Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 3, 2015.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 4:2-3. Before we start I want to express how important those first few words are in doing what we are doing, that being the preaching and hearing of a sermon. If you are visiting, or if you are somewhat new to Cornerstone, you should know that the aim at Cornerstone Church is to the pursuit of the knowledge of God through the study of His Word. Week in and week out, we do the same things, we open up the Bible and look at what God has to reveal to us.
For those who attended Secret Church last Friday, I loved that David Platt started by saying that he is not an authority figure on any of the topics that he addresses that night. His only authority is the authority of the Word of God. This is my mindset each week in preparing the sermon. And this is why I start most, if not all, of my sermons with open your Bibles. Today we are going to be examining two verses. So let us read out text, pray, and examine what God has to say to us.
One requirement of an Elder of a Church, and by Elder I mean Pastor, is to be on guard against footholds that Satan may grab hold of within our congregation. Every Church has a weakness, if not thousands, Cornerstone Church is no different.
Upon thinking about our family, one weakness that I believe we may have is theology. Let me explain. Theology is the study of God. It is the pursuit of knowledge of who God is. The way we do this, as I said earlier, is that we open up the Bible to see what it says. Not only do we do this on Sunday, we do this on Wednesdays, Friday, Tuesdays, Saturdays and any other day of the week that fits. We are a Church that values studying God’s Word.
Having said that, theology is not an end in itself. The study of the Bible is not the goal. As we saw recently, the goal is Christlikeness. This is the prize that we are striving for is to become like our Master, Jesus. So like Jesus, we are not to be only thinkers, but doers.
So what does this have to do with our text today? In today’s text we see theology applied. By that I mean that we see Paul implementing what he has already taught previously in his letter to the Philippians.
Distraction of Disunity
Last week we talked about standing firm in the Lord. This led us to talk about the issue of standing firm against what? We concluded that the “what” was the schemes of the devil.
Why am I saying this? Because, like Paul, I want to bring this issue of unity into our Church. We at Cornerstone are still in what I believe is a honeymoon period. We are a very young Church. And right now things are exciting. We are growing in our love for the Lord, we are seeing authentic pursuit of God’s glory, we are seeing real transformation, and it is contagious. Things are good. But we are naive to believe that things will always be this way, for we have an enemy. He is lurking around, trying to find a foothold into our church, and by foothold I mean you or me, or a future attender. Satan will attempt to destroy the work of God at Cornerstone Church through the people of Cornerstone Church.
Satan’s common scheme is to create clicks, and disunity, and discord, and factions, and arguments and wars. And through these wars, he wants to take down the whole ship.
Will Satan tempt? You bet. But what causes the quarrels and the fights is YOUR passions, YOUR desires, YOUR covetousness. The problem is that you and I and everyone who walks in these doors is a sinner and we are all vulnerable, just like Euodia and Syntyche. Don’t forget these two women were active in the ministry. Paul says he labored side by side with them in the faith of the Gospel. But now, because of their self-centered flesh, they were no longer side by side, but toe-to-toe in disagreement. No longer were these two women focused on the mission, but instead they were focused on their passions.
Now what would happen if this disagreement would have continued unaddressed? Would time heal all wounds? Absolutely not. Most likely what would have happened are sides would have been taken. The poison would have been like leven, starting small, but working itself through the entire piece of dough. This disagreement had to be address.
This is where most people, and most Churches fail. A majority of people know there is a problem. They see the problem. They may even talk about the problem, but they never address the problem. They just let the wound fester, if you will. Why? Because there is a lack of courage and a lack of leadership.
Paul recognized that something had to be done. He wasn’t about to let their argument wreck things the Church from inside out. He was going to take action. However, here was the problem, Paul was in prison. He was not able to help firsthand. He needed to recruit someone. So he recruits the True Companion.
The Greek for companion is Syzygus. In fact, many of your Bible may have a footnote next to the word companion that tells you this. The reason for this is that there is a debate as to whether the Syzygus is used by Paul generally to refer to anyone of that nature, or if he is actually using a persons name that matches the action he is requesting. I believe that Syzygus is actually the persons name. I will even take it a step farther, I believe this Syzygus is an overseer for the Philippian Church.
Why? First, because Paul addresses this letter to the overseers and deacons in the opening of the letter, Philippians 1:1. Second, because this is exactly what an overseer should be doing. An Overseer, or elder, of a Church should be constantly on guard for anything that may cause potential division in the Church. When he sees this divisions, he must take action before it is too late. Once again, I think Churches have failed miserably at this, and it appears the Philippian Church had as well.
Too often Pastors are weak. We worry about filling seats on Sunday, weekly donations, wanting everyone to like us, not rocking the boat, or not getting fired. So because of this, we don’t like to get our hands dirty, we don’t like to get in the middle of things, so we instead stick our heads in the sand. This is the exact opposite of what we are called to do. Pastors are called to protect the Church, to stand on guard against strife and division. We are to jump in the trenches right along side each one of you to help in the midst of your sin. I wonder how many Church splits could have been prevented if Pastors would have done their job. If they would have had the courage to love others more than they loved themselves.
Thankfully, for this Church Paul intervened, and addressed the problem and urged Syzygus to help these two ladies out. So this is my exhortation to all of you. If you see me more worried about my skin, then your hearts, you need to confront me. If I am failing to do what I am called to do and protect the sheep, then you call me out and come and speak with me face to face. For I know that I am a sinner and I am prone to wander, and I need you to help me fulfill my role. Second, in this room I am hoping that we have a handful of future elders. Men, if you can’t see yourself confronting people about their sin, then you are not called to this position. To be an Elder is not for the faint of heart. It is hard, for you never know how your help may be received.
Agree in the Lord
Which leads to the final point, and perhaps that most important. How do you help? What is the answer to the division, what is the answer to the disagreement? The answer is “Agree in the Lord.”
This is where we should all be listening. Up to this point some of you may be thinking, what an irrelevant message. I don’t care about church roles. Well you should, but in case you don’t, this message is for everyone.
The details of the disagreement between these two ladies is immaterial, for the problem is not found in their positions. THe problem lies in their hearts. These two ladies are sinners. Yes, they are Christians, but they still struggle with their flesh, their sin. And this is the root of all disagreements on the face of this planet. This is why wives and husbands argue, this is why parents and children argue, this is why democrats and republicans argue, this is why everyone argues. We are all sinners. Each one of us act like little kings and queens demanding that every little desire of our heart be fulfilled. If it doesn’t happen, we fight, just like we talked about before.
The only solution to the perpetual war, is to crucify your flesh, submit, and let Jesus be your Lord. Now don't miss that word, Lord. To let Jesus be Lord means to lay down your life and let him call the shots. To let him control your life. To pursue his will, not yours.
These two women were too focused on their will, and it was destroying their relationship and would potentially destroy their entire Church family. This is true for every single one of us. If we focus on our wills and our desires we are guaranteed to make a wreck out of our life. Don’t believe me, just look around. The one and only solution is to let Jesus be Lord. Now some of you may be saying, but that doesn’t sound fun, to let Jesus control my life. Let me ask, are divorces fun, are Church wars fun, are kids that hate you fun, is bitterness and unforgiveness fun, is destruction fun? No. What is fun is unity, togetherness, peace, love, harmony, and these things can only be found in making Jesus the King of your life.
Friends, we have to get this. God has created this life to flourish only in Jesus Christ. No other way will produce the joy that your heart longs for. So, the next time you feel your selfish desires start to take root, pick up and axe and cut it out, and humble yourself before your Lord Jesus Christ.