HOW TO BE A CHRISTIAN AND STILL ENJOY LIFE
A LIFE ENJOYED IS A LIFE SHARED Pt.4
Sunday February 24, 2008
Scripture Reference: Philippians 1:9-11
A. Today we begin our look into the last portion of verses 3-11. Today we will begin our look into V.9-11, now I must tell you that we are about to embark into what I believe to be a literal gold mine of spiritual truths. As I am sure you have guessed by now we will be here for more than one week. We will definitely spend two weeks in these verses if not three. These next few weeks can do much to enrich your walk with God and help you discover that joy in living for Christ. Now this is not because of my great skills as a preacher but it is because of the truth that comes out of this living book we call the Bible. I hope that you will do whatever is necessary to make sure you can be with us for these next few weeks and if you do miss be sure you go to our web site and listen to or download the sermon on a CD so you can here what God has to say to you through these verses.
1. Let me preface what I am about to tell you by saying that I am not equating myself with the Apostle Paul, but I do find some similarities between his character and personality type and mine. I don’t know if you have ever noticed this but Paul has a tendency to get distracted as he writes to the various churches. Some times I find it hard to not get distracted and start doing things I really didn’t intend to do.  Let me give you an example. I can decide I need to clean off the work bench in my garage and as I am going along trying to do this task and because I picked up one items that maybe needed to be moved to another place in the garage. When I go to move that item I find something else that needs to be moved or changed and before you know it I am in the back yard doing something. Now I don’t know that Paul was as bad as I am but we can see some of his tendency to be distracted in these verses we have been studying for three weeks now. In .V 3 Paul talks about how he prays for these Christians at Philippi but as he does so he gets distracted and begins to tell us as we have seen over the past weeks why he prays for them. Then look at what he says in V.9 “This is my prayer..” It is as if Paul said in V.3 “This is my prayer” then he gets distracted for a minute and comes back in V.9 to say “Now here is the prayer I was talking about a minute ago.” If you want to see another example of this you can go to Ephesians 3 and look at what happens between V.1 and verse 14.
B. Now we have been saying all along here that what Paul is showing us in V.3-11 is that a life enjoyed is a life shared. There is no greater partnership; there can be no greater joy than the joy we share when we pray for one another. Whatever differences we may have had, whatever divisions might have existed these are all dissolved at the place of prayer. I have often said that although I know we have personal needs that need to be brought before the Lord I believe that the greatest enjoyment in prayer is not when I pray for myself but when I pray for others. I certainly get to do this every day in my devotions but I also find great enjoyment when I am away on my prayer retreats and I get to take along the requests you share with me. Let me just say here that I am intending to increase these prayer retreats to no less than two and hopefully three each year. These are not only helpful times for me personally but I feel they serve as a great advantage to you as my congregation in how they help to keep my focused on God’s purpose and vision for us.
C. I want to do a little informal survey today. Now I know we have only been studying Philippians for six weeks and we are just now looking at the ninth verse but I want you to rate for me the spiritual maturity level of this church, based upon what we have studied so far and based upon any other reading of studying of Philippians that you have done. Now here is the scale I want you to use and we will just do this by a show of hands. (Put on screen Philippian Church Spiritual Maturity Level. Very Immature – Immature – Average – Above Average – Very Mature)
1. Interesting that we believe based upon what knowledge we have of these people that we feel they are above average in their maturity level or we feel they are very mature. The reason I say this is interesting is because of what Paul writes in this prayer, let’s read it again (read). You see the whole focus of this prayer is for the spiritual maturity of these believers. That is in essence what Paul is praying for and yet we feel they are already mature. Shouldn’t Paul have said, “Praise God, You guys have arrived? You are already so much more mature than the Corinthian church, you guys can sit back and take life easy because you know all you need to know to follow Christ.” Instead what Paul prays is for their maturity in Christ to increase and this is a wonderful pray for us to use as a model in our own lives. So for the next few weeks we will discover how we encourage growth in each other. What we see in Paul’s prayer are the essentials for spiritual growth.
I. PAUL’S PRAYER – THE ESSENTIALS FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH.
The first thing Paul prays for is:
A. Abounding Love.
1. Now lets define some words here because the words Paul uses are critical in understanding what he is praying for in the life of these believers and what it means for us as God’s children today. Let’s begin with the word “Love”. Hopefully I have done a good enough job teaching you over the years that you know that the word “love” that is translated in the bible has several Greek derivatives. There is Philo which refers to friendship, that is Eros which refers to emotion or passion it has more to do with feelings and then there is Agape which refers to God’s love. It is this word Agape that Paul is using here as he prays for the Philippians, so what does this mean? Well what this means is that Paul is quite literally praying for Christ likeness in the lives of these believers. When he prays for their love to abound he is not praying that they will have greater feelings towards God but that their actions will more and more reflect the character of God in them. For the past few weeks we have been talking about this thing called Holiness or sanctification. I am probably over simplifying here but I believe the essence of holiness or sanctification is to become more Christ like or more like God. Look at what the bible says, Ephesians 5:1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children Ephesians 4:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. When Paul prays this pray for the Philippians he is praying that they will become these imitators of God, he is praying for the purpose of Discipleship to be fulfilled in their lives.
2. Now notice that Paul prays for this love or this Christ likeness to abound. I know this isn’t apparent from just reading this the first time but we have actually seen this word already in our study. Turn with me to 4:18 (read). In case you don’t remember what this word literally means is to be “over and above” to be “more than enough” or “superfluous”. Now consider again what we said about this Philippians when we began this message. We said we believed that by in large they were above average in their spiritual maturity. Why would Paul pray for their love to abound when they are already head and shoulders above everyone else? Here is what I believe, when you stop growing you start dying. When you feel that you have “arrived” be assured of this YOU HAVEN’T! This word “abound” is very rich in meaning, it not only means for something to overflow but there are two other aspects to consider.
a) One is that this love excels. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Right now we have four small groups up and running. When we are running on all cylinders as it were we have about 40% of our adult population involved in small groups. That is pretty good in fact in some reading I have done recently of growing churches we are on par with these churches on small group averages. So shouldn’t we be satisfied to be on par with other growing churches? I am sure you can guess my answer it is a definite NO! Let me give you another example. We have a monthly budget of $13600. Let’s say we were to reach that goal should we say “Great we have reached our goal we have enough money to pay our bills and pay the preacher, we can relax.” “In fact the pastor doesn’t need to say anything more about money because we have what we need.” Does this attitude reflect what Paul’s prayer was for these Christians and what this prayer means to us sitting here today?
b) I have to be honest and tell you that this is a principle that God has been laying on my heart lately. This principle of excellence. I believe that even though Paul did not say this directly this is precisely what his prayer meant. He was praying for these people to excel in their Christ likeness. One of the late General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene named J.B. Chapman said, “Letting well enough alone often means simply letting poor enough alone, and contentment with things as they are is often just complacency in the face of the things that ought to be and are not so.” Now you might say, “Well pastor are you saying we should never be satisfied with the thing we accomplish or the goals we reach?” NO, that is not what I am saying at all but what I am saying is while we can be satisfied with accomplishments we should never be settled. We should never allow good enough to be good enough. I am satisfied with my walk with God right now but I am not settled, in fact in my satisfaction I have found a new desire to grow. I am satisfied where I am as a pastor right now but I am not settled. There is no way I am going to coast through the next 15 or so years of my ministry whether it is here or else where and just wait to retire. I believe that God calls me just as he calls you to excel, to ABOUND! I said this a few weeks ago but let me say this again the question we ought to be asking ourselves is this, “Can I (we) do better?” If the answer is “yes” then we are obligated to do so. To do less would be as Jesus put it in the parable of the stewards, an unfaithful steward. I think Jesus actually used the word “wicked”.
Trans. Now notice the next thing Paul prays for these Philippians. He has prayed for their love to abound then he prays for them to have a growing knowledge of God.
B. A Growing Knowledge Of God.
1. This word Paul uses here literally means this it means “Knowledge of God”. Now consider the implications OF Paul’s words. He is praying that their likeness of Christ will abound, will overflow, will excel and how will this happen? Well one of the ways is in the increasing knowledge we have about God. This reminds me of that slogan that was popular not long ago. I know some didn’t like it but it is still a pretty good foundation to build on and what I am referring to is, “What Would Jesus Do?” If you think about it this is exactly what Paul was praying for these people and what God wants from us. I can’t know what Jesus would do unless I know what Jesus would do and how do I know what Jesus would do? I What Jesus would do as I grow in my knowledge of Jesus All too often we are taking our cues for living by what the culture around us is saying and doing, but Jesus said that we are not of this world. As followers of Christ we should be living with a totally different set of values and beliefs than the rest of the world. If we live, think, and talk like everyone around us then what is Christian about us? Are you a Christian because you go to church or because you believe in God? You are a Christian because you are Christ like, because Christ lives in you. Again I want to say that this is not about being different for difference sake it is about living as a true follower of Christ and in doing so you can’t help but be different.  I will tell you, even though I am sure some who hear this will call me judgmental, but I have a real problem with all these people who call themselves Christians and yet I see no fruit, nothing in their lives that seems to reflect Christ. Just because some politician says they are a Christian or some movie star says they are a Christian doesn’t make it so. It sure seems to me that there an awful lot of people in this world who wants the benefits of Christianity without any of the responsibility. Here is what Jesus said, Luke 6:40 A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
2. Now let’s consider how a person gets this knowledge. Actually this is simply, at least it is simple to say but experience shows that it is not quite as simple to do. To grow in our knowledge of God we simply need to practice the basic spiritual disciplines. We need to practice the disciple of worship. I strive in every message I preach to share with you truths from the bible that will help you in fulfilling this purpose for which God created you. I also believe that being together with other Christians helps us in our spiritual growth process. In fact here is what the bible says about this, Proverbs 27:17 NLT People learn from one another, just as iron sharpens iron. I can tell you that one of the things that helped me as a teenager growing up in the church was watching the lives of older Christians who had a vibrant relationship with God. They inspired me to want that same relationship with God as well. I could have never aspired to that if I was not around these people which meant being in church had to be a priority. Now I know you have heard me beat this drum many times but here goes again. One of the disciplines you need to have in order to abound in the knowledge of God is a daily devotional life. I can tell you without equivocation that one of the main reasons people who calls themselves Christians and yet find no joy in worship or find worship unimportant is because there is no daily walk with God. By the time we get back to church on Sunday (if we do make it back) we are so deflated, so out of gas, so spiritually beat up that it takes a whole worship service just to try to get you back where you were before you left the week before. Let me give you a little test you can use to help reveal what kind of devotional life you are having. How would you answer this question, “What did God teach you or show you this week in your walk with Him?” Now I know that there are some weeks when things are a little dry, but by in large you should be able to answer that question if you are having a daily walk with God. If God hasn’t taught you or shown you anything this past week then maybe the next question you need to consider is “WHY?” Why haven’t I learned anything new? Why haven’t I seen God at work this week? Those answers may well reveal some changes that need to be made in your life.
Trans. Now we also see that Paul not only prays for knowledge of God but also for depth of insight. What this depth of insight literally means is:
C. Good Judgment.
1. It is literally the application of the knowledge we have. How many times have we heard people say something like this, “I know but …” What that statement most often means is that “I knew what I was supposed to do but I did something else.” In other words I had knowledge but I chose not to apply it or use it. This reminds me a statement made by a well known Christian leader named John Maxwell. He said, “We are already educated well beyond the level of our obedience.” Remember that Paul is praying for an overflow of understanding and action.
2. How many times have you heard this phrase, “Love is blind”? This is a very true statement, but what you need to know is that this statement is only true as it refers to Eros love. Remember Eros is the love that is full of emotions and passions. As a pastor I have dealt with a number of people over the years who got involved in relationships that were wrong. It was either someone who was married who was having an affair or a couple who were not married but sexually involved. I told them as well as others who loved them and cared for them that this was wrong but they went ahead and did it any way. Why? Because they were acting out of Eros love and not agape love. They were acting without this very knowledge and insight Paul was praying about. I have seen this as well in couples that get married who shouldn’t. Either the relationship was not right or the timing was not right but they went ahead any way. Defying all reason, logic and common sense, WHY? Because love, Eros love is blind, but if we are growing in the understanding of God’s love and as a result are using good judgment which is what insight means then we will make right choices and decisions. Remember that this series is about how to be a Christian and enjoy life. We need to rid from our minds this false idea that God is truing to keep us from having any fun or enjoyment. Just the opposite is true, no one wants you to enjoy life more than God does and that is why He wants us to know Him and know what pleases Him because He is the only source of real joy.
OUR NEXT STEPS:
A. I know that in the culture we live in if I want to be applauded what I need to do right now is to offer to you the five minute plan for spiritual maturity. Our microwave culture demands everything, including spiritual maturity to happen in a matter of minutes. Well as much as I enjoy approval of others and want to be liked I am not able to offer you a five minute plan and no one who will be honest with you can offer you this plan because it does not exist. Let me share with you a chapter of scripture that I believe speaks to where we are right now. This is Hebrews chapter 12 and it is from the NLT so I will put it all up on the screen for you to read along with me.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.5 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said,
“My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you.6 For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”
7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?8 If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? 10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness.11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.
A Call to Listen to God
14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.16 Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal.17 You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears.18 You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai.19 For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking.20 They staggered back under God’s command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” 21 Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.” 22 No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering.23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect.24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.25 Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven!26 When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” 27 This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain.28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.29 For our God is a devouring fire.
B. There is no instant spiritual maturity. Our spiritual maturity begins right now with our willingness to follow the spiritual disciplines laid out for us. To grow in this knowledge of God and then to apply what God teaches us. If you are willing to do this then Paul’s pray will be answered in your life.