This Sunday’s message is about joy. If you get your joy from Christ alone then the devil can never steal your joy. As you pursue your relationship with God, you discount false righteousness and depend upon the righteousness of Christ alone. You should not trust in religious actions. Eventually you will find that many of the religious perks you once thought worthwhile are merely superficial benefits. You throw them away so you can put your full trust and hope in Christ alone. Without Christ you are not good enough for heaven, but Jesus can get you there. You are not good until Jesus makes you good. Properly understood this will bring you joy in worship. Religious activity may bring false confidence and unproductive religious zeal, but when you learn to value Christ alone you find Christ always and in all things. Let’s learn how to value Christ above everything and thus find great joy in doing so.
When we think about people like the apostle Paul and Jesus Christ, we are intimidated by their example. However there are plenty of normal, average, people in the Bible. One of those people is the sidekick of the apostle Paul, Timothy. Turns out Timothy was a great asset to Paul. In spite of some limitations which I will share in the upcoming sermon, Timothy turns out to be one of the most important people in the New Testament. One of Timothy's chief characteristics was he was ready for anything. At a moment's notice the apostle Timothy traveled all over the Roman empire at the bidding of the apostle Paul. But Paul didn't consider Timothy his servant but rather he considered him a coworker. Timothy was ready to be equipped by Paul. Timothy encouraged people. Timothy helped Paul expand Christ's footprint in the Roman empire. This Sunday we will see how normal people can have a great impact if they are ready for anything.
Being selfless and serving others can be a very humbling and sometimes hard thing. It’s not easy to want to volunteer your time and serve when so many things demand our time and attention. Yet we are called numerous times throughout scripture to serve. Philippians 2 is a great passage, not just about serving, but about the joy that is found in serving. Paul gives a remarkable example of what serving can look like, and also encourages all believers to serve without complaining or grumbling, but with joy. This Sunday we will look at that passage and be challenged together to serve with joy.
Most of us recognize some of our behavior/thinking needs to change. It could be as simple as stop eating too much, or a much more complex issue such as wanting to end your life. To change our thinking/behavior with biblical principles will ultimately change our lives for the better, but how do we change our thinking? If our relationship with Christ is vibrant, things will change. To get there, by faith, we need to understand who He is and His authority. We need to recognize we have a responsibility to follow Christ. "Follow me" is Christ's most frequent command in the New Testament. How do we do it? As we look at Philippians 2, we find a balance between our responsibility and God's promises. The benefits we have from our relationship with Christ are life changing. This relationship with Christ allows us to live out our salvation: past, present and future. He has saved us by His cross from the penalty of sin. He saves us from the power of sin if we identify with Him (John 15, Galatians 2:20, Philippians 2:13, Romans 6:11, Romans 5–8). Someday when we go to heaven He will forever save us from the presence of sin. Our responsibility to identify with Christ describes the direction where we're headed this Sunday.
In the USA people have always given some recognition to Jesus Christ. Depending upon the poll taker and the generation, Jesus is a great moral teacher. This is the most common identification people ascribe to Jesus. Although this is true it is not the central identity that the Bible gives to him. What would Jesus do is certainly an important ethical standard, but who Jesus is and why he came is of eternal significance. In Philippians 2:5-8, Christ’s biblical identity is clear. Incarnation and crucifixion are truths we need to follow Christ. The attitudes of selflessness, submission, and sacrifice are essential for Christ-like living. Humility is the preeminent characteristic of God who allows himself to be a servant on our behalf. It was/is his death on the cross that allows us to be forever related to God due to his sacrifice on our behalf.
In Paul’s letters he refers to himself as a servant much more often than he refers to himself as an apostle. Do we treat our fellow Christians as people we need to serve? Let’s take a step towards being more like Christ as we discover principles from God’s word this Sunday.
When the apostle Paul wrote to Philippi, he was not in a good place (physically) yet his letter to this church was filled with optimism. By being less self-centered, he could focus on Christ and the needs of the Philippians. I remember working among nationals in a third world country and how their optimism and joy often exceeded my own. Physical advantages and benefits do not mean you will be happy. The media constantly talks about unhappy rich people, unhappy marriages of rich people and unhappy children of rich people. It’s not riches that make us happy, then what is it? Since Paul was in a difficult situation (jail) and his readers were better off, the attitudes that Paul embraces and advocates that other Christians follow, give us some life principles. We’ve heard it before - keep the main thing the main thing. But our pride wants us to major on the minors because often we have a better understanding/perspective of a particular minor issue that the person we are speaking with doesn’t have. You hear it every day in conversations: one-upmanship. You tell a story and then I tell a better story so it looks like I am smarter, more experienced, more savvy, more powerful, etc.
If we could embrace Paul’s attitudes in Philippians 2:1–4 it would put us on the way to becoming the church that Christ prayed for in John 17. How do we follow Jesus? How do we find a basis for our unity? How do we discover God’s purpose for ourselves and for our church? How do we regard others as more important than ourselves?
As we have been studying the book of Philippians the past couple months, I have personally been challenged and encouraged. In this letter to the church of Philippi, there is no shortage of incredible verses that dive right to the point. In Philippians 1:21 the Apostle Paul writes, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”. This is one of those incredible passages which is both challenging and encouraging. On Sunday, we will spend the majority of our time focusing on this one verse and diving into how we can pursue Christ in life, and glorify Christ even in our death.