping into the mysteries of cherishing God above all else.  He not only learned it but he says, “Contentment is not circumstantial.”  He will point out in this passage, I know what it means to abound, as if to say to the Stoic, “You think you need to detach from everything in order to be content?  Oh no, I’ve learned the secret of contentment when I have more than enough.”  Paul says, “And I know what it is to be brought low.  In every circumstance, I’ve learned to discipline my heart to cherish Jesus above all else.”  I think he’d say to us, “I know it feels like you’re running out of air, but there is a switch that you can hit that will invite you deeper into the love of God that will sustain you and you can stay down for longer than you thought you could.  You can even thrive while you’re there.”  Contentment is learned and contentment is not based on circumstances.

I’ve noticed four things, in my own life, that are thieves of contentment.  I invite you to write these down, because you may see these in your own life as well.  The first thief of contentment, that I’ve found in me and in the Scriptures, is comparison.  Have you ever noticed that it’s easy to be content until you meet somebody that has more or better?  This is one of the Enemy’s tactics in our life, to say to us, “Hey, if you just had that…..  If you had a little bit better, a little bit brighter, a little bit newer, than you’d be okay.”  We start to compare ourselves to other people.  This is a biblical quandary as well.  In John 21:20-22, Jesus has risen from the dead and he’s walking along the Sea of Galilee.  He meets Peter, who has just betrayed Him.  He has this intimate conversation with Peter.  He says, “Peter, I want you to feed my sheep.  Peter, I want you to tend to my lambs. Peter, I want you to love the things that I love and I want you to lead the church.”  Peter goes okay, that’s great, Lord.  Jesus tells him that when you get older, you’re going to go places you don’t want to go and you’re going to stretch out your arms and you’re going to be led by me.  Basically he’s saying, you’re going to be crucified, Peter.  Peter says to him, “Okay, but what about him?”  What about John who’s right next to him. What’s going to happen to him?  As if to say, is he getting a better lot than me?  Because I’m okay with that Jesus, as long as John has to do the same thing!  Jesus says back to Peter, “Let me worry about that.  YOU follow me.”  Isn’t comparison just a trap we fall into?

Here’s the second thief: competition.  It’s this idea that in order to be okay, I have to be better.  It can be competition with people outside of us, but if you’re anything like me, it’s competition with ME.  Year after year, I want to see it going up and to the right.  I want to see improvements.  I want to see bettering.  Every run I go on I want it to be a little bit faster than the run I went on the one before.  Anyone crazy like me?  There’s people wired like that where we go, “Alright, Lord, I’ll be okay so long as I’m better.”

Third is coveting.  It’s the conviction—If I had fill-in-the-blank, then my life would be complete.  So the person who covets cannot walk in contentment.  Our oldest son, who is seven years old, is going through this phase that I think might last until he’s in his twenties.  He sees something on TV and he just wants it.  He sees something his friend has and he asks for it so many times during the day!  We thought we’d force him to make a list of all the things he is grateful for to remind him of everything that he has.  He starts writing this list.  We told him Thanksgiving was coming and we wanted him to spend some time cultivating an awareness of all the good things we have and let’s be grateful people.  He makes this wonderful list:  I’m grateful for my family; I’m grateful for my house; I’m grateful for all my friends; I’m grateful for my grandparents…..   He brings this list back and puts it on the table and I’m like, “Cue the angels in heaven because I think I just won Father-of-the-Year award.”  I am patting myself on the back.  So he goes, “Dad, there’s all the things that I’m grateful for.” Then he flipped it over and said, “On the other side, here’s my Christmas list.”  That’s life, isn’t it?  It’s easy to be hard on the little guy, but it’s in all of us!  Oh yeah, Lord, we’re grateful…we’re grateful…we’re grateful…and here’s the list of the things I really want.  Right?  Coveting.

The fourth is cynicism.  It’s the thought in the back of our head—God, you are so good!  You’re wonderful! And when is the bottom going to fall out of this?!  Have you ever been there?  It’s on vacation as you get closer and closer to the end….starting to count down the days until vacation is over.  Going…noooooo!  Which of those touches your soul?  Comparison.  Competition.  Coveting.  Cynicism.  If we can identify where the Enemy typically attacks us and the things that we long for that start to own us, we can push back against those with this posture of—God, I have everything I need in you.  You’re sufficient and you’re good in every season.  Will you remind me of it?  Paul’s conclusion is that Jesus is the secret of contentment.  It’s not having no needs.  It’s meeting the One in whom all of our needs are met.

But he doesn’t leave just leave it at that.  He wants to teach us how and why to step into this life of contentment more fully.  Look again at Philippians 4:13, because here’s the first thing he’s going to instruct us on.  So if you’re sitting here going alright, Paulson, that’s great, but how do I do this?  How do I live the life of contentment?  Here’s what Paul says:  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  This ‘I can do’ literally means ‘I have power,’ I have this latent, dormant power in my soul…to do anything or to do all things, he says, through God who pours power into me.  Literally, you could translate this verse—I am strong for all things in the One who is strengthening me.  How do we walk in contentment?  We realize we have a personal connection to God’s accessible power.  He goes it’s here!  We have a power because the Spirit of God that lives inside of us helps us tap into it.  I know it feels like you’re running out of air, but there’s a master switch that you can hit and step into the fullness of what God designed you for.  Paul goes oh, there’s great power there.

But there’s also a huge problem with this verse, isn’t there?  I mean, it’s probably the most proof-texted verse in the entire New Testament.  Case in point:  Steph Curry.  He’s one of the best basketball players in the NBA right now.  Last year, he wrote on his shoes “I can do all things…”   UnderArmor came to him and said, “I see that you’re writing that on your Nikes.  We will actually write it on there for you, if you want to sign with us.”   He said great, wonderful.  I can do all things.  I can win all basketball games.  You may have heard of this guy too–Tim Tebow.  I want to talk about his theology a second.  On his eyeblack he has Philippians 4:13.  Which is wonderful….so long as it doesn’t mean I can win every game by Christ who strengthens me.  We do recognize that there would be a little bit of an intellectual quandary, don’t we, if somebody on the opposite team had the same eyeblack!  Imagine that there might be a Christian on both sides….who can do all things through Christ who gives them strength.  Here’s the thing, if by writing Philippians 4:13 on his eyeblack he means I can hold my head high and walk proud, whether I win or whether we get blown out, because my sufficiency is not in football, but it’s in Jesus, and I’m okay whether we win or whether we lose, whether I’m a starting quarterback or a tight end.  I’m okay if I’m in the league or out of the league, actually, because I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength.  That’s what Paul would be saying.  I could be in jail or I can be on the mountaintop or I can be anywhere in between.  It’s not about where I am, it’s about who’s in me that gives me strength.  I don’t know what you’re walking through this morning, but I do know that there is grace available at the hand of Jesus.  There is power that he wants to invite you into.  Paul says I’m walking content because the Spirit of God is at work in me, bringing peace, knitting together the broken pieces of my life into a mosaic that declares His glory.  I can do all things, he says.

Paul goes on:  Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.  And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.    {So Paul’s back to praising them and thanking them for the way they helped to carry the good news of the gospel.}  Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.  I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.    Isn’t that a heartfelt thank you?  Let me point out three things Paul says about giving in this section of Scripture.  One, he uses this word ‘partnership.’  In the Greek it’s literally ‘koinonia,’ it’s fellowship.  So he’s saying the people that helped fund my ministry did far more than fund me. They actually partnered with me, they linked arms and they linked hearts and we were in this together.  I couldn’t have done it without them, Paul says.  Isn’t that a beautiful picture of giving?  I don’t know how you feel when you put something in the offering plate here, when you give online, or when you text GIVE, or however you like to do it.  My hope is that you don’t feel like you’re funding ministry.  My hope is you feel like you’re a partner in what God is doing through us to reach the world for the glory of the name of Christ.  This is partnership, which is why in our membership covenant we talk about giving generously.  Why?  Because together we want to make much of the name of Jesus.  We know that as we give to the same thing, our hearts get knitted together.  So Paul says, “We were partners in this.”

He also makes this really strange statement in verse 17.  Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.   He’s going hey, I know you’re giving sacrificially and I know that this is money that you’ve worked hard to earn.  {Will you look up at me for a second.}  Here’s his point:  You can never out-give God!  Whether it’s fruit in some heavenly realm or place, or whether it’s fruit in our lives today….   I think it’s probably both.  God’s saying listen, when you give you receive far more back than you could ever give out. Anybody ever experience that before?  Absolutely.  This boomerang effect of God saying you’re not going to out-give me.

Finally, in verse 18 it says that their gift to Paul was a sacrifice.  It sort of paints a picture of a burnt offering, where the smoke just rises to God.  Giving is evangelistic in nature.  Generosity points back to our great God, as Paul will write in 2 Corinthians 9:11 — You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.   So we not only partner with each other, it not only comes back on us, it also rises in declaration of God’s praise and God’s goodness.

Listen to what Paul says:   And my God MIGHT supply every need of yours….  No.  And my God MOST LIKELY will supply every need….  No.  And my God WILL supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.     Paul says I can be content in any and every situation because I have this pervasive conviction about God’s Christocentric provision.  The provision that He gives us through the person and work of Christ.  Here’s what Paul would say:  He’s meeting all of our needs IN Christ Jesus.  If God can’t give it to us IN Christ, He doesn’t plan on giving it to us at all.  I think sometimes we pray for things that would have to be met outside of that, but He goes no, this is the way that I’m meeting the needs of humanity.  This is the way I forgive sins.  It’s only through Jesus.  This is the way I bless and it’s been my plan from the very beginning, from the Abrahamic covenant all the way through, every promise of God is yes and amen in Jesus!  That’s great news!  Paul says, “I have this deep-seated conviction in my soul, even as I sit in jail, that God’s not only going to supply all of YOUR needs, but that God will supply MY needs.” Hudson Taylor said it like this: “God’s work, done in God’s way, will receive God’s supply.”

Here’s the really fascinating thing about this passage of Scripture.  God’s supply doesn’t just drop out of the sky. You know that, right?  You’ve probably never seen a parachute coming down with money to pay your rent. Neither did Paul.  Read the letter.  He’s going hey, Philippian church, YOU were God’s hands and feet to meet the needs that I had and the times that I had them.  You were an extension.  My God will supply every one of my needs and oftentimes He does it through His body, the church.  Over a year ago, a friend of mine started this group of guys that got together and asked Pastor Dan for a list of names of elderly people in our church that needed help caring for their homes.  My friend had this vision that guys learn much better, not necessarily talking around a table, but using their hands.  They’ve blessed a number of people in our church by clearing out things in their yards….  Recently, they went and painted somebody’s house.  The couple (homeowners) needed a ramp for the husband to get his wife and her wheelchair into the house.  As a church we prayed about it and we partnered with them through the money you give in benevolence.  So I want to say thank you to those who give faithfully, sacrificially, above and beyond.  We were able to help this couple get the ramp that they needed….after this small group of men had painted their house, had done plumbing, had helped clean up….in order to get them back to sort of ground zero.  I can tell you that it’s one of the ways God supplies the needs of his people.  It’s through you!  Through the gifts and services of his body.  It’s a beautiful picture of what the church is intended to be.

Here’s how Paul lands the plane.  Greet every saint in Christ Jesus.  The brothers who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.  It seems like an innocent end to a letter.  It seems like a sort of sending off, benedictory type of statement, but it’s so much more than that.  Paul writes back to a church who’s in the colony of Christ in the midst of the empire of Rome.  They’re getting beat up.  They’re about to be killed for their faith in Jesus. Here’s what Paul says at the very end of his letter:  We greet you; all the saints greet you, especially those in Caesar’s household.  The shock on their faces when they read that must have been immense.  There’s a church in Caesar’s palace???  There’s a church meeting amongst the people who want to kill us??  Can you think about the way that this bursts light into the darkest of situations?  Paul says listen, I can be content.  It feels like I’m running out of air, but I’ve got a source you have no idea about.  I am confident in God’s plan.  I know God’s provision and I will rest in the fact that God has a plan in it all.  He’s got this persistent conviction or confidence in God’s subversive plan.  In the midst of the Roman Empire, a church is being birthed.  In the midst of Caesar’s household, people are saying ‘no’ to the imperial cult.  They’re going alright, I know we’re still working here, but Caesar, you are not our lord; Caesar, you are not our savior; Caesar, we’ve met the one true Son of God and his name is Jesus!

I’m reading The Chronicles of Narnia to my kids again this year and we got to the point where it says, “Aslan is on the move!!  YES!!!  That’s what’s going on here.  Jesus is on the move!  He’s on the move redeeming, He’s on the move restoring, He’s breaking into the darkest places with light of the glory of the gospel.  You might say to me hey, Paulson, I’m sure that was happening back then, but that kind of stuff doesn’t happen today.  UNTRUE! I’m going to give you two stories to show it does.  My friend gave me a book called A Wind in the House of Islam. In this book, the author, David Garrison, goes back and studies movements of the gospel in the midst of Islam. Here’s what they found:  They found that for the first 1,300 years of Islam there were zero movements of the gospel.  Gospel movement means over 1,000 people baptized OR 100 churches planted.  ZERO.  In the 19th century we saw one.  In the last two centuries, we have seen, roughly, 83 gospel movements amongst Islam, amongst Muslims.  Coming to Christ in record numbers.  There are over 60 of them still going on right now. (Whispered)–There’s a church in Caesar’s house.

The second example — Angola prison in New Orleans.  6,300 inmates.  It was known as the bloodiest prison in the United States.  Certainly one of the biggest.  They have hospice care there, because 80% of these inmates will never see the light of day again.  They’re there for life.  In 1995, they got a new warden.  That warden went to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and asked them if they’d be willing to come and have a seminary IN the prison.  As the seminary tried to scrape together the funds to do it, back in 1995, they started a church in Angola prison.  Over the last two decades, they’ve seen the crime rate absolutely plummet.  They’ve seen forty to fifty people, every year, graduate with a seminary degree.  They, right now, have twenty-seven inmate pastors in Angola prison!  (Whispered)–There’s a church in Caesar’s household.  Jesus is on the move!

Friends, I don’t know, as we come to an end in this study, how this letter has hit you.  For me, I have been challenged by God to walk in joy in new and fresh ways.  I’ve been challenged by God to be sacrificial and generous in different ways than I have been before.  I was convicted last week that there’s anxiety in my soul. Today, I’m just at the place where I’m going, “Jesus, I believe that you are enough for me.  I want you to be sufficient in me for every day and every want, in every season; that you, O God, truly are my shepherd; I shall not want.”

There’s this legend of a man that heard about the Apostle Paul.  He was a rich merchant and spent some time trying to find him.  Finally, he found him in Rome.  Timothy was there with him, near his cell.  The merchant went to Timothy and asked to spend a few minutes with the Apostle Paul in prison.  Timothy consented.  This merchant went in and sat down with Paul for just a few minutes.  As he came out, his eyes were wide and Timothy asked, “What did you think?”  The merchant said, “Where in the world does this immense power come from?”  Timothy looked at the merchant and said, “Don’t you know?”  “No, that’s why I’m asking.  I don’t know.” Timothy says, “Paul has found the love his soul longs for.”  The merchant asked, “Is that it?”  Timothy responded, “That is ALL any of us need!”  Let’s pray.

Jesus, we come in a posture, this morning, of dependence, believing that you’re enough for us.  Lord, for the people in this space today who are going through a season where it feels like they’re running out of air, would you pull them deeper with you?  Would you remind them of your power, would you remind them of your providence, would you remind them of your plan; may it all work in our hearts and our souls to allow us to declare back to you that Lord, we’re grounded in your love.  Therefore, we can live in your way.  It’s our soul’s deepest desire, Jesus.  Thank you for being sufficient in any circumstance and every season.  It’s in your name that we pray.  Amen.

HAPPY: Diving Into Contentment Philippians 4:10-232020-08-21T11:40:06-06:00

HAPPY: Whatever Philippians 4:1-9

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HAPPY: Whatever  Philippians 4:1-9

Have you ever had one of those moments where, as you’re doing something, you’re thinking to yourself, “What in the world am I doing?  Why am I doing this” or even “This could turn out really, really badly for me.”  This wasn’t one of those drastic situations, but this week I was looking in my office library for a particular book.  I thought it was on the very top shelf.  I got my office chair and I rolled it over.  I’m standing on my office chair {precariously} and thinking, “What am I doing??”  They’re going to hear a crash and I’m going to be lying on the floor.  I started to think to myself as I was reading this end portion of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, “I think a lot of people live life in sort of an unstable ground type of situation.”

Have you ever found yourself in one of those moments?  Here’s the hard part about them—we figure out that we’re standing on unstable ground when the storms of life hit.  Jesus tells this parable in Matthew 7:24-27, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount.  He says to his disciples who are there listening to him that there are two ways to live your life.  One way is to build your life on words that I’ve just said.  If you go back and read Matthew, chapters 5-7, you see Jesus inviting followers of his to a completely different way of living.  To a way of living where, instead of harboring anger we release it; instead of hating our enemies we pray for them and love them; instead of lusting after people and things we surrender that to God.  Jesus says listen, you have two ways to live. You can live and build your life on those words of mine and when you do that, when the storms of life come, you are going to stand firm.  The storms of life are going to beat against your life.  They’re going to push against you; the waves are going to come, the floods are going to rise, and if you’re standing on His words, Jesus says, you will stand firm.  He also says the storms are coming in every single life and, if you’re here this morning, you just have to know that the storms have either come or they’re coming.  They will always make you question your foundation.  What will determine whether or not your life continues to flourish and your life continues to stand is not how moral and how good you are, it’s not how many things you’ve done in your past and what your resumé looks like or what your bank account looks like.  What will determine whether or not you continue to stand is WHAT you’re standing on.

At the end of the letter of Philippians, Paul’s just poring out his heart to this church that he dearly and deeply loves.  Remember, if you’ve been with us over the last ten weeks, we’ve been studying this letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to a church that he planted about twelve years earlier.  As he’s writing this letter, he’s sitting in a Roman house on house arrest.  He doesn’t know, at this point, whether he’s going to keep his life or whether he’s going to lose it for the gospel, but he writes back to this church in Philippi to encourage them, to build into them, and to remind them that there is a foundation that, even if he loses his life, will not fail him. Listen to what he says:  Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.   It’s not just try your best when the storms of life come to stand firm.  He actually tells us HOW we stand firm.  It’s the same thing that Jesus taught.  Stand firm….where?  In the Lord.  Because the ground that you are standing on will determine if your house continues to stand when the storms of life come.  What Paul would say to everyone of his listeners in the original audience and what he’d say to us, too, is this:  If you want to live a life that’s unshakable, you’ve got to live a life that’s grounded in the immovable. Unless we want, when the storms of life come, to sort of be in that place of feeling like the ground is giving out on us and we’re drifting and things are just beating against our life and it has the potential to ruin us?  Paul goes no, no, no, no, no, build your life on something that will last.  Build your life on something that has staying power.  Stand. Firm. In. The. Lord.  Because an unshakable life is grounded in an immovable God.

So here’s what Paul does from here—he gives us this great challenge, this great invitation, that right in front of you is the work of Jesus, his grace that’s available, and you have the ability, as followers of His, to say THAT’S going to be the cornerstone of my life, THAT’S going to be the foundation of my life.  What Paul wants to do in the rest of the section of this letter is to say when that’s a reality for you, it opens up all sorts of possibilities for the way that you’d interact with the people around you.  If you’re grounded in the immovable One, you’re able to address life, to walk through life, to walk through challenging situations, in a completely different way. Paul wants to say hey, if you are standing firm in Jesus, you can change the way you interact with the people around you; your relationships can change if you’re grounded in Him.  If you’re grounded in Him, the way that your heart approaches life can change.  The things that you fear can change if you’re grounded in Him.  If you’re unshakable in the immovable One, the way that you think can be completely different.  But it’s what we’re standing ON that determines our approach to the life that we live.

After he gives that encouragement to stand firm, listen to what he says (Phil. 4:2) — I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. {Quick timeout.  How would it feel to get called out in a letter that ends up being read for a few thousand years??  This is bordering on a little bit of public shaming, but you can see his pastor’s heart.  Paul is like come on — entreat them.  Because they stand firm in the Lord, beg them, plead with them, challenge them to agree in the Lord.} Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.   He’s saying this — Because you ladies stand firm, because you’re grounded in the work of Jesus, you don’t have to continue to walk through life at odds with other people.  The foundation you have in Christ frees you to operate differently in relationships than anybody else has the capacity to do.  So step into that awkward place.  Step into that challenging place.  Step into that place of doubt and into the unknown and pursue unity deliberately.

Aren’t you glad, as a culture, that we’ve got this one nailed??!  So, I’m studying this week and you may have heard there was an election.  I’m thinking to myself, “Wow! I have never felt the visceral sense of division in our country like I feel it right now.”  That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been there, it just means that it’s on the service.  It means that, as a church, we’re going to need to deal with it.  {Friends, will you look up at me for a second?} The way that we deal with this is not by lobbing grenades onto those outside of us.  It’s by setting an example of the better way within us.  Here’s the beautiful thing about being part of a church, you guys.  There are people sitting in your section who voted differently than you.  Here’s what we need to do as a body of Christ:   We need to listen really well.  We need to listen without casting judgement and we need to hear people’s hearts. We need to hear their fears.  We need to hear their joys.  We need to hear their disappointments.  Then we need to come back together and we need to remind ourselves of what brings us together.  Here’s the thing:  No president in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is called to unite the church.  Jesus is!!  As followers of Christ, with people who voted differently, who have different political opinions….what a beautiful picture it is to link arms and say, “Oh man, we stand on Him, so we can pursue unity with people who think a little bit differently than us, with a ferocious tenacity because we believe that there’s a better way.”

Paul doesn’t just leave them there.  He doesn’t just go hey, ladies, pursue unity.  You need to really make amends.  He gives them resources.  He says hey, there’s things available to you.  If you go back and reread this it says:  Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women.   He’s saying there’s somebody in your body, there’s somebody in the church that if there’s a division they can probably help you work through it.  If this is something you’re wrestling through…..these are pastors, these are counselors….we believe in really good Christian counseling here that can help people work through things.  Maybe it’s a mediator.  Paul says, “It’s available to you.  Use the resources that are there; it’s that important!”

Second thing he says.  He’s not saying just try really hard, no.  There’s resources out there for you.  Remember, remember, remember, you guys have labored side by side for the gospel.  Isn’t it true that when we start getting pressed down by division, we forget the mission that’s in front of us?  Paul goes come on, come on.  I know you ladies and something happened and there’s a division amongst you, but will you just take a moment and remember the mission in front of you.  Will you remember why you’re together in the first place?  Finally, he says, your names are written in the book of life, as if to say, “You’re going to spend all of eternity together. You might want to figure out how to get along NOW!”  That’s his message.  Pursue unity with deliberate intention because Jesus is worth it.

I don’t know where you’re at with that and how that sits with you today, but I’m guessing that in every single life in this room, there’s a place where we could have God speak to us over this area.  I would say back to us, one of the main ways the Enemy works in the lives of believers is by causing a “root of bitterness” to grow up.  In fact, Paul will say to the church at Ephesus:  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity (foothold) to the devil. (Eph. 4:26-27)  What’s he talking about?  He’s saying that if there’s things unresolved that start to cause anger in your soul that you’re unwilling to forgive, the Enemy’s going to get a foothold in your life and potentially start to wreak havoc.  Do you know one of the best weapons against spiritual warfare?  Forgiveness.  Enemy hates when you forgive an audacious sin.  He then has no place in your life!  So, for you, what might it be today?  Luckily, none of us were called out in the Scriptures, personally, like they were, but as we read it we have to go alright, Lord, who do I have to make a phone call to this week?  Who do I need to humble myself, swallow my pride, and apologize to?  Who do I need to reach out to and say hey, let’s have a conversation?  When you stand firm in the Lord, you’re able to navigate relationships differently.

Second thing you’re able to do differently (verse 4) — Rejoice in the Lord always. {If you’ve been here over the last ten weeks, you’re going oh, Paulson, are we going here again??!!  The series is called “Happy,” you’ve taught on joy almost every week….  I’m not going there explicitly, I just want to point out….it’s in there.} ….again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  How many love that passage??  {Oh man, that’s a tattoo passage right there!}  The word ‘anxiety’ in the Greek, literally means ‘to be torn into parts.’  It’s the picture of horses running in the opposite directions. Maybe for you it’s both fear and hope that are present and they’re just going in different directions in your life.  Maybe it’s a situation you have in your mind right now that you don’t know how it’s going to turn out and you don’t know exactly where that road is going to lead…..and anxiety just plays like a tape in the back of our minds and sometimes we don’t even know it’s there.  We just know that we wake up in the morning and our jaw hurts.  Or we’ve gone through the day and our fists are clenched and we don’t know exactly why, but we do know that there’s something off in our soul.  There’s a part of Paul’s command that is horribly unhelpful.  If he would have just stopped and said, “Don’t be anxious about anything.  Good luck with that.  Amen.”  Because we all know that as hard as we try to not be anxious about anything, there’s things that we’re anxious about.  There’s things that we have fears of.  Every single person in this room is wired a little bit differently.  There’s things we have unique fear towards or anxiety towards.  One author said that anxiety is like a sitting in a rocking chair.  You exert a lot of energy and you go no where.  It’s true.

You’re all wired differently.  In 1961, a psychologist named Fritz Riemann had a theory that each person who walks the face of the globe has probably a core anxiety or core fear.  Some people fear nearness.   They fear intimacy.  When people start to get close to them, they build walls and they say, in no uncertain terms—maybe not overtly or explicitly—you can’t get any closer to me than this.  Second is fear of distance, sort of the other side of that coin.  It’s that fear of being alone.  It leads us to places of possible co-dependency and “I need you, I need you, I need you”….in a really unhealthy way.  He says the next core anxiety people face is the fear of change.  If that’s you, control is a HUGE priority to you.  You want to make sure everything around your life is stable and unchanging, because if it does, fear or anxiety starts to rise up in your soul.  Or, the other side of that coin is the fear of permanence.  You’ve probably had a few different jobs in the last year and it’s hard for you to finish a project that you start.  Adventure is on the horizon and, heaven forbid, you are prevented from walking into it.  Here’s the thing:  There is extreme value of being self-aware, to the point where you can go, alright, this is me; this is who I am.  I love being in control and when I get out of control, I start to get on shaky ground, so, God, teach me how to ground myself in you in such a way that even when the winds come and the storms rage and the floods happen, I don’t revert back to spaces of fear in my life, but that I continue to charge forward after you.

Here’s Paul’s encouragement to the church—Okay, there’s resources for you.  Combat that fear, that you sense rising up in your soul, prayerfully.  It’s interesting that this word ‘to not have anxiety’ is a present imperative command.  It’s this idea that not sort of pray and deal with fear….   That’s not Paul’s encouragement to us.  It’s every day you’re probably going to have to deal with this and when you find yourself carrying anxiety and when you find yourself carrying fear, you’ve got to be disciplined enough and stand in the Lord and say, “That’s not how I’m going to live and who I’m going to be.  I’m going to let that go.”  It’s not a one time decision, it’s a continual ethic of this is how I live as a follower of Jesus.  I’m no longer a slave to fear; I’m a child of the Most High God.

Paul says okay, here’s the way that you deal with it.  You deal with it prayerfully, and we’ll get there in just a second, but before that he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always.”  Did you know it’s hard to be anxious when you’re rejoicing.  Have you ever tried that?  We should have signs that say to anxiety: “Beware of Rejoicing,” because you have no place in my life, getting torn apart anxiety!  Paul says make that an ethic of your life.  The second thing he says in this passage is God is near:  The Lord is at hand.  So, whatever it is for you that causes anxiety, maybe it was the election that was going on, maybe it’s your neighbor, maybe it’s your marriage, maybe it’s your kids or your health or whatever, whatever it is that triggers our anxiety, we also have to trigger ourself to say, “God, in the midst of all that’s going on around me, I need to remember that you’re with me.”  When I’m anxious, I’m really just unaware.  I’m unaware that God holds this all together.  I’m unaware that He’s good.  I’m unaware that He loves me.  The psalmist will say:  The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145:18)

Finally, Paul says, the way we deal with anxiety is through joy.  It’s through awareness of God’s presence with us, but in everything, he says, with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.  So here’s the process that Paul just went through.  When anxiety starts to take root in your soul, when you feel the inner parts of you getting torn in different directions, go to God in prayer and supplication (which means we ask God for what we feel we need).  So, he says, ask Him, cry out to Him.  Secondly, don’t forget this part, thank Him!  In anxiety, I get totally unaware of the way God has blessed me and the way that His hand’s at work.  Part of the discipline of following Jesus and becoming a disciple is learning to use those triggers of anxiety in our life to lead us to places of prayer.  As hard as it is to be joyful and anxious, it’s equally as hard to be prayerful and anxious.  Try it!  Peter would say in his letter to the churches:  …casting all your anxieties on him, because he care for you. (1 Peter 5:7)  See, you can cast your worry or you can carry your worry, but you can’t do both.  Either you carry it or He does.  If you’re an anxious person, if that’s sort of in your disposition or maybe you’re walking through a season of anxiety, can I invite you….this idea of casting would literally be like throwing a stone into the water. It’s just get this off of me!!  Maybe today’s the day you do that.

Paul finishes this up with a promise.  He says if you’re anxious about anything, pray, ask God, thank God, let your request be made known to God, and God will do exactly what you want!  Wouldn’t it be great if that’s the way the passage ended??!  This little equation….   That’s not the way it goes at all.   It’s let your requests be made known to God; God’s promise back to you isn’t I’m a genie in a bottle and I’ll do exactly whatever you want, however you want, whenever you want.  God’s promise back to you is I will give you my peace that surpasses any understanding that you could ever dream of having.  Which means you might still not understand why you’re walking through what you’re walking through.  You might not have all the answers but there will be an anchor in your soul to say, in the midst of the questions, “I am unshakable in the immovable.”

This word ‘peace,’ in the Greek, has this idea of bringing the pieces back together into a whole.  If you look at the word ‘anxiety,’ which is division and ‘peace,’ which is a bringing it back together…..God says okay, everything you’re walking through, every fear that you have, the anxieties that you have, all the things swirling around in your life, if you’re willing to hand it to me, I will be bigger than it all and in some way I will bring it back together in your life.  I’ll give you peace, wholeness.  The Hebrew people of God will call this ‘the shalom,” the healing of God.  So, as you’re walking through life right now, maybe there’s an issue relationally,  but maybe there’s an issue of your heart, because that’s what’s going on in this passage.  Anxiety is a heart issue.  Is there anything you need to bring to the Lord and say, “God, here it is.  I’m not going to try to hide it from you, you’re God.  I need your peace.”  What might that look like for you?   Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in 1945, was walking to his death, and he knew it.  It was three days before the Nazi prison camp that he was in would be freed. One of the greatest, in my opinion, theologians of the 20th century.  As he’s walking to his death, he turns to a friend and says, “This in the end, but for me…just the beginning.”  How can he do that?  This guy is unshakable in the immovable.  Do you think he’s anxious?  He’s human!  He’s walking to his death.  Did it control him?  No!  Did he cast it?  Yes!  Did he get God’s peace?  This is the end, but for me this is the beginning.  If you’ve ever been around somebody who knew Jesus and who was facing death, you’ve seen the type of peace that passes any understanding.  Friends, you don’t have to just have it as you face death, you can have it as you walk through life.

Here’s the way Paul ends this section.  Finally, brothers, {Which is the second time he’s said ‘finally’ in this letter.  He said it in chapter 3, verse 1.  He’s a preacher!!  He’s landing the plane, right?! The word could also mean ‘in addition to this’ or ‘also.’}  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.    I can remember being in church as a middle-schooler and high-schooler and reading this passage and going, “Man, that’s so narrow.”  I read it….whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is noble…think about these things.  I read it completely different now.  Now I read it: whatEVER is true, whatEVER is noble, whatEVER’s lovely, whatEVER is beautiful, whatEVER is good, THINK about these things.  In the Greek, it’s this word not like think as in let it pass through your brain, but sink an anchor into it, camp out there for awhile.  Some translations will say ‘dwell’ on it or ‘meditate’ on it or ‘take it into your life.’  The really fascinating part about this is what Paul just did.  He draws out these six characteristics that were Hellenistic, or Greek, virtues.  They were not unique or distinctive of just the people of God, in fact, just the opposite.  They were cultural virtues that Paul looks at and goes, “These are really good things.”  Whatever’s good, whatever’s noble, whatever’s pure…..as if to say, every good thing is owned by our great God.  So we don’t have to limit ourselves, when it comes to being followers of Christ, to just sing “Christian” songs to worship God.  Whatever’s beautiful can point us back to Him.  Paul is this beautiful, wonderful, absolutely astounding cultural architect, where he’s going hey, as you walk through Philippi, you are a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, but as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven every good thing is yours.  So what around you do you see is good?  What around you do you see is beautiful?  Think about those things, dwell on those things, take those things in.  He wants to encourage them hey, focus your thinking intentionally.

Pursue unity deliberately, yeah, absolutely.  Combat anxiety prayerfully.  Yes.  Focus your thinking intentionally.  You are in complete control of your thoughts.  100%.  Have you ever thought about what you’re thinking?  Have you ever stepped back and gone, “Where am I going with that and WHY am I thinking that and why am I going down that road?”  Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Sow a thought, reap an action.  Sow an action, reap a habit.  Sow a habit, reap a character.  Sow a character, reap a destiny!”  As if to say this will determine the course of your life.  The great theologian, pastor and preacher, Jonathan Edwards, said it like this: “The ideas and images in men’s minds are the invisible powers that constantly govern them.”

So as we stand firm in the Lord, we’re able, Paul says, to change the way that we think.  Instead of allowing things like despair, cynicism and fatalism to occupy our lives, as followers of Jesus, we can think differently about the world we live in.  {Look up at me for a second.}  You cannot change the world that you live in, but you can change the way that you live in the world!  As followers of Jesus, what if we became the type of people who, instead of just judging everything outside of the church or outside of our pocket of faith, took the things that we saw as beautiful, good, noble, pure, praiseworthy and said, “I just want to put a magnifying glass on those.”  Whatever you magnify in your life, you will multiply.  Whatever you put your focus on, you’ll start to see more of in your life.  It’s just going to come out of you.  The Apostle Paul wants us to be the type of people who see and appreciate and think about good.  Here’s just four examples.  I think music is a great example. Have you ever just put on a piece of classical music (or whatever floats your boat) and just had this awareness of how big and beautiful and majestic God is!  Yesterday, I had the chance, with our elders, to stand on Bailey Peak and look out over the vast and beautiful creation that God’s woven together by his handiwork.  Whatever is lovely!!  Whatever!  Think about it.

This is whatever is just:  One of my favorite organizations that I follow is an interfaith organization called Preemptive Love Coalition.  It’s a group of doctors that got together and they started to do work in areas that were attacked by ISIS.  They started to go in and care for kids.  They have these six values they hold.   Lifesaving heart surgeries for children.  Emergency relief effort for families victimized by ISIS.  Empowering grants for small business owners.  Education for at-risk children.  Peacemaking in conflict zones.  Counsel to policy makers in Washington, D.C., London, Bagdad and beyond.  That’s whatever’s just!  I’ve followed them on Instagram and every time I see one of there little pictures, I pray.  As you see these kids going in for surgeries in war zones that are going to save their life, you go, whatever’s just, I’m for that.  I’m not for “Christian” justice, I’m for justice PERIOD!  Because it’s all God’s.

Here’s the second organization.  It’s a group called Charity: Water and it was started by a guy named Scott Harrison a number of years ago.  It’s an interfaith organization.  Scott Harrison is haunted by the fact that 663 million people still live in the world and have no access to clean drinking water.  That’s roughly ten percent of the world’s population.  The need for water is such a human need that it affects every single area of our life, so if we can get people clean drinking water, we can improve their health, we can give them more time to work. Kids are walking miles every day to get water, if we freed them up think of what their future might look like. Women that are doing the majority of the water gathering—what if they didn’t have to walk for miles and miles and hours a day, what might their lives start to look like?  He (Scott) says that we’ve got to change that. Whatever is noble….is God’s.  So think about it!  Invest your time in it.  Invest your energy in it.

I think what Paul wants to do is say to a church that was getting bombarded by a world around them and had the tendency, probably because of that, to say we’re going to get really ingrown and everything outside of us is evil and wrong and bad.  Paul says, oh no!  To that type of a church culture, he says, “WHATEVER!”  Whatever is good is God’s.

Here’s what I want to do.  I want to end our time by going back to the Lord in worship.  I want to end this time by inviting you to do a little bit of “whatevering.”  I want to remind you that when we stand firm in God, we experience the Shalom of God.  That needs to be the foundation.  Then I just want to invite us back to this idea that the world we live, as Dallas Willard says, is God-bathed!  How might we, as the church, become excavators of the good?  How might we start to see it and point it out and think about it and allow it to turn in us in such a way that it starts to change us?  Aaron graciously put together a short little video that’s about whatever. There’s a whole lot of whatever around you!  This is just an example.  But as you watch it will you think about the whatever that’s around you and how you might turn it into worship?  {Video shown}

I don’t know what it is about us as people that makes it far easier to dwell on the negative and to let it dwell in us, than it is to see the noble, the pure, the good, the just, the honorable, the praiseworthy that’s all around us.  Friends, this is our Father’s world; everything in it is His.  As His followers, may we become the people who look and see the good, who dwell on it and think about it and, as Paul says at the very end, practice these things.  Let’s make it a part of our life, because whatever you magnify, you will multiply.  {Stand with me to sing one last song together, reminding ourselves of that great truth.

HAPPY: Whatever Philippians 4:1-92020-10-19T11:39:58-06:00

Happy – Under Construction – Philippians 3:12-21

HAPPY: Under Construction  Philippians 3:12-21

My wife Kelly and I met as backpacking guides for Young Life and we always enjoyed being in the outdoors. Before we had kids!  There’s a lot of things we enjoyed doing before we had kids!  We still love the outdoors, but don’t get out in the outdoors quite as much as we use to.  A number of years ago we climbing a 14er outside of Buena Vista, Mt. Harvard, which is part of the Collegiate Peaks.  It’s an absolutely breathtaking peak.  We started at the car in the early morning and we were walking towards this peak.  As the sun started to come up over the mountain…..we had been going for a few hours and it looked like we were getting to the end of the hike where we would finally stand on the top of this peak and be able to look out at a 360º view of God’s glory and God’s splendor and all those other 14ers you could see.  Just a beautiful part of our state.  As we got up to this ridge and I thought we were up to the peak, we stood on top of it and in front of us stood….the peak!  It was clear that we still had another hour or two to go.  I started to think, “You know, life feels like that sometimes, doesn’t it?” We push and we push and we push and try to get to a certain point, and when we get to that certain point, it feels like we’ve given all that we had and yet there’s still further to go.

It got me thinking—-Is life more about an adventure or is it about an arrival?  Is life about a destination or is it about a journey?  Is life about perfection or is it about progress?  I don’t know about you, but I’ve hit a lot of false summits in my life.  I’ve had times when I’ve thought I’d arrived and it turned out I had further to go.  I can remember graduating from high school feeling like I had the world wrapped around my fingers.  Then I got the shocking realization that there’s still a little distance left to go and I hadn’t quite arrived yet.  As a parent, we had our son Ethan and he wasn’t sleeping at all.  Finally, he started to sleep through the night.  We thought we were good parents; then he started to get teeth and we realized we knew nothing!  We’re back to square one. Some of you just got married and are coming off the honeymoon (phase) and think you’re at the peak.  I hate to break it to you, it’s a false summit!  There’s still a little bit left to learn.  There’s a journey left to go.  Some of you took this journey into retirement, maybe recently, and you thought you were standing at the top of the peak and had arrived and thought life was going to be a little bit easier.  There’s still a little distance left to go.  Life is full of false summits, isn’t it?  It’s full of recognizing that as far as we may have come, there’s still a journey left in front of us.  I can remember taking swimming lessons as a kid and having our swim instructor putting us all up against the wall.  She would stand out in the pool and tell us to swim to her.  With my goggles on, I remember swimming and looking at her feet.  As she was waiting for us, she was scooting farther and farther back.  I finally got to her and said, “That’s not fair! You didn’t stay where you were.”  What I’ve realized (and you may have realized this to) is that the further we go, the more we progress, the further we still have to go!  Anybody been there?  Where you feel that you’ve grown to a certain point and you thought—-maybe it was in your journey with Jesus—-that you had sort of acquired patience and then something came in your life that you had to be patient about and you recognized there’s still a little bit of journey left in front of you.  Maybe you thought anger was in the rearview mirror and then something came into your life for you to be angry about and you thought, “Okay, maybe God still has a little bit of work left in me.”  The question we have to wrestle with this morning is will we ever outgrow that feeling?  Will we ever get to the point, as human beings, where we think NOW! now I’m on the peak, now I’m on the mountaintop, there’s no more ground in front of me and I have gotten to the place where, as a follower of Jesus, I think God is calling me to?  Will we ever get there? NO! No, we won’t!

The Apostle Paul wants to write to us in the midst of recognizing that life is more about a journey than it is about a destination.  That it’s more about an adventure than it is about arriving.  It’s more about progress than it is about perfection.  It’s in THAT moment that the Apostle Paul wants to write to the Philippian church, and us as well.  Will you open your Bibles to Philippians 3?  It’s a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to a church in Philippi.  About twelve years before the writing of this letter, he planted this church.  This was a church that he loved and knew well and fervently wanted to see succeed.  He’s writing to them from a Roman prison, on house arrest in Rome.  Here’s what he says in Philippians 3:12 — Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect…   Quick timeout.  He’s tying back into Philippians 3:1-11.  Last week, we said that Paul proposes this approach to life where we recognize not that we are called to achieve, but that we are accepted by the grace of God because of the work of Jesus.  That’s a new perspective for many people and Paul wanted the church to adopt that.  He went on to say that life isn’t primarily knowing ABOUT Jesus, but life can be summarized in the idea that we are invited as human beings to KNOW Jesus intimately.  He went on to say listen, everything else in my life I consider rubbish/garbage/trash just so that I can know Christ and be found in Him.  So when we get to verse 12, he says that was a great ideal, that was a lofty goal.  Not that I have already obtained this…. That’s a shocker if you know anything about Paul’s life.   The Apostle Paul went on to write roughly 31.8% of the New Testament.  He planted 14 churches.  Like you probably did, he had an encounter with Jesus where he was riding on the back of a donkey, blinded by a light, knocked off of that donkey, blinded for three days, walked into town, met a guy who knew he was coming who told him about Jesus.  It’s similar to your testimony, I’m sure.  He says that he was called up into the “third heaven.”  He had this ecstatic experience with God where he saw eternity and he was absolutely dumbfounded and absolutely shocked and he was drawn in.  This is a guy who gave his entire life for Jesus and at THIS point (in his life), he’s been following Jesus for 30+ years.  And he says:  Not that I have already obtained this….  I’m still on the journey.  It’s not about arriving this side of heaven, it’s about an adventure of walking with Jesus.

In light of all of that, I love Paul’s tenacity!  This recognition that after thirty years of walking with his Savior, of worshiping, of surrendering, of planting churches and building into people and giving his life for ministry, he realizes….I haven’t obtained all this, but…..I press on!  In the Greek it’s one word (diókó) that carries this meaning of fervent chasing after.  This word is used 45 times in the New Testament.  Thirty-two of those times the word is translated into English as ‘persecute.’  So in the negative it’s—I persecute; we chase after fervently.  In the positive it’s—I am going after it with ALL my might.  The word was used to describe hunters. Somebody going after an animal.  I’m not much of a hunter myself.  In fact, I’ve never gone hunting, but I married into a family of hunting.  My father-in-law was a high school principal; he used to zip his camo on over his suit before going to work, in case he saw an animal on the way that deserved to be shot!  You’ve got to always be ready.  That’s the picture Paul paints…..I am just chasing after, I am hunting after, I’m giving my life, to press on, to make it my own.  I don’t know about you, but I’m just going to throw it out there—-if the Apostle Paul, writing 31.8% of the New Testament, planting 14 churches, taking the gospel onto two NEW continents, can write, after 30 years of following Jesus, not that I have already obtained all this…..I’m going to throw it out there….you may never arrive either!  In fact, maybe that’s not what life is all about.  Maybe life is far more about a journey than it is about arriving at a destination.  Here’s what we’re going to circle around this morning—it’s the reality that the life of faith is more about embracing a journey than arriving at a destination.  John MacArthur, the pastor and author, says:  “This passage deals a devastating blow to the false doctrine of perfectionism that still prevails in some denominations and churches today.”   Perfectionism is that belief that you and I, as followers of Jesus, will get to a place where we are morally and spiritually perfect in this life.  The idea that we could “arrive” in this life.

The question I had as I was wrestling with this is, “Paul, why are you able to continue to press on?  Why is that your anthem?  Why is that your song?”  What gives you the ability, in the midst of, after thirty years of following Jesus and doing all these great things and having all these amazing experiences, to go on?  Everything in ME feels like giving up when I get to that false summit and feel like I’ve expended all of my energy.  Paul answers that question:  …I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  THAT’S the invitation from God—it’s to continue to press on, to continue to make progress, to continue to chase after Jesus with everything we have, not hoping that one day we will catch Him, but knowing that EVERY day He holds us. That it’s His action, that it’s Him stepping into humanity, that it’s Him saying I’m going to give my life for you, that’s the foundation and the basis for us to say, “I’m a work in progress.”  Every time I drive to and from church, I go past this area on Broadway and Dry Creek that I think they’ll be doing construction on until Jesus comes back.  They’re building a number of new homes and a few commercial areas.  Every time I go by it I see this sign that says, “DANGER!   CONSTRUCTION AREA    KEEP OUT!”  I thought that as followers of Jesus, as human beings, this is our sign, isn’t it?  Regardless of how far we’ve come, we’re still under construction.  Yet, because of the work of Christ, it doesn’t need to say “Danger!” it can say “Welcome.”  But you’ve gotta recognize that I’m still a work in progress.  I haven’t made it; I haven’t arrived.  Life is more about a journey than it is a destination. Apostle Paul had this sign up too—-I’m still under construction.  God’s still at work within me.  He’s still moving, He’s still changing me, He’s still challenging me, and He’s still growing me.  You’re a work under construction, too.

Paul says listen, Jesus has a hold of me, He’s not afraid that I am still a construction project.  He has promised in the midst of how dark it gets and how many times I fail, Philippians 1:6 says:  ….that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  Your fails are not going to drive Him off; He is NOT afraid of them.  He is WITH you.  What Paul draws out in this passage is we live in this beautiful (what theologians call) ‘now, but not yet.’  Jesus HAS taken hold of us.  He HAS paid the penalty for our sins.  He HAS completed us.  He HAS perfected us and you and I are on a life-long journey of growing into the people He has already made us to be.  Welcome to being human!  You will encounter a number of false summits in your life. Sometimes false summits feel like pain.  Sometimes false summits feel like sorrow.  Sometimes false summits feel like ecstatic joy, followed by a valley.  The question is when we get to those summits, will we continue like the Apostle Paul to press on or will we tap out?  The future belongs to people who say, “I haven’t arrived; I’m on a journey.  My God is good; He’s holding me and I am walking forward with Him.”

The question becomes—how do we live life as this type of a journey?  Here’s how Paul says it:  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind….   The Apostle Paul knows that it’s impossible to press on, or to hunt or chase after Jesus, with everything that we have, if we’re living in the past.  So he says that there’s one thing I want you to do—I want you to forget those things that lie behind part of the DNA of a presser-oner.  We forget what lies behind.  If we’re living with our life focused on what’s behind us, we will never grow into what’s in front of us.  Did you know that the Enemy has a plan for your past?  That God does too?  The Enemy wants you to live in it.  The Enemy’s plan for your past is that it would define you.  That happens in two primary ways.  The pain of the past sinks our anchor into it, so we can’t grow any further.  That may look like an abuse that’s been perpetrated against you.  It may look like things that have been done to you.  Whenever you let your mind relax a little bit, you are immediately back there.  It might also look like some of the bad decisions that you made.  Some of the sins that you committed.  Think about the Apostle Paul—someone who commissioned the killing of Christians.  Someone who held people’s coats as they brutally, savagely murdered people in the streets.  You think of all that the Apostle Paul had to overcome to stand in front of the Philippian church and say, “You guys, if we’re going to chase after Jesus, we’ve got to leave the past in the past.  We cannot let it define us, because that is the Enemy’s intention with your past, that you would live in it.”

Did you know the Good Shepherd has a plan for your past as well?  The Enemy’s plan is that it would define you. Jesus’ plan for your past is that it would refine you.  The Enemy wants you to live in your past; the Good Shepherd wants you to learn from your past.  His idea about your past is that it would inform the person that you are becoming, that you could use the pain and could use the sorrow.  And the comfort that you receive from God could be given to others.  That’s part of His plan for your past.  That the false summits that you’ve hit and the bumps in the road would be used as experiences to pass on wisdom to the coming generations; that’s part of Jesus’ plan for your past.  So I think this idea that if we’re going to press on we need to forget, begs us to ask the question—is there anything that we just keep bringing up in our OWN mind that’s causing us to live in the past, rather than chase Jesus into the future?  We typically think of forgetting as a passive thing.  Oh, I forgot that person’s name.  I forgot that phone number.  The invitation Paul gives is an active forgetting.  It’s whenever that thing pops up in my mind, I’m going to choose to say, “That’s in the past and Jesus is at work in that and Jesus is at work in me and I’m going to press on towards Him.”  The Enemy wants it to define you, Jesus wants it to refine you.

Here’s the way Paul continues.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.  In the Greek, the word ‘straining’ could be summarized as stretching or reaching toward a goal with all of one’s might.  That’s the picture of somebody who presses on.  They’re a strainer; they are straining toward Jesus.  Paul has in mind a picture when he writes this to the church at Philippi.  He has in mind a picture of either the Olympic games or the Isthmian games, where people would compete.  They would compete in order to win a prize.  One of the primary competitions was where they would gather in a long stadium and have a footrace of runners.  They would start at one end and they would give everything they had in running towards the other end.  When the winner crossed the finish line, there would be stairs they would climb and Caesar would put a wreath around their neck and they would be declared the champion.  It’s that picture that Paul has in mind of the Christian life.  Welcome to the tension of living under the banner that Jesus paid it all and the invitation to come and to strive and to chase after Him with all of our might.  For you, is the Christian life more akin to a walk in the park or a race in the Olympics?  Paul has a picture in his mind and what it looks like to recognize that we are called to press on.  He uses the same imagery when he writes to the Corinthian church. Listen to what he says (1 Corinthians 9:24-27):  Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it. {Strive. Go after Jesus.} Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.  Is that how you picture the Christian life?  It’s a disciplined, delightful pursuit of the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

I saw this video this week and maybe this is a little bit what the Christian life looks like.  You’re watching two cross-country runners—3A Cross Country Meet—as they’re getting to the final stretch.  {The two female runners are struggling to stay upright and keep stumbling, falling and getting back up.}  You can see that they’re dehydrated to the core.  Look at how hard they’re pushing their bodies.  This is the picture I have in my mind about a follower of Christ—-that man, we want to chase after you in that type of a way.  What would it look like for you?  A.W. Tozer says it like this:  “Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth.  Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people.  He waits to be wanted.  Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.”  He writes that in his great book, The Pursuit of God.

The question is what is Paul striving after?  He tells us in Philippians 3:14—I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.    He said before:  I consider everything in my life rubbish/garbage/trash compared to knowing Him.  That Jesus isn’t the means to an end, Jesus IS the end.  He goes that’s what I want my life to be about, that’s what I’m pressing on towards — that I might know Him in the deepest core and fiber of my being, that I might be found in Him.

That’s the picture he has in his mind, but he also has a new perspective.  Listen to the way he says this in Philippians 3:15-16 — Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Only let us hold true to what we have attained.   The Bible talks about maturity a lot.  It’s this multi-dimensional, multi-faceted word.  It will describe people who are mature as being people who understand complex doctrine.  The Bible describes mature people as people who live in the way of Jesus—they don’t just have a head knowledge, it actually gets out into their lives.  Here, the Apostle Paul gives us a new twist on maturity.  Implicit in the idea of being mature is the recognition that we’re on a journey.  We haven’t arrived.  Did you know it’s impossible to be mature and to think that God is done with you.  It’s impossible to be mature and to think that you’ve arrived and that God has someway made you perfect this side of heaven.  Paul goes no, no, no, no, no, let all of those who are mature think this way.  What way?  Well, not that I’ve already obtained all this and have been made perfect, but I press on.  Think THAT way.

Listen to what he says {This is awesome!} — …and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  {If you think differently than me, you’re wrong and eventually God’s going to show you!  Apostle Paul. Mic drop.  Out.  Right?  How bold!}  Only let us hold true to what we have attained.  Martin Luther, the great reformer, said: “Farewell to those who want an entirely pure and purified church.  This is plainly wanting no church at all.”  Why?  Because every single one of us has this sign {Under Construction} in front of us.  We’re on a journey.  We haven’t arrived.  God’s good.  God’s holding us, but you and I are under construction.  And we always will be.  If your expectation is that the people around you are to be perfect, may I just invite you to recognize that you hold this sign too and maybe, just maybe, you’re imperfect, so it might do well for you to extend grace towards other people if this is the sign that you hold.  Friends, we’re all on this journey.  {Will you look up at me for a moment?}  It can be frustrating to recognize the further in we go, the further we have to go. Don’t give up!  Press on!  If you’re frustrated with how slow you’re growing, press on!  If you look back and you’re standing on a false summit and you thought you were going to get rid of anger, or going to be more loving, or thought the life of Jesus was going to come out of you more and realize you haven’t attained all of it, haven’t been made perfect, haven’t reached your goal — press on!  Don’t give up!  Keep chasing after the one who says I hold you at every turn.

Paul continues to describe what this journey looks like.  Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.  Once again, Paul’s going to paint a picture.  This word ‘imitating’ would have been clearly in mind for those in a first century Christian context.  Coming out of Judaism they would have understood the rabbi’s words.  A rabbi would teach people to take on their yoke and that meant two things:  It meant that they would understand, in a sort of didactic form, what the rabbi taught about the truth of the world we live in.  But it would also be a rabbi’s invitation to come and watch them live.  To become like them, not just to hear what they say, but to do what they do.  This is the invitation that Paul is inviting followers of Christ to, because we’re all on a journey, we’re all pressing forward and one of the ways you and I chase after Jesus best is when we are surrounded by other people who are pursuing Him fervently.  He invites us to imitate because when we imitate we internalize and we’re transformed.  It’s the beauty, friends, of living in a community of faith with other people.  The Apostle Paul will say to the church at Corinth:  Follow me as I follow Christ. (1 Corin. 1:11).  Giving your life to a local church, being invested in community, isn’t just a good idea, it’s a God-idea.  It’s His invitation to say, “Come and let other people rub off on you, some people who are a little bit farther down the road.  Surround yourself with them.  Imitate them.”  It’s going to mean having a conversation with somebody you respect and going listen, I want to press on, so I need somebody to imitate.  Can we share life together?  I want to know what struggles you’ve had and I want to share some of mine with you.  I want you to teach me what it looks like to navigate the tumultuous waters of fatherhood, or of being a husband, or being a wife, or being a mom.  I need people around me who are going to say, “Here’s what the journey looks like.”

As a parent, I am always humbled by the fact that whether I choose to be imitated or not, I’m being imitated. Sometimes when my kids parrot back to me things that I say, or things that I do, or things that I believe, I go, “Oh, man!  I am certainly under construction still!”  I can remember watching a Bronco game last year when they were going through a difficult stretch.  Peyton Manning through one of those {ducks} that got intercepted. I said, “Man, Peyton Manning is garbage!”  The next day my son and I are at the park throwing the football and playing with some friends.  I drop back in the pocket and say, “Peyton Manning back in the pocket.”  Ethan responds, “Peyton Manning’s garbage!”  I’m going, “Uh, no, NO! No, he’s not!”  I was talking to him on the couch afterwards and said, “Don’t ever say that again.”  Right?!  They’re imitating us.

Paul says it’s really important who you’ve got in your view.  There’s some who are imitating the way of Jesus, but for many……he says in verse 18…..   For many, of who I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  He says that you have a choice who you keep in your view. Are they people who trust in the sufficiency of Jesus for the journey he calls us to walk?  Are they people who recognize that it’s only by faith that we step into righteousness purchased by the death, burial and resurrection of our Savior?  Are they people who recognize that life is a journey that we’re invited to walk with Christ, or do they live as enemies of Christ?  There’s two ways to live as enemies of the cross:  One is to say the heck with it altogether, I’m going to pave my own way and do my own thing.  More dangerous probably in our context, though, as followers of Jesus, people live as enemies of the cross when they say, in any way, shape or form, we’ve got to add, in order for our salvation, to the already finished work of Jesus.  Paul says those aren’t the type of people you want to have in your view.  I think he would say where you stand with the cross determines how you walk with God.

As followers of Jesus who are called to press on, who live in the ‘already, not yet’ nature of what it means to be a child of the King, we imitate, we strive, we forget….then he says this:  But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He does NOT say ONE DAY our citizenship will be that of heaven.  He says RIGHT NOW, if you’re a follower of Jesus, your passport says ‘Heaven’ as your place of origin. That’s the passport you carry.  Paul is NOT suggesting that at some point in your life, after you die, you will go to heaven.  When he calls us ‘citizens of heaven,’ he has in mind that fact that we have dual citizenship.  We have a heavenly citizenship and we also live in Colorado.  As we live in Colorado, we need to live with heaven’s ethics.  We need to live with heaven in mind, with our Savior in mind.  We need to be a colony of heaven in Littleton, Centennial, Denver or wherever you’re from.  We need to pray, “Thy kingdom come and thy will be done on earth, through us, as it is in heaven.” That’s what being a citizen of heaven means.  We’re a colony of the King in the midst of the empire.

Second thing he says is we eagerly await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Don’t you love that picture Paul is painting?  Yes, we live as citizens NOW and we live in the ‘now, but not yet,’ and we’re looking for the day Jesus comes for his bride.  We long for it.  We hope for it.  Did you see when the Cubs won the World Series after a 108 years of their fans waiting?  How much joy there was when they finally held up that trophy?  I just got this picture as I was watching that happen—I want to want Jesus so much that when He comes for His bride, I am absolutely caught up with emotion and worship and praise of the one for whom I’ve been waiting!

He says, finally:  ….who will transform    I love it!  He doesn’t say, “He might transform our bodies…” or “There’s a good chance He’s gonna will transform our bodies.”  Paul is so confident.  It’s as though he’s writing it in a way where it’s such a sure thing it might as well already have happened.  He WILL transform our bodies, and that one day we will have a resurrected body like his.  That one day, those who have passed away in faith, He will breathe life into their dead, dry bones.  They will walk out of the grave and they will have the body that they’d always longed for, knowing we weren’t created for this thing that we call death.  We weren’t created to be temporal beings.  We KNOW that eternity has been placed in our hearts and ONE day, God will make true on the promise that you and I are invited to eternal life through Jesus.  One day, there will be no more crying, no more sorrow, no more tears.  The old order of things will pass away and behold, the new will come. (Rev. 21:2-4)  Paul says if you want to live as somebody who presses on it the midst of knowing you haven’t arrived yet, you have got to realize that we anticipate a day that WILL come!  It WILL happen, he says.  So as people who long to press on, we forget what’s behind, we chase after what’s ahead, we imitate those around us who live in the way of Jesus, and we anticipate the day when the groom comes for his bride, the church.

I love pastoring a church that has a spectrum of ages—of young people and young families, and of people who have walked the journey of faith way, way longer than I’ve walked it.  I call them our ‘saints’ and our ‘sages.’ They’re an encouragement to me because they know that they haven’t arrived yet, and yet they haven’t given up.  They keep pressing forward.  One of those people that does this so well and epitomizes what I want to be when I’m 74 years old is Carolyn Schmitt.  Every other week I spend time with her because I want some of her to rub off on some of me.  She has this wonderful perspective of life being a journey with Jesus.  Aaron sat down with her this week and asked her some questions and I thought his interview and discussion with her might be an encouragement to you.  She’s 74 years old and has been walking with Jesus for 61 years and she’s as passionate about Him as anyone I’ve ever met.

{Video Interview}

My name is Carolyn Schmitt.  Considering I was part of the old South Presbyterian Church from 1953 to 1979, it will be 64 years this coming spring that I will have been part of this congregation one way or the other.  I am 74 years old as of last August.  I had been in churches most of my life as a little girl, learning the stories and singing “This Little Light of Mine” and “Jesus Loves Me.”  It was the summer of my going-on-13th-birthday when I was at a summer camp that I walked forward and started a sixty-one stumbling, bumbling, fall-flat-on-my-face-and-be-picked-up-and-carried, getting to know the Lord journey. I wanted to spend some time alone with the Lord, I had hoped to get away last May and wasn’t able to.  I had hoped a friend could go up with me, but she wasn’t going to be able to, so this was going to be an opportunity the Lord gave to me to spend some alone time with Him.  So I was asking the Lord to tell me the truth about myself, because you grow in certain areas, you know change has happened, but you know that there’s more that needs to happen.  Unless the Lord enables me, I’m not going to be able to do any of the changing of it.  So I said, “God, I need to know the truth.  Father, will you tell me the truth about me?”  Back as clear as a bell came, “Okay, honey, what do you already know?” So, I want to learn to know God because He says He can be known.  Maybe not understood, because He’s far beyond my ability to understand, but He says I can know Him.  And I want to grow into like Him.  He’s so delicious!  I have learned things in the past, but I’m learning them now and I will be continuing to learn as long as He gives me life on this earth.  Then, I am convinced that we will never come to the end of learning to know God.  The only difference will be that I will not be tainted by the potential of sin, so I want to keep on growing while I’m here.  He’s brought me to love Him so.  I just want to know Him better.  He’s the reason, He’s the end result, I guess you could say.   {End of video}

When I’m 74 years old, Lord willing, I hope my anthem is the same.  There’s still more to know.  There’s still a journey that I’m invited on.  As C.S. Lewis writes at the very end of the Narnia Chronicles about this picture of the life of following Jesus:  Further up and further in.  That we just get to keep journeying with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Friends, life is not about an arrival.  God’s going to take care of that.  It’s about the adventure.  It’s not just about arriving at a destination, it’s about a journey with Him.  It’s not about perfection, it’s about progress.  So, as followers of Jesus, I’m inviting us to echo the anthem of the Apostle Paul:  I press on! Jesus, you’re worth it!  I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of me.

For two thousand years, followers of Jesus have been gathering around a table.  They’ve been gathering around a table to remember that the Savior of the world has paid it all.  It’s finished!  And yet, they’re gathering to remind themselves that they are on a journey.  That He holds them every step of the way, that He covers them by His grace and by His mercy, and that therefore, they can continue to press on.  So as you come to the table this morning, would you come as one who is known by the King of kings and the Lord of lords and who invites you “Come deeper!  Come deeper!  Know more of Me, because there’s more to be known.”  If you’re a follower of Christ the table is open to you.  If you’re not a follower of Jesus, I would invite you this morning to give your life to Him.  Confess your sin.  Repent and follow Him.  Surrender all of what you know of yourself to all that you know of Him and, by faith, step into a relationship with Him.  If you do that, you are invited to come and celebrate this King and this Lord.

{Communion begins}

Happy – Under Construction – Philippians 3:12-212023-08-21T12:55:54-06:00

Happy: Stealers and Sealers Philippians 3:1-11

HAPPY: Stealers and Sealers  Philippians 3:1-11

December 20, 1995,  American Airlines Flight 965 sat on the tarmac at the airport in Miami.  A thunderstorm had blown through so the flight was on a two hour delay.  Pilot Nicholas Tafuri, with 13,000 flight hours under his belt, sat at the helm, ready to take off.  The flight was going from Miami to Columbia and it was full of people ready to visit family back in Columbia for the holidays.  It had a few tourists and a few businessmen, but mostly it was families going home for the holidays.  The flight took off and soon was closer to the airport in Columbia where it was going to land.  There’s only one problem with the airport in Columbia—Three years before that flight took off, all the radar towers at this Columbia airport had been taken down by leftist guerrillas who were terrorizing the country.  Instead of having the normal radar system that most airports have these days, they were operating on a radio system that was a bit archaic for the time.  Something happened in the exchange of information between the pilot Nicholas Tafuri and the airport base in Columbia; there was some mis-exchange of information so the airplane that was suppose to be in one valley was actually in a valley over that ran parallel to that valley.  About 28 miles away from the landing strip at the Columbia airport, American Airlines Flight 965 ran smack-dab into the middle of a mountain.  Out of 163 people on board, 159 of them perished on the side of that hill.  Later, people went back to try to reenact what happened in order to prevent it from ever happening again. They said the flight was going well until the approach.   Until the landing.  They’re 28 miles out, which is not a long distance when you’re flying in an airplane.  They were right there, but the approach was what absolutely killed them.

I started to wonder how the approach in our lives may be similar.  Do you know you have an approach to life?  You have a way that you view life…..we could call that an approach.  You have a system of beliefs that you operate within.  You have a narrative that plays in your head 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Did you know that?  It’s the way that we view life, it’s the beliefs that we hold, the dreams that we cherish, the things that we long for, and the things we seek after.  It’s an approach.  It’s a way that we go about living.  For some of us, the approach that we have is yielding great joy.  For others of us, the approach that we have is just ripping life out of our hands.  For some of us, our approach is built around making as much money as we possibly can, hoping that will fulfill us.  For some of us, our approach is protecting a family that we dearly love.  For some of us, our approach to life, the way we see all of life is by being as healthy as we possibly can in hopes that we might live to be 100…..or even older.  What’s your approach to life?  What’s the thing that drives you?  What’s the way that you view the world; if you could summarize it in just one sentence, what would it be?  It may be the most important question you’re asked all week.  Here’s why—because the truth of the matter, friends, is that our approach to life determines our aptitude for joy.

The way that we go about living determines whether or not we walk in the fullness of the joy that God designed us for.  So many people think that the way we experience joy or what determines our quotient or our level of joy in our life is based on the immediate circumstances that we live in, but sociologists/scientists are continuing proving that that is absolutely untrue!  In 1978, they did this famous study where they took two focus groups of people.  One of the groups of people were people that had recently won the lottery.  The other focus group was people that had been in terrible accidents and had come away as either paraplegics or quadriplegics—changed forever.  They asked them a series of questions over the months that followed either their accident or their winning.  You know what they found?  They found that there was (ZERO) NO measurable difference in the happiness of those that had won the lottery and in the happiness of those who had been in a terrible accident and had been left completely different for the rest of their lives.  Is that not fascinating??!!  It turns out that what happens TO you in life has very little bearing on whether or not you’re happy.  What happens to you in life has very little bearing on whether or not you walk in joy.  What happens to you in life IS NOT the determining factor on whether or not you drink in the joy that God intended for you.  Here’s what determines whether or not you taste that joy…..it’s your APPROACH.  It’s the way that you look at life.  It’s the filter that everything comes through.

Here’s what I’d like to propose to you today —- maybe we do some analytical work on what our approach is. There’s a few areas that the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, is going to push on our approach.  He’s going to subtly say, “Hey, the way that you’re going about this is not leading you to the place you want to be and you know that deep down inside.”  With a few minor changes, everything could change.  Philippians 3:1-11, as we continue our study in this wonderful letter that Paul wrote from prison.  From house arrest in Rome, he’s writing about twelve years after planting a church in Philippi and seeing it flourish and seeing it grow.  He’s writing back to his friends.  He’s writing back to people that he had walked alongside of a good deal of time and he wants to encourage them.  Listen to what he says:  Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord.  To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.    Paul is the quintessential preacher — I’m not afraid to repeat myself.  Because you need to get it!  If he had more parchment, he probably would have wrote that.  Parentheses — I have no trouble writing this again because you, church, we need to get it.  Sixteen times in the letter he will use some derivative of this word:  joy, rejoice.  In the very first message we gave on the letter to the Philippians, I proposed to you that there’s really no tangible, negligible difference in the Scriptures between the word joy and the word happiness.  Some of you pushed back on that, which, can I just say as your pastor, I LOVE it.  I invite it anytime because it means you’re listening.  I’ll take it!!!  It means you’re engaged. I’m not going to belabor that point.

I don’t think you can make a case in Scripture for there being a difference between joy and happiness.  Here’s how I will invite you to maybe reimagine whether or not you think that’s true.  As you do a study on the word REJOICE in the Scriptures, here’s what rejoicing looks like — singing, shouting, laughing, gladness.  Turns out, rejoicing looks a lot like happiness.  In fact, we are called to rejoice in temporal circumstances.  Joy is something eternal; happiness is temporal.  It turns out that rejoicing happens on a daily basis simply because God made today (Psalm 118:24).  Rejoicing happens at a response; heaven rejoices at a response of sinners repenting (Luke 15:10).  Rejoicing is a party!  Paul will write: Rejoice in the Lord!  It’s a command.  So, you don’t have to pray about it.  Is it God’s will for you to rejoice?  Yes!!  How do I know that?  The Scriptures are really clear.  It’s a command….therefore, {look up at me a second} it’s a choice!  I love the way that Henri Nouwen, the great author and spiritual director, puts it: “Joy does not simply happen to us.  We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every single day.”  Abraham Lincoln, arguably one of our greatest presidents, said: “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”  It’s true.

Do you know why it’s a command?  Because it’s not natural.  The most natural thing that could happen to you and to me is to allow our joy quotient to be determined by our circumstances, to be determined by everything that happens around us and everything that happens TO us.  But Paul says no, no, no, no, God has better for you than that.  So he says first rejoice and then he gives you the source of this ability to rejoice.   Rejoice…..in the Lord.  God, Yahweh, the King above it all, is the giver of this joy; is the sustainer of that joy; is the culmination of that joy.  If you’re here today and you’re not a follower of Jesus, we’re so glad that you’re here.  The joy that Paul’s talking about, though, is available ONLY in the Lord.  It’s something that’s available as we know Jesus by faith and step into the promises of God.  THAT’S the kind of joy that he’s talking about, THAT’S the kind of happiness that he longs for this church to have.  Can we just admit for a second, if Paul can say this from jail, we might be able to say it in whatever circumstance we’re in?

The last thing he says about it:  He says okay, I don’t mind repeating myself, it’s that important and then he says that this rejoicing is safe for you.  In the Greek it would be this picture of being trustworthy.  It’s reliable. You’re not going to walk out into this life of joy and the bottom’s going to fall out on you, that’s not going to happen.  In the NIV, and I believe the NASB, it says it’s a safeguard for you.  I know some of you are going, “Here’s what’s going on in my life, Paulson, I just got a call from the doctor.  Is this possible for me?  Is this safe for me?  Because it feels like I’m going to get my hopes up and they’re going to be dashed.”  It feels like I’m going to long for things that just aren’t going to happen.  Is joy safe??  Can we have this approach to life and have it sustain us and not let us down?  What Paul would say to the church at Philippi is absolutely!  The joy that you find in the Lord WILL NOT fail you, because it’s built on something that transcends you.  It’s built on something bigger.  More beautiful.  It’s not something that we GET from Him, it’s something that we find IN Him; that He invites every single follower of Jesus to.  THIS, friends, is the approach that he invites us, as his followers, to have. One, joy is a command and it is a choice.  Two, our joy is found distinctly in the Lord.  Three, it is safe to step out on that ledge.

But….   Look out!!!  That’s what follows; it’s the very next word.  I did a ton of study on this section of Scripture and most of the commentaries I looked at completely detach verse one from the rest of this thought.  I’m going, “No way!!”  This “look out” is directly tied back to “rejoice!”  What Paul wants the church at Philippi to be aware of and what I’d love for us to be aware of, in addition to that, is that there are thieves of our joy.  There are joy stealers, you know them well.  Paul knew them well and what he wants to do is he wants to say to the church, in verse 2:  Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.  Look out!  Because there’s a whole lot of people proposing a whole lot of different approaches to life.  Those approaches to life will ultimately fail.  Because, friends, there are joy stealers in life and there are also joy sealers in life.  There are things that have the ability to rip joy, happiness, gladness, delight, pleasure right out of our hands.  There ARE things that allow us to live in the fullness of the way that God designed us to live. There are approaches to life that yield this joy that Paul is talking about.  So for the next few minutes, I want to point out from the Scriptures what approach Paul is inviting the church at Philippi to have that will eventually yield their joy, because the approach you have to life will always determine your aptitude for joy.

Here’s what he says:  Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.  For we are the circumcision who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—-though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also.  If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: {So Paul’s like, “Let me brag a little bit.”}  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.    Paul sort of looks at it in two different categories.  He says, “I had it all together in the family that I was born into and in the way that I lived.  I attacked it on both levels and I stuck the dismount!”  Eighth day, just like the law commanded, I was circumcised.  My parents were good Jews.  Of the tribe of Benjamin — it’s important because it was THE tribe that the very first king of Israel came from.  That king’s name was Saul and Paul’s name before he became Paul was….Saul.  His family is in this lineage of hope; they are in the covenant of God.  He then says he was a Hebrew of Hebrews.  Most scholars believe this meant that his parents did not give in to the pressures of the day to turn towards Hellenization and to adapt Greek culture; they remained Hebrew people in the midst of persecution, difficulty and hardship.  Paul goes listen, the road was set for me.  Not only was the road set for me in the way that I was born, but in the way that I lived.  I was a Pharisee — it was one of the three main sects of Judaism in that day; they were strict keepers of the law.  There was this sort of rumor among the Pharisees that if one of them could keep the law perfectly for a day, the Messiah would come. Ironically, the fact that they couldn’t keep Torah for a day meant that the Messiah came!  As for zeal, a persecutor of the church — just read Acts 8.  You see Paul and his zeal for persecuting the church and taking down, what he viewed at that time, as something that ran completely contrary to the way of Yahweh.  As to righteousness under the law, blameless.  It doesn’t mean he thought he was perfect, it means that he did everything he needed to do based on the sacrificial system to come before God in holiness and righteousness. He goes, “Hey, I have confidence in the flesh, confidence in the flesh, confidence in the flesh.”

Think if Paul at the end of his life were to say the same thing.  Well, I seem to have written about 31.8% of the New Testament; planted 14 churches, at least; spread the gospel to multiple new continents.  If Paul says, “I put no confidence in the flesh” with THAT resumé…..I’m just going to throw it out there….maybe, just maybe, your resumé isn’t as good as his and that the conclusions he comes to may apply to us today.  Here’s the approach that changes in the Apostle Paul’s mind:  He changes from approaching God in confidence in the flesh to by faith in Christ.  We could summarize it really simply like this:  His approach changed by rather than trying to encounter God through his achievement, that he encounters God simply by acceptance.  Not by his work but by the work of Christ.  That changes everything for Paul.  Every single person in this room, I would argue, is operating either in the mode of achievement when it comes to a relationship with God, or the mode of acceptance, but there are only two ways of interacting with Him.  It’s either…..I can do this; I can make a way; I can climb the ladder, or….the ladder’s there because God has climbed down to me in the person and work of Jesus; displayed his love through the cross; invited me, a sinner, back into a right relationship with God; and it is simply by faith, because of grace, that I can have a relationship with Him.  There’s only two ways of looking at this, you guys.

Paul says, “For a long time in my life, I tried to approach God through achieving and it let me down, every single time, so look out!”  Look out, South Fellowship, because this has the ability to sneak in.  We start thinking alright, God, maybe just maybe you’ll be a little bit more pleased or a little bit more happy with me if I read my Bible and say my prayers and serve in children’s ministry, and if I do ALL these things, God, that are great things….that I recommend you do, as long as you realize it purchases you absolutely nothing with the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  We have this thing in us that longs to go back to achievement; it feels safe to us. God, if I can stand before you and tell you well, here’s what I did…..it feels like it’s a safeguard for us.  Here’s how I started to recognize this starting in my life.  There’s three ways I see it in my life.  One is I feel like I start to deserve things from God.  The scary part about that is I only recognize I’m doing that is when He doesn’t come through on his end of the bargain.  God, I’m obeying; God, I’m serving; God, I’m doing and why didn’t you fill-in-the-blank?  Second way I see it in me is that I compare myself to others.  Achievement is based on how well I’m doing compared to……you.  Well, I’ve done a little bit better; I’ve done a little bit more; I’m not as bad as them—-as if THAT’S the barometer to have a relationship with Jesus.  The third thing is if I’m operating in an achievement mode and if you’re operating in an achievement mode, we have zero ability to look honestly at ourselves and say, “I’m blowing it here and I fall short.”  So when we operate in achievement mode, we tend to lie to ourselves, because we have to protect the image that’s going to get us right with God.  If we say we’re a failure and we’ve messed up and we’re broken and we’ve let ourselves and everybody around us down again……if this is our approach, we’re unable to say that because our acceptance by God is based on our achievement.  Here’s the good news of the gospel, friends—-the gospel is NOT how awesome you are, it’s how glorious HE is.  It’s not that you’ve done anything that could deserve Him loving you, it’s that He stepped out of eternity and purchased, for you, redemption in the person and work of Jesus based on absolutely NOTHING that you did.  Paul will write to the church at Ephesus (Eph. 2:13) and say:  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off {you WORKED yourself closer to God. No.} have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  Friends, when you stand before the throne of God that will be our only anthem, that will be our only song—-praise be to the Lamb of God who was slain on my behalf!  Your resumé is not going with you.  Praise the Lord, HIS IS!! That’s the gospel, that’s what we circle around.

If that’s the internal dialogue we have—I’m accepted in the Almighty because of Jesus—it doesn’t just change the way that we approach life, it changes every single relationship that we have.  You do know that the way that you view yourself is what you impose on everybody else.  If you operate based on achievement, your expectation is that everybody else around you operates based on achievement.  If I could just speak into our lives as parents for a second to just press on us of how important it is for us to get this.  If we operate in achievement, at best, we will raise moralistic Pharisees.  At worst, we will raise people who will want absolutely nothing to do with Jesus because they know they can’t live up to the standard.

Here’s how Paul continues in verse 7.  He’s laying out this idea that the approach we take in life determines our aptitude for joy and you’ve all sensed this, I’ve sensed this, when we approach God based on achievement, there is no joy.  But….   Paul’s going to lay out a different way to look at things.  But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.    Just stop there.  He uses this word knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  There’s two primary words for “know” in the Greek New Testament.  One is “oida.”  The other is “ginosko.”  Oida would be the type of knowledge you could get by reading a book.  You could learn and you could mine and you could understand the way things operate.  Ginosko is intimate, first-hand knowledge of.  It’s experiential.  Any guesses on which word Paul uses here?  Ginosko.  It’s the “I have KNOWN Jesus.”  See, when a husband and wife know each other, sometimes they have kids.  It’s that type of knowledge.  It’s that type of intimate exchange.  Paul is saying, “I have KNOWN Christ.”  It’s not ‘I’ve known ABOUT Christ.’  It’s not I’ve studied everything and I’ve learned all the doctrine….which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just different than knowing Him.  You know this.  You know you could read every single book out there on World War II.  You could read about storming the beaches of Normandy on December 7th.  You could understand everything about it and yet….it’s not the same as being there, is it?  The question I think Paul would push back on us is what’s our approach to God?  Are we trying to know about God or are we longing to KNOW Him?  It’s two different approaches.  To know Jesus cognitively; to know Jesus intimately.  You live in a time and place, friends, where there has never been so much information available to you at your fingertips.  I want to affirm that is a great thing.  It’s a wonderful thing.  But there’s a difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus.  I think part of the temptation of our day and time is, because information is so accessible, that we can exchange those two things rather easily and we could substitute knowing about God for knowing God.  When we do that it creates a whole lot of churches full of people who could answer you questions about Bible trivia and they could wreck havoc in Bible story drills, but they do not look anything like Jesus!  Because they haven’t known Him.  I long for us to be the type of people who don’t just know about Him, but who know Him.

One of the realizations Paul comes to is that knowing Jesus is not a means to an end.  He’s coming to this place where he’s going, “I’m sitting in jail; I’m wrestling with why I’m here and yet….and yet….knowing Jesus is more.”  Knowing Jesus isn’t a means to an end so it can rip something out of God’s hand that I really want. Knowing Jesus is the end.  John will write in John 17:3 that knowing Him is salvation.  It’s not something we get from Him, it’s an invitation we get to walk with Him.

I want to answer the question—How does this actually happen?  How do we know Jesus intimately?  How do we get beyond the two dimensions of the page and get into life with God?  Let me give you four things.  {I’m going to fly through these, but I will write a blog page this week for more info.}  One, we embrace obedience fully. John 14:21 would say very clearly to us that if we do not obey Him, we do not know him.  So we jump wholeheartedly into obedience.  Two, we abide with Jesus intentionally.  The command to abide in Me in John 15:4 is not a suggestion, it’s a command.  It takes effort to say, “I’m going to live my life in the rhythms of grace.  I’m going to live my life with an internal dialogue that engages the Spirit that is alive in me.”  It will not happen by accident.  Three, we encounter the Spirit personally.  Did you know that as a follower of Christ the Holy Spirit lives inside of you?  It’s one of the greatest gifts we have.  Jesus even suggested that it was better for him to go away and to disappear so that the Spirit could come and abide in you. (John 16:7)  Think of how huge a statement that is.  Four, we seek encounter with God fervently.  We long to know Him personally.  Paul is not saying in this passage, I want to be a better person.  Paul’s saying, “I’ve met Jesus and that changed everything!”

But whatever gain I had, {This is the third dimension that starts to change in our life; the approach that changes.} I counted as loss….  {It’s going to be this accounting term that’s going to sort of flow out of this passage.  The word ‘count’ simply means ‘to look intently at.’  Paul’s stepping back from his life and going, “I’m looking at things now and I’m looking at them differently.”} ….for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count {look at, consider} them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. He’s putting life on this weighing scale. He’s going there’s a whole bunch of things I built my life on.  There’s a whole lot of achievements I had that I thought were good, that filled me up to a certain extent, then I met Jesus and it changed the way I measured everything.  So the question we need to ask ourselves is how are we measuring life?  How are we measuring success in life?  How are we measuring our significance?  How are we measuring what we long for?  Paul says listen, I’m looking at everything differently.  I think he echoes Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  Paul’s saying, I’m asking myself some really serious questions:  Did the things that I invested time and energy and money and passion into, yield any joy in my life?  He goes no.  Not when I compare it to Christ.  Not when I stepped into relationship with Jesus; everything else pales in comparison to that.  The question is:  Is our approach for a worthless goal, things that will eventually let us down?  Or is it based around a worthy pursuit?

Paul uses this Greek word “skubalon.”   It is the word “rubbish.”  The King James Version translates that word as dung.  It’s garbage.  In an ancient city like Philippi or Rome where Paul was, overcrowding was a huge issue. Cities were packed to the brim.  Their sewer system was quite that developed.  In fact, people would take sewage and put it out into the street and let gravity do its best work.  They would call that sewage that would run downhill, eventually hitting a bay or a pile somewhere, skubalon.  It’s as close as we get to a swear word in the New Testament.  You’re trying to drive in a nail and you hit your thumb, “Skubalon!”  That’s the feel.  Paul’s going listen, I started to evaluate things, I put things on the scale and it just didn’t add up.  Jesus was better than it all.  He goes on to say, “I lost all things.”  Paul looks at his life, decides what’s really valuable, identifies what success is and he cuts anchor with every other contingency plan he had.  If we’re going to be followers of Jesus, we must do the same thing.  It’s not Jesus PLUS whatever else we’re building our life on.  It’s Paul reorienting his life around “this is what’s really important to me and I am all in on that.”

Friends, when we prioritize our time, our money, our relationships….when we prioritize the things that God has brought into our life in a way that honors Him, there’s two things that start to happen.  1) We actually give value to the things that matter.  Imagine that.  When we do this work of really orienting our life around these things, (2) those are the things that we end up holding onto in the storms of life.  They are.  They’re the things we built our life on.  I saw this picture (on the internet) of a woman in Taiwan.  She’s in the middle of a typhoon; so much so that her umbrella is turning inside out.  This picture went crazy around the internet, because while there’s a typhoon that killed a number of people, she has her pork bun securely in her hand!  I thought, that’s a picture of priorities, is it not?  My house might not be there when I get back, but this pork bun’s going down!!

What does it look like to prioritize Jesus? To say, it’s better to be in jail with Jesus than to be out of jail without Him.  Man, you guys, does he have that kind of value in our life?  To quote the great missionary, Jim Elliot: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”   I just want to encourage you, out of this passage, to do some counting in your life.  To take account, to look at, to examine.  Are there things I’m building my life on that are eventually going to let me down?

Here’s how Paul lands the plane.  He says: …in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—-that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Paul says listen, my whole life found its purpose, found its anchor, found its roots in the reality not that I’ve been able to find myself, but that I am found in Him.  He goes I’m not looking outside anymore, I’m just looking at who Jesus is and the fact that He’s invited me to be a child of the Most High God.

Paul uses this phrase “in him” 164 times in his letters in the Scriptures!  By contrast, the word “Christian,” which is how we would primarily define one who follows the way of Jesus, is only used three times!  So Paul is saying my life can be summarized in these two words, “I am ‘in him.'”  And the approach is changed.  Rather than looking deep down inside himself to find something good, he’s looking to Jesus who invites him in.  He says because I’m in Him, I have righteousness.  He has taken our sin and our shame and given us His righteousness there’s a resurrection power that starts to flow from our lives and there is a resurrection reality.  Look at verse 11 again:  That he may become like him in death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  {Look up at me a second, friends.}  If you’re a follower of Jesus, THAT is your destiny.  That one day, God will speak life into your dead bones and you will walk out of the grave.  Paul would say to the church at Colossae (Col. 3:3-4):  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.   I just want to invite you, every day, to think about THAT day.  You are IN HIM.  That changes everything.

So what approach do you have?  Are you interacting with God based on acceptance or based on achievement?  Is your longing to know ABOUT Him or to KNOW Him?  Are the things you’re chasing after worthy of your life?  Is your quest to find out how to help yourself or to say to God, “I’m lost unless I’m found in You?”

We have a ministry here that you may not know of.  After every single message, Sharon M. types up a transcript of what I say on this stand.  {Pray for her!}  We post it along with the messages online, so you can get audio, you can get video and you can read every single message that we’ve given for the last year or so.  One of our members, Fred Kress, after hearing the very first message that we gave in this Philippians series, took the transcript of that and sent it to his brother who’s in jail in Massachusetts.  His brother got that sermon, read through it, and started to pass it around to everybody in this jail.  His brother writes back to him and says, “I need you to send me two copies (of the sermons).  I need one to keep as an original and then the other one I want to send around, because the guys are writing this down.”  A few weeks ago, he (Fred) got a letter back and I just want to read it so that you can see the way that the Scriptures still change lives. This is from a guy in a Massachusetts’ jail.   Dear Fred,  Dave showed me the sermon that you sent to him.  I personally wanted to write you a little letter to say thank you!  Reading about Paul’s jail experience and how he reacted was a complete turn around for me.  A lot of us are depressed and stressing out because of our cases and how our lives may be affected when we get out.  That sermon gave me a 180º change in my outlook of this time.  Now is the perfect time to get close to and start our long journey with Jesus and our Lord.  Thank you very much!

I would say, friends, why wait?  Let’s not require that God put us in a place where we’re so confined to say God, we’re going to respond to your word.

Jesus, thank you for being a God who loves us, who pursues us, who accepts us because of your blood, who changes us.  Lord, our desire today is to live in a way that will honor you.  We want to approach life in such a way that we would drink deeply of the joy that you have for us.  Lord, if there’s something off in our hearts and in our soul today, we just want to lay it down before you.  We want to ask that you would work and that you would move and that you would change us.  For every person in here, Lord, would you put your finger on one way in their heart and their life that you would want them to take and apply your Scriptures, that we may not just be hearers of the Word, but that we may be doers and so walk in the life of Jesus.  It’s in His name that we pray.  Amen.

Happy: Stealers and Sealers Philippians 3:1-112020-08-21T11:34:41-06:00

HAPPY: Working It Out Philippians 2:12-18

HAPPY: Working It Out Philippians 2:12-18

{Note: This is from the second service; video is from the first}

My wife Kelly was teaching at “Sisterhood” this week, which is a new evening Women’s Ministry class on Wednesday nights, so I was alone as dad for dinner. I let Chik-Fil-A do the cooking for me. I love taking the kids there. After the kids were done eating, they went to go play in the play area. I was doing some reading and hanging out until a lady brought Reid to me, holding her hand, and said, “I hate to do this to you, but your son was hitting my son.” I looked at him like seriously? His face is like “What??” He’s three-and-a-half which means he’s totally lost his mind. She says, “When I asked him to stop hitting my son, he said back to me, ‘This is my Chik-Fil-A!'” After someone handed me my Father-of-the-Year award, I brought him into the booth with me and we had a long talk about obedience. Whoever coined the “Terrible Twos” didn’t have a three year old yet. I absolutely love the ‘threes’ as far as the challenge of parenting is concerned. We will say something to him about either eating his dinner or picking up his mess and his two favorite responses to us at this point in time are: 1) You are not my best friend anymore; and 2) My brother is going to be mad at you!

As I hear the funny things toddlers and kids say, I’m catapulted back to my childhood and the perspective I had as a kid and hearing my parents tell me to do things. I can remember—-for some reason it is seared in my mind—-sitting at the dinner table one evening and I had to finish the lima beans on my plate before I was allowed to get up. {Dear God, WHY do we eat those things??!! It’s sidewalk chalk packaged a little bit differently!} I can remember walking home after playing at the park and skateboarding with my friends; we had to come home after the lights came on in the neighborhood and we’re murmuring under our breath, “Why do we have to come home?” “Mom and Dad just want to keep us from having fun.” That was the perspective as a kid. When I sat down to do my homework or practice my clarinet like my parents made me do, I was sitting there wondering, “Why in the world are they making me do this??!”

I think we carry that perspective of obedience into adulthood. Nobody likes to be told what to do. That’s what obedience is; it’s allowing somebody else to give us instruction and us following that instruction. Therefore, obedience gets a pretty bad rap. My guess is that when you hear that word you think, “Oh, man! I’m not going to be able to do some things that I really want to do.” That’s what obedience means to most of us—choosing a different way than the way we would normally choose if we’d have OUR choice, because we’re having to execute somebody else’s plan.

As followers of Christ, one of the things we need to be determined to do is to have a different perspective of obedience. Our God is a good God and our Father is a Good Father and every single command {Hear me on this.} that he gives us is for our good. He instructs us to do things like: Love our enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Rid our hearts of lust, of greed, of bitterness, of anger. To practice the way of forgiveness…not seven times, not seventy-seven times, but seven TIMES seventy-seven times (7 x 77), as if to say, as many times as somebody offends you, you forgive them. We hear those things and if you’re anything like me, I flashback to sitting at the dinner table as a kid going, “I don’t want to eat these lima beans. I don’t want to do this.” God, if you’re saying this is for my good, I have some SERIOUS questions that I want to ask you. {Will you look up at me for just a second?} If we are going to walk in the joy of our Father, we need to walk in the way of our Father. Obedience is not something that we are instructed to begrudgingly do as followers of Christ; it’s an invitation to taste and see that God is good.

And so, Paul writes to the church at Philippi. (Open your Bibles to Philippians 2 with me.) Remember, Paul is writing from jail; somewhere between 60-62 AD. He’s in Rome and this is a letter he’s going to send back to the church at Philippi. It’s a church he planted over a decade earlier; a church that he dearly loves and that he saw God work in in a miraculous way to birth in this little colony of Rome and now there’s this church that’s starting to flourish and starting to grow. If you were here with us last week, we talked about the attitude that we’re invited to have as followers of Christ. To have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus; to walk in the way of humility, to lay our lives down and to love the people around us. Paul continues with that same line of thought when he writes in verse 12: Therefore, my beloved, {Don’t you just love how Paul writes about this church? My beloved. People who I have an affection for.} …as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…

If we could summarize this entire morning, this entire passage, in one word, it would be the word “obey.” That’s what Paul wants to communicate, that’s what Paul wants to challenge this church (with). It’s as if he’s saying, “Church, look up at me! Walk in the way of Jesus. Obey the teachings of Jesus. Your life depends on it.” In the Greek, this word “obey” is two Greek words put together—hupakoe; “hupo” means ‘over’ or ‘to allow to reign over’ and “akouo” means ‘to hear.’ So the invitation is to hear in a way that the words sit over us. Which begs the question—when we read the Scriptures and when we hear the commands of Jesus, do we stand over them or do they stand over us? Is our initial response to God—Yes, I will…..or is it—God, I’ve got a few questions for you and I’m not sure I like that and are you sure this applies in our modern age, that was so archaic?? It’s so easy to read OVER the text, but the instruction is to read UNDER it. To obey, to say YES before we know what God even asks. So we said this last week and I’ll say it again, obedience is an attitude before it’s an action. It’s the YES before we know what God’s asking, because if it’s not it’s really just up to our own mind and our own reasoning to do what we think is right, but that’s not what Paul’s calling them to. He says, “Obey, even though I’m away from you, continue to walk in the way of Jesus.”

Then he says this: Work out your own salvation. {Quick timeout.} How many of you hear that, like me, and go, “Well, I’m not sure exactly what that means.” Salvation is a gift from God, so how are we suppose to “work it out?” And, God, if it’s by grace, where does it come in that I’m suppose to WORK and work it out? Anybody else like me have some of those questions? I want to point out that the Scriptures are very precise; it does not say work FOR your salvation, it says work OUT your salvation. It’s saying you are already saved, you’re already a child of the Most High God and to work out our salvation does not mean that we EARN anything. But it does mean that we put effort into everything. It means that we put effort into learning what it means to be the children of God. It means that we put effort into growing into the people that God has already made us to be. It means that we sincerely try to follow the way of Jesus. {Look up at me for a second.} You cannot obey the teaching of Jesus by putting your life in cruise control. You can’t. Paul wants to push on that a little bit; he wants to press on the church at Philippi—don’t work FOR your salvation, but work FROM your salvation. Friends, you were saved not BY your good works, but you were saved FOR good works, the Scriptures are really clear on that.

I think in our sort of post-Reformation Christianity, we have a lot better understanding of Ephesians 2:8-9 than we do of Ephesians 2:10. Let me unpack what I mean by that. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works… {So here’s the good news of the gospel, friends; God loves you and is for you, not because you’re awesome but because He is. It’s not because you’ve done anything good, it’s because He is gracious and merciful. That’s what that Scripture is saying.} ….so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship {Literally poiéma; we are his song, we are his poem. We are the anthem that plays in the world that He created declaring His goodness.} …created in Christ Jesus FOR good works… So, you’re not saved as a result of good works, but you are saved FOR good works. You’re saved FOR obedience, to step into the invitation that God’s given you, the calling that He’s put in front of you and the great news of that is he has prepared them beforehand…} ….which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. But it takes obedience. It takes saying back to God, “God, my answer is yes before I know even exactly what you’re calling me to.”

I don’t know what you’re looking at; what you’re looking at in your life, what obedience would demand of you this week. It might demand having a difficult conversation with somebody you love. It might mean walking in vulnerability with a spouse that you have grown distant from and cold towards. It might mean having that conversation with a neighbor or friend that you’ve been putting off for years, but every time you’re around them there’s this burning in your soul where God is saying, “Would you speak to them about me?” I don’t know what you’re looking at and I don’t know what God’s calling you to specifically, but I DO know that there’s this feeling inside of me (and it might be inside of you, also) that when we think about obedience, my first thought is “God, do you really want me to do THAT, because that doesn’t seem like life.” My second thought is “God, I don’t have the resources. I can’t do that! Are you kidding me?!” To that, Paul would say this: …for it is GOD who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. So to the person who’s here this morning and goes, “Listen, I know what God’s asking me to do, but I don’t have the resources to do it and I couldn’t possibly step out of the boat like that. There’s no way my life is going to be held together, the relationship is going to make it, if I do what God’s asking me to do.” I want to say as clearly as I can this morning: You do NOT have the power to do it….alone. But, luckily for you, you are NOT alone. And neither am I. Whatever God calls us to do, He will empower us to do. The word ‘work’ in the Greek is the word energeion. We get our English word “energy” from it. Here’s what Paul is saying to the church at Philippi: The life of obedience that God calls you to live is empowered by the energy that God promises to give. He will not hang you out to dry; he will not let you go. He is at work in you, friends, and I don’t know what you’re looking at as you look at your life and as you look at your calling. Maybe it’s God, how do I walk faithfully with you through this health crisis that just doesn’t look like it’s going to end up well. I don’t know exactly what you’re looking at, I only know this: I know that the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead, if you’re a follower of Jesus, lives in you. So many times we disqualify ourselves and we stay on the sidelines, because we’re afraid we don’t have the energy or the power to step into what God’s calling us to do and we forget that the same God that raised Christ Jesus from the dead lives IN us!

So what would it look like, friends, to echo with the Apostle Paul that working out my salvation is not something I do on my own, but I get to struggle with all HIS energy that powerfully works in me? What might it look like to be the type of people who start to say, “We have this deep confidence, not in ourselves……” Obedience isn’t a self-reliance thing, it’s a wholly devoted disposition. So many followers of Christ try to obey and live a life where we work out our salvation based on the pressures that are outside of us. So, I’ve got to do this based on what people will think….. Or—if God asks me to do it, I’ve got to try my best to obey and I’ve gotta start pulling up my bootstraps and I’ve gotta do it. We try to do obedience based on the pressure that’s coming from the outside, rather than the power that’s available that’s on the inside. I just want to say as clearly as I can to you today that the obedient life that God calls you to live is empowered by the energy that He promises to give. But a lot of us never taste it because we never step out; we already disqualify ourselves or think there’s no way we could do it. So we need to have this confidence: God, you are at work. You’re at work in the marriage, God, that seems like it’s not going the right direction. God, you’re at work in the addiction that I don’t feel like I can get rid of and I don’t feel like I can be victorious over. God, you’re at work in me, growing me spiritually. It’s YOUR energy as I step into this calling. What a beautiful partnership, isn’t it?

Here’s the thing—you need to have this conviction that God’s at work. Secondly, your approach is defined in this passage of Scripture—Phil. 2:13. Look at the way Paul says it: We have this confidence that God works in us, but at the end of verse 12 he says: Not only obey as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…. What’s he saying? Is Paul saying that as followers of Jesus every single step we take we should be afraid that God is going to punish us if we get it wrong? If we make the wrong decision, if we make the wrong choice, if we go the wrong direction, is God sort of the divine Father up-in-the-sky waiting to go, “Paulson failed again!!” Is that what he means by “fear and trembling?” I would propose to you that it’s NOT what he means. That what Paul actually means is that on the inside, the deep conviction within our soul is that God is out for my joy and I don’t want to miss it. God, I don’t want to misstep and I don’t want to dishonor you, because I believe that you have so much good out there for me and for your world through me. I think what Paul is saying is the same thing Jim Cymbala, the great pastor, said when he said this: “I despaired at the thought that my life might slip by without seeing God show himself mightily on our behalf.” That’s fear and trembling. That’s God, I don’t want to miss it because I know it’s so good. It’s the author of Hebrews (4:1) saying: Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stand, let us fear….. All throughout the Scriptures we’re commanded, “Do not fear….do not fear….do not fear…” Here — Fear! Fear that God’s rest is available and you miss it. That’s the same type of fear and trembling that the Apostle Paul is calling us to.

So we have this confidence: God, you’re at work. We have this approach: We are taking obedience really, really seriously. Because we believe that our life is on the line and our conviction, God, is that you are asking us….whatever you do….it looks like lima beans, but we know it’s for our good. So let’s talk about lima beans. Verse 14. Paul’s going to unpack three really practical things that he would invite you to live out your citizenship in the gospel. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights (stars) in world. The command is clear, right? There’s two words that he uses. One is grumbling which is “I’m gonna do it, God, but I’m not going to be happy about it.” It’s this murmuring under our breath—I can’t believe they did that; I can’t believe they said that. It’s to my boss—Oh, yeah, absolutely I’ll do that; then you turn around—What a moron! If that guy had any brain whatsoever….. I’ll do it, but oh, man! This is sort of an inner condition of grumbling and then when it comes on the outside, it’s disputing, it’s arguing. Complaining or arguing the NIV says. So Paul pretty simply says, “Alright, follower of Christ, citizen of the gospel, do everything without complaining about anything.” So, I’m just a little bit convicted, because I complained this week. I complained about people, I complained about situations. As I’ve thought about that in my own heart and as I wrestle with this Scripture, here’s my honest, vulnerable…..your broken pastor before you…. Here’s two things my complaining revealed about me: I hate being out of control. I complain when I lose control. When things don’t go my way, when people don’t execute my plan, when God doesn’t seem to get the blueprint that I’ve given him and He seems to have a mind of His own….I complain. When people didn’t get the memo that we don’t need to work on that same road for five years in a row….I complain. It revealed to me that I love being in control and that when I lose control I don’t like it.

Second thing it revealed is that as much as I war against it, I have an attitude of entitlement. Anytime we complain what we reveal is we think we deserve better than what we got. I started to think of how to get out of this rut. How do I get out of the complaining mentality because I am fully convinced that complaining is a zero sum endeavor. You’ve never met somebody that said, “You know, I’m so glad I complained about that situation, because it really helped.” Sometimes we feel better but we make no progress, right? It’s a zero sum endeavor. What if, instead of complaining, we disciplined ourself in the practice of Jesus to do three things? 1) To become aware of the presence of God all around us. 2) To cultivate a life of gratitude. Did you know it’s impossible to complain when you’re thankful? You cannot complain and be grateful at the same time. You are commanded to be thankful. But you can’t complain and be grateful all at the same time. I was on the plane flying from Paraguay to Buenos Aires and I was sitting next to a guy on the plane. They handed out these peanuts to us. Seriously, it’s like peanut DUST now. They handed us this tiny bag of peanuts, there’s probably three in there. The guy next to me shakes the bag and goes, “Seriously?!” I look at my peanuts and I think, “Seriously?!” I look out the window and I think to myself, “We’re flying through the air at 500 miles an hour in a steel tube that somehow is 35-40,000 feet in the air. It’s 200 tons! And we are complaining about the peanuts!” How much of life is like this, you guys? We’re complaining about the peanuts, instead of recognizing all of life is GIFT! So, we become aware of His presence; we become grateful for his provision. Then we say back to the God who spoke it all into existence and who holds it all together by his very breath and by his very word, “God, if you can do all that, I can trust you with this.” That’s how we start to break the cycle: We become aware, we practice gratitude, and we choose faith.

Paul says here’s what happens when THAT happens. There’s two things: 1) You become blameless and innocent children of God. That’s the way people start to view you if you walk as a child of God, not complaining about anything but doing everything in a way that would honor Him. You start to look different. He goes listen, in this world that you live in you are going to be blameless; people are going to look at you and go, man, those followers of Christ are so positive. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard that lately! I found followers of Jesus, especially in light of the political season that we find ourselves in, so captured fear that leads to complaining, rather than faith that leads to saying, “God, how would you want to use us in this situation?” You know what happens when we start to do that? We become blameless and people look at us different. The second thing is you become a child of God without blemish, which is an inner condition. Complaining not only taints the way that people view you, but it starts to be heavy on your soul. He goes, “Oh, you want to live in the freedom that God commanded you? Do everything without complaining about anything.” Just as a quick aside—where’s Paul writing from? Jail. If anybody could have rightfully complained, can we all agree it’s the Apostle Paul? And his command is to do everything without complaining about anything.

In verse 16 he says: {So as you are not complaining….}…hold fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run or labor in vain. There’s this double meaning in this passage. If you have the NIV, it says hold out the word of life. In the Greek it’s this double meaning of “hold TO” the word of life and “hold OUT” the word of life. But the truth of the matter, friends, is that whatever you hold to you’re going to hold out. It’s the most natural thing. You just have to be around people and listen to them and you’ll know what’s important to them, they talk about it. We talk about it. We are human beings. So, here’s Paul’s command: Cling to the Word and carry the message. That’s what obedience looks like. For these early followers of Jesus, you just have to know a few things about them: 1) For them to cling to the word and carry the message meant that they very well would have met Jesus face-to-face because they would have been killed for THIS type of posture in their world. It was flying in the face of a culture that said Caesar is lord and god. When people said we will cling to the word, what they’re saying is we will continue to honor Jesus as our Lord and our Savior, He’s the only name we’re going to bow down to. Which begs the question, as we think about the early followers of Jesus—when they heard Paul write “hold fast to the word of life” what would they have heard? Here’s what we picture: We’re going to hold to the Scriptures, which isn’t a bad thing. Please hear me! I love the Scriptures! I study the Scriptures every day….and as your pastor, you should probably be relieved. But that’s not what Paul’s talking about. The Bible actually defines what the “word of life” is in 1 John 1:1—That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, {What’s he talking about? Jesus} concerning the word of life….

The Bible is beautiful, the Bible is brilliant, the Bible is great, the Bible is how we LEARN about the word of life, but the Bible is NOT, in and of itself, the word of life. The word of life has a name. His name is Jesus and He is who and what we are called to hold on to and to hold out for the world. How we learn about Jesus is through the Scriptures. Absolutely. But for the early followers of Christ, it’s interesting. When they’re talking about Peter and John and the boldness that they have before the opposition, it says: Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they {read the Bible… It doesn’t say that.} …that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13) Part of the way we encounter Jesus is through the Scriptures, but you do know {Will you look up at me a second?} it is possible to view the Bible as an end in and of itself and to miss the one to whom it points! The Pharisees — Jesus interacts with them and says to them, “You search the Scriptures and you know the Scriptures, but the Scriptures point to ME and yet you refuse to come to me and have life.” Friends, I want us to hold to the word of life, his name is Jesus, we encounter him through the Scriptures.

You know what starts to happen when THAT happens in our life? Paul tells us: You, as you hold to and hold out the word of life, start to shine like stars in the world. You start to light up the darkness. You start to pierce into the evil and the things that are wrong with the glory and goodness of Jesus. Did you know this is our history as followers of Christ? That we are part of a people, who when it gets difficult say, “We will not go.” Early in the Roman Empire, which was where Christianity was birthed…..in the first few hundred years there were a number of plagues that started to rise up and they decimated whole cities. Many people would run from the plague, they would run from the sickness because the fear was, “If I get this, I’m going down! There’s no hospital on the corner.” Christians said, “We’re not going anywhere. We’re not afraid of dying, number one. And number two, we feel a calling to care for the sick.” Eusebius, in the early years of Christianity, in the early church, starts to write about followers of Christ and he says this: “The Christian rise in the Roman Empire came not by the sword, but by the preaching of the gospel joined with acts of compassion. He (Eusebius) states that because of their compassion in the midst of the plagues, the Christians’ ‘deeds were on everyone’s lips, and they glorified the God of the Christians. Such actions convinced them that the followers of Jesus were pious and truly reverent to God.'” That’s our history shining like stars.

You know the other thing that starts to happen? As you hold to and hold out the word of life, Paul says: So that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. I wrestled with this all throughout this letter. Paul has this excitement and this pride of seeing the church that he’s planted flourish, seeing the people that he’s invested in grow, seeing people throw off the shackles of sin and walk in the freedom and joy of Jesus. Not only do we shine like stars, but we start to participate with God in His desire to see people walk in freedom. I would describe this as the mentoring ministry that we have here. To see other people succeed. Do you know one of the saddest things about that ministry is? One, I love it, but number two, we always have more people who want to be mentored than we have mentors to mentor people. That’s a bummer on two levels: 1) Because there’s people going, “I would love somebody to pour into my life.” 2) Because there’s somebody who God is saying to, “I want you to step off of the sidelines and into the game,” and they’re saying, “No, thanks.” They miss out on what Paul would say is one of the greatest joys in his life, seeing other people grow. So much of the time we say no because we feel like it has to be our power and we have to have all the questions answered and we have to have it all together, but here’s what I want to say to you, “If there’s something in front of you right now that God is calling you to do, the life of obedience is empowered by God’s promise to energize you to do what He’s called you to do.” Step into it.

What does it look like to hold on to and hold out the word of life? Let me give you a picture: A lot of times we think of following Jesus as being the light and having a flashlight that we get to shine on when either when we’re doing something wrong or maybe it lights up our path as we go. Or we get to shine it in the world and go, “Hey, look at the way everybody else is living.” What if we started to view being a follower of Jesus not as having a flashlight, but as becoming a lantern? We ARE the light. The light is inside of us and wherever we go, whether it’s in our families, or in our work, or in our neighborhoods, there the light goes also. We don’t just shine it out there, it shines from within here as we hold to and hold out the word of life. You’re a lantern!

Verse 17: Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, {Which is an allusion to an Old Testament action a priest would do when they made a burnt offering to God. They would also pour out wine next to it. In Paul’s day, it was this picture of laying your whole life out there.} I am glad and rejoice with you all. {You could also read it as I am happy and rejoice with you all.} Likewise you also should be glad (happy) and rejoice with me. It’s this pouring of oneself out that actually starts to remind us what life is all about. It’s not being filled up, but it’s being poured out.

So we ask God today, “God, what does obedience look like?” and it looks like something specific in your life, certainly, but in the most general way, “What does obedience look like for all of us who follow the way of Jesus?” It looks like doing everything without complaining about anything. It looks like clinging to and carrying the message of Jesus wherever we go. It looks like saying back to God, “God, I want my life to be used for your glory,” because that’s how you pour your life out. If you go back and read verse 16, Paul says that he’s keeping in mind the day of Christ. The way we live in this way is keeping in mind the day. The day that we’ll stand before the Lord and that all of our lives will be laid bare. We’ll get to see the impact that God used us to make in his kingdom that will last forever. It’s remembering every day to remember THE day. Secondly, Paul says, “I don’t want to run the race in vain or empty. I don’t want to run an empty race. I don’t want to work for empty things.” So it’s every day remembering THE day and it’s reminding ourselves that there’s only one thing that’s going to last—it’s people! It’s God’s kingdom and what God is up to in the world and it’s leveraging the things that we have to make the most of the things that matter. So Paul says, “I want to pour my life out. I don’t want to waste out. I want to invest it in the people around me for the glory of His name.”

I don’t know about you, but that sounds sort of intimidating to me. Don’t complain. Hold to and hold out the word of Jesus. Pour yourself out. Here’s the good news, friends: His divine power has granted to us ALL things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. (2 Peter 1:3) He has given you everything you need to step into the calling that he’s put at your feet. The life of obedience God calls you to live is empowered by the energy he promises to give. Friends, you and I, we can work it out because He is at work within! I don’t know what’s in front of you, but I do know the God that’s inside of you. Let’s pray.

Before you go running out of here and move on to whatever’s next in your day, I want to give you a moment between you and the Lord. What does obedience look like in your life this week? Is it having a conversation you’ve been putting off? Is it allowing yourself to be vulnerable with people that you love and inviting them in a little bit more? Is there a need that God has placed on your heart, a passion that he’s put in your soul that there’s a lot of excuses as to why you can’t do but you just know it’s what God’s calling you to? Is there a question mark from the doctor and the most natural thing in you is to say, “God, I don’t know if I can live this life of faith and walk with you in the midst of this.” Maybe it’s the neighbor you’ve been interacting with for years. Jesus, speak to us, we pray. We believe that you designed us, Father, to walk in abundance and fullness of life. In You is the path of life, in You is fullness of joy, and in You are pleasures forevermore, so Lord, would you call us deeper into a life of obedience. May we work it out. May we find out what it means to be a follower of Jesus, in this day, in this time, in the context you’ve placed us in; would we do that with a fear and trembling. Lord, we don’t want to miss it! We despair at the thought that our lives would pass by without seeing You do something mightily on our behalf. Lord, here we are and our anthem back to you is “Yes!” Where do You want us to go? What do You want us to do? We want to obey. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

HAPPY: Working It Out Philippians 2:12-182019-02-18T00:38:21-07:00

HAPPY: Attitude Adjustment Philippians 2:1-11

HAPPY: Attitude Adjustment  Philippians 2:1-11

I was heading back, a few weeks ago, from a week of teaching in Paraguay with OM.  I had had a great week and was heading to the airport.  I got to the airport in Paraguay, which isn’t a huge airport.  My broken Spanish met the desk attendant’s broken English and what I thought he said to me was, “When you get to Buenos Aires, you’re going to be flying out of a different airport than you fly into.”  This was news to me, because it was not on my itinerary that I was suppose to change airports.  Evidently, Buenos Aires has two airports — one of them is for more local and commercial flights, the other one is for international flights.  He told me it was about an hour away from one airport to the other.  I looked at him and said, “Am I going to make it?”  He paused and that made me feel that he didn’t think I would and then he said, “Oh, yeah, you’re going to make it.”  I asked if my flight was on time and he said it absolutely was.  I text my wife — Good news: flight’s on time.  Bad news: I might not make said flight.  I get on the plane in Paraguay, fly to Buenos Aires; I run through customs, broken Spanish, I get in a cab that I think is going to take me to the right airport; pay a lot of money and he gets me there.  I run in there about 8:30 and at 8:40 I’m standing in front of the attendant in front of their desk and I said, “Am I going to make my flight?”  She looks at me and said, “Oh yeah, you’re going to make your flight.”  I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “It’s delayed nine hours!!”

Have you ever had a day that just didn’t go the way you thought it would?!?  {Beautiful Buenos Aires — I got to spend a whole extra night there!}  If you have kids, you know that feeling, right?  If you have this vision of the way that the day’s going to go, and you get the kids all ready…..   If you’re anything like me, I’d get them ready and the youngest one would be walking out of the door and…”what is that awful smell!”   And the day is off to a bad start.  OR…it’s hard to get anywhere in Denver on time, isn’t it?  It’s so crowded.  Those little things have the ability to change the way our entire day goes, don’t they?  Those little things that throw us off and change our attitude, they change our mindset.  They become this lens that we see the entire day through.  I don’t know about you, but it’s easy for me to have something throw me off and to have a bad attitude for the rest of the day.  Then I read something like this from Nik Vujicic (he was born without arms and legs): “We may have absolutely no control over what happens to us, but we can control how we respond.  If we choose the right attitude, we can rise above whatever challenges we face.”  Okay, so in a moment of absolute transparency, I feel a little bit convicted.  Anybody with me?  Yeah, a delay in a flight; a diaper blowout; a delay because of traffic, or anything else that’s come about in our day, in your day, in mine is nothing compared to what he goes through on a daily basis.  And yet, some way he can find the resources deep down inside of him to say listen, the thing that’s going to shape my day is the attitude that I’m going to choose to have.

{Look up at me for a moment.}  You are 100% in charge of your attitude.  You can CHOOSE to have a better, different outlook and attitude on life and it WILL shape the life that you live.  They’ve been doing all these studies lately and what they’re finding is that there’s no greater determining factor on the quality of life that you have than you’re attitude.  If you’ve traveled abroad at all and you’ve seen the people that have far less than we do and yet they have this happiness in them, this joy in them, this attitude in them that’s just unbelievable, you know that’s true — that your attitude shapes the quality of life that you have.  They’ve also determined that your relationships, by and large, whether they’re quality relationships and healthy relationships, are NOT determined by how people respond to you, but by your attitude and the way you respond to them.  They’ve determined that the main determining factor if you’re successful in your work place is the attitude that you bring to it.  I don’t know about you, but I can come up with a number of excuses about why I’m right in having a bad attitude! Anyone with me?  Just turn on the news; hey, just watch the debate tonight!!

Listen to the way the great pastor and author Chuck Swindoll put it: “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.  Attitude, to me, is more important than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes.  It is more important than what people think or say or do.  It is more important than appearance, giftedness or scale.  It will make or break a company….a church….a home {…a marriage}. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past.  We cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way.  We cannot change the inevitable.  The only thing we can do is play the one string we have and that is our attitude.  I am convinced that life is 10 percent of what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it, and so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.”   Have you ever tried to change a bad attitude though?  Have you ever recognized in yourself, “Man, I have a bad attitude.”  I’m what I call a grumpy napper.  If I take a nap (it can be a great nap), I’m waking up grumpy.  I recognize this in myself so I try not to nap, but….    When you try to change a bad attitude, don’t you find yourself just getting a little bit more frustrated?  Man, my attitude’s bad and it’s getting worse!!!  And I’m the problem!!  What do we do?  Are we suppose to self-talk?  Are we suppose to try to encourage ourself?  What should be do when we have a bad attitude….because it shapes our life?!  {That’s a great question, I’m glad you asked that.}

Turn with me to Philippians 2:1-2.  The entire first eleven verses of this chapter are going to be focused on one primary thing:  Our mindset, our attitude.  Our attitude impacts everything about it.  The first thing Paul is going to do is answer that question:  What do we do when we have a bad attitude?  What do we do when life doesn’t go the way that we want it to?  How do we respond in a way that will allow us to have a mind set that influences the way that we live that’s for God’s glory, our joy and the good of His world?  Here’s what he says: So if there is any encouragement in Christ {The word “if” in the Greek carries with it, not a hypothetical but “because” or “in light of the fact” that there is encouragement.  He’s assuming that it’s true.} …any comfort from love, and participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  The NIV uses the word attitude….have this attitude amongst yourselves.  It’s interesting that before he ever addresses their attitude, he addresses the reason that they’re empowered to have a different type of attitude, an attitude that is not shaped by just their temporal circumstances, but rather by their eternal reality.  Here’s what he wants to say: Okay, you guys, because of the fact that you’re encouraged in Christ, because of the fact that you have comfort from his love….follower of Jesus, do you recognize that the love of God is over you like a tidal wave?  That you are enveloped into it?  That the King of kings and the Lord of lords—his heart is good towards you.  Do you recognize that?  If you’ve participated in his Spirit or sense his Spirit lives inside of you….it says the Holy Spirit pours out the love of God into our hearts…..if you’ve participated in that, His affection, literally from the very bowels of His being, is good over you.  Any sympathy—he’s going hey, you can try to change your attitude by trying to change your attitude or you could change your attitude by reflecting on your reality.  The truth of the matter is, friends, we are people who have experienced the love of God in an amazing way.  We are people who have been encouraged by God, who have been loved by God, who have the affection of a good Father over our lives, the sympathy of our God for us and we’ve been invited to participate in the Spirit.  For Paul that’s earth-shattering, crazy, mind blowing type of reality.  Isn’t so much of what you hear of Christianity “try harder, do more?”  With Paul in his writing from jail to the church of Philippi, it’s “remember what God has done for you!” So many people I meet are trying to live in the way of God without experiencing the heart of God.  We run up against a brick wall and we wonder why and we default to “I’ve gotta have a better attitude.  The Bible tells me I should have a better attitude.”  The Bible also tells you how.  Remind yourself that you are loved.  Find encouragement in the heart of God for you and towards you.  The Spirit of God lives in you, friend.  He has affection for you, he’s good towards you.  This is the first building block Paul wants to lay down.

Listen to the way he goes on and expands from there.  So in light of this, after you’ve experienced all this….just a quick aside, in modernity we’ve often reflected poorly on experience.  You hear followers of Christ say, “Well, it’s not all about experience.”  To that I would say yes and amen.  That being a follower of Christ is always, always, always about more than an experience, but look up at me, it’s never less.  You’ve been encouraged, you’ve been loved.  His Spirit lives inside of you.  THAT’S experiential.  All of these words in these first two verses are (experience).  In light of that: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, {Is that not a great line?  None of us get to cop out and say well, I just can’t do that.  Paul responds and goes, “No! You’re in Christ, you can! By His Spirit, you can, as you recognize his love, you can.}   …who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbles himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Here’s what Paul does—-Paul lays out the reality that you are found in the love of God, that you experience his Spirit and that you’re encouraged by Him.  Then he says, in light of that reality, you can have a mind changing shift.  In verse 5 he says: Have this mind or this attitude among you.  That experience and that reality leads to a different type of attitude.  Throughout this passage he’s going to say in light of that new attitude, live in this way.  Let that reflect your actions.  How much of Christianity have you heard that just focuses on this?  (Holds up box labeled ‘Actions.’)  Try real hard not to do that.  There’s a whole list of things you should do, things you shouldn’t do.  Everything we do flows from who we are.  The Scriptures express that.  You can’t live in the way of the Father unless you have the heart of the Father.  Here’s what Paul would say to the church at Philippi and here’s what I want to say to you today:  What happens in you will always (every single time) determine what happens through you.  What happens in your heart, what happens in your mind determines what happens with your hands. It always does.

Paul, in the book of Romans, after eleven chapters of theology and laying out the fact that we are sinful people in need of the grace of God and that he has, by his grace, provided that, says:  Therefore…..in view of God’s mercy {As if to say, “Read the first eleven chapters again. Look at his mercy towards you.  Experience it!  Taste it.} …offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. (Romans 12:1 NIV)   He wants to remind us that what happens IN you is always going to determine what happens THROUGH you.  Every. Single. Time.   With the rest of our time together, I want to ask the question, “Where does the power lie?  Whose power is it?  How do we live with an attitude that reflects the heart of our Father?”  How do we live with an attitude….because attitude shapes our day, it shapes our weeks, it shapes our years, it shapes our lives.  How do we live with an attitude that’s reflected, as Paul says, as the same as that of Christ Jesus?  Sort of a high bar, yes?  That’s quite the height to shoot for.  But I want to remind ourselves that the attitude that we’re called to live leads to the actions that we’re invited to have.  But underneath it all the question is are you experiencing the good heart of your Father?

Jump back in to verses 3 and 4 and we’re going to look at this first shift in attitude that Paul’s talking about.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.   This idea of “Do nothing out of selfish ambition,” could also be viewed as “Do nothing with prideful motives.”  Trying to lift yourself up.  The great reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin, both said that at the heart of every sin is pride.  One thing lies underneath it all — pride!  A self-exultation.  We all know people who have, at their core, selfish ambition. They’re dangerous people to be around, are they not?  We’ve seen selfish ambition ruin families.  We’ve seen selfish ambition ruin companies—-you remember Enron and selfish ambition and the way that drove them to the edge.  We’ve seen selfish ambition play a part in our political atmosphere.  We’ve seen selfish ambition determine the way we look at the refugee crisis in our world.  There isn’t anything we see in our world that has not been touched by this idea of “I’ve gotta get mine.”  Here’s the reason that selfish ambition is so dangerous in you and in me—-we will run over whoever is in our path to get what we want, if this is our M.O.

So in contrast, Paul says no, that’s not the attitude that you’re called to have.  The attitude that you are called to have is one of humility.  It’s this first attitude shift or attitude change.  It’s reflective of what the great pastor John R.W. Stott said: “Pride is your greatest enemy; humility is your greatest friend.”   So in light of the experience you’ve had with your good Father, the attitude that you’re called to embrace is one of humility, not of haughtiness, of pride, of arrogance.  {Attitude: Humble, not haughty.}  Humble or humility is two Greek words put together.  The first word is ‘lowly’ and the second word is ‘mind.’  To be lowly of mind.  It’s bringing these two ideas together.

I went to a Global Leadership Summit this year, put on by Willow Creek.  One of the speakers there was talking about the three characteristics that they always look for in employees.  One of those characteristics is humility. Do you know why that’s fascinating?  Before the Scriptures came around and when Paul was writing to the church at Philippi, in this day and this time, humility was viewed as a very negative thing.  They would have looked at somebody who was humble and said, “What a loser!  That guy is so humble.”  So if we have a positive view of humility now, we have the Scriptures to thank for it.  It’s a distinctly and uniquely Christian characteristic, in its positive form.  Here’s the most shocking part of it all—it’s not that we are called to be humble or lowly of mind, it’s that God himself is reflective of this characteristic.  That’s who He is at his very core.  Your God is a humble God.  That’s crazy!  Jesus says this when he’s speaking to the crowds, inviting them to come and follow him:  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly (or humble) in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matt. 11:29)  I think Andrew Murray, the great author, in his book Humility, captures it well: “Christ is the humility of God embodied in human nature; the Eternal Love humbling itself, clothing itself in the garb of meekness and gentleness, to win and serve and save us.”

Let’s chat for just a moment.  Humility is probably the slipperiest of all graces.  Just when you think you have it, you’ve lost it!  Right?  Have you ever met anybody that was like, “Hey, my name’s Ryan Paulson.  I am the most humble person you are ever going to meet.”  Right when you think you’ve nailed it, “Man, I am really humble”…..you’ve lost it, right?  The question becomes if we’re called to be humble, how in the world do we go about this?  Christian humility is simply a reflection of recognizing who we are in light of who God is.  All you need to do to be humble is go outside at night, look up at the sky, and remember that you made NONE of it!! And the God who did make it is holding it all together and you are included in that ‘all.’  And if he took his hand off it for a second, you would spin out of control!  If that doesn’t humble you, I don’t know what will.

Paul goes on.  He goes listen, we’re called to be humble and we do that by reflecting on who we really are, but listen to the next thing he says.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.   Anyone want to go, “Yeah, nailed that one?”  Me neither.  The NIV would say “consider others.”  It’s impossible to be others-focused if you are self-obsessed.  You know this if you’ve ever walked in that prison of being self-obsessed, and you know that if you’re around other people who are self-obsessed.  You don’t exist, because they’re so focused on them.  Here’s the invitation: Have an attitude of humility that reflects itself in an action of being considerate of others.  To be considerate simply means to focus on someone or to give them their due attention.  Let me push into that for a second, because I think there’s something here for us, guys.  Considering others—I think there’s three aspects to that.  Number one means that we actually see the people around us.  It means that we see their pain.  It means we see their joys. To be considerate means that we are aware of other people, people other than ourselves.  The human heart is often tied up in pride.  It’s only Jesus who releases that, without Jesus we are a radio station in our mind that’s ‘All Ryan, All the Time.’  But the invitation of the Scriptures is consider others.  See other people, number one.

Secondly, hear other people.  Hear their story.  Hear their pain.  One of the least appreciated commodities in our day and our time is undivided attention.  When was the last time that you went out to dinner with somebody you cared about and didn’t put your phone right in between the two of you?  What if we actually did this, you guys?  To live it out.  Number three, what if we sought to understand before we demanded to be understood?  Here’s the thing:  It would change your relationships, it would change your marriage, it would change your home, it might change your neighborhood; the ripple affects of that would be unbelievable, but it only happens if you know you are loved by the King.  If He’s for me, I can be for you.

Here’s how Paul continues in verse 6, after saying that we have this mind of Christ, this attitude of Christ:  Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  Just a little bit of theology we need to unpack here because this is a dense verse.  “Form” literally means to have all of the characteristics, to embody or to reflect in reality.  Paul is NOT saying that Jesus was a human and became God.  Paul is saying that Jesus has always been God and that he clothed himself in humanity; those are two very different things.  Paul is unequivocally and crystal-clearly declaring, in this passage, that Jesus always has been God, always will be God and his name will be praised throughout all the ages.  That’s what he’s saying.  (He) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.  Literally this word in the Greek means “to chase after something, to try to seize something or to wield it for your own power.”  So, put it together — Jesus was God, but he did not consider equality with God a thing that he needed to chase after, a thing that he needed to grab for, a thing that he needed to reach out for and take.  Why?  Because he already had it.  It was his from the beginning of time.

But he EMPTIED himself…..of all.  (He) emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.    “Emptied” in the Greek is the word “kenosis,” it literally means “to empty.”  {There you go!} {Will you look up at me for a second.}  In emptying himself, Jesus did not lose what it means to be God; He revealed what God is like!  God has it all and yet is the greatest giver, the most generous being that you could ever possibly imagine.  When Jesus clothes himself in humanity, he empties himself but he declares to you and to me what God is like.  He doesn’t cease to be God; he REVEALS that God is the ultimate giver, the emptier, not one to be exalted and to chase after and grasp after that, but one that loves to give.  Here’s the attitude we’re called to have if we’re going to follow him:  Pouring ourselves out, not filling ourselves up or not lifting ourselves up.  That’s not what being a follower of Christ is about.  Can we all agree that if we don’t know that we’re loved, if we haven’t participated in the Spirit, if we aren’t aware of the affection of our Father towards us, if the experience isn’t there, this is impossible.  Yes?  It is.  It’s absolutely impossible, because if we feel like we need to define ourself and defend ourself, we will never be willing to give ourself.  Equality with God (or revealing God) finds its truest expression in Jesus pouring himself out.  Friends, this is what God is like.

I don’t know about you, but I find myself wrestling for this one; this does not come natural and it does not come easy.  Maybe the litmus test for us is:  Am I willing to, at times, admit that I don’t add up.  Am I willing to admit in a world that’s filled with competition and wanting to get one step up on everybody else and if I can get one step up on them and put them down then I feel a little bit better about myself.  If I’m living that way, I cannot be living in the way of Jesus.  The other thing I’d say is we cannot live pouring ourselves out, not lifting or filling ourselves up, if we can’t celebrate everybody’s successes.  Have you ever been around somebody that cannot admit that somebody else did well?  Have you ever worked with somebody like that, been in an office with somebody like that?  Unless their name’s attached to it, it’s a terrible idea.  Or—-my kids have started to like watching reruns of America’s Funniest Home Videos.  This whole show is built around laughing at other people’s pain!  But often do we live in that same way?  We want to lift ourself up; the way of Jesus is to pour ourselves out.  Here’s the way it’s epitomized:  ….but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant. 

The attitude is I am pouring myself out, not lifting myself up; the action is I am looking for ways to serve other people.  This is the way of Jesus.  In Mark 10:45 it says: For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve… {We’ve been around church for so long that that probably doesn’t shock us anymore.  That should shock us!!  That God himself is saying, “I’ll take up the towel; I’ll wash the feet. I’m not here that you’re going to serve me, I’m here to serve you.”   CRAZY!}  ….and to give his life as a ransom for many.

A few hundred years ago, there were a few men and they were digging out this huge stump from the ground. They couldn’t move it.  A man came by on a horse and asked the corporal, who was standing there next to his soldiers, what they were doing.  He told the man they were trying to dig out this big stump from the ground. The guy on the horse asked the corporal, “Why aren’t you helping?”  The corporal looks at him and says, “I’m the corporal.  I give the orders.”  At that point, George Washington got off of his horse, took up a shovel and started to dig it out with these soldiers.  They got it moving.  He got back on his horse and said to the corporal, “If you ever need any help, just ask for the commander-in-chief.  I’d be happy to come help.”

That’s the way we’re suppose to live, not just having responsibility or privilege that we use for ourself.  Here’s the big question, you guys:  Do you leverage what you have to help the people you have influence over?  THAT’S the way of Jesus.  Not using it to power over them and to domineer, but using it to build them up and to serve them.  One of the things I absolutely LOVE about this church is you GET this!!  This week, there will be, roughly, fifty people who are helping to open this space so that five homeless families can come and can live here this week.  I love that we have a church that does that.  Every single week, forty to fifty of you work at our food bank; you make runs to pick up food, you help package food together, you help distribute it on Saturday morning so that 70-100 people every single week can have food.  That’s awesome!!  That reflects the heart of Jesus, you guys.  There’s somewhere between 60-70 who serve on a given Sunday morning to make sure that our worship services happen.  Did you know that you would not be able to see me or hear me if people did not get here at 6 A.M. to get this space ready?  To make sure all the lights come on (which sometimes they do).  There are over fifty of you that are actively participating in Children’s Ministry.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you for partnering with my wife and I to make disciples out of our three little rug rats!!  I love you!!  I just want to say thank you, because I haven’t been around a lot of churches that reflect THIS heart of Jesus in such a beautiful way.  And I love being a part of that.

Here’s how Paul ends this section:  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.   I think one phrase could epitomize and embody the way that Jesus lived every single day on this earth.  One phrase: Not my will, but yours be done!  He knows that he’s the son of God and deeply loved.  His attitude is: I don’t need to control everything that happens around me; I just simply need to be obedient to the God who has called me.  I’ll admit to you guys, I am not great at that.  I love to control things.  I love to be in charge.  The invitation from the Scriptures is not to control, but to be obedient.  If there is a footnote at the end of your “Jesus, I will follow you….(1) See footnote…..Only if…..” it’s not true obedience.  I want to say this as clearly as I can, obedience is an attitude before it’s ever an action. It’s saying back to the God who created you, “God, you have my life; I lay it down and you can use it for whatever you want for the glory of your name.”  God, I’m willing to share my faith with the people that you bring me in contact with.  God, I’m willing to stand up for the things that are right in a workplace where I know I’m going to get lambasted for it.  God, I want to follow you with my whole heart and everything that I am.  No footnote.  No qualifiers; you’ve got me.  Obedience is an attitude before it ever an action.

When it turns into an action, here’s what it looks like.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death….  It’s a self-giving, sacrificial love.  The attitude is God, I’m willing to follow and whenever somebody says, “God, I’m willing to follow,” God says, “Well then, it’s time to get loving.” Because that’s what He looks like, that’s who God is.  It’s the way of Jesus; He doesn’t kill him enemies, he dies for them!  This is sacrificial love.  It’s the way of the Lamb…that Jesus is the Risen Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.  He wins victory by giving himself away.  His invitation is pickup your cross, come and follow me.

In the quietness of your heart {in the bulletin outline you have right now}, I just want to ask, “What does love demand of you this week?  What does love look like?  Who are the people around you that God has brought into your path that you can be recklessly, ruthlessly generous to?  Maybe it looks like being vulnerable and saying, “Listen, this is what’s really going on in my heart and my life.”  Maybe it looks like just noticing people and valuing them.  But if our attitude is Jesus, we want to be obedient, He says okay, if you want to be obedient, then live in the way of love.  Friends, we always, always……what goes on inside of us always determines what happens through us.  It’s why hurt people hurt people.  But it’s also why loved people are freed to love people.

This passage ends with this great hymn or song that they would gather around in the first century to remind themselves of who Jesus was.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Friends, there will come a day when every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord.  There is not one square inch around his globe where Jesus Christ does not cry out “Mine!”  It’s all His!  Because of the sacrifice that he made, the love that he displayed and the Spirit that he’s put inside of us, you and I don’t have to wait for eternity someday to start worshiping and lifting high the name that stands above every single name.  Your day is TODAY!!!  I just invite you to step into it.  You have been loved by the King, therefore you can have the mind of Christ and when you have the mind of Christ, you can live in the way of Jesus.  Friends, the world needs more followers of Jesus who aren’t trying really hard to get it right, but who are reminding themselves that they are deeply loved and then living out of that.  Friends, in the kingdom of God downward mobility always leads to an upward trajectory.  Let’s pray.

Before you go rushing out of here, I want to give you a moment to pause.  And I just want to say to you, because you have been encouraged by His love, because you have participated in his Spirit, because the affection of the Father flows over your life, and because He looks upon you with sympathy….because that’s all true, would you lay down your pride and receive the humility he’s calling you to walk in.  Instead of lifting yourself up would you pour yourself out and would you say back to this King of kings and this Lord of lords today, “God, I want to be obedient wherever you lead, whatever you say, I’m willing to go because of all you’ve done for me.”  In light of that, Lord, please help us be people who see other people.  Help us be people who serve other people.  Help us be the type of people who sacrifice in the way that you’ve sacrificed for us.  Help us live in your way with your heart.  It’s in the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

HAPPY: Attitude Adjustment Philippians 2:1-112020-10-19T11:27:12-06:00

Happy: Gospel Citizens – Philippians 1:27-30

As Dan mentioned, my plane landed Friday evening after an unexpected nine hours in Buenos Aires, where I had a layover and the plane was delayed; I was later getting back than I expected. I stand before you today with a tired body but a full heart. I’m absolutely honored to have had the chance to pour into forty or fifty missionaries and pastors from all around Latin America who are on the front lines, who have sacrificed much for the gospel, and who are seeing Jesus do excellent and beautiful things all around the globe. The very first day we got there, the Paraguayans threw this feast for us. There’s this battle going on in South America between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay about who has the best meat and the best barbecue, so we invited them to duke it out! Please, bring your best to the table! So the Paraguayans put on this feast and I’m sitting around the table with people from a number of different countries: Korea to Great Britain to all around Latin America. We had this great conversation and great food. The Paraguayans brought in this harpist; the harp is the national instrument of Paraguay. They brought in this masterful harpist that just melted our faces with the harp. It was amazing! {I didn’t even know that was possible, but it is.} They brought out this woman who was dancing with a glass jar on her head. They brought out all this varied Paraguayan cultural stuff. I’m thinking to myself, “If this happened in Colorado, where would we take them culturally? What we would we show them? Barbecue hotdogs and take them to strip malls?” That’s our contribution to world culture. So I’m sitting there and was reminded once again that people that live in the States are the only people that only speak one language! Everybody around this table spoke more than one language except me! {I’m the local moron here, right? WE’RE the local morons.}

I got to know the Paraguayan culture over the course of a week and I love Latin culture. I love the passion that they live with. I love that relationships are important. I love that food is essential and good food is important. There’s one thing I wasn’t expecting though that I found out about Paraguayans; they drink this tea that they call “terere.” It’s “maté” in Argentina and a number of other countries in South America, but they call it terere. It’s this loose leaf tea that they pack into a cup, then they have this straw that sifts out all of the tea. It’s primarily men that drink this terere tea. They don’t just drink it in the morning and they don’t just drink it in the evening. They drink it ALL throughout the day. It’s serious business. Most men you see walking around the downtown area had a thermos with them and their little terere cup attached to the side of it! I’m teaching and you could tell who was Paraguayan because they had their terere the entire time and they’re taking drinks of it and passing it around. I felt like we were at a college party or something. It’s this distinctive of Paraguay and I started to think about what are the distinctives of us, not as citizens of the U.S., but as citizens of the Kingdom. What’s our terere?

I come back with a full heart. I come back reminded that our God is a multi-cultural God and that our faith is a multi-cultural faith. I come back reminded that what God is doing is far bigger than what God is doing at South Fellowship or in Centennial or in Colorado, but that what God is doing He is doing on a global scale. I come back reminded of the reality that Jesus promised He will build his church and He IS building his church, not only here, but in South America and around the globe and it’s an absolute joy to be a part of that.

I have a full heart and I was reminded of the terere because I think it’s sort of what Paul’s talking about this morning. Will you open to Philippians 1:27 with me as we continue our study through the book of Philippians. This is Paul’s letter to the church of Philippi that he wrote somewhere between 60-62 A.D. from a prison cell in Rome. It’s to a church that he planted and a church that he loved dearly. Listen to the way he begins this section of Scripture after declaring that whether he lives or whether he dies that Christ is his all. The implications of that are what follow. Here’s what he says: Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. Paul uses this word “only” as an emphatic — like look up at me! He wants to tell the Philippian church, if you only get one thing…..if in this letter that I’m sending you only hear one thing, hear this…. Gordon Fee, the great commentator on the book of Philippians, would say that this section of Scripture (Philippians 1:27-30) is the crux of the entire book. Paul’s invitation is this: Let your manner of life be worthy, or consistent, with the good news that Jesus is King above all, that he is the Christ, that he is the Messiah. Here’s what Paul would say to you and to me today: He would say that the announcement that Jesus is King changes everything about the way that we live. He would say: Let your manner of life, not just one part of your life, but your entire life, be shaped and formed and driven by the fact that you—-yes, YOU—-are people who are caught up and enveloped by and shaped by the good news that Jesus rules and reigns over all creation. He would say to us today, “The gospel is not something that you could add to your already nice existence. The gospel is something that changes everything.”

He uses this word that’s translated in your English Bible (ESV translation) as “manner of life.” It comes from one Greek word “politeusesthe.” It’s two words put together; the first word would be “polis,” where we get our IndianaPOLIS—it means “city.” We also get our word “politics.” What Paul is saying is let your public life, let the life that you live in front of everybody (your political life, if you will), be shaped and informed by the fact that the good news of Jesus is true and that he reigns above it all. Some translations maybe say it a little bit better. They would say, “Only let your manner of life be reflective of your citizenship of the King.” That everything about us is shaped by the fact that Jesus is King. This word “politeusesthe,” this invitation to live as citizens of the gospel….. For us, we go that’s great, that’s wonderful; we would love to live as citizens of the gospel and wouldn’t that be wonderful. We’re 1700 years entrenched in Christendom, but for an early follower of Jesus, you have to understand that for them to live as a citizen of the gospel was a revolutionary idea. It wasn’t some nice Christian spiritual platitude that they would plaster to a mug and feel warm and fuzzy when they would drink from it in the morning. It was something that changed the entire course of their life.

They lived in a Roman Empire. Rome had this phrase, they had this term—see if it sounds familiar— “euangélion” or “good news.” For a Roman, what good news meant (they would talk about “good news” a lot) was that Rome reigned and Rome was supreme. They called it the “Pax Romana,” the Roman peace. It definitely looked like peace depending on which side of that sword you were on. They had this good news that Rome was conquering more and more of the globe. So when Paul talks about the gospel, or the euangélion of the Kingdom, he is swimming against the stream of the empire. When he talks about Jesus as Lord, or Jesus as Savior, he is making a declaration, not just about Jesus, but about Caesar and the world in which they live. In their time, Nero was the ruler of Rome from 54-68 A.D., right when Paul is writing this letter. They had these coins that circulated around the Roman Empire. The coins would have the emperor’s face on one side, and on the other side it would have this Latin phrase “divi filius,” which meant “son of the divine” or “divine son,” because their conviction was that their emperor was the son of god. So, when followers of Jesus come proclaiming gospel, that Jesus is the son of God and that he is Lord, they aren’t giving each other a nice pep talk, they are starting a revolution. For Paul, this is a HUGE statement. If you don’t believe me, listen to what they say about the believers in Acts 17:6-7. Paul and Silas are preaching and when they couldn’t beat them up for what they were saying, they found their friend Jason: And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” This is a revolutionary statement. Jesus the Christ, or Jesus the Messiah, or Jesus the King. You know that Christ is not his last name—it’s a title. That he reigns and he rules above it all.

So Paul is going alright, Philippian church, I want you to live in a way that’s consistent with your citizenship. Your citizenship declares that Jesus rules and that Jesus reigns above it all. So, followers of Jesus in Philippi, before you’re a citizen of Philippi, you’re a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. Before you’re a citizen of Rome, you’re a citizen of the gospel of the King. So, follower of Jesus {will you look up at me a second?}, I don’t know what your passport says where your home is, I only know this…if you are a follower of Jesus this morning, He is your highest allegiance. He reigns supreme. Sure, you have dual citizenship; you can be a citizen of the U.S. and you are a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven if you are a follower by faith of Jesus the Messiah, but THAT followership, THAT citizenship trumps everything else about us. Here’s the big idea Paul wants us to get this morning: the conduct of our lives HAS TO reflect our citizenship in the gospel. The conduct of our lives, the way that we live, has to be shaped by and informed by the reality that Jesus reigns. Friends, the Scriptures are really clear that you have been born again, you’ve been made new, and when that happened, you became a citizen of a different type of Kingdom. That’s great news. Our conduct must always be a reflection of our allegiance. It is. We always live out what we bow down to. We always act in a way that’s consistent with what our heart is captured by. When an army takes instruction from its king, it’s living out its allegiance. When we, as people who are in the United States of America, live in a way that reflects our culture, we’re simply conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of our citizenship.

How does it look to do this with the gospel? What does it look like to be gospel citizens? Friends, the calling is to live in a manner worthy of the gospel, not sometimes {look up at me for a second}, not when life is easy and life is great. We don’t get that invitation as followers of Christ when things get really hard or when we get really disappointed or when we get wronged by somebody else or when life doesn’t go the way that we want, we do not get the option to say, “Alright, I’m going to live in a manner worthy NOT of the gospel, but of something else.” We don’t get that option. What we’re going to talk about today is so important, because it’s intended to shape the way that we live. Here’s what I want to ask: If our conduct must be a reflection of our citizenship of the gospel, what is that conduct intended to look like and how do we become these types of citizens? I want to ask what’s the terere of the Kingdom of God? What’s the distinctive about us? That everybody would see and that everybody would know and they’d go, oh, they’re God’s people, they’re God’s citizens. That’s how we know.

Here’s what Paul says. There are three ways that you and I live as citizens of the Kingdom. Only let your manner of life {or let your citizenship be consistent with that fact that Jesus is King} be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit…. Here’s what he said. Very first thing. It this sort of militaristic type of language, but what Paul wants us to do is before we DO anything, he wants us to become something. Before he gets into here’s how you live and your conduct and what your actions need to look like, before he gets to any of that, what does he invite us to do? Stand. Stand in the spirit, stand in the presence of God. Before you ever carry out the Father’s plans, you need to hear the Father’s heart. I’ll say that again. Before we ever carry out the Father’s plans, we need to hear the Father’s heart. What Paul wants the Philippian church to do is to stand in the spirit, to hear the voice of God that speaks over them. He’d say here’s the terere of the kingdom, the thing that’s distinctive about us as followers of Christ: Above anything else is we are standing intentionally in the Spirit of God.

Did you know this is the call all throughout the Scriptures? That before we try to go anywhere or do anything, God wants us to become somebody. In the book of Ephesians when Paul is talking about spiritual warfare, when he’s talking about engaging with the enemy, listen to what he says: Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand {Not fight–stand. Isn’t that an ironic statement—put on armor so you can stand?} against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Eph. 6:11-13) Here’s what Paul would say, “You don’t fight for victory. You fight FROM a place of victory.” The job of followers of Jesus is to stand in the gospel, to hear the voice of the Father over us that says I love you and I’m good to you.

When we were at LegoLand, we went on this log ride where you go down this roller coaster. You’re buckled in and go down into the water and this tidal wave splashes over you. Anybody ever done one of those? Anybody been the moron that does that first thing when you get there in the morning?? Awesome! We’re soaked the entire day, but we went down that. There were people standing on the bridge that get hit by that tidal wave of water. When they see the water coming, they hold onto that railing as hard as they can and they brace themselves because they know that tidal wave is coming for them.

I sort of picture it that that’s the way we’re called to stand in the gospel. It’s not some sort of lackadaisical “Well, I guess I could stand.” It’s the storms of life are raging and if I don’t hold on and if I don’t stand intentionally and if I don’t stand firm, the most natural thing is going to take me away from the grace of God, from the mercy of God, from the love of God and it’s going to send me off into nowhere. What Paul wants more than anything for citizens of the gospel is to stand in the gospel. I just want to invite you to interact with what happens when we stand. What do we hear when we stand in the Spirit of God? Here’s the first thing we hear—we stand firmly planted in his GRACE. That’s what we hear. The Spirit of God testifies to our hearts and our minds that through him we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand. (Romans 5:2) It’s true of you, friend, if you are a follower of Jesus. You are not working FOR the acceptance of God, you are living FROM the acceptance of God, because of the work of Jesus on the cross on your behalf! Do you know that? When we don’t stand by faith in the gospel, what we do is we try to work by effort in the flesh. We try to obtain and we try to get God to like us, we try to get God to be happy with us, we try to get God to be pleased with us and what He says to us when we hear his voice, when we stand in the gospel is “I am pleased because of the work of Jesus.” Your citizenship has to be shaped first by your standing in the grace of God.

Secondly, here’s what we start to hear as this passage in Romans 5:5 continues: And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Did you know that while the Holy Spirit is intended and given, He is a guide, He’s a teacher, He’s a convicter of righteousness, but He is, maybe more than anything else, the affirmer of the affection of God for the people of God. One of the Holy Spirit’s main roles in your life is to confirm the reality that an Almighty, Holy God loves you and is for you and died for you and his perfection rules over your life. So when we stand we start to understand grace and we start to receive love. It’s THAT type of standing that can write songs like The Love of God is Greater Far. The author says: “Could I with ink, the ocean fill, were the whole sky of parchment made were every blade of grass a quill and every man a scribe by trade to write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry; nor could the scroll contain the whole though spread from sky to sky.” What the Holy Spirit says in the life of the believer, when we stand in the Spirit and hear the voice of God, is “That affection is towards you!” That’s crazy!

We also start to hear God’s invitation to come, to learn from him and to rest under his easy yoke. We stand in grace; we stand in love; we stand in the rest that comes from the finished work of our good Father. Friends, where we stand {Listen to me on this; maybe even look up at me for a second.} will eventually determine how we walk. Where we stand and what we hear from our Father (or don’t hear from our Father) will determine the way that we live and the path that we walk. Abraham Lincoln succinctly said, “Be sure to put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” The problem is a lot of times we have our feet in the wrong place. The problem is, even as church people, we often have our feet planted in “I’ve got to try harder, I’ve got to do more.” That’s not gospel citizenship. That’s religion. You’re a citizen of religion, but you’re not a citizen of the good news that Jesus reigns. That’s Paul’s invitation. That’s the terere of the Kingdom.

Maybe you’re wondering how to stand. What does that look like? I’m going to give you two things that I’m going to encourage. One, if you’re not spending at least 15 minutes a day in the Scriptures, it’s probably impossible to stand in the gospel. So that’s just an invitation. Not a requirement, not a duty, but, man, feed your soul with the Scriptures and the food that’s in here. It’s beautiful. Second thing is we write devotions that go along with every single message we give now. I would invite you to hope on our website southfellowship.org/daily and to check out those daily devotions and maybe they’ll be an encouragement to you and hopefully they’re intended to help you stand firm.

That’s the first thing: gospel distinctive, gospel citizenship. We are people who stand in the Spirit; before we execute the Father’s plans, we hear the Father’s heart. Second thing, it says: Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving….. Immediately we’re catapulted into this tension, right? As gospel citizens, are we suppose to stand confidently in the gospel….or strive ferociously for the furtherance of the gospel? Which one is it? YES! As followers of Jesus, we are called to both stand and be shaped by the gospel and then from that to live it out. The gospel was not intended to just be theorized, it’s intended to be actualized. In our lives. In the everyday. In the way that we interact with our husband or our wife, boyfriend or our girlfriend. In the way that we interact with an employee. In the way that we love our neighbors. The gospel is intended to come out of every fiber of our being. So Paul says we “strive.” In the Greek it’s this word “sunathleo,” where we get our word “athletics.” So he’s going, “We’re going for it! We are pushing forward the good news that Jesus is King!” We’re standing intentionally in the Spirit and we’re striving fearlessly for the gospel.

Paul’s going to invite us to dwell on three things that come alongside of this striving, or this desire to see God’s kingdom come and his will be done. Before we go there, I feel compelled to ask you if you have that desire? Is it within you? To say, “God, we want to see your kingdom come. We want to see your will be done….in our homes, in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods, in your world.” If that’s some of the gospel distinctive, the terere of the kingdom, for you, a follower of Christ, then there’s three things he says we need to be about. First, is that we strive, not individually. This pushes back against our American-Western individualism, does it not? But we strive “side by side.” We would love for a follower of Jesus’ life to be defined by “Jesus + Me,” wouldn’t we? The only problem with that is the Bible. Our lives are Jesus + We, not Jesus + Me. Here’s a picture of what it might have looked like in Paul’s day to strive side by side. {Ryan shows picture of Roman Army going to battle.} He would have had a picture in his mind of a Roman army, that on their own, a soldier would be absolutely decimated and taken down, but together when they link shields, they conquer anything in front of them. And THAT’S what Paul has in mind when he talks about the church. When he talks about this called-out colony of followers of Jesus striving together, it’s not just each of us going our own way, it’s us together saying, “We believe that Jesus is worth it.”

Second thing he says: ….striving side by side for the faith of the gospel… Now, before you go, Paulson, that’s obvious, that’s what we’ve been taking about this whole time. What’s interesting to me is that you cannot find anywhere in Paul’s letter where he wants to strive against Rome. The fascinating thing about that is that Rome is an absolute brutal beast! They’re crucifying thousands of people a day who are followers of Jesus. They’re covering people in tar, putting them on poles, lighting them on fire to light Caesar’s parties at night! It is a brutal thing! You also don’t see Paul saying, “We want to strive against paganism.” Paganism has all these practices of temple prostitution and debauchery and just crazy things going on. What you see Paul saying is in the midst of a dark world, we aren’t going to fight just the darkness; what we’re going to do is shine a light on Jesus. As followers of Jesus, from the very beginning, they were known NOT for what they were against, but they were known for what they were FOR. They’re FOR Jesus! They are FOR a life of faith in Him. They weren’t AGAINST Rome. They weren’t AGAINST a politician. They weren’t AGAINST an issue that was going on and there were a number of them they could have chosen, you guys. Let’s not be so naive as to think that the world and the situation we live in is so unique. It’s not. So if I could, let me just push here for a second and say that I would love for us to lead a charge where we start to redeem the heart of what it means to follow Jesus. Instead of pointing out the darkness, we shine a light on the one who says “I am the Light of the world.” And instead of being known for the issues that we’re AGAINST, that we’re known for the name that we’re FOR. One of the things I’ve been thinking about is how do I know this is happening? Maybe one of the ways I know this is happening in my own heart is I’m more passionate about an issue than I am about Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I want to get back to the place….. My heart breaks that the world thinks of the church first for the list of things we’re against, rather than the Jesus that we’re for. What does it look like to be citizens of the kingdom where we say our goal is to lift high the name of Jesus….IN the empire? We’re going to live differently, we’re going to live as His citizens.

Thirdly, here’s what it says: …striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. So he’s just going after it! We are living fearlessly. Why would Paul have to write this? Because there were a lot of reasons for them to fear. There’s a lot of things to be scared about. Why does he write in 2 Timothy 1:7 — God have us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control? Why?? Because our natural tendency is to be carried away by the issues that we see and the problems that we have and the opposition that we face. Hear me, friends, what God has placed inside of you as a follower of Jesus is a ferocious, fearless, faithful passion to carry His name wherever you go. But we can only live fearlessly if we stood in the gospel intentionally. I love the way that Alexander MacLaren, the great Scottish preacher, put it: “Faith, which is trust, and fear are opposite poles. If a man has the one, he can scarcely have the other in vigorous operation. He that has his trust set upon God does not need to dread anything except the weakening or the paralyzing of that trust.” This is paramount! We’ve got to be devoted to Jesus in a way that his perfect love for us would cast out fear of everything around us. So, if you’re like me, there’s things in your life that are going on where you go God, it would be so easy to just give in to fear. What Paul would say is your victory is certain as you live fearlessly in the gospel. What is it today that God might invite you to lay down? What fear are you holding? Is it fear of rejection? As you’re a gospel citizen sharing boldly the good news of the kingdom, what are the fears that come along with that for you? Is it if you step out and have a conversation you may not know what to say? Been there….only every time I open my mouth to speak about Jesus. Is it that you’ll be rejected? If we’re gospel citizens, distinctly shaped and formed by the gospel in a way that gets out of us, friends, we are invited to strive fearlessly for the name of Jesus. Who are you praying for? Who are you asking God to capture their heart; would you show them your beauty, would you invite them into your kingdom, would you use me?? We’re citizens of yours and captured by your grace.

Finally, the third and final distinctive of the terere of the Kingdom. For it has been granted to you {That word in the Greek is the same word where we get our English word “grace.” It’s been “graced” to you, it’s been “gifted” to you. If you stop reading there, you’re wondering, “Well, what comes next?? This has to be wonderful!”} …that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. Can we be honest here for a second? That’s the gift that we hope comes with a gift receipt so that we can return it, right? That’s the one we’re going to re-gift to somebody that we’re not all that excited about, right? Why in the world would Paul call this a gift?? I’ll give you three reasons that are embedded in this passage. One, through suffering we get to see the beauty of the gospel in a new and a fresh way. That’s one of the reasons it’s a gift. An eternal perspective is often only gained through broken temporal circumstances. It’s true. Second, is that when we suffer for Jesus, we enter into solidarity with Jesus. He IS the slain, risen Messiah. He gave his life and when his people walk a path of persecution that’s difficult and hard, they meet him in a unique and real way. And third, as Paul suggests, they’ve seen his plight that he had and that he now has. What they gain is a solidarity with Jesus’ people in the midst of suffering. That’s the third Kingdom distinctive, citizenship distinctive of you and I.

What’s our culture as followers of Christ? What do we carry with us everywhere we go? We carry with us the fact that we’re citizens of the gospel, which means that we stand in the Spirit and we hear the voice of our Father before we try to execute the plan of our Father. That we are people who strive fearlessly. We’re not agenda-oriented; our one agenda is Jesus and we want to be known for what we’re FOR, not for what we are AGAINST. We are people who have said, “Whatever it takes, we want his name to be made more famous.”

When I was traveling this last week, I had the chance to read a book called Insanity of God. You may have heard Rob Karch talk about this book. It’s about the persecuted church. I’m going to end with this story from one section of this book. The author, Nik Ripken, writes about a man named Dmitri who became a follower of Jesus in the Soviet Union under the Communist regime. He started to teach his kids about Jesus and slowly his teaching grew to where there were 150 people illegally gathered in his home to hear the good news of Jesus. Eventually he was thrown in prison. In a prison that was 1000 km away from his home, he had two practices that he did every single day. One of the practices was that Dmitri would stand with his hands in the air and he would face to the east and he would sing, what he called, his HeartSong to Jesus. It was a song of praise, it was a song of adoration and it was a song of lifting high the name that is above all names. The other thing he would do was whenever he was allowed to go in the courtyard of the prison, he would look for little scraps of paper. On those scraps of paper, he would write down as many Scripture passages as he could remember and he would write down as many songs as he could remember and then he would stick the little piece of paper to the pole that was next to his prison cell. He did this for 17 years! Finally, the guards pulled him out of his cell and said, “Dmitri, unless you recant, unless you tell us that you’re not a worshipper or follower of Jesus anymore, we are going to kill you.” He said, “That’s fine, because I cannot turn my back on my Savior.” The next day, after being in prison for 17 years, those Soviet guards dragged Dmitri out of his prison cell. Everybody had heard this happen the day before and they’d heard his public declaration that he was not going to turn back on his faith. And as they walked him in front of all these prison cells what Dmitri saw absolutely shocked him! Every single prisoner (1500 prisoners in this dark, dungy Soviet prison) stood at attention at the side of their bed. As he went in front of them, they raised their hands and they sang the song that he had sung for 17 years! As he describes it, this angelic choir of criminals shined a light on the one Name above all names. The guards immediately took their hands off of him and said, “Who in the world are you?” He said, “I am a child of the one true God.” A few days later they let him go!

Friends, you’re a child of the one true God. You’re a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven and I pray, for you and for me, that we would stand in the Spirit; that we would strive for the gospel; that we would say Jesus is worth it; and that whatever comes our way, we would say, “We are His citizens.” Because, friends, we’re either in this together or in it not at all. Throughout the passage these are plurals. You, collectively, are citizens of the Kingdom. We will never live as citizens of the gospel unless we’re part of a colony of the Kingdom! Praise the Lord, you are! Let’s live in a way that reflects our citizenship, for the glory of Jesus, we pray.

Would you pray with me? Jesus, this morning we declare back to you that we long to live as citizens of your Kingdom. To taste your goodness and then to live in a way that reflects it. Lord, help us stand confidently in the gospel; help us strive boldly and fearlessly for the faith of gospel and for the furtherance of the gospel. Lord, whatever comes our way because of that, Lord, we want to say we’re with you, wherever you lead we want to follow. Lord, we think today of our brothers and sisters around the world who have made that claim and who have given their life because they meant it. So we enter into solidarity with them today as they lift high your name; may we not give up in freedom, what they refuse to give up in persecution. For the glory of your name, we pray. Amen.

Happy: Gospel Citizens – Philippians 1:27-302020-08-20T13:30:44-06:00

Happy – The View from the Prison of Joy Philippians 1:12-26

PI:  Let’s develop a Philippians 1 perspective on life because it’s a blessing to us & to others.


Just recently I found out that the ALL TIME best-selling book originally written in English is Charles Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities.

Now if you were an English literature major in college or you love English fiction you probably knew that but it was news to me. The book was published in 1859 and as of 2016 it has sold over 400 million copies.  And if you’ve ever read it you know that it starts out like this:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.

It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.

It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness.

It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

In your opinion and from your perspective how well does that describe our day and time?

Just to stimulate our thinking on this let me quote a few statistics from American Magazine:

75% of young men 25 & under suffer from a health defect induced by mental anxiety.

The FBI reported that avg. age of criminals is 19

estimates of abortion and STDs are the highest of any generation

Drinking bouts among HS and College students have produced a huge spike in promiscuous sexual activity

80% of young men & 60% of young women report having engaged in pre-marital sex

Marriages are 4x more likely to end in divorce than 50 years earlier

Another gov. study concluded that marijuana & other mind-altering drugs are now being peddled to thousands of young people in almost every school, town and city in the country. Onе оf thе bіggеѕt іmреdіmеntѕ to ѕuссеѕѕfullу ԛuіttіng ѕmоkіng is уоur іntеrnаl bеlіеf ѕуѕtеm. Hеnrу Fоrd once ѕаіd thаt іf уоu thіnk уоu саn or уоu thіnk уоu can’t еіthеr way уоu аrе rіght. Of соurѕе that is easier ѕаіd thаn dоnе ѕоmеtіmеѕ. But as you approach уоur hурnоѕіѕ ԛuіt ѕmоkіng ѕеѕѕіоn уоu can dо ѕо аѕ a skeptic, whісh will flооd уоur mind wіth dоubt аnd anxiety. I’m ѕurе уоu саn ѕее hоw thіѕ wouldn’t bе helpful like pure cbd online fоr уоu асhіеvіng your gоаl.

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The president of a major university said that every day newspapers report “one more grave crime after another, one more social crisis after another and one more dereliction of duty after another.”

One journalist traveled 10,000 miles across America to study the country’s youth & concluded that the majority are confused, disillusioned and disenchanted.

So, it sounds like a very bleak time, doesn’t it?

But here’s what’s really interesting: 

ALL of those statistics I just read come from the years 1936-37.

The media and sociologists of that time called the group of young Americans who were alive then ‘The Lost Generation’.

But 60 years later NBC News Anchor Tom Brokaw called them ‘The Greatest Generation’ because they survived the Great Depression, won WW II, provided decades of outstanding leaders and statesmen, created family stability and imbued American culture with a ‘can do spirit’.

Quote Brokaw:  ‘This was the greatest generation any society has ever produced.’

Transition/Curve/Go Slow….

Given all that, it seems pretty clear that the difference between labeling that generation lost and labeling it great was one of PERSPECTIVE.

I’m not sure we realize this but our perspective on life is incredibly important because it can either make us or break us.

That’s what this text that we just read in Philippians 1 is all about.

  1. Have a Positive Perspective in the Midst of Tough Times (v. 12-18): The Advance of the Gospel
  • Paul is writing this to the church in Philippi – a church he had planted about 10 years before – but he’s writing it while he’s in prison in Rome and it’s obvious that he’s restricted, limited, and quite literally in chains.
    • There’s no freedom, almost no privacy and I doubt that the food was what you’d get from Chilis or Chipotle.
  • Moreover, if you know anything at all about Paul you know that instead of being stuck in a small one room house in Rome, chained to a succession of Roman palace guards, he wanted to travel to Spain to preach the Gospel OR roam from city to city in Greece and Asia Minor to visit all the churches he’s started OR minister the love and grace of Christ to all the people that he’s won to the faith.
  • And not only is he imprisoned but it’s clear that he’s got some enemies in the church who are trying to shame him because of his arrest and impending trial before the Emperor.
    • We don’t know who these people were but, as he notes, they’re trying to cause him more pain and anguish as he suffers thru the difficulties of his imprisonment
  • If there was ever a person whose life illustrated that to be a follower of Jesus means taking up a cross to follow Him, it was Paul.
  • He shows us that sometimes life – even as a Xian – is just plain tough.

ILL. – I’ve seen this up close and personal over the past year:  A woman in my prayer group (Patty) trying to help her sister battle cancer; two colleagues with very sick spouses; Mark Young’s son-in-law and grandkids were in a horrible accident. My sister, Becky, almost died last Xmas.

  • Life can be tough even for God’s people, as it was for Paul, and yet he transforms his tough time by turning his prison into a pulpit.

ILL.-  I don’t know why but God has used prisons in enormously powerful ways; John Bunyon wrote The Pilgrims Progress from Befordshire jail;

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote letters to his students and friends from Flossenburg prison in Nazi Germany;

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous letters from that jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama and Paul wrote this great letter to the Philippians from his prison in Rome to give them a fresh perspective.

  • For starters, he focuses on the mission of God. Listen again to v. 12ff.
    1. The Gospel is advancing:

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

  1. The Praetorium Guard knows he’s in prison for his religious beliefs, not because he was an enemy of Caesar
  2. His friends & his enemies are motivated to share Christ
  • Implication: people are coming to faith, Christ’s kingdom is advancing, the Gospel is expanding and as a result he can REJOICE.

PI:  Oh, our perspective on life is incredibly important because it can make us or break us and Paul knew that.

  • So, he was going to do everything he could to look for the providential work of the Sovereign Savior in the midst of tough times.

ILL. – My youth pastor:  Scott, this is the best thing that’s ever happened to you:  Trying leverage my experience of getting my heart-broken with my kids in Oak Creek:  ‘Oh, Mr. Wenig….’ ‘Oh, Mr. Wenig…’ ‘Oh, Mr. Wenig…’ Accept Jesus!

APP.-  Friend, you might in the middle of a really tough time right now; I feel for you because I’ve been there.  So let me ask you this:

Do you see anyway that the Sovereign Savior might be providentially at work in the midst of your circumstances to advance the gospel?

Without diminishing your pain, how is your perspective?

Transition/Curve/Go Slow

Paul felt the pain of his imprisonment but what’s really interesting – and important for us – is that he takes the perspective that God is doing some great things & then applies it to himself.  Look at the rest of v. 18 thru v. 20.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

  1. Have a Positive Perspective in Difficult Times: God’s Best for Us (v. 18b-20)


  • It’s important that we focus on two details here to help us to understand exactly what Paul is communicating:
    • First, WS: ‘deliverance’ at the end of v. 19 (also translated salvation or vindication) but as we look at the flow of thought it would seem best to translate it ‘best’.
      • Paul is telling the Philippians that thru their prayers and the work of the Holy Spirit God is providentially at work and so his imprisonment will work out for his best.
  • Second, if we go to Acts 25 Paul was on trial in Caesaria before the Roman governor Felix and he leveraged his Roman citizenship and appealed to Caesar so that’s what got him to this prison in Rome.
    • But that meant that in the very near future he would go before Caesar and the Emperor would decide his fate which would either be to release him or have him executed as an enemy of Rome.
    • Caesar at that time was Nero: Nero was compulsive, corrupt, wildly extravagant and violent man who ended up killing his own mother and one of his brothers.
    • He was a genuinely dangerous and malevolent personality so there’s a real chance that he could give Paul a ‘thumbs down’ and send him to the chopping block.
  • And yet in the face of that he’s rejoicing because he really believes that all this will work out for his BEST!
  • Paul is not a naïve optimist about life who is in denial about the suffering that has come his way.
  • He’s not a ‘pie in the sky by and by person’ who’s emotionally shut down in order to protect himself from more pain.
  • He’s in prison, under severe restrictions, bothered by his enemies & there’s the very real possibility that he might be executed.

Transition/Curve/Go Slow

  • And yet, he’s thrilled, excited, & pumped; he is rejoicing!
  • The reason he could do that was because his perspective on life an death had been Christianized. Look at v. 21

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

This is the key statement in this passage & Paul spells out in detail what he means by this.

Let’s look at the first part in v. 22

  • A Christianized Perspective on Life: (v. 21-24)

If I go on living in the body this will mean fruitful labor for me.

  • Paul is arguing that since he’s centered his life in Christ the Sovereign Savior – if he’s allowed to live – that will mean fruitful labor for him.
  • Some of us were taught in Churchworld that life should be prioritized with God at the top, then our family, then our ministry and then our work, and then maybe our recreation or hobbies down here at 5th or 6th on the list.
    • That sounds really spiritual but, if we think about it, it’s not very biblical and it doesn’t work very well because it goes against the way life works.
    • Life is filled with all kinds of responsibilities & tasks & problems & interruptions that blow that list of priorities apart on a daily basis.

ILL.- It’s better to view life as a wheel with a series of spokes around the hub.  To live is Christ means that we put Jesus at the center and let all the spokes of our lives be influenced by Him.

  • That’s what Paul did:
    • Christ was at the center of life when he was making tents to pay bills, when he was traveling from place to place to preach the Gospel & when he was relating to both believers and unbelievers and – now here – when he was in prison and as a result Christ has transformed his perspective on life.

ILL.- Cinderalla; before she goes to the ball she’s really unhappy, sad and dejected.  But after meeting the prince at the ball she’s thrown back into the same situation & yet everything is different.  Meeting the Prince didn’t change her situation but it changed her perspective because now she saw everything with him in mind; now she sweeps like never before, mops like never before, and cleans like never before.  Her work was the same but her perspective was different.

  • If we place Jesus at the center He will influence every part of our lives, and like Paul, over time we’ll bear good fruit.
  • We’ll see ourselves grow in grace and godliness and good character, we’ll have a positive impact on our family and friends and our co-workers. We’ll see the value of church and ministry and we’ll reach out to our friends and neighbors in the love of Jesus.

PPI:  A Philippians 1 Perspective is one where Jesus is at the center of life and everything we do.

Transition/Curve/Go Slow

And that’s not all:  A Philippians 1 Perspective also impacts how we see death.  Look at what Paul says in v. 23:

I am torn between the two; I desire to depart and be with Christ which is better by far.

  1. A Christianized Perspective on Death (v. 23)


  • Paul is teasing out his statement in v. 21 that ‘to die is gain’.
  • He’s saying that when we die our souls go to be with the glorified Jesus and when we’re in His presence everything is peaceful and HAPPY as we wait for the day when Christ returns & we get our own resurrected bodies to live in the new heaven and the new earth.
  • Death is an enemy but it’s an enemy that Christ has conquered and transformed for those who trust in Him and, therefore, it has become a means of GAIN for His people.

ILL. – Cyprian of North Africa:  “Christians saw the dearly departed as, “freed from the world, summoned of the Lord, not to be mourned as lost, but considered sent ahead, leading the way, longed for as a traveller or voyager, and though dead, we know that they are alive.”

ILL. – Perpetua and Felicity:

Our perspective on life – especially when it goes south – is incredibly important because it can either make us or break us.

PI: And that’s why it’s so important that we develop a Philippians 1 perspective on life and death.

Transition/Curve/Go Slow

Now, some of you here might have this down.  You’re incredibly mature in your walk with Jesus and you possess a Philippians 1 perspective on life and death and so you navigate tough times pretty well.

But if you’re like me, you want this and you’re striving for it, but developing a Philippians 1 perspective is challenging.

And since I know it’s challenging for me & I suspect it’s challenging for some of you let me make some suggestions on how we might move that direction.

  1. How to Develop a Philippians 1 Perspective on Life and Death


  • This Takes Time:
  • A Philippians 1 Perspective where we look for the good in the midst of the bad takes time to develop because it’s not natural – it’s supernatural
  • And so let’s give ourselves some time to mature so we can gain this kind of perspective

ILL. – Carter:  “I saw Miss Melanie at the Pizza place last night and she was with her dad!’

  • This Takes Grace:
  • Let’s look again at v. 19 where Paul says ‘I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my best.’
  • He recognizes he needs God’s grace to maintain his perspective & that will come thru their prayers and the Holy Spirit’s help
  • WS: ‘help’ in the original text is the word from which we get our English word ‘Choreography’
    • A choreographer is the person who arranges the set, the designs, and routine of the dance or the play.
    • Paul is saying that thru our prayers and God’s choreography in our lives, whatever happens will turn out for our best.
    • We may not see it at the moment, we may not feel it in the middle of tough times, but God will give grace to change our perspective so that in due time, we can see that good things have happened.
  • This Takes Sacrifice:
  • I’m more convinced that if we want to develop a Philippians 1 perspective – where we live for Christ and see death as gain – that we need to sacrifice our engagement with the media
  • I’m encouraging you to dial back on how much TV you watch, especially cable news shows, because a lot of what they peddle is negative & how bad things are & how evil that candidate is or how corrupt that person is & how civilization might come to an end or your life will be ruined if that person gets elected.

ILL.-  If you don’t mind, I’d like to give us all a little perspective. 

First of all, negative news sells and those people are in the business of making $.  So, while they claim to speak truth, they’re only giving us a small portion of the story because they want to make $ off us. 

Second, God is doing some REALLY GREAT THINGS locally & globally.

  • In the last 30 years, we’ve seen 1 billion people come out of dire poverty into what we might call the lower class.
  • In the last 40 years, Xianity has exploded in Africa, Asia and South America.
    • Hundreds of people confess X in Africa and So. America every single day.
    • There’s a distinct possibility that within the next decade the largest Xian nation in the world will be China
  • Locally, we’ve seen innumerable church plants in the Front Range over the past 25 years making an enormous impact for the Gospel
  • One of my students works at a church in Highlands Ranch: ‘A shy little 5th grade girl asked 10 of her friends to a retreat they had in August and 8 of them accepted X.  A 6th grade boy in his ministry is starting a prayer ministry in his PUBLIC school.’
  • GOOD, things are happening here at South Fellowship:
    • Our attendance has doubled in under 4 years, we support innumerable ministries and are expanding that, we had some people get baptized last Sunday and we need to be humble, prayerful and grateful going forward.

PI:  Friends, We need to have a Philippians 1 Perspective on life and death because it’s good for us. 

It’s good for me and it’s good for you to know that regardless of our circumstances if we have Jesus at the Center of our lives we’ll bear spiritual fruit & if and when He calls us home, it is GREAT GAIN!

Transition/Curve/Go Slow

And we also need to remember something else really, really important:

And that is that our perspective on life ALSO impacts those around us for good or bad. Look at what Paul says in v. 24-26

…but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

  1. Our Perspective impacts other people (v. 24-26)


  • Paul still has to go before the Emperor for the legal decision on his case but he loves the Philippians and wants what’s best for them
  • And so – in faith – he makes this statement about remaining in the flesh so that he can be united with them again and minister to them again and everyone can be happy together!
  • And according to tradition Paul was released by Nero and continued his ministry in the Empire for another 6 or 7 years.


  • And yet, while he’s still there in prison, Paul knew that how he saw his situation would impact everyone around him: the Praetorium guards, the other Xians and anyone else he came into contact with.


  • Friends, these verses go beyond Paul’s circumstance & his experience.
  • They show us that our perspective on suffering, life and death really influences those around us.

ILL.-  My friend, the Bee-keeper.  Sometimes you have to change the kinds of bees you’re keeping because of the weather or season.  But you don’t kill off the whole hive & bring in a new one; you just change out the Queen.  The bee-keeper kills the old queen & inserts the new queen.  And after a week or so the new queen is assimilated into the hive but the hive now takes on the personality of the queen.

  • I don’t know if you’re the queen in your home or your work or your neighborhood or our church, but I do know that your perspective bleeds out and influences everyone @ you, just like my perspective influences those around me.
  • If we’re negative, if we’re pessimistic, if we’re discouraged and we think everything is going to Hades in a Handbasket that will bleed out into our jobs, our relationships and our own health.
    • And that takes everyone into a downward spiral & no one wins.


  • But if we have a Philippians 1 perspective – the perspective that Jesus, our Sovereign Savior, is at actively at work in our lives and that He will more than take care of us in death, – that will give us energy, enthusiasm and a really, really positive impact…

  ….because a Philippians 1 Perspective is really good for us and it’s good for all of those around us!


  • Now….Just Imagine if every single person here at South Fellowship – by grace of God – developed a Philippians 1 Perspective.
    • Imagine the Joy that we would all experience personally and then imagine the happiness that would bring to our marriages, our families, and to our friends
  • Just Imagine if every single person here at South Fellowship had a Philippians 1 Perspective on living for X and dying is gain – and took that into the marketplace and the work place and the school setting.
    • Imagine how we could infuse those places with a sense of optimism because we know that Christ is at work and He’s extending His kingdom in each one of those places.
  • Just Imagine if every church in Denver possessed a Philippians 1 Perspective and was reaching out into our community with the love and grace and mercy of Jesus to the least, the last and the lost.
    • Imagine how many thousands of lives would be touched and transformed for now and for all eternity.
  • Just imagine if every Xian in the United States – by the grace of God – demonstrated a Philippians 1 Perspective in the next 3 months.
    • Just imagine if we all prayed that God’s grace would descend on the political process and, in the love of Christ, we all stepped across the political aisle and said, ‘We are about something much, much bigger than one election! We’re about spreading the Good News of the Gospel because it’s the Hope of our nation and the Hope of the World.’

I think if, by the grace of God, we all did that everyone around us would be amazed, the Good News of Jesus would expand much further than we can imagine or think and we’d all be much, much happier because as Paul shows us here

A Philippians 1 Perspective is good for you and for me and for everyone as well!

Happy – The View from the Prison of Joy Philippians 1:12-262020-08-18T05:06:31-06:00
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