Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on October 25, 2015
Today marks our last Sunday focusing on the Third Person of the Trinity. To be honest, I am a little sad, for there is still so much that could be said. In fact, because the Spirit is God, there is an infinite amount that could be said, for God is unsearchable.
For those who have found this sermon series on the Holy Spirit interesting and you want to go deeper, I encourage you to read “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan. You can find a link to it on our website. Also, for those who are reading through Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology, there are good sections on the Holy Spirit.. Lastly, I have been reading through the Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson, and I have found it extremely helpful. It is a little heavy, but not to bad.
Before we get into today’s sermon, let us briefly review what we have learned up to this point. First we learned that God is One, in three persons. We call this mystery the Trinity. One of those persons of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is fully God, yet separate in personhood. The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force, but instead is a personal God. Each person of God has a specific role. The general role of the Holy Spirit is the manifestation of all that God is, or to say it another way He is the proceeding power of the attributes of God. He proceeds originally from the Father, but also equally from the Son. Last week we examined this proceeding power in the lives of God’s elect at the time of regeneration. The power of God that blows into the life of God’s chosen, birthing them into spiritual life and giving them eyes to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Without the Spirit of God regenerating us, we would never have the capacity to trust in Jesus as our Lord and as our Savior.
Today we are going to take the next step and examine the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. We will begin where we left off last week. Turn in your Bibles to Ezekiel 36:22
As I said, last week we saw that this outpouring of the Spirit described in Ezekiel is what we call regeneration. It is what Jesus was unpacking for Nicodemus in John 3. The description that Jesus used was being born again. As Jesus said, without this new spiritual birth you cannot see the Kingdom. Spiritual birth is a prerequisite to loving Jesus. This spiritual birth is caused by the Holy Spirit.
Put My Spirit within You
But, now let us ask, what happens next? Does the Holy Spirit blow out of our lives just as quickly as He blew into it? Is the new birth, the end of the story. This answer is an emphatic no. Babies are meant to grow into maturity. Look at verse 27, “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” In this verse there are two components, God putting his Spirit within you and causing us to walk. First, let us look at the first part, “I will put my Spirit within you.”
As we begin, let’s take a moment and dwell upon the immensity of this statement. “I will put my Spirit within you.” This statement is mind-blowing and is unfathomable. The Holy Spirit is fully God; meaning he lacks nothing of who God is. He is all powerful, all knowing, and all present. We on the other hand are merely created dust. We are clay in the hands of a omnipotent Potter. The distance between the glory of God and the humility of us is infinite, literally infinite. Not to mention that not only are we dust in God’s hands, but we are sinners. We have rejected God’s authority in our life and we deserve Hell, not the gift of the Holy Spirit. But yet, there it is, written in God’s unchanging Word, “I will put my Spirit within you.”
This is not the only place we see God reminding Christians that he has put his Spirit in us. It is a frequent reminder throughout the New Testament.
The reality of the Christian life is that the Third Person of the Trinity takes up residence in your heart. This is what distinguishes Christians from non-Christians. Unbelievers are void of the Spirit of God. According to Ephesians 2:2, instead of the Spirit of God they have a spirit of disobedience.
For some of you with a Catholic background, this idea of the Spirit of God coming into your heart and giving you new life is foreign to you. The religion of Catholicism does not teach Biblical regeneration by the Spirit of God. Instead it teaches regeneration by the works of man, whether it is Baptism, Communion, Confession, or praying to dead people (otherwise known as necromancy). Catholicism wrongly teaches that these religious hoops are what keep you right with God, and therefore are necessary to obtain salvation. In this type of false religion, the Holy Spirit has no role, for it is not up to the Spirit of God, it is up to the individual. I cannot think of a more scary doctrine than my salvation depending upon me. That is a recipe for slavery to the law, slavery to guilt, and slavery to failure. The truth, as proclaimed by the Bible is that the Holy Spirit is the distinguishing factor between the spiritually dead and the spiritually alive.
If the Spirit of God has not taken up residence in your heart, then you are not a Christian. It is as simple as that. It does not matter if you attend Church, or mass, every week. It does not matter if you say you believe in Jesus, for even the demons believe in God. It does not matter if you are a Pastor of Cornerstone or the Pope. The only thing that matters is if you have the Holy Spirit.
So why does God put his Spirit in us? Why not just forgive us in Christ and move on?
God, by his Grace wants to give us assurance. He wants us to know that we are saved. How does he do this? By the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God taking up residence in our heart is a seal. He is a guarantee. What is the purpose of a seal? It is to prove authorship. When a King would write a letter, he put hot wax on the latter and take his ring and press it into the wax. This would cause a royal seal. Anyone who received this letter would know it is from the King. This is one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit? God has pressed his sign upon our hearts by the power of his Spirit. The Spirit within us acts as a sign to us and to the world that we are God's and He is ours.
The second part is that the Holy Spirit, is not only a seal upon our hearts, but he is a guarantee of our future glorification with the Lord. He is a down-payment of a promise to be later paid in full. There may be decades between our new birth in Christ and our full reunion with God in Heaven. Those decades will consist of mountains and valleys; brokenness, confusion, uncertainty, and failure. There will be times that you will wonder if God is truly your Father. You will doubt his love for you, but your faith will never fail. Why? Because of the Holy Spirit. He is God's pledge to you that God will never leave you, nor forsake you. God reminds us of this wonderful reality in the book of Ephesians.
Once the Holy Spirit comes into your heart, there is no getting him out. He is there to stay. Therefore, this is another reason why at Cornerstone we believe what is called eternal security, or perseverance of the saints. This is the understanding that once you are saved through Christ, you cannot lose your salvation. You cannot be born again, and then unborn. You cannot be adopted into God's family and then kicked out. You cannot be found then lost again. Why do we say this, for many Biblical reasons, but one of them is the guarantee of the Holy Spirit. Logically, if you could evict the Holy Spirit, he wouldn't be much of a guarantee would he?
Cause You to Obey
At this point, there may be some of you in this room who then say, “If you can't lose your salvation, does that mean you can sin all you want and still go to heaven?” The answer to that question is no, but for another reason.
The second part of Ezekiel 36:27 was that God would, “cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” This is another role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He not only seals us and guarantees our future glorification with the Lord in Heaven, but he changes our behavior.
When we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are given eyes to see. What we see is our wretched ways, our sin, and our need for forgiveness in Jesus Christ. This understanding causes us to repent, or turn, from our life of following the ways of the sinful world, and instead follow Jesus. This is an act of the supernatural. You go from caring less about Jesus, to being consumed by Him. If someone was to ask you, “What happened to you?” You would say, “I love Jesus.” They might respond, “How did that happen?” And you would answer, “I don't know. I can't explain it. Something inside of me just changed.” This change is the Holy Spirit being put in your heart.
And this love for Jesus causes you to, not only proclaim your love for Christ, but to live out your love for Christ. The fruit of the Spirit produces in you a love for the Lord that causes you to walk in God's statutes and obey all that he commands. Jesus says this same thing to the disciples in the upper room prior to his death.
Who will obey Christ? Those whom love Christ. Why does someone love Christ? The Holy Spirit. This is why you cannot have Jesus as your Savior, but not your Lord. You can't have one without the other, they are a package deal. If the Spirit has been put inside of you, that means that you are born again, sealed, guaranteed, and will obey Christ.
To be a Christian does mean that you say some magic prayer, it means that you recognize the Jesus is the Lord of your life. He is in charge of what you do, how you spend your money, what words you say, what movies you watch, what goals and dreams you have. And this Lordship of Christ over your life is not a burden, but a joy. For you love Jesus. You want to do all that he asks, for he is your greatest treasure and you delight to serve Him.
This is something that the world does not get, especially our youth. They believe that you can claim to be a Christian, and then live any way you want. You can say what you want, watch want you want, buy what you want, live with who you want, have sex with who you want, marry who you want, live life the way you want. A life that is lived that is out of sync with God's unchanging Word, is proof that the Spirit of God does not live in a persons heart. I don't care if that person goes to their grave saying they are a Christian, if they make a practice of living independent of God's will, then they are walking proof of their damnation. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 7:21
Why were these people sent away on judgment day? They were workers of lawlessness, not workers of righteousness. The Holy Spirit was never poured out on them, causing them to love Christ and obey his commands.
No, the life of a Christian is a life with the proceeding power of God, springing out of your heart like a fountain of living water. It is a life of radical transformation from the inside out. So what is our response to this wonderful reality?
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on June 28, 2015
Open your Bibles to Acts 2:42-47. Today we will be examining the life of the Church. The reason for this message is because of our upcoming membership class that begins next Sunday night at 6:00 p.m. Like I often say, I have no desire to hide the ball in regards to my purpose when I preach. My purpose today is to persuade you, through God’s Word, that Church membership is Biblical and crucial. With that said, let us read our text, pray, and see what God wants to tell us today.
One of the many reasons that I love God and His Word is because there is simplicity in following Christ. God does not operate in shades of gray, but in black and white. For example, when we read the Bible we see comparisons of life and death, heaven and hell, good and evil, light and darkness, truth and lies. God is a God of definitiveness. This is also true when it comes to his people. We see this very clearly in the Old Testament. God had a chosen people, the nation of Israel, and God went to great lengths to distinguish his people from the other nations. For Israel, God ordained their difference through location, circumcision, eating, washings, and sacrifices. God wanted it to be clear who were his people and who were not. God's desire for distinction has not changed. God still want's a clear display of who are his and who are not.
The first time the word Church is used in the Bible is by Jesus in Matthew 16:18 when he says, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The second time the word Church is used is also by Jesus and he says, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
So what does Church mean? The Greek word for Church is “ekklésia.” This word is a combination of two words, “ek” which means “out from” and “kaleo” which means “to call.” So the word means to call out from. The context that this word would have been used is to describe someone calling people out so as to assemble. For those who are object oriented, picture my kids, Julian, Ezra, and Alexandra out playing in my backyard with the neighborhood kids. I stick my head out the door and says “Parsons kids, it is time to eat. Come inside.” My three children hear my voice, turn their heads, and come inside and my family gathers around the table and we eat. This is the word Church. It is a “called out assembly.”
So the word Church lines up with what we talked about already. God desires there to be a distinction between his people and those who are not his people. He is calling his people out of the world so that they assemble. And we see this word, Church, the called out assembly, used time and time again to describe the people who gather together. In fact, we looked at it last week in 1 Corinthians 1:2.
However, here is the problem, in America there is this belief that you can be a Christian and never commit yourself to other Christians. Christians everywhere claim to be followers of Christ, but they never display being a called out assembly. Instead they look just like the rest of the world and rarely, if ever, connect with other Christians. However, to be fair, this is not a new problem that is specific to America.
However, is being at Church every Sunday the end goal? Is this what Christ meant when he said, “I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail?” Is Jesus just a glorified Principal handing out perfect attendance badges? Of course He is not. However, many of you act that way.
Week in and week out, you come in these doors as if you are attending a dentist appointment. You don't want to be here, but you see it is a necessary evil. You sit, you listen, you leave. Next Sunday, you do the same thing, you sit, you listen, you leave. Is this what Jesus called you into, a waiting room full of casual acquaintances waiting for your number to be called? Once again, of course not. So what should the called out assembly look like? We find the answer in our text for today.
Our text this morning is a picture of the first Church, the first “called out assembly”. These were the followers of Christ right after Pentecost, so there were about 3,000 plus followers of Jesus, and what do we see them doing? Neglecting each other? No. We see them assembling. In fact, we see radical assembling. Verse 4 says, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes.” It was just about Sunday's for these 3,000 people, every single day they they committed themselves to being together.
I want you to take a second and think about this. These people are not fictional characters. They are real people, with real lives. They had families, they had jobs, they had responsibilities just like you and I. However, when Christ called them out of the world and into his Church, they re-oriented their life around their new family. They made sacrifices, changed schedules, they did what it took to be a people.
How rare is this? So often, gathering with your spiritual family is the first thing to go. It takes a back seat to sports, vacations, work, and even sleeping in. Any nominal excuse is enough for us to avoid being with the ones we claim to love.
This was not the case for the early Church. They took commitment seriously. And think about how this daily commitment would have effected those watching from the outside. I am sure that people took notice of the day after day togetherness of the early Church. I can almost imagine the comments, “Your going to their house again? Weren't you just there last night? What is so great about them that you have to always be with them?” And you know what? This is exactly what Christ wants. Listen to Jesus' prayer in John 17:20 the night that he is arrested before his crucifixion.
So what does this commitment of being together look like? In our text we do not just see a togetherness, we see a devotion to fellowship. The world fellowship is koinónia (koi-nō-nē'-ä ) which means a partnership, a participation, a communion, and sharing with each other. Which fits perfectly to the actions we see described in out text.
Once again, is this you? Do you hold on to your things, your money, your home tightly or loosely? Perhaps the most stinging text for Churches today is found in Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus is talking about the final judgment.
And if that is not enough, the early Church didn't just have a commitment to be together and they didn't just have fellowship, they were devoted. The Greek word for devoted is proskartereó (pros-kär-te-re'-ō ). This means to be continual, to persevere, to prevail, to endure, to stay in a fixed direction. The first Church to ever exist was intentional about their relationship with their brothers and sisters in Christ. It wasn't something that came and went, they were steadfast in their community of believers. It was not as if they were their today and gone tomorrow, they could be relied and counted on.
Which leads me to Church Membership. Church membership is an intentional, steadfast commitment to a specific group of people. It is a declaration to your spiritual family and to yourself that you are committing your life to your brothers and sisters in Christ. That you are willing to jump in the trenches with others to learn, break bread, pray, and praise God. Church membership is about saying, that you will orient your life around others, changing schedules, giving financially, sharing resources, sacrificing for those whom you love. You ware chosing to participate, partner, commune with the people sitting next to you week in and week out.
However, it is not only about giving. It is also about receiving. Church membership is about a mutual commitment. Not only are you saying you will pour yourself out for others, but you are saying you need people to pour themselves out for you. Church membership is a humbling experience, for you are admitting that you can't do it on your own. You are saying you can't afford to be causal about your walk with Christ. You are admitting that you need your family and you are giving them permission to love you, day in a day out.
In light of what is going on in America right now, there may not be a more important time then now for brothers and sisters in Christ to band together in a deeper level then just showing up at the same time in the same building. Persecution may be right around the corner. The enemy has been emboldened, and it is moments like this that we need a family to be committed to watching our backs as Satan prowls. Therefore, I hope that if you are an attender of Cornerstone, you will consider making the next step to partner with those sitting next to you, to fight this fight of faith together.
And imagine if we actually did it. Imagine if we at Cornerstone Church were all in when it came to following Christ together. Imagine if we partnered side by side in our brothers and sisters lives. What would happen? Perhaps the headlines in America this week would have read a little differently.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on June 14, 2015
Open your Bibles to Philippians 4:14-20. Today is our second to last sermon in this series from the book of Philippians. Next week, I will be wrapping it up, and on the 28th I will be preaching about Church Membership with the hope that I will convince many of you to become committed members of Cornerstone Church. Not because we want to put your name on a list, but because the Bible encourages deep partnership within the local body.
Then starting in July, I will be beginning a two month series that I am entitling, a “Summer of Psalms,” where each Sunday I will be unpacking a Psalm. With that said, I would ask that all of you pray for me as I start to wade into those waters, for it is new territory for me to preach from the Psalms, and I want to above all handle the word rightly. But today and next week, let us choose to finish strong in the book of Philippians. Let us read our text, pray, and allow God’s Word to work on our hearts.
Let us begin by way of review. The book of Philippians is written by Paul to the Saints in Philippi. This relationship between Paul and this local Church began with the conversion of Lydia. This event is documented in Acts 16:14.
Catalyst to Giving
Why? Why was this local body of believers so radical in their giving? Why did they stand out amongst the dozens of Churches when it came to their sacrificial partnership in proclaiming the Gospel? I believe that over the last 6 months we have been answering just that question.
The catalyst to giving can be summed up with one word, the Gospel. The Church in Philippi had been radically and forever changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God had begun a work in them. They had become partakers of Grace. They were filled with the fruit of righteousness. They accepted the battle cry that to live is Christ and to die is gain. They did nothing out of selfish ambition. They emptied themselves and took the form of servants, working out their salvation with fear and trembling knowing that it was God who worked in them to will and work for his good pleasure. And while doing so they held fast to the word of life, and poured themselves out like drink offerings. They were brothers, fellow workers and fellow soldiers of God. They counted everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, specifically knowing the power of his resurrection. Because of the Gospel they no longer set their minds on earthly things, but recognized that their citizenship was in Heaven, and because of that they rejoiced in the Lord always, which flowed into a peace with God that surpassed understanding. Producing a life of contentment due to the power of Christ working in their weakness and making all things possible.
It was out of this gospel transformation that they gave. When no one else was giving, the Philippians gave. They were not concerned what others Churches did, they gave from a heart that was bursting with the Spirit of God.
And this is what happens when Christ takes up residence in your heart. You give. When you repent and turn towards Jesus, and place your faith in the sufficiency of his sacrifice, and you commit your like to him as your Master, Jesus comes and lives in you heart. This morning we talked about this is Hebrews 8.
John the Baptist says this in John 3:30 about Christ, “I must decrease and he must increase.” You see it again in the apostles John and James who left their boat and their father and followed Jesus. You see it in the apostle Matthew upon Jesus saying two simple words “follow him.” Without hesitation, he quit his job of collecting taxes and lining his pockets with the dust of this world and instead gave of himself to the point of martyrdom. You see it in the conversion of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:8 when Zacchaeus pays back fourfold of what he had taken from the poor. You see it in the women with the alabaster jar in Matthew 26, pouring it on the head of Jesus in sold out sacrificial worship while those around scoffed at the waste. You see it Joseph of Arimethea, a rich man who gave his grave to bury the Author of Life. The list could go on and on, for every time someone goes from death to life, the life they live is one of love. Love for God and love for others. In fact, one sign that you may not be saved is your lack of giving.
This was the reality for the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. Jesus, the Great Physician, was examining his heart and told him to give up everything and follow Him. The rich man walked away sad for he had great wealth and Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle then for a rich man to get into heaven. Folks, I have some bad news, if you own your home you are richer than 90% of the world's population. You are the rich young ruler. However, don't lose heart, for Jesus said perhaps the most Calvinistic and perhaps the most precious words every to be spoken. The disciples said, “Who then can be saved?”26But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
What is the power of God that makes rich men give up everything to follow Christ? It is the Gospel. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation, a salvation that produces radical, reckless, self-sacrificial giving. It was a Gospel that touched the hearts of the Philippians, and they couldn't help but give. It was their new spiritual DNA.
The question for us today, is it ours? Is the DNA of Cornerstone consumption or Gospel giving? Are we the rich young ruler, or are we the Philippians Church? Do we spend our money on ourselves, or do we lay it at the feet of God? Do we work our 40 hours to line our pockets, or do we work as if working for the Lord? Are we spraying the perfume of our wealth upon our necks, or pouring it on the head of our Savior?
The Fruit that Increases to Your Credit
Now here is the interesting thing about Gospel giving. It is not really giving to lose, but it is actually giving to get. Look at verse 17.
The real question when it comes to giving for the fruit that increases to your credit, is do you believe it? Do you trust God enough to implement it in your life? Do you trust that will hold up His end of the bargain? Many people do not. They are not willing to take the risk, they instead want to maintain the control that they have in their life and build bigger bins. This however is foolish, for we are chasing dust instead of the eternal riches our our Maker. Perhaps Jesus said it the best.
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.