Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on January 11, 2014
Open you Bibles to Philippians 1:3-11. Last week we began our journey through the book of Philippians, and we focused our attention on how the Church in Philippi began. In doing so we examined Acts 16 where we saw Paul, Timothy, Silas, and Luke setting sail and landing on the continent of Europe with the express purpose of sharing the Gospel to anyone they could find. This path of obedience led them to a Jewish business woman named Lydia. Upon God opening her heart, Lydia was the first convert in the continent of Europe. And from that point the Church in Philippi began.
Today we are going to continue to examine this relationship. So let us read out text, pray and see what God has to say to our hearts this morning.
This intimate relationship that he has with these people is not a superficial one. It has roots, it has strength, it is authentic and it produces in Paul joy. Verse 3 and 4, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,” Every time he brings to mind, when he remembers these people he experiences joy in his life. No matter where he is, what he is doing, how hard his circumstances are, when he closes his eyes and remembers the people in Philippi his heart rejoices.
Let me ask you, do you have someone in your life like this? Is there someone that no matter how bad of a day you are having, you can close your eyes and picture them in your mind and instantly joy washes over you? For many of you, you might say yes, but I am guessing the ones that bring you joy are your children, maybe your spouse. But what about your Church? Take a moment and look around at the people in this room. Do you yearn to be with them? Do you have an affection of Christ for them. Do you rejoice when you walk in these doors and see their smiling faces?
I don't know about you, but I have been to some Churches that have broken my heart. You walk in, and everyone is mindlessly going through the motions, like robots. No one is conversing, no one is smiling, no one looks like they want to be their. They look like slaves tied the the pews; burdened by the requirement of attending Church. It is a sad, sad picture. For Church is not suppose to be that way. Church is to be alive, vibrant, flourishing, hopefully, exciting, and abounding in love, both towards God and towards each other.
The assembly of God's people in worship should be like a shining city on a hill, whereby outsiders will be either repelled by it like cockroaches or drawn to it like moths to a flame. And the love of God and the love of others should be the fuel to that fire, as I hope we will see today. So with that, let us look at why did Paul love these people so zealously.
Partnership in the Gospel
Which brings me to the question, how many of us have unsaved people in our household? I am guessing every single one of you. Perhaps they are not living in your house, but I am sure that everyone has aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws that do not love Christ; relatives that are destined to Hell if God does not open up their heart. What are you doing to save them? Are you praying every day for their salvation? Are you praying that God would open up their heart to receive the gospel? Have you proclaimed the gospel to them? Have you shared your testimony with them? Have you sat down and opened up the Bible and talked about who Jesus is and why they should care? I will be the first to admit that I have failed miserably. In fact, my lack of boldness and courage makes me sick! My lack of love for their souls makes me sick!
When God saved you, he did not mean for you to be a hoarder of His grace. You are meant to be a conduit of his grace. He saved you to be about his work. You are the God ordained means to a God ordained salvation.
What is the next thing we see after everyone in her house was saved? She persuades Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke to make her home their gospel headquarters. She didn't just ask them to come by for an hour to hang out, she asked them to stay. This was going to be the new home base. This was going to be the brick and mortar for the Church, and she did this without hesitation.
Think about this. Lydia appears to be a single, jewish, business women and within a short time meets four random men down by the river and insists that they stay at her house. Who are these guys? Can you trust them? What baggage do they bring to the table? Are they wanted? What will people think? Is her house clean? Does she have enough food? What about her business? What about the mouths she has to feed? None of that seems to cross her mind. Once God opened up her heart and made Jesus preeminent in her life, everything else was trivial. She instantly leveraged what she had to offer for the sake of the expansion of the Kingdom, no matter what the cost.
This radical love of Lydia, however, was not isolated. If you continue reading in Acts 16 we see a second story of conversion. Look at Acts 16:25-34. Paul and Silas found themselves in some hot water and ended up being beaten and thrown in jail.
After the jailer placed his faith in Christ what happened? He took them home, washed their wounds, feed them and introduced him to his household which, once again, led to his family being saved. Just like Lydia, we see instant partnership in the Gospel, right out of the gates. And once again, let's not forget that the jailer did this at a great risk. What do you think his Roman boss was going to think about this jailer taking the prisoners home and giving them a bath, feeding them, and having a big joy filled party?
Don't forget that this was the same guy who almost killed himself because he thought he had let the prisoners escape, talk about pressure at work. That guy that almost committed suicide because he was having a bad day didn't exist anymore, he was now a new creation in Christ. God had taken out his heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh. A heart that instantly loved God and loved his new brothers in Christ. He no longer cared about what people thought, or what consequences he would be facing tomorrow at work, his primary focus was on the good news of Jesus Christ.
Partakers of Grace
So let us ask why. Why do we see such a radical step of faith in the partnering of the Gospel in the lives of the jailer and Lydia? Flip back to Philippians 1 and look at verse 7.
And in light of the love of God that he lavishes upon us, there is only one logical, consistent, fitting, or worthy response, and that is for the love of God to break forth like a river busting through a dam and washing everyone down stream. Who cares about your job, who cares about your business, who cares about what the neighbors are saying, who cares about what your family might think. You want everyone to experience Christ. And this is exactly what happened for Lydia and the Jail. The question is, has it happened to you, or are you just going through the motions?
Paul's Prayer and My Prayer
I do not want Cornerstone Church to go through the motions. I can't do it. I can't survive as your Pastor emotionally if we just play Church. Your partnership with me in the Gospel is a means of grace that flows straight to my heart, and produces in me joy. My prayer today, is Paul's prayer.