05/27/2018 = Philippians 4:2-9 = “Re-Joice … again, Re-Joice … in the Lord”

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 4:2-9

“Re-Joice … again, Re-Joice … in the Lord”

Trinity Sunday, 05/27/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

[Open with the joke about the man on a deserted island with three buildings, and why I’m not going to start with that joke ….]

 

We’re near the end of our sermon series working our way through the New Testament book of Philippians. In fact, what we read last week sounded like it could have been the end of this letter – but … it was not! Almost like Paul thought of one more thing that needed to be addressed, he adds this last page to his epistle. This last page starts with a word about a crisis in the Philippian Church – an argument between two women in the congregation – a dispute between two church pillars.

 

Remember that Paul and a crew of travel partners first visited Philippi 10 years earlier, but what we learn from  Acts 16 and I Thessalonians 2 is that Philippi is a city where Paul and Silas had a particularly difficult experience:

  • Paul and Silas go to Philippi against their own plans, because that’s where God directed them
  • The first recorded European baptism takes place in PhilippiLydia
  • Paul and Silas are arrested and imprisoned for their Christian faith
  • While in prison, they pray and sing, and God opens the doors and loosens the shackles
  • The jailer gets baptized – the second European baptism on record
  • Paul and Silas create an opportunity to share the Gospel with the Magistrates as well

Philippi gave Paul some success stories, but it was not a fun place for him to be.

 

After the opening greetings, Paul gives some comments about how everyone is of equal value in God’s eyes – that Christ died just as much for the criminal on the cross right next to Him as He did for Rich Wilson; just as much for you as for Your most admired Christian spokesperson, Billy Graham or Ravi Zacharias; just as much for the sinner on the street or your least favorite neighbor as He did for you!

Then Paul tells these Christ-followers in Philippi, that since that egalitarian perspective is true, we ought to serve each other rather than expect to be served! Paul identifies himself as a “servant of the Lord Jesus” as he addresses the overseers and bishops and church elders here. Then, Paul says that even Christ, who is God of Gods, true God of true God, humbled Himself by becoming a human, a slave, who would die as a convicted-but-innocent man on our behalf; therefore, we, too, should humble ourselves and offer ourselves on behalf of others! Furthermore, he says, in the midst of your struggles, your difficulties, your losses, your trials … REJOICE in the Lord! Then he almost closes the letter with a harsh criticism of human pride vs. God’s grace.

But wait – there’s this one last thing – listen – Philippians 4:2-9 (page 832 in the pew Bibles) …. —-

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. [So, after a wonderful 3 pages of Pauline theology and Christian doctrine – he suddenly announces out-loud an argument that everyone in the church knows about but no one dares mention – and he names names! Euodia and Syntyche apparently are in the middle of some kind of cantankerous debate – we’re not told any details, and it really doesn’t matter – probably fighting about what color carpet the Fellowship Hall should have, or what brand of coffee should be served after worship in the foyer – but did you hear what Paul said? If this was every church’s, and every church member’s, approach to cases of church discipline we’d be in a far better place – he tells Euodia and Syntyche to “be of the same mind in the Lord!”! He did not say, agree about which Bible translation is the best, or about whether the Pastor should wear a Geneva Robe or coveralls, he says, “Agree in the Lord!” … Now keep listening:]

Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. [Paul calls these two women outnames them outright, and then immediately calls the church to gather around them and help them “be in the Lord”! The word he uses for “help” is “syllambano”, “lift them up”, work together to encourage their faith in the Lord – and then he reminds everyone how these women, along with someone named Clement, too – another person caught in the fray? – how they have been on the same team together! – along with all the un-named people who maybe have gotten involved in the uproar over hymns versus praise songs, the “rest of my co-workers” … “whose names are in the book of life”. A colleague of mine illustrates this conflict and how to treat it with this story – he says, “Suppose you’re a manager of a company but you have two employees who are constantly arguing over silly things, but their arguing disrupts everyone’s work day. Then, one day a Rolls Royce pulls into the parking lot, and Mr. Rolls steps out of the back seat and enters the office – and you learn that Mr. Rolls owns the company! So you treat him with extra honor and respect – and then he pulls out his wallet and shows you some pictures of two nephews who will inherit the company after Mr. Rolls retires – and you instantly recognize the boys in Mr. Rolls’ wallet as your two jokers who are always causing trouble. Instantly, you change your attitude about them and work hard to help the whole business surround them and support them, because one day, soon, they will be your boss!”My colleague says, “That’s what Paul is saying hereEuodia and Syntyche and Clement and the rest have their photos in God’s wallet!They, along with you, will inherit the Kingdomserve them and honor them! Do you see how he comes back to what he has said in previous Philippian sermons?Their names are in the book of life! Euodia’s name is in the book of life!! Honor her in the Lord!]

Then, verse 4 is many people’s favorite verse – we’ll be singing it before we leave today:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! [So, we all know by now that Paul always centers his teaching, his faith, his joy … “in the Lord”! We have seen that in just the opening first 20 verses there were SEVEN places where he talks about JOY! So, why here, why does he give the doublet commandment here? Actually, it’s almost like FOUR times, right? JOY, and REjoice, and again another JOY and REjoice! Why do these Philippians need that much instruction to find joy in the Lord? Here’s what I think – these Christians were in no mood to rejoice at all! Their dirty laundry just got publicly aired out! Euodia and Syntyche’s squabble is now named out loud … in a letter by St. Paul! And not only that, but these two little cantankerous old ladies just got their namesin the Bible! Right? There are two reasons your name gets in the Bible – either because you are someone super special in the Kingdom story, Mary, Martha, Elizabeth, Joseph, James, Peter – or you have to have done something really bad, Herod, Judas, Euodia, and Syntyche! (But, again my colleague, honorably retired Pastor Earl Palmer, says that we got even with these twono one names their baby after Euodia or Syntyche!)]

Paul says,

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. [He could have named any Christian character trait, any fruit of the Spirit – he chosegentleness”! In the midst of your congregational storm, the bruhaha over who didn’t put the coffee pot away clean, let everyone see your “gentleness”, because “the Lord is near” – whether he means that Jesus is coming back soon or that Jesus lives in your hearts and minds and lives, the Lord is nearby, so remain gentle, be calm, in the midst of your melee, have Shalom…. Then he explains with a couple lists of attitudes and behaviors:]  

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. [Remember a couple weeks ago we read where Paul says, “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling”, and we commented that the Greek word order makes that command much clearer – “fear and tremble, the salvation, yours, work it out!” Here he says, what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, praiseworthythink! And DO IT!

And the blessing is that the God of peace will be with you!

 

Let me close today by offering a few thoughts and conclusions from this passage, a few ideals about what it means to live as followers of Jesus in stressful, turbulent, dangerous times:

  • Who are your Euodias and Syntyches? We all have someone with whom we just disagree, or who gets on our nerves, who is that for you? Pray to find a way to “agree in the Lord”!When you encounter that person, imagine her photo in God’s wallet, and recognize that she is a child of God, his name is in the book of life! Find a way to say THANK YOU for how even your Syntyche is ultimately on the same team as you in the Kingdom of God!
  • Name the thing in your life that makes you want to grumble! In the middle of that, can you rejoice in the Lord!? When you want to gripe or complain, sing your favorite hymn or praise song – and watch as rejoicing in the Lord actually gives you joy in the Lord!
  • Choose three specific items from Paul’s list in the closing paragraph of this passage, pick any three things – and think on them, and do them! Observe an area in your life that needs more God, reflect on that listed virtue that requires attention, discuss it with a friend, make a plan to address it, ask your friend to hold you accountable, and then do it! Think on and do these things! And the God of peace will be with you!

 

May we hear God’s grace and receive His love … right now, and for-ever. Amen.

 

Resources:

Hawthorne, Gerald F.; Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1983; Pp. 175-192.

 

Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 165-173.

 

Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Session 5; Essential Media Services; 1995.

 

Advertisements

05/20/2018 = Philippians 3:12-4:1 = “Is There More?”

(Click HERE if you’d like to LISTEN to this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 3:12-4:1

“Is There More?”

Pentecost, 05/20/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Our good friend Kermit was talking to God this week. “God, how long is a million years?”

God answers, “To me, it’s about a minute.”

Kermit then asks, “God, how much is a million dollars?”

“To me, it’s about a penny.”

“God, may I have one of your pennies?”

“Sure, but it’ll take me a minute.”

 

Today is Pentecost Sunday – our church’s 111th birthday – the day we commemorate God’s Holy Spirit Gift to God’s Chosen people in a brand new and completely, abundantly, empowering way.

Remember that story in Acts 2? On that day there was the sound of a mighty wind and there were tongues of fire and there was an experience of communication no one understands (the Apostles spoke and everyone from all over the Roman Empire heard them in their own local native languages, and 3,000 Jewish men and women came to faith in Jesus Christ!

God, can I have a piece of that Holy Spirit experience?

          Sure, but it’ll happen in My time – and under My conditions.

 

We are in this sermon series working our way through the New Testament book of Philippians. Acts 16 and I Thessalonians 2 show us that Philippi is a city where Paul and Silas had a particularly difficult experience:

  • Paul and Silas go to Philippi against their own plans, because that’s where God directed them
  • The first recorded European baptism takes place in PhilippiLydia
  • Paul and Silas are arrested and imprisoned for their Christian faith
  • While in prison, they pray and sing, and God opens the doors and loosens the shackles
  • The jailer gets baptized – the second European baptism on record
  • Paul and Silas create an opportunity to share the Gospel with the Magistrates as well

Philippi gave Paul some success stories, but it was not a fun place for him to be.

 

Today’s reading, starting in chapter 3, verse 12 (on page 831 in the pew Bibles), describes something about the More that God promises – and that we should all want. Listen to Philippians 3:12-4:1 …. —-

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

 

After the opening greetings, Paul gives some comments about how everyone is of equal value in God’s eyes – that Christ died just as much for the criminal on the cross right next to Him as He did for Betty Stewart or Janie Sorensen; just as much for you as for Your most admired Christian spokesperson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer or C.S. Lewis; just as much for the sinner on the street or your least favorite neighbor as He did for you!

Then Paul tells these Christ-followers in Philippi, that since that egalitarian perspective is true, we ought to serve each other rather than expect to be served! Paul identifies himself as a “servant of the Lord Jesus” as he addresses the overseers and bishops and church elders here. Then, Paul says that even Christ, who is God of Gods, true God of true God, humbled Himself by becoming a human, a slave, who would die as a convicted-but-innocent man on our behalf; therefore, we, too, should humble ourselves and offer ourselves on behalf of others!

And last week we read where he says, Furthermore – in the midst of your struggles, your difficulties, your losses, your trials … REJOICE in the Lord!

 

This pericope commences with Paul’s confession that even he still fails at this ideal of Christian-living – but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: … 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

 

Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, gives the same instruction as what Paul states for his own progression. Matthew 6:33 (my life verse during my college days, and as a life-long backdrop still today): “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (the things we need to live) will be given to you as well.

That for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” is the same asthe goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” is the same asthe Kingdom of God and His righteousness”.

When that becomes our life-purpose, seeking first the Kingdom of God, the “more” that we want becomes made available. Let me say that differently, when we seek God’s Kingdom and righteousness above all else, God wants to give us what we are seeking!

Paul’s point in this passage, and Jesus’ point in His Sermon, is that there is, indeed, more to life than what we currently have – but we have become desperate for the wrong things. We seek first things like safety, health, provision, a job, freedom from diabetes or cancer or arthritis, freedom from captivity or debt or fear. All of those are good things to want, right? Nothing wrong with hoping for a pain-free day or a day when our car payment is finished or our credit card is paid-off.

But, our tendency is to use God as a means to our own ends! We are like the Israelites in Egypt who prayed for God to get them out of Egypt – but their goal wasn’t to get to know God; God was simply their means to get their freedom!

Moses used the Exodus as a means to get to know God!

When God took too long on the mountain, what did the Israelites do? They made their own god, a golden cow, and they worshiped the cow! But Moses waited on God! God was the goal!

Something interesting happens when we make intimacy with the Holy Spirit our number one goal! It numbs our desperation! It does not remove the problem, it just makes the problem not the most important thing in our life! Yes, we may have trouble with our finances; yes, we might have a terrible pain in our body; yes, there might be a broken relationship that has disrupted our other relationships – but guess what … God is bigger than our finances and our physical and emotional aches and pains …. There will be a day, when we are buried 6 feet under, when the financial stress will be gone, when the aches and hurts will disappear, when even our lost loved ones will no longer pain our souls … but we will have an eternity either with our loving God, or without Him.

Seek first His Kingdom, and we will not be desperate for temporal satisfaction. When we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, God is way happy to grant that to us! Because it is for our best good!

 

So Paul says, “Let us live up to what we have already attained!”

The Philippian Christians, and dare I say most of us (and I am certainly including myself), fail to “live up to what we have already attained in Christ Jesus.” We live up to a level that says, “that’s probably good enough, I don’t really want to try any harder”, and then we start to slip into an attitude that places our comfort ahead of God’s Kingdom and righteousness.

Then we pray for God to bless us, to heal us, to provide for us (none of which is bad, until it leads us to) using God as a means to our own ends, our own goals, our own purposes.

 

In 3:19 Paul writes that “many live as enemies of the cross of Christ”, those who use Christ to get what they want as well as those who identify themselves as direct opposition to the Gospel.

When am I an enemy of the cross of Christ? Whenever I think I have to be good enough to deserve salvation, to deserve God’s love; whenever I stop praising God and start only asking Him for deliverance; whenever God becomes only my security and stops being my heavenly Father (and that’s always MY doing, never God’s).

When our understanding of God is nothing more than our ultimate Magic Genie, our Fix-it Man, Paul says, ourdestiny is destruction”.

 

But as growing followers of Jesus Christ, as those who have received and who believe in the Word made flesh, “our citizenship is in heaven … so stand firm in the Lord!

Our “heavenly citizenship” does not mean that our time on earth is just waiting room time. God gives us these years on earth to grow in faith, to experience His presence and power, to know what Holy Spirit baptism means, and to share all of this with the world around us!

Yesterday a FB friend of mine, a seminary friend from 30+ years ago, commented on a post I offered praising the work of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance program which was on site at Friday’s Texas school shooting by Friday afternoon. His post was: “25% less prayer and 150% more action”. And then we got into a minor FB debate over the value and importance of prayer, and how for Christians one ought to enhance the other, not ever replace it – prayer does not replace feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc.; but neither should the ministries of actually doing the good work replace the need for prayer!

 

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…. Therefore, stand firm in the Lord (stay centered, remain focused, be grounded in the Lord), dear friends!

 

Let me close today by reminding us all of three things that stand out in these versesthree questions we might ask ourselvesthree truths which define for us what it means to live as followers of Jesus in stressful, turbulent, dangerous times:

  • Even Paul had not reached a level of Christian faith where he thought he was done growing – When do I use God as a means to my goals rather than as the whole goal of this life? – when we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, all our other concerns take less of our energy and focus, because God is bigger than our problems!
  • Living as “enemies of the cross of Christ” happens every time we focus on our own problems and seek God only as our solution, rather than seeking God as our primary life-giver – Do my prayers focus only on my concerns? Or do I offer God praise even in the hard times? – When we are only looking for miracles, we miss the One who offers miracles; when we claim the power of prayer without claiming the power of the One to whom we pray; we nearly fall into the trap of making a golden calf.
  • We are citizens of heaven, of God’s Kingdom, and as such God offers to transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body, by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives . – Do I “stand firm in the Lord”, filled with His Holy Spirit, right now? Do I even want to? – Dear friends, God invites you in!

 

May we hear God’s grace and receive His love … right now, and for-ever. Amen.

 

Resources:

Hawthorne, Gerald F.; Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1983; Pp. 148-191.

 

Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 151-165.

 

Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Session 4; Essential Media Services; 199?.

 

 

 

 

 

05/13/2018 = Philippians 3:1-11 = “Confidence in Faith or Confidence in Flesh?”

(Click HERE to listen to this message)

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 3:1-11

“Confidence in Faith, or Confidence in Flesh”

05/13/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Have you ever tried to tackle something that was just beyond your expertise and ability? That’s a thing about Moms– – every day, right?, you face new challenges that you have no idea how to answer. But my Mom never showed any fear and never wavered in a sea of no-self-confidence.

I wonder if she followed the philosophy of Jeff Stilson. Jeff Stilson says:

I don’t have any sympathy for people who suffer from low self-esteem. You don’t have to love yourself.  You just need to hate a lot of other people, then grade yourself on a curve. Hey, I might suck, but I don’t suck as bad as Hitler!

 

OK, if you know me at all, you know I don’t mean that … at all. But confidence is a weird thing like that. I am filled with self-doubt, and sometimes that self-doubt costs me more money than it should have; sometimes it costs me opportunities I might have taken; sometimes it costs me in relationships that could have been mine.

Here’s two quick examples: a couple weeks ago, when we learned that Andrew was coming home on a medi-evac situation, we knew we needed to fix the main bathroom’s showerhead so he could bathe in that bathtub – he’s on crutches and his right leg is non-weight-bearing for several weeks. But I know that the showerhead neck needs replacing, not just the showerhead – so I call our plumber, Freedom Plumbing, he’s a great guy. And I watch him simply unscrew the old neck and screw in a new one! I was too scared to do that simple task, and now almost too embarrassed to admit that in front of you – so an $8 piece cost me $8 + a plumber’s house call! My plumbing skills may suck, but I don’t suck as bad as Hitler!

When I first laid eyes on Jennifer, I knew she was way out of my league, so I never even spoke to her, let alone, ask her out. It took like TWO YEARS before I gained the courage to ask her out – and that was an act of God – ask me about that later….. I may have sucked as a suave teenaged sex symbol, but I didn’t suck as bad as Hitler!

 

We are in this sermon series working our way through the New Testament book of Philippians. Acts 16 and I Thessalonians 2 show us that Philippi is a city where Paul and Silas had a particularly difficult experience:

  • Paul and Silas go to Philippi against their own plans, because that’s where God directed them
  • The first recorded European baptism takes place in PhilippiLydia
  • Paul and Silas are arrested and imprisoned for their Christian faith
  • While in prison, they pray and sing, and God opens the doors and loosens the shackles
  • The jailer gets baptized – the second European baptism on record
  • Paul and Silas create an opportunity to share the Gospel with the Magistrates as well

Philippi gave Paul some success stories, but it was not a fun place for him to be.

 

Today’s reading, the chapter 3, verses 1-11 (starting on page 831 in the pew Bibles), describe how to build confidence. Listen to Philippians 3:1-11 …. —-

1  Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put 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; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christand be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

 

This pericope begins with a “Furthermore”, so let’s take a quick second to see what “more” is “further”:

After the opening greetings, Paul gives some comments about how everyone is of equal value in God’s eyes – that Christ died just as much for the criminal on the cross right next to Him as He did for Mother Teresa or Billy Graham; just as much for you as for Your most admired Christian spokesperson, Corrie ten Boom or Bill Gaither; just as much for the sinner on the street or your least favorite neighbor as He did for you!

Then Paul tells these Christ-followers in Philippi, that since that egalitarian perspective is true, we ought to serve each other rather than expect to be served! Paul identifies himself as a “servant of the Lord Jesus” as he addresses the overseers and bishops and church elders here. Then, Paul says that even Christ, who is God of Gods, true God of true God, humbled Himself by becoming a human, a slave, who would die as a convicted-but-innocent man on our behalf; therefore, we, too, should humble ourselves and offer ourselves on behalf of others!

And last week we read where he says, “Take my spiritual son Timothy, for example; and my brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier, Epaphroditus! I hope to send them to you, as my equals – what they say is what I say – because they genuinely love you! And Epaphroditus, your apostle. Honor him, and people like him. … Furthermore ….

Furthermore, what? Furthermore, work hard? Furthermore, prove your value?Furthermore – in the midst of your struggles, your difficulties, your losses, your trials (what?) … REJOICE in the Lord!

 

Notice what Paul does here? He makes sure that his readers, and that includes you and me, remain centered on Christ! This is what makes Paul a good teacher! He remains centered on Christ, and he keeps his readers centered on Christ! He does not say, “Don’t worry, be happy.” I mean, that’s fine – but totally unrealistic.

Don’t worry, be happy – when the bank is foreclosing on my house? Don’t worry, be happy – when the doctor says that there’s some bad news? Don’t worry, be happy – when my husband tells me he’s leaving? When my daughter quits school? When my world is crumbling in all around me?

NoRejoice in the Lord! Stay focused on Christ! Joy is in that relationship – forever!

 

Paul addresses some of the local Philippian theological debates between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians – a little racism, ethnicism, elitism. And his argument concludes with – “They got nothing on me – but none of that matters – because (middle of verse 8) there is nothing better than knowing CHRIST!

 

The NIV Bible titles this section “No Confidence in the Flesh” – because Paul uses the Jewish rite of circumcision, which Jews used to claim their superiority over the Gentiles, as worth nothing compared with knowing Christ!

The word “confidence”, which Paul uses to say that the believers who put their confidence in their fleshly surgery are simply wrong, the word literally means, “with faith!” “Con-” is the prefix which means “with”, “fides” means “faith.”

 

Rejoice in the Lordthe surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lordthat I may gain Christ and be found in himthat which is through faith in Christrighteousness that comes from God on the basis of faithI want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

 

Paul reminds us that when Christ is our center we have the ability to Rejoice in the Lord, regardless of life’s circumstances – and that is a super power the world would love to have. Preachers and church leaders who concentrate on peripheral things miss out on the most influential aspect of the Christian faith! Do not get sidetracked with anything less than what God offers us though Jesus Christ!

 

Thank you, Mom, for giving this gift to me!

 

Let me close today by reminding us all of one central thing that stands out in these versesone question we might ask ourselvesone truth which defines for us what it means to live as followers of Jesus in stressful, turbulent, dangerous times:

Paul wants his readers to always remain centered on Jesus Christ, because that focus gives us confident joy even in the darkest moments.

Do you know Christ like this? Is He that around which everything else revolves? Do you want the ability to rejoice in the Lord … today?

When we discover the truth of God’s perfect grace, like the earth revolves around the sun without even thinking about it, we will find Christ as our source of strength and light always.

 

May we hear God’s grace and receive His love … right now, and for-ever. Amen.

 

Resources:

Hawthorne, Gerald F.; Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1983; Pp. 121-148.

 

Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 134-151.

 

Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Sessions 4; Essential Media Services; 199?.

 

05/06/2018 = Philippians 2:19-30 = “Leading and Leaning/Parenting and Partnering”

(Click HERE for this message, and listen for the invitation to “Live in the Lord”.

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 2:19-30

“Leading and Leaning/Parenting and Partnering”

05/06/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

The boss called one of his employees into the office. “Rob,” he said, “you’ve been with the company for a year now. You started off in the mail room, one week later you were promoted to a sales position, and one month after that you were promoted to district manager of the sales department. Just four short months later, you were promoted to vice-president. Now, it’s time for me to retire, and I want you to take over the company. What do you say to that?”

“Thanks, Dad,” said the employee.

 

Yup! Being a Parent and being a Partner are two very different things – but every once in awhile we can see them happen together, and when we do it is an amazingly beautiful thing.

 

We are in this sermon series working our way through the New Testament book of Philippians. Acts 16 and I Thessalonians 2 show us that Philippi is a city where Paul and Silas had a particularly difficult experience:

  • Paul and Silas go to Philippi against their own plans, because that’s where God directed them
  • The first recorded European baptism takes place in PhilippiLydia
  • Paul and Silas are arrested and imprisoned for their Christian faith
  • While in prison, they pray and sing, and God opens the doors and loosens the shackles
  • The jailer gets baptized – the second European baptism on record
  • Paul and Silas create an opportunity to share the Gospel with the Magistrates as well

Philippi gave Paul some success stories, but it was not a fun place for him to be.

 

Today’s reading, the second half of chapter two (Page 831 in the pew Bibles), starts with a paragraph about Paul’s spiritual son Timothy and then closes with a paragraph about a partner in the ministry named Epaphroditus. Listen to Philippians 2:19-30 …. —-

19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me.24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

That’s the paragraph about Timothy. Let’s take a minute and examine what Paul might be saying here:

First, let’s remember the context this paragraph is a part of. After the opening greetings, Paul gives some comments about how everyone is of equal value in God’s eyes – that Christ died just as much for the criminal on the cross right next to Him as He did for Mother Teresa or Billy Graham; just as much for you as for Your most admired Christian spokesperson, Corrie ten Boom or Bill Gaither; just as much for the sinner on the street or your least favorite neighbor as He did for you!

Then Paul tells these Christ-followers in Philippi, that since that egalitarian perspective is true, we ought to treat each other as servants rather than as those who expect to be served! Paul identifies himself as a “servant of the Lord Jesus” as he addresses the overseers and bishops and church elders here. And in last week’s reading, Paul says that even Christ, who is God of Gods, true God of true God, humbled Himself by becoming a human, a slave, who would die as a convicted-but-innocent man on behalf of us; therefore, we, too, should humble ourselves and offer ourselves on behalf of others!

And here, in this paragraph, he says, “Take my spiritual son Timothy, for example! I hope to send him to you, as my equal – what he says is what I say – because he genuinely loves you, he has proved himself to you before; Timothy exemplifies what I’m talking about when I quote that good old country Gospel song in verses 6-11!

You, too,” Paul is urging, “because you have received God’s amazing grace should be overflowing with grace to offer others – remember last week’s “putting others before you in line” story!”

And, by the way, as many of you now know, Andrew made it home from Kyrgyzstan after his surgery on his femoral head, but he will be another few months of non-weight-bearing, so I will be home more and in the office less for a while, and your Deacons will be doing the visits. I trust them fully and thank them immensely for their servant-hearts!

 

And now, let’s look at the next paragraph, about Epaphroditus:

25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.

So, I learned this week that, apparently, Epaphroditus was a pretty common name in the ancient world of Greek-speaking Roman Empire. I mean, it was no “Jack” or “Dick” or “Ken”, but it was pretty common. If you look carefully you can see the name of a Greek goddess in this masculine nameAphroditegoddess of love; with the epiprefix, Epaphroditus’s name means something like “even a better lover than Aphrodite”!

One might wonder why the Christian communities didn’t try to change that Greek-goddess-name into something more in line with Christ-likeness right? There are plenty of name changes in the Bible, usually following some sort faith-event. Why not Epaphroditus? I found one commentator who thinks the reason is that being a Christian is more than simply having a Christian name! Being a Christian is having a Christian life! Like you’ve heard before, “Let’s live like we believe what we say we believe!

Epaphroditus does that. Paul goes out of his way to call this man “my brother, my co-worker, my fellow soldier”. Paul says, “If you think I’m a Christian, think that equally of Epaphroditus, equal to me in every way!

And Paul even goes further: “My brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, and yourmessenger’ (the word Paul uses here is Apostolosyourapostle’), and minister/deacon (the word means ‘care-giver’).”

Since I can’t come right now, cuz I’m in prison in Rome; and since Timothy can’t come yet, cuz he’s dealing with some stuff in in Caesarea, let me send to you the guy you sent to take care of me here in Rome – he’s one of your own, he’s from Philippi, and he deeply misses you, and he’s been literally deathly ill here – in fact (this is what Bible scholars think), Epaphroditus is gonna deliver this letter to you! Welcome him in the Lord with great joy!

And, honor everybody who lives like they believe what they say they believe like Epaphroditus lives like he believes what he says he believes!

 

Today we are invited to join together at our Lord’s Tableequal in God’s eyes, siblings in Christ, co-workers in His Kingdom, fellow soldiers in God’s army.

 

Let me close today by reminding us all of three things that stand out in these versesthree questions we might ask ourselvesthree truths which define for us what it means to live as followers of Jesus in stressful, turbulent, dangerous times:

  • Christ came to serve, not to be served, and we are called to be Christlike – Whom will you go out of your way to serve this week? – We have been offered grace beyond measure!
  • Paul says to welcome Epaphroditus with joy and honor people like him – Whom will you give special honor to this week, and how will you show that honor? – Epaphroditus lived like he believed what he said he believed and Paul tells us that if we, also, live like we believe what we say we believe, we, too will deserve honor from each other.
  • The Gospel is demonstrated in this passage by Paul’s repeated use of the line “in the Lord Jesus”. – Do you know life “in the Lord Jesus” today? – God invites you in!

 

May we hear God’s grace and receive His love … right now, and for-ever. Amen.

 

Resources:

Hawthorne, Gerald F.; Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1983; Pp. 107-121.

 

Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 121-134.

 

Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Sessions 4; Essential Media Services; 199?.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

04/29/2018 = Philippians 2:1-18 = “The Christmas Star Makes Us into Shining Stars”

(Click HERE to listen to this message … if you dare…)

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 2:1-18

“The Christmas Star Makes Us into Shining Stars”

04/29/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

I was up all night wondering where the sun had gone … then it dawned on me. OK. That was the warm up for the big one. Are you ready?

 

A Higgs boson goes into a church and the priest says, “We don’t allow Higgs bosons here.”

And the Higgs boson says, “But without me there is no mass.”

I feel like maybe that jokes needs an explanation???  In 2012, scientists confirmed the detection of the long-sought Higgs boson, also known by its nickname the “God particle,” at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the most powerful particle accelerator on the planet. This particle helps give mass to all elementary particles that have mass, such as electrons and protons. You know, sciency stuff. Oh, and in the Roman Catholic Church a worship service, which includes the Eucharist, is called a “mass”.

So, let me re-tell the joke, and this time you can laugh – because you love me if not because it’s hilarious.

A Higgs boson goes into a church and the priest says, “We don’t allow Higgs bosons here.”

And the Higgs boson says, “But without me there is no mass.”

 

I was up all night wondering where … nevermind….

 

Why start with that “super-funny joke”? Because the “God Particle” is related to the existence of the stars in the sky, and in today’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Christian people in Philippi we see a reference to Jesus’ incarnation, His birth stories (which include the Star of Bethlehem), and Paul’s declaration that Christ’s followers shine like stars in the sky.

 

We are in this sermon series working our way through the New Testament book of Philippians. Acts 16 and I Thessalonians 2 show us that this is a city where Paul and Silas had a particularly difficult experience:

  • Paul and Silas go to Philippi against their own plans, because that’s where God directed them
  • The first recorded European baptism takes place in PhilippiLydia
  • Paul and Silas are arrested and imprisoned for their Christian faith
  • While in prison, they pray and sing, and God opens the doors and loosens the shackles
  • The jailer gets baptized – the second European baptism on record
  • Paul and Silas create an opportunity to share the Gospel with the Magistrates as well

Philippi gave Paul some success stories, but it was not a fun place for him to be.

 

With that, listen to Philippians 2:1-18 (Page 831 in the pew Bibles) …. —-

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, [Before we get too far in, remember whenever there’s a “therefore” we gotta ask what’s the “therefore” there for: “Therefore” always brings into conclusion a previous set of statements. What we read last week ended with, “27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. … Therefore,]

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, [Notice, Paul does not say, “Therefore SINCE you have encouragement, comfort, compassion…” He says, “IF you have these things…” Almost like he’s asking, “Do you have encouragement? Are you tender and compassionate? If so,” he says,]

then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. [How do we be of one mind and one heart together? He answers] Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

[I know – we have 18 verses we want to get through this morning, but we absolutely need to take a look at this for just a minute – we will get rolling soon, I promise. The NIV, in verse 3, says, “value others above yourself”. Let me interrupt for a minute here. The NIV is a fine translation of the Old Testament Hebrew and the New Testament Greek – but occasionally it misses a key point. This is an example of that. In chapter 1, what we read two Sundays ago, we saw that the Apostle Paul, the greatest Church starter in all of Christian history, called himself a “servant of the Lord Jesus Christ” as he was writing to Bishops, Elders, Overseers in Philippi – a church he planted! And we commented that Paul was a great equalizer every one is equally important and valuable in the eyes of God! So, now less than a chapter later does he really say, “value others above yourself? And the answer is … No. After some research and study, I learned that what Paul really says in this verse is “in humility put others before you”, notthink of them as more important than you”. Let me illustrate how that plays out: (one-man skit)

In grocery store, with one item in hand, looking for the quickest checkout line:

Oh my, this store is quite busy, and I only have this one apple to buy…

I could go to the ‘8 items only’ line, but look how long it is – and I know that, even though it says ‘No Checks’, the person right in front of me will write a check – and the poor lady will have to call a manager to come over and approve the check – and that will not go fast.

I know, I’ll stand in this line, behind that lady with a full cart, not that lane where he’s already started to go through, but this lane with two people in line, but this lady hasn’t gotten started yet – and she looks like she doesn’t have any coupons – that’s always a mistake to get behind a conscientious coupon clipper.

I know, I’ll get behind her … and I’ll look a little sad … and anxious … I’ll pretend to be on my phone telling my wife that I’ll be right out as soon as I can …

What am I hoping will happen?You’ve only got one item, Honey? Go on ahead of me.

OK, who else has played this exact game before? Who has been invited to “go on ahead of me”?

THAT’s what Paul is talking about here! THAT’s GRACE! This nice lady could have said, “You wait in line, Mister! I’ve been shopping for an hour and a half, buying all the right non-GMO, Gluten-free, organic, stuff – to feed my family for a week. I need to get out of here, too – and I’ve spent my time doing it all right – not like you who forgot one apple the last time you were in…. You just wait in line!” She could have said that! That’s LAW. But instead, she offers GRACE.

That’s what Paul means – If you have received any encouragement, any comfort, any tenderness, any compassion, from Jesus Christ through your fellow believers, then offer GRACE! Put others before you in line!]

Paul continues: In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: [Remember how Christ did this:]

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

[A couple of very quick points here: Notice that this is written as poetry, not as prose – it’s in stanzas, not paragraphs. We have no historical record of this being sung – but every Bible scholar, from a hundred years after Paul wrote this letter to right now believes this was a very early Christian hymn, an early Praise Song. We sang a version of this last week: “He came from heaven to earth, to show the way; from the earth to the cross, my debt to pay; from the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky, Lord, I lift Your name on high”. This is Paul’s reference to the Christmas star – the star that showed the magi how to find the newborn King of the Jews, the star that shone over Bethlehem. Jesus, God from God, very God from very God, became a human – but not just any human, a servant human (doulos, means a “slave”), God became a slave, and died – on a cross, the cruelest of deaths, reserved for the vilest offenders! Why? Not because Jesus, the Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, is less valuable than you or me, but because, in humility, He put us before Himself in line!

Now, Paul says, He is asking us to do that for each other! We’ve been offered graceoffer that grace to others! Stop being critical, stop being judgmental, stop holding the LAW as more important than LOVEput others before you in line!

When I read this, I am immediately convicted of self-righteousness, aren’t you, too?

Because Christ did this, God lifts His name on high! – the Name of Christ is above every name! And that is so true that there will come a time when every knee will bow before Him, every mouth with acknowledge HimPaul says, let’s choose to do that right now, of our own free will, receive Him and believe Him, today!]

And then there’s another “therefore”. Listen:

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence— [it doesn’t matter about meI’m not the one you should be looking up to, it doesn’t matter whether I am there or not] continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. [“continue to work out your salvation” does not mean you have to deserve it or earn it, “work it out” is what we do as we grow in our faith. How? Paul continues:]

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”  [This means we have to act it out – like tithing. If we plan to tithe, if we think about it too much, we get an ulcer – but when we put the principle of tithing to practice we experience blessings we could never predict or expect.“Put others before you in line! And, do it without grumbling!”] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.  [As the star from heaven announced the incarnation of the Son of God, so you will be co-heirs with the Son of God when you receive and believe in Him giving you the right to also be called children of God! But please, remember the Living Word of LifeJesus Christ!]   And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. [And Paul again invites us to join him in JOY! SEVEN times, so far, in 1-1/2 chapters, Paul expresses joy with these people where he suffered so terriblyjoy in the Lord, which gives him strength!]

 

Let me close today by reminding us all of three things that stand out in these versesthree questions we might ask ourselvesthree truths which define for us what it means to live as followers of Jesus in stressful, turbulent, dangerous times:

  • If we have any encouragement, comfort, tenderness, compassion from fellow believers, know that it comes from God through Jesus Christ – can you name any time, ever, when someone loved you? – We owe our thanks to God for those expressions of love – we love because God first loved us (I John 4:19)!
  • There’s that whole song about how Jesus put us before Him in line – have you ever been invited to go before someone already in line? Will you offer that grace to someone else this week? – the question isn’t so much WWJD?, it’s really What DID Jesus Already Do? And now What Would He Have Me Do?
  • That early Christian hymn sings of Jesus humbling Himself as “True God of True God” becoming a mere human of the lowest standing, and dying the worst death, for us; and then Paul says that when we grow in our faith our lives will “shine like stars” pointing to Jesus – has anyone asked you where your joy comes from? How you handle life’s struggles? When was the last time someone became a follower of Jesus with you because of what they saw in you? – As the Son of God came (the Christmas Star) and offered Himself to/for us – so we also become Children of God (shining stars), not by what we do, but by how we believe, which shows itself what how we live!

 

May we hear God’s grace and receive His love … right now, and for-ever. Amen.

 

Resources:

Hawthorne, Gerald F.; Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1983; Pp. 63-107.

 

Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 90-121.

 

Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Sessions 3; Essential Media Services; 199?.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

04/22/2018 = Philippians 1:12-30 = “Being a Good ‘Citizen’ Makes Us ‘Worthy'”

(Click HERE for an audio – it’s not a great audio, but it’s an audio…)

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 1:12-20

“Being a Good ‘Citizen’ Makes Us ‘Worthy’”

04/22/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

A Sunday school teacher was discussing the 10 Commandments with her five and six year olds. After explaining the commandment to “honor” thy Father and thy Mother, she asked, “Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?”

Without missing a beat one little boy (the oldest of a family) answered, “Thou shall not kill.”

 

We are in a series working our way through the New Testament book of Philippians. Acts 16 shows us that this is a city where, if I had been Paul or Silas, the “Thou shall not kill” commandment would have been an important one to remember! Remember that:

  • Paul and Silas go to Philippi because that’s where God directed them
  • The first recorded European baptism takes place in PhilippiLydia
  • Paul and Silas are arrested and imprisoned for their Christian faith
  • While in prison, they pray and sing, and God opens the doors and loosens the shackles
  • The jailer gets baptized
  • Paul and Silas create an opportunity to share the Gospel with the Magistrates as well
  • And in I Thessalonians 2:2 Paul says, “We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.”

Philippi gave Paul some success stories, but it was not a fun place for him to be.

 

With that, let’s turn to Philippians 1:12-30 (Page 830 in the pew Bibles), this is a long passage to preach from, but I want to read the whole section so we have context, and then concentrate on the 8 verses that are printed in your bulletins …. —-

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 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.

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 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.  

Let’s stop there for a minute: Paul is here reminding his readers of his own circumstances – he was imprisoned in Philippi, for no real reason other than that the Christian faith he proclaimed hurt somebody’s huckster business.

And now, at the time of the writing of this letter, 10 years after his visit in Philippi, he was in prison in Rome for the same kinds of reasons. But what does he say? He says, “It’s all good! God has used my suffering to further Gospel of Jesus Christ to further His purposes – He’s even used those that mockingly preach the Gospel to bring the Good News to people! And, in suffering and out, I rejoice! Again I say, I rejoice!

Now, starting in verse 20, listen to Paul’s statement of faith:

20 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.  21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 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, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

What does Paul mean when he says, “To me, to live is Christ and to die is gain? What does that mean? St. Patrick says, “Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me; Christ to comfort and restore me; Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger!” That’s what Paul means. There is nothing more important in this life than his relationship, your relationship, our relationship with God through Jesus Christ! That is it! Nothing is more important!

And that’s why “to die is gain!” Do you see that? Betty Stewart learned that a month ago! Rich Wilson knew this a week later! So many of us have loved ones who know this truth! “To live is Christ! And to die is gain!

Look at verse 23 – I meant to put this verse in the bulletin, but I missed it – the NIV says, “What shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body….” – I am torn between the two! Torn apart by these two diametrically opposed situations!

The Greek word Paul uses here for “torn apart” is “syn-echo”. The prefixsyn-” means “together” – we have words like “synagogue” (a place where people come together), “synchronize” (bringing things together in time), “synonym” (two words brought together by the same meaning); and the word “echo” means “to be held”. “Syn-echo” means “held together”, nottorn apart”! The RSV translates this verse by saying, “I am ‘hard-pressed’ between the two.” That’s better. Like a river bank holds the river together; like these walls hold this roof together; Paul says that on the one hand, life is Christ, and on the other hand to die is gain! Paul is not saying that he is being cut in two by a pocket-knifeno, he is being held together by these borders!

And now Paul gives a little pushback toward these Christ-followers in this Roman provincial county seat with this first instruction regarding how they are to apply all of this in the lives. Listen:

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Whatever happens” – in living or in dying, whatever happens, “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel”! Where he says “conduct yourselves” he uses a political word – a word that describes good citizenship. “Whatever happens, in living or in dyinga sign that you will be saved by God –  conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel.

Paul is telling his readers that as citizens of God’s Kingdom, people who live and die under God’s rule, on earth as it is in heaven, you are worthy of the Gospel. This is not a command to work hard so that you deserve the Gospel Good News of salvation, you cannot earn it by being good enough!

But he is saying that when we live and die in such a way that the Gospel of God’s Agape love shows, others will see itothers will taste the Gospel through your life and death, through our life and death, through my life and death!

 

Let me put this in summary:  I see three things that stand out in these versesthree questions we might ask ourselvesthree truths which define for us what it means to live as followers of Jesus in stressful, turbulent, dangerous times:

  • We can rejoice in God even is bad times, because the Gospel is real and true – are you able to experience joy, even in the midst of pain and fear, your chaos and loss? – This joy is evidence of your faith in God, and His presence offers hope and joy regardless of our hurts and struggles!
  • We are held together – as a community, but also as individuals are held together, we are held together, hard-pressed by living in Christ, and by dying in His presence – do you feel the pressure of wanting to be more spiritually present with God, and also being more physically present here? – as bookends hold a row of books on the shelf, so does our love for God and our love for His place for us here hold us in tension for His good purpose.
  • God’s Kingdom, God’s rule, God’s authority in our living and our dying, makes us “worthy of the Gospel” – do you know that your salvation does not depend on you being good enough?You are made “worthy of the Gospel” simply by being a “citizen in God’s Kingdom”, and by receiving His Son you are not just a citizen, but a child of the King!

 

May we hear God’s grace and receive His love … right now, and for-ever. Amen.

 

Resources:

www.beliefnet.com/ilovejesus/features/15-funny-pastor-jokes-and-stories.aspx?p=10

 

Hawthorne, Gerald F.; Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1983; Pp. 31-63.

 

Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 67-90.

 

Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Sessions 2-3; Essential Media Services; 199?.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

04/15/2018 = Philippians 1:1-11 = “Caring and Prayer-ing”

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 1:1-11

“Caring and Prayer-ing”

04/15/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

A pastor one time said to a parishioner: “You need to join the Army of the Lord!

This man replied, “I’m already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor.”

The Pastor questioned, “Well, how come I don’t see you except at Christmas and Easter?

The man whispered back, “I’m in the Secret Service.”
Today we begin a new series working our way through the very-non-Secret-Service New Testament book of Philippians. Last week we introduced this series by reading the historical event of Paul and Silas’ visit to the Roman County Seat of Macedonia, Philippi, about 10 years before this letter was written. And in Acts 16 we see a few things happen that impact the writing of this letter. Does anyone remember any of the events we read from Acts 16:

  • Paul and Silas got to Philippi because that’s where God directed them
  • The first recorded European baptism takes place in PhilippiLydia, that’s the photo on the bulletin cover, the Strymon River on the western edge of the city
  • Paul and Silas are arrested and imprisoned for their Christian faith
  • While in prison, they pray and sing, and God opens the doors and loosens the shackles
  • The jailer gets baptized
  • Paul and Silas create an opportunity to share the Gospel with the Magistrates as well
  • One more thing, not from the book of Acts, but from Paul’s First letter to the Christian Church in Thessalonica, chapter 2, Paul himself says, “We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.”

That’s not all we read, but that’s a good start. Philippi gave Paul some success stories, but it was not a fun place for him to be.

 

With that, let’s turn to Philippians 1:1-11 (Page 830 in the pew Bibles) …. —-

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:

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

The greeting salutation identifies the author as Paul, and Paul’s spiritual son who by this time had been the pastor of the Church in the Asia Minor (Turkey) city of Ephesus. And he does not identify himself as their superiornot Paul and Timothy, Bishops, or your Church Founder, or Apostle, but as “servants of Christ Jesus”.

And then he writes, “To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus…”. Who are these “holy people”? They are the ChurchLydia, and her household; the unnamed jailer, and his household; and all those whom these two had gathered in their homes to worship God in the name of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spiritall of them.

Together with the overseers (episcopoi, elders, bishops, church leaders, not unlike our Council of Elders) and deacons (ordained servants, not unlike our Board of Deacons).

In typical letter fashion from one Christian to another, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

What does this say to us? We are all equal under the eyes of God – “priesthood of all believers” is the way Luther and Calvin said it. You are just as valuable and important as the person in front of you or behind you. Lydia is just as important as the jailer (she’s got a name, and he does not!). You are just as valuable as Pastor Kathy or Pastor Mark! Do not ever doubt that!

 

So, after the Greeting, what does Paul say to these Christians who live in Philippi?

Remember how difficult Philippi was for Paul. But, we also saw Lydia invite Paul and Silas to her house while they were visiting her city; and we saw the jailer take Paul and Silas to his house to clean their wounds and feed them; and we can imagine all the ways the other Christians in this city of conflict may have cared for Paul and his crew of Christian evangelists, so Paul writes:

I thank my God every time I remember you. 

And the relationship does not end with care – one of my Facebook friends just posted on Friday that she thinks that praying for someone may be the most loving thing we can do for another person – so Paul writes:

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy (I love that Paul connects “joy” with this town of torturejoy is the sense of light and hope we have in our hearts, despite the desperate circumstances we find ourselves in because we have a confident faith in our Savior Jesus Christ! Does that describe you right now?)  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus(Is Jesus dependable? He who began a good work in you will complete itthat is a reason for joy) It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is where Paul gets specific. The Rev. Dr. Earl Palmer, a retired Presbyterian Pastor, says that this prayer is like the prayer your mom says at dinner when her baby comes home from college for Spring Break – she prays for all the things she’s about to askI pray he’s studying hard (how are your classes going?), that she gets good sleep every night (are you going to bed at a reasonable hour?), that the work study program is paying enough to cover basic expenses (do you need your father to give you some money?). Listen:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, (are you growing in how you love your neighbor?) 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, (how’s your ability to defend against temptation going?) 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God (do you think God is pleased with what He sees?).

 

In summary, I see three things that stand out in this opening textthree questions we might ask ourselvesthree truths which define for us what it means to live as followers of Jesus in stressful, turbulent, dangerous times:

  • The Great Apostle Paul counts himself as a servant of Christ among others who are overseers and deacons and God’s people in Christ Jesus – do you know how valuable YOU are to our Lord and Savior? – this is why Jesus died on that cross, why God gave His one and only Son, and why He calls you His child if you believe in Him!
  • Joy in the midst of strife is available to all who have received Jesus as God’s gift – do YOU HAVE this JOY today? In the midst of your struggle, your fear, your chaos, your loss, do you experience joy in Christ Jesus your Lord? – God offers that grace to you, right now; take a moment and reflect on how deeply you need Him, and ask Him to step in and shine His light of hope and peace right now.
  • Paul offers his prayers for these Philippian followers of Jesus – do you know who is praying for you? Do you know that your Deacons pray for you every month? And when something happens, prayers are shot out from the whole body of believers here? Do you know that prayer carries with it the power of God almighty who hears our every plea, our every cry our every praise?You are prayed for today, so you are never alone!

 

May we hear God’s grace and receive His care … right now, and for-ever. Amen.

 

Resources:

www.beliefnet.com/ilovejesus/features/15-funny-pastor-jokes-and-stories.aspx?p=2#kpvl8fVlWhhEMJKl.99

 

Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 1-67.

 

Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Session 1; Essential Media Services; 199?.