Summary: Michelangelo left four unfinished sculptures called “The Prisoners or Slaves”. Individually they are known as “The Awakening Slave”, “The Young Slave”, “The Bearded Slave”, and “The Atlas Bound” (Accademia).

Michelangelo left four unfinished sculptures called “The Prisoners or Slaves”. Individually they are known as “The Awakening Slave”, “The Young Slave”, “The Bearded Slave”, and “The Atlas Bound” (Accademia). They are partway carved from their block of marble but, never finished, they are forever captured by that which made them. formed. Meant for the tomb of a Pope, they reside in Accademia Museum and one common response to viewing these has been a personal sense of longing for freedom. Freedom from the forces that hold us bound, imprisoned, and defeated. Remember, like those incomplete statues someone else must do the “freeing”.

The NEED for a New Orientation

Trapped? Consider the joys of this past year. The Holderness Family has a 2020 Xmas sweatshirt that sums it up well with aliens, asteroids, meth-gators, killer-hornets, COVID images, and masks. Keeping it real is Santa delivering a load of TP. One cannot escape that which has entangled us apart from the work of God through His Son, Jesus.

But 2020 isn’t the only time the world has sucked. Philippi was the Portland of Turkey. It fashioned itself a ‘little Rome’. There weren’t enough men in Philippi to form a synagogue. So, Paul had to change his normal way of doing things and seek out where his fellow Jews might be meeting.

Paul had to change the way he usually worked. There was no synagogue but hearing “there was a place of prayer” (Ac 16:13) Paul, Luke and others engaged the women who had gathered in conversation. Such a thing was not done by Jewish men. Yet, Lydia believes in Christ as Messiah and is baptized along with her family.

When Paul writes this letter to the churches in Philippi he is in a Roman prison. These weren’t ‘drunk tanks’ or even ‘Guantanamo’. They were right up there with the Nazi death camps, as they were usually the last stop before death. Instead or losing hope, Paul doubles down on the fact that that no matter what situations he faced Christ would continue to be preached. And instead of a deadly last stop Paul knew that Jesus was the life-given and that the life He gave could not be taken away by Rome or anyone else. That is JOY.

THE Source for Our Reorientation

The short answer is Jesus. The long answer is, it’s what Jesus has accomplished for us, not with us. Through Jesus, God creates a brand-spanking new covenant with Israel, the true Israel—those who believe and trust in His Son, Jesus. The Law, given during Exodus, was this first covenant which God established with His people. God is the originator of this agreement “I made… when I took them by the hand” (v. 32). It is “my covenant that they broke” God reminds us in v 33.

The new covenant is different. There is no Law written on stone. There is no interpretation by ‘teachers’ as to the meaning and scope of God’s rules. There is no debate over what God intends. Because God will create a covenant internally within each person who believes and trusts in Christ—written on their hearts. The promise before, that God would be Israel’s God and Israel’s God’s people, will become a reality individually as well as a people.

It is the indwelling of the “the Spirit of Christ ” or “the Spirit of Jesus ”-- the Holy Spirit whom God uses to write His law on our hearts. And the reality of that first Covenant, God and His people united will become a reality. Because of this relationship, forged in the death of Jesus, sealed with His blood, we experience the great promise in verse 34 “For I will forgive their iniquity, and will remember their sin no more”.

In 1968, Fritz Ridenour wrote “How to be a Christian without being Religious” which was one of the first Christian books I read. Read it if you can find a copy. He talks about the difference between God’s law in terms of taking a “Pass/Fail” class. He points out that God’s standard for “pass/fail” isn’t 70% or a ‘C’ but 100%. Perfection is the passing grade. The Law of Moses made provision by sacrifice for restarting but the standard never varied. James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”

He wasn’t the first to explain this but for a 17-18-year-old trying to make sense of who Christ was becoming in his life it was earth shattering. That’s because in Jesus, the perfection was achieved, and His passing grade is applied to all of those who follow Him.

TAKING off in the new direction

Remember Paul is writing this letter from a Roman prison. Yet he is not morose and worried. He is joyful. He is aware of the pressure this could bring on others, so Paul reminds these believers that He was praying for them with joy. The joyous connection between the Philippians and Paul doesn’t come from Paul but it is a gift of God—grace.

Copy Sermon to Clipboard with PRO Download Sermon with PRO
Talk about it...

Nobody has commented yet. Be the first!

Join the discussion