Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 29, 2015.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 3:1-11. Today will be our second week in this text. In all honesty we could spend months examining these words of God found in Philippians, for there is so much truth packed into these verses. With that said, let us jump right in this morning.
As we discussed last week, Paul’s purpose in writing this section of the letter to the Philippians was to warn them about the dogs. Verse 2, “look out for the dogs.” We saw that these dogs were people who were known as judiazers. Judiazers were religious people who claimed to love Jesus, but they also claimed that in order to be saved, you had to be circumcised, or maintain the Jewish dietary laws, to continue to celebrate the Jewish festivals. Judiazers believed that Jesus’s perfect life, and perfect sacrifice, was not perfect enough. They believed Jesus didn’t really save anyone, but just got people close to being saved, and it was up to us to walk across the goal-line into Heaven. Judiazers believed that Jesus plus works equaled salvation.
Paul does not call these people Christians. He is not being inclusive. He is not being tolerant. He is creating a clear and important divide between those who trust in God’s grace, and who trust in their own ability. He calls these people dogs, evildoers, and mutilators of the flesh. Paul then goes on to say that true, real, born again authentic Christians put no confidence in the flesh. None. Zero.
So as to make this point abundantly clear, Paul lists his resume, and his resume is impressive: “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.” And what does he say about his resume? Verse 8, “rubbish.”
Paul says that everything he has ever done in his life is garbage. This word rubbish in the Greek is skubalon (skü'-bä-lon). This word skubalon is not a soft word. For it was the word for something that is worthless, detestable, refuse, and the excrement of animals. In fact, the King James Version of the Bible translates this word to dung. Paul uses this hard and graphic word, skubalon to convey his utter abhorrence of the false teaching that you have to add to the Grace of God in Christ.
Paul views all of his religion as rubish and he counts it as loss, and in fact he says that he counts everything as loss. This seems somewhat radical, does it not, to count everything in life as loss. Is this really what Jesus desires? Absolutely, for Jesus says the same words as Paul does in Luke 14:33.
So how does God do it? How does he give us the capacity to lay everything down to gain Jesus? Last week we started to unpack this and we saw that it begins with God. God must begin the work in you. He does this by His Spirit. The Spirit of God blows into your heart like a mighty rushing wind and births you into spiritual existence. The example we looked at last week in regards to this was Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit rushed upon 3,000 people and circumcised their hearts and made them true worshipers, who worship in the Spirit.
Worth of Christ Jesus
However, is that it? Is becoming a Christian just about the Holy Spirit coming into your heart? What about Jesus? How does he fit into the conversion of a sinner? Doesn't he play a role? Absolutely. Lets look at verse 8.
So what did he do? He gives up everything so that he could grab hold of the treasure. He sells everything he has to purchase this jewel. And does he do it begrudgingly? No. He does it with joy. He is exploding with excitement about this treasure. There is no hesitation, he is all in immediately. Why? Why is he so full of joy in the giving up of all that he has accumulated in his life? Because he is exchanging all that he has for something exceedingly better. His sacrifice is no sacrifice because he sees the surpassing worth of the treasure.
Let me ask you a question. Is the man's behavior irrational? Why not? Because this the basic economics of man, is it not? This mode of behavior is what humanity has engrained in them. If you have $1 in your hands and you have a choice to exchange it for $100 do you do it? Of course you do. Why? Because we are designed to pursue what we believe to be the greatest value. This is the will that we have implanted in our hearts. Our will is to pursue what we see as having the greatest value to us. We are slaves to this will. It is not a freedom of will, it is a will that is bent towards certain things. For some your will is bent towards money, for some your will is bent towards sex, for some your will is bent towards security, for some your will is bent towards stuff, for some your will is bent towards sports, etc. You choose those things at the cost of other things because you see greater value in them.
So with this said, what is the treasure. What is this fine pearl of great value? It is Jesus Christ our Lord. When this man's eyes gazed upon the beauty and worth of Jesus Christ, there was nothing left to do but renounce all that he had and grab hold of Jesus.
And this is exactly what Paul is talking about in Philippians 3:8 when he says, “ I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.“ Paul was the man in the field. He was the merchant seeking pearls. He was on the road to Damascus and his eyes were opened to the reality of the worth of Jesus. At that moment the pearls that Paul that were pearls were in fact rubbish in comparison to whom stood before him, the Son of the Living God.
This is exactly what happens at the point of conversion, at the point of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed in a sinners life and it is hidden fro their eyes. They do not see the value of Christ. Instead they believe that the pearls of this worlds are far better. They are blind, they do not have eyes to see. But then the Holy Spirit rushes upon them and gives them eyes to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and they let go of everything to have Christ. Why? Because it is the only logical decision.
At that moment their will is going to pursue that which it believes to be the highest value, and because they now have eyes to see Jesus Christ and his surpassing worth, they choose Christ. He is for the first time in their life irresistible, and it was God who made the decisive move to give the sinner eyes to see His Son.
We See Dimly
The question we now have is this, if we as Christians have seen the beauty of Jesus Christ and have let go of all things so as to grab hold of Christ, is this passage relevant to us? I would say yes. The reason for this is that we are told in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
It is true that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ we know the worth of Christ, but we only know his worth in part. Yes, we have eyes to see, but we see dimly. We do not see as clearly as we can. We have not seen the depth of the riches of Jesus Christ. This is why Paul prays in Ephesians 1:17, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him”
And if you don't believe me, just look at your life. How many times do you cling to the rubbish of this world, when you should be clinging to Christ? How many times to you run to the fridge instead of running to Jesus? How many times do you pursue the books of your business over the book about Christ? How many times to you stare in the mirror vainly attempting to make yourself beautiful instead of staring into the most beautiful face ever to exist, the face of your King?
Why do we do this? Because we don't understand the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ. We don't understand that Jesus is better than everything. He is better than anything that this world has to offer. He is better than life itself.
The more we see this, the more we will let go. The more we will realize that what we thought were fine pearls are just worthless rocks weighing us down, and it won't be hard, we will drop these rocks with joy in our heart, for we know that Christ is far better.
Pursuing and Treasuring Jesus Christ
This leads us to application. First, let me talk to those of you who are unbelievers, for I know that there are some of you among us.
Your heart longs for treasure. You are designed to pursue what you believe is of greatest value. I can say this with full confidence, your journey to this point has left you unsatisfied. You have pursued the things of this world, and they have left you empty. Perhaps it is time that you stop looking in the world, and start looking at the one who overcame the World. Turn your eyes upon Jesus and see his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Now to those of us who have grabbed hold of Christ because he has grabbed hold of us. Your work is not done. We must work out our salvation and pursue the knowledge of Jesus Christ. We must pursue the glory of Jesus.
How do we do this? Two ways, the Word of God and the Spirit of God. I realize that I am a broken record when it comes to this, but truth is truth. The way be which we see the surpassing worth of Jesus Christ is to read the book about Him. We must gaze upon these pages, and in doing so we will gaze upon Christ. Jesus is on every page, from beginning to end. You will see him as God and as man. You will see him as Prophet, Priest and King. You will see him as Lion and Lamb. You will see him as Savior, Lord, and brother. You will see him weep. You will see him work. You will see his zeal. You will see his compassion. You will see his light. You will see his love. A love that he has for you, and has always, and will always have for you.
And while we read, we dare not do it alone. We must be guided into all truth by the power of the Holy Spirit. His is our counselor, and we must let him counsel our souls. We must pray as we read that God would give us eyes to see the glory of His Son. If we read this book absent the Holy Spirit then we are no better than the Pharisees. It is the Spirit of God that illumines our hearts. It is the Spirit of God who writes the Word, capital “W”, upon our hearts.
If we do this; if we pursue the glory of Jesus Christ by soaking in the Word by the power of the Spirit we will see the surpassing worth of Jesus. It is inevitable. And when we see the surpassing worth of Jesus more and more, we will, with joy, lay down more and more of our lives for his sake. Why? Because Jesus is better than everything.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 22, 2015.
Turn with me to Philippians 3:1-11. Today we are unpacking what might be the most important sermon that some of you have ever heard. I say this not because I believe my sermon is great, but because what Paul is talking is great. We have a fair amount to get through, so let us read our text, pray that the Holy Spirit would fill our hearts, and then hear the words of our Lord.
As we begin today I think it is important to remind ourselves that the author of this letter is the Apostle Paul. He wrote 13 books of the New Testament and he was God’s instrument for the gospel to the gentiles. I think it is also important to remember that Paul is writing to a group of people. In this case he is writing to the Church in Philippi. This Church would be full of young and old, blue collar and white collar, Jews and gentiles.
The fellowship of these people would also have in its midst both the saved and the unsaved. By this I mean that the visible church, the ones who are physically present and gather in a singular location day after day are not necessarily the same as the true Church, those who are born again, or true followers of Jesus. This is the reality for every physical gathering of the visible church. In fact it is true for us today. In this room, there is most likely someone who is going through the religious motions, but who is actually not a converted Christian.
With this in mind, Paul says some very startling words in verse 2 of our text today, “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.” As you can see, Paul did not mince words. He must have missed the memo that said Pastors need to be “seeker sensitive.” So who was Paul talking about?
Paul was primarily talking about the judiazers. The judiazers were a group of people who claimed to be Christians, but they also took the position that every Christian was required to follow the laws of Moses to ensure their salvation. So for example, they would come to Church and they would praise the name of Jesus, and they would intellectually agree that Christ is the Messiah, and that he was without sin, and that he died on the cross for our sins, and that he rose from the tomb, and that he sits at the right hand of God. However, they would have also said that all Christians had to be circumcised. This is why Paul calls them, “mutilators of the flesh.” And it wasn’t just circumcision; it would have also included things like the dietary laws and Jewish festivals.
The judiazers did not believe in the sufficiency of Jesus’ work on the cross. They proclaimed that you had to add to Jesus’ sacrifice. They taught that Jesus’ blood was not powerful enough to save you, but that you had to help him. They taught that faith in Christ was not enough. And it was these people that Paul calls dogs and evil doers, and these are the people who Paul warned the Church to watch out for.
This issue of false teaching and false living was prevalent in the early church. How do we know this? Because Paul addresses it over and over and over again in his letters. In fact, the entire book of Galatians is about this specific issue. Listen to what he says in Galatians 1:6.
No Confidence I the Flesh
The question we have today, is does this warning of BEWARE still apply? Are there still false teachers out there proclaiming Jesus plus works equal salvation? You bet there is! We are surrounded by them. These are the people that seem religious, but they deny the true power of the Gospel. They are those who preach Jesus, but then teach that in order to be saved you must be baptized. They are those who preach Jesus, but then teach that in order to be saved you must be confirmed. They are those who preach Jesus, but then teach that in order to be saved you must participate in certain sacraments. They preach Jesus, but then teach that in order to be saved you must never commit a certain sin. This teaching is not the Gospel in the Bible, but so many people fall prey to these evildoers because they have never read the Bible!
You cannot be clearer than what Paul says in this passage. Verse 3 tells us that true Christians put no confidence in the flesh. No confidence. None. Zero. People, words matter, and God’s Word really matters. If anyone could have claimed that Jesus plus works equals salvation, it was Paul. His list is better than anyone’s in the Vatican, but what does he say? Rubbish. Garbage. No value. No confidence. Paul lets go of all human effort so that he can grab hold of Christ.
Look at verse 8 and 9, “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 9and be found in him.“ The only way to gain Christ is to let go of all things. You cannot cling to the cross until you let go of yourself. You baptism will not save you, your confirmation will not save you, your penance will not save you, your rosaries will not save you, your lent will not save you, only Christ saves you.
Just in case you still haven’t accepted it. Look at verse 9 again. Does Paul have some righteousness to add to Christ sacrifice? No. Paul has NO righteousness. None. Zero. Paul adds nothing to his right standing to God. The only righteousness his has is the righteousness that he receives through faith in Christ. This righteousness does not depend on works. It depends on faith.
Oh how crucial this is. If you put confidence in the flesh, if you say yes to Jesus AND yes to works, you are a dog, you are an evildoer, you are accursed, and you will be the one whom hears the words of Jesus, “Depart from me you worker of lawlessness for I never knew you.”
Worship by the Spirit and Glory in Christ
Therefore, if, Jesus plus works is a picture of a non-Christian, what is a picture of a real Christian? Take a look at verse 3.
Look at verse 8, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Do you see it? What does it say, “The wind blows where it wishes.” What does that mean? It means that the wind has a will. It chooses whose heart it will blow into. You cannot lasso the wind, you can only experience its effects. We see this most clearly in Acts 2, at Pentecost. The disciples were together in one place and suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind. What was it? It was the Holy Spirit. What followed this wind storm? Three thousand souls were born again, and for the first time they saw the Kingdom of God, and for the first time they had the capacity to truly worship.
Listen to what Jesus tells the Samaritan women at the well in John 4:
Some of you today may come to the realization that you are fooling yourselves. That you are not a true worshiper, but you are still blind to kingdom of heaven, and you want to know if there is anything you can do about it. My suggestion is to do the same thing the blind begger did in Luke 18:37.
And to bring it full circle, this is why in Philippians 3:3 it says, “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus.“ To be a Christian means to give Jesus Christ all the glory in our salvation. Why? Because he did all the work. If you try to take credit for yourself, then with tears in my eyes I tell you you have no part in Christ. The blood of Jesus was sufficient to cover your sins and reconcile you to God. God was not stingy in the giving of Christ. He poured the cup of Christ's suffering richly upon your heart and cleansed you completely with the clean, living water of Jesus Christ. To the praise of His glorious Grace.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 15, 2015.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 2:25-29. Today we continue our journey through the book of Philippians and we find ourselves at a section that, oddly enough has played a substantial part of my life now for the last four years, for today we will be looking at a man by the name of Epaphroditus. With that said, let us read our text, pray and get into the Word.
Today, we are now going to examine another person within the Body of Christ, Epaphroditus. This man, Epaphroditus, is only mentioned in the book of Philippians. Some argue that Epaphras mentioned in Colossians is the same person, but there is nothing to support that conclusion except the similarity of their names. Because of this, not a lot is known about Epaphroditus. However, here are some things we do know. First, his name is Greek and it comes from the worship of Aphrodite, a Greek god. His name literally means “Devoted to Aphrodite.” From this we can assume that his parents, when Epaphroditus was born were pagans, worshipers of false god’s. He was therefore most likely a first generation Christian. The second thing we know about Epaphroditus is that he lived in Philippi. He was a true Philippian. Philippi was a city, or Roman colony, in Macedonia, which is modern day Greece. There is not a lot that is known about Philippi, except that it had a very small Jewish contingent. The reason we know this is because when Paul first visited there, there was no Synagogue. A Synagogue was needed when there were 10 Jewish men in the town. This is important because we can get an understanding that Philippi was Biblically illiterate, meaning that they wouldn’t have had a lot of knowledge about the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, etc. They wouldn’t have been exposed to the foreshadowing of the coming Messiah.
Having said that, this was not an obstacle for God. Remember the background story of the Philippians. God gave Paul a vision to go to Macedonia and preach the Gospel. Paul went there and preached the Gospel to Lydia, then to the Philippian jailer, and from that point the Church was born in the midst of this pagan, unreached Roman colony.
Somewhere in-between Paul’s first arrival in Philippi around 50 AD and the writing of this letter around 62 AD, Epaphroditus hears the message of Jesus Christ and repents and places his faith in Jesus and follows Him. When Epaphroditus becomes a disciple of Jesus, he does what all Christians should do. He begins fellowship with other believers. Epaphroditus is a member of the local Church in Philippi. We can see this in verse 25 when Paul says, “your messenger and minister to my need.” Whose messenger? The Saints in Philippi. Epaphroditus was a representative of the Philippian church. Used by the local Church to minister to Paul.
The next thing we see is the Epaphroditus not only had a local church Body, but he had great affections for his local Church. Look at verse 26, “for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. “ The word in Greek is epipotheó, which means to yearn, desire, or have great affection for. We see Paul use this word in 2 Corinthians 5:2 to talk about an inward groaning to dwell in heaven. Epaphroditus was not home-sick as much as he was Church-sick. Now I want us to recognize something. This yearning for them is a yearning to be physically with them. Epaphroditus wanted to see them, hear them, touch them, and smell them. He wanted to be in their physical presence. This is a real love, a love that is dormant in some Christian’s today. A number of Christians would rather stay at home Sunday morning then see their spiritual family. This is not good. This is not how God designed his Church, to live independent of each other. He designed his church to be interdependent. Listen to what Jesus says in John 13:34-35.
We must remember the core of the gospel. God sent Jesus to die, so that we can be reconciled to him, so that we could be in his presence forever. The heart of God is epipotheó, a yearning to be together. If we truly have the Spirit of Christ in us, we should likewise have this same yearning, just like God, and just like Epaphroditus.
So why is Paul writing about Epaphroditus? As I said earlier, Epaphroditus is a messenger and minister to Paul. What does that mean? If you look ahead to Philippians 4:14 you see what Paul is talking about.
The Church in Philippi decides to provide aid to Paul, to support him in his ministry, not just once but ongoing support. Most likely this support would have been monetary gifts, but we can't be for sure. The next issue becomes who, who will take this aid to the front lines where Paul is located? Who will be the bridge between the Church and the unreached?
Once again, we don't know how it came about, but we do know that it was Epaphroditus who accepted the task. Now what I am about to say is completely outside the Biblical text, but I would like to imagine that Epaphroditus volunteered for this mission. In fact, I like to imagine the Church gathering and discussing the monetary collection being made, and the long journey between Philippi and Rome, a distance of 800 miles. I like to imagine that they would have discussed the reality of being away from family and friends. I like to imagine that they would have discussed the physical demand of such journey. I like to imagine they discussed the risk of persecution. And I like to imagine that when they asked for volunteers, the Church was silent. That is until the silence was broken by a man's voice saying, “I will go.” At this moment, I picture the entire congregation turning and looking at this simple, yet humble Christian, Epaphroditus, as he steps forward again, and says, “I will deliver this gift to my brother Paul”.
At this point, if the Philippians Church is like the others Churches that we see in the book of Acts, most likely the Church would have brought him forward and they would have prayed for him and they would have laid hands on him, and then the Church body would have sent him.
Like I said, this is what I imagine it to be like, perhaps it wasn't like this at all, but make no mistake, Epaphroditus willingly accepted the task to be a vessel of aid. He filled a very important role within the Church, delivering aid to their beloved Paul, and most likely he was also the one who returned with the original draft of the book of Philippians in his hands.
The effect that this act of risk taking love had on Paul was strong. For Paul calls Epaphroditus his brother, fellow worker, and fellow soilder. I want to spend the rest of my time, briefly talking about these three descriptions.
There is perhaps no greater expression of intimacy between two men, then to call another man your brother. This expression is one that does not come from the head, but from the heart. It is description of togetherness that is not surface level, but one that is soulful. Every time I think of brotherly affection, I think of David and Jonathan, King Saul's Son. They had a strong bond between the two of them, that was forged by God.
I worry, however, that for many of you would not volunteer. Your life is too precious to you. You like your comforts. You like your picket fence, American Dream. Helping people is just too messy, it is too dangerous. Listen to what John says in 1 John 3:17-18.
Which leads me to Paul's next description of Epaphroditus, fellow worker. This is a common description of certain men in Paul's life. He uses this phrase “fellow worker” in Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philemon, and Thessalonians. The sad part is that it was commonly used by Paul, but it is not commonly practiced today. Very few Christians in American could be rightly called a fellow worker. American Christianity has become consumer oriented. We have become fat and lazy. We barely lift a finger in the spread of the Gospel. Instead of obeying the Great Commission, we leave that in the hands of pastors. Shame on us! Let us heed to the words of Jesus who in his parable of the talents said this to the servant who failed to use what the Master had given him.
Lastly, Paul's final description of Epaphrodits is fellow solider. I truly believe this is a primary way that we must understand our lives as followers of Christ. Too often we live our life as if everything is ok. Everything is not ok! We are at war! Satan hates you. He has declared war on Christ and war on God's creation. When you chose to follow Jesus, you didn't just sign up for heaven, you enlisted in God's army. An army sent behind enemy lines to rescue POWs held captive by the power of Satan. We are to be using all of our resources to battle the enemy. In Philippians, we see Paul leading the attack, Timohty watching his back, Epaphroditus feeding the front lines, and the people back home leveraging all their resources to provide aid. Each person was playing a crucial role in pushing back the forces of darkness.
Once again, is this how you live? Are you living with a war time mentality, or are you living as if this world is at peace and everything is going to be just fine. Folks, we need to wake up. We need to recognize that Hell is real. Satan is real. And that God has left us, His Church, to set captives free. We must be about His work and fight the fight of faith and partner with our brothers and siters in the spread of the Gospel, just like our brother Epaphroditus.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 8, 2015
Turn with me in your Bibles to Philippians 2:17-24. Over the last several weeks we have been unpacking what it looks like to be a disciple of Christ. We have seen that the life of a disciple is a life of progress, a life of working out, a life of sanctification. The end goal of this journey for a disciple is for us to look like our Rabbi, or teacher, our Master, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Who we are told in verse 8, “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Today, we are going to examine two disciples in the midst of their journey of sanctification, Paul and Timothy. So let us read our text, pray, and get to work.
When Paul found Timothy, we are not sure how old he was, but most people believe him to be in his late teens or early twenties. However, at that age Timothy was already a follower of Jesus Christ. We are told that the Christian brothers in Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy. We don’t know all the details but we can piece a few things together. We are told in 2 Timothy 1:5 that Timothy’s grandmother and mother were both believers in Jesus Christ. Paul says this in his letter written to Timothy:
I want to spend just a brief second to encourage parents and grandparents. Your role in your children and grandchild’s life is crucial. You are to be like Lois and Eunice. So many “Christians” are utterly failing in this area of their lives. God has given you a child to steward. He has give you this Child for the chief end of glorifying Him and enjoying Him. Therefore, the first responsibility you have as a parent is to introduce your child to his or her Maker., and then teach them about Him The only way this is done is by opening up the Bible. This should be of first importance. This is more important than gymnastics, or baseball, or boy-scouts, or even school. From the moment they are born until the Lord returns, you should be constantly pointing them to Jesus Christ.
Timothy was a product of this type of child-rearing. And because of this, when Paul first encountered Timothy, he knew instantly that Timothy would be an asset to the team. So what did Paul do? He invited Timothy to join him in his second missionary journey.
What is amazing is that it appears that Timothy agreed without hesitation. At least, if there was hesitation, the Bible is silent on it. In fact, Acts 16 is amusingly nonchalant about Timothy leaving his home, his comforts, his friends, his girlfriend, his mother and grandmother, and his dreams.
When I was 18, I have to admit, nothing like this was on my radar screen. The only thing I thought about was going to college, finding a wife, getting a job, and pursuing the “American Dream.” I don't recall one time asking God, what do you have for me? This was not the mindset of young Timothy. Timothy was not focused on the things of this world; he was focused on the things of God. And when the call came he was ready, and he sacrificed all that he knew and followed Christ right out of his town and into the mission field.
In between that moment of Timothy joining Paul and the writing of this letter to the Philippians approximately 13 years had passed. In those 13 years Timothy was fundamental in the operations of the ministry. He was Paul's apprentice, his right hand man, his apostle in training. Timothy was a crucial part of the planting of numerous Churches, including Philippi. He was regularly used by Paul to strengthen existing Churches, such as Thessalonica. In six of the 13 letters written by Paul, Paul indicates that Timothy is right alongside him in the ministry. This is true as Paul writes the letter to the Philippians. We saw this in the very first line of the letter to the Philippians, “Paul and Timothy, servants [doulos] of Christ Jesus.”
The bond between Paul and Timothy was a beautiful one. You can see it in the words of Paul in our text today. Verse 20 say, “I have no one like him” and in verse 22, “how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.” What amazing complements from the Apostle Paul.
As we have discussed many times before, the Apostle Paul not just anyone, he was the greatest follower of Christ this world has ever seen. He wrote 13 of our New Testament books. He was God’s chosen light to the gentiles and was the first to take the gospel message to the European Continent. He was one of the few people who have ever existed that performed actual miracles, and even raised people from the dead.
For a lot of us, it is hard to relate to Paul. We hear about how God chose him, and used him, and then we look at our lives and they are drastically different. At times, it is hard to relate to Paul. That is not the case for Timothy. He was a young man in a small town, whose mom loved Jesus and wanted the best from him. He read his bible and cried out to Christ for forgiveness of sins. He then plugged into his local church and started to love people with the love of Christ. One “random” day, Paul showed up and invited him on the journey of his life. This is the story that most of us can relate to. Can all of us be Paul's? No, not in one sense. But can we all be Timohty's? You bet.
So what was so great about Timothy? What made him so great in Paul's eyes? Was it his oratory skills? Was it his ability to lead people into powerful worship? Was it his cutting edge church plant strategy? No.
So let us ask the question, what is a drink offering? The first place we see a drink offering mentioned in the Bible is Genesis 35:14 when God changes Jacob’s name to Israel. However, where we see it more prominently is the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. First in Exodus 29, then in Leviticus 23: and again in Numbers 15:1-10.
It is most likely that this is what Jesus was referring to when he implemented the Lord's Supper in Matthew 26:27-28, “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my blood of thec covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Paul was following in the footsteps of his Savior, for he was pouring himself out for many, and Timothy was doing the same. Both of these men were Christ centered, which translated to them being other oriented. They were willing to give up everything, including their own lives so that others would know the wonderful treasure of knowing Jesus Christ. They lived their life poured out, constantly emptying themselves for the faith of others.
How foreign is this concept to many of us. We have turned Christianity into another commodity to be consumed. We walk into Churches demanding a certain level of catering. Each Sunday morning is evaluated in accordance to how well the service fulfilled our needs and desires. Is this the aroma that you want to rise to the nostrils of our God?
Church is about loving God, and loving others. These are the two greatest commands, and Jesus says if we get in line with these two commands, then everything falls into place. Too often we turn our Christian walk into loving ourselves. However this flies in the face of what we are told it means to follow Christ. Jesus tells us that when we choose to follow Him, we are to die to ourselves.
Instead of being self-interested, we should be eagerly pouring ourselves into the lives of others. We shouldn't look at people in this Church as means to ends. We shouldn't see them as an end in themselves. Like Paul and like Timothy, we must be willing to go to them, to encourage them, to love them, and to die for them.
I hate to end on a sour note, but I could not escape feeling the need to call to our attention the words of Jesus when it comes to living selflessly. These are the words of Jesus regarding judgment day.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 1, 2015
Turn with me to Philippians 2:14-18. Over the last several weeks we have been unpacking what it looks like for Christians to progress in our faith. We began by understanding that our walk as Christians should be one that match the gift of our salvation. Meaning that we should outwardly display the reality within. Or to say it another way, if we talk the talk, we should walk the walk.
Last week, we examined how this progress in our faith is one that involves both our working, and God working within us. That we are to be actively pursuing Christlikeness, however our pursuit is driven from within by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us. This process of transformation is what the Bible calls sanctification. The end of our sanctification occurs upon our death or upon Christ's return, for at that moment the Christian's work is done and we enter into the final rest of our Father and we be like our brother Jesus Christ.
Today we are going to get more specific regarding this process of sanctification. We are going to look at a specific sin, a specific purpose, a specific solution, and a specific result. So with that said, let us read out text, pray and unpack these four verses.
In verse 14 we see Paul exhort the Philippian Church to “do all things without grumbling or disputing.” I think it is important for us to recognize that this statement is not disconnected with the first part of Paul's letter. Therefore you could say, progress in your faith without grumbling or disputing, or count others more significant than yourself without grumbling or disputing, or be obedient like Jesus without grumbling or disputing, or work out your salvation without grumbling or disputing. Pual has spent a significant part of his letter exhorting the church at Philippi, and his desire is that they do all these things, not as a burden, but with joy.
As I thought about this text this week, I have to admit that I felt the weight of my sin. I confess I am a grumbler. I wouldn't necessarily use that phrase. Instead I would call myself analytical or critical, perhaps I would even go so far as to admit that I complain about things, but those are just words. The reality is that when Paul is saying don't grumble or dispute, he might as well use my name right after his rebuking.
This week I have felt like grumbling about the weather, my work, my to-do list, the lack of progress in certain areas of my life, the gas tax, the apathy of others, my sleep habits, food, the list could go on an on. This is not to mention the constant sighs that I express throughout my day, as if I can't bare my circumstance one minute longer. The bottom line is that this week I have felt like one giant baby, whining about every little thing that comes up.
And this is the sad part, I was not rebuked one time for my whining. As I went about complaining and grumbling, the world joined in on the conversation. In fact, many times the more I complained the more worldly fellowship I had. People were mesmerized by my poisonous tongue. Why? Because people love the darkness. The world loves sin, and grumbling and disputing is sin.
Many of you, however, may be saying, really? Is it that big of deal to vent once and a while? Or perhaps you are saying, aren't I entitled to my opinion? Can't I stand up on my soapbox? Can't I express myself and let my voice be heard? The answer to this is no, you can't, at least you can't if you are a Christian.
I want to direct your attention to verse 15. Paul uses a phrase that is not arbitrary. He calls the world a “crooked and twisted generation.” This is not the first time this phrase is used in the Bible. It is used by Moses in Deuteronomy 32:5 to describe the nation of Israel during the time they wandered in the desert.
For any of you who have read about those 40 years, which I hope that all of you have, you will know that there is one word that describes those people, complainers. No matter what God did for them, they whined and complained. They grumbled and disputed. This began almost instantly upon Israel's leaving of Egypt. They complained about being led to the Red Sea, they complained about the lack of water, they complained about food, they complained about not having the right food, they complained about Moses, they complained about the people who occupied the promise land. Complain, complain, complain. This was the display of their hearts after God led them out of Egypt. God had chosen these people to be His people out of all the nations of the world, and how did they respond, they grumbled and disputed.
What was God's response to Israel's complaints? Yes he did provide, but also He killed a fair amount of them. He sent a plague, he swallowed some up in the ground, he gave Miriam leprosy, and he kept all of the adults, including Moses, from entering the Promise land. Why was God so angry about their complaining? Because their complaining was a provocation towards God. Their complaining was an assault on God's Sovereignty. Their complaining was the exact opposite of what they should have been doing, trusting in God, having Faith in God. God desired to use them to display himself to the nations, but what they were displaying is discontent, disunity, and disobedience.
Why is this important to us? Why should we care about Israel of 4,000 years ago? Aren't we different as followers of Jesus? Yes, we are different, but that doesn't mean we are perfect and without sin. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2.
The Old Testament is not irrelevant. The nation of Isreal while wandering in the wildernss is not irrelevant. It is to be an example to to us. We are to take heed, lest we fall. We must recognize that grumbling and disputing kindles the wrath of God, it does not please Him. In fact, God killed his Son on the cross to pay for your sins, not just adultery and murder, but also grumbling and complaining.
Every time you complain about your food, your job, your circumstances, your life, you are complaining about God's providence. Just like Israel, you are questioning the Sovereignty of God as he unveils the plans that he has for you. This is what Paul is trying to get across to the people of Philippi as they work out their salvation, as they obey as Jesus obeyed. He wants the Church to sojourn with rejoicing and not with grumbling.
And don't forget Paul's condition as he writes these words. Paul writing these things while he is chained to a Roman guard. His circumstances are way worse than most of you will ever experience. In this letter do you see complaining? No you see Paul rejoicing, proclaiming, edifying, but you never see complaining. With each step Paul takes, no matter how difficult, he uses it for an opportunity to glorify God, not to grumble against God.
Shine as Lights in the World
Which leads to my second point. Our purpose as disciples is to shine like lights in the world. This is why you live in your neighborhood. This is why you work where you work. This is why you go to the school you go to. This is why you have facebook friends. Your responsibility, your call, your purpose is to shine with the light of Jesus Christ into the darkness that surrounds us.
When you grumble and complain, you are not shining. Instead there is a dark cloud that descends over your testimony. You look just like the world that you are sent to save. As Paul says, you are acting twisted and crooked. Instead of acting like Christ, you are acting like Satan. Do you think that your complaining is going to cause one of your friends or family members to say, “Wow, tell me about your faith. I want know more about the God that you seem not to trust.”
We as followers of Jesus Christ are to be radically different. We are to stand out. We are to be salt in this decaying and tasteless world and we are to be light in the midst of the darkness. And this is to be true in all circumstances, and especially true in difficult circumstances. For when your circumstances are the darkest, your light can shines more brightly. For example, think about the cross. It is the darkest day in all of human history. Creation is killing the Creator. This is the most depraved and wicked act imaginable. However, it is with this backdrop of darkness that we see the light of Jesus Christ shine most gloriously. Did Jesus grumble and complain and dispute with his father? No. He prayed “Thy will be done” and “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” For the Joy that was set before him Him endured the cross.
We are called to be like Christ. We are to be his disciples. We are to follow his lead. When our circumstances are not up to our standard of selfish entitlement, we need to check ourselves before we vent, before we give our two cents on God's providence, before we grumble about the circumstances God has ordained for our lives. So how do we do this?
Hold Fast to the Word of Life
Look at verse 16. What does it say? It says we are to “[hold] fast to the word of life.” What is the word of life? It is the gospel. It is the message of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the promise of God that through the death of His Son, your sins are forgiven and you will have eternal life.
I want you to feel the weight of this. You and I deserve to go to Hell. We deserve to have the wrath of God come crashing down upon us. But God, because He is love provides a way that the price of our sins can be paid and so that we can be reconciled to our Maker. That way is that he kills his Son Jesus. He did this for you! Instead of punishing you for your wretchedness, he punishes Jesus for your wretchedness. And if that was not enough, not only does he forgive you but he adopts you into his family and promises you that you will receive the inheritance of being a child of the Almighty God. And if that is not enough, you will get to enjoy this inheritance forever and ever. Meaning that in a billion years from now, you will still be enjoying the unlimited joy of being a child of God.
And if you have repented of your sins and trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, this is yours right now.
Paul is telling us that we must hold fast to this gospel truth. We must not be casual about it. We must cling to it violently. Never letting these promises slip out of our mind. E must keep our eyes focused to these words, and they must be the anchor of our life. We must hold it, as it holds us.
The question is, are you holding fast to the words of life? Are you clinging to the words of Jesus with white knuckles. Are you soaking, and meditating, and delighting, and cherishing the word of life?
This week I saw a quote from Charles Spurgeon that was somewhat aggressive. Spurgeon said, “There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write “damnation” with your fingers.” Does this describe you? Does your Bible sit on the shelf day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year with almost no attention? Instead of holding fast to the word of life, are you holding fast to facebook? HGTV? ESPN? Your business?
I echo what Paul says in verse 16, I do not want to stand in the day of judgment and realize that all of the labors of Cornerstone were vanity. That they were worthless. That my preaching and teaching has fallen on deaf ears. For we know that on the day of Judgment, everything will be revealed. At that time we will not have to look at the dust of our Bibles for God will reveal the dust on our cold dead hearts.
And it only makes sense, for those who who do not have the words of life implanted in their heart, of course they will act like Israel. Of course you will whine and complain and grumble and dispute with God. For that is your nature. You are a rebel, an enemy, an antagonist of God.
But this should not be true for real, authentic followers of Jesus Christ. We must heed the warning of Israel, for we have hope. The hope of eternal life through faith in Christ. And this hope should spring up into our joy.
Be Glad and Rejoice
And that is exactly what we see in verse 17 and 18, “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. 18Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.“
If God has begun a work in our hearts, and we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ, and we trust in the promises of God, then first we should love to be reminded of these things. And each time we saturate ourselves in the good news of Jesus it should produce in us good feelings. Not feelings that are rooted in our circumstances, but feelings that are rooted in the cross.
This is why Paul could rejoice despite his imprisonment. This is why the Church in Philippi could rejoice despite the threats of their opponents, and this is why you should rejoice when the gas tax goes into effect next week, and when the temperature is negative 24, and when you get laid off from work, and when you get a call from the doctor with bad news. Because our joy is in the word of life.
Let us commit ourselves to stop complaining and start proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. Let us work our our salvation without whining. Let us act like we have actually received the greatest gift ever imaginable. And Let us rejoice.