Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: God’s peace is a work of art in Christ

Sermon Text: Philippians 4:1-7

July 22, 2001


Today, I want you to use your artistic ability. (Now, no groans or sighs, please!) What I want you do is relatively simple. I want you to paint a mental picture -- a picture of peace. Close your eyes if you wish, and start thinking of something peaceful. How does it look? Perhaps it’s a portrait of a white-sand beach next to a calm ocean of blue. Maybe yours is a portrait of faces, of family and friends.

As you had those peaceful thoughts, did you think to include yourself in the picture? That’s a crucial part of the image, you know. The apostle Paul explains this in our text. For us Christians, peace is an image in which we are included. Keep this in mind, as today we consider: GOD’S PORTRAIT OF PEACE – A COMPLETE MASTERPIECE. 1) Made Vibrant by the Gospel, and 2) Highlighted with Joy.

1) Made Vibrant By the Gospel

It’s no surprise that God talks about joy, and rejoicing, as part of his spiritual masterpiece. The canvass on which God paints this masterpiece is the human heart and mind. The Lord dips into his palate of colors, and, with mighty strokes, he adds vibrancy and vitality to the heart and mind.

Now, the Holy Spirit is the artist directly responsible for this masterpiece. The colors at his disposal are of his making alone. His palate is the Means of Grace; the Gospel in Word and Sacraments. These are what the Holy Spirit uses to transform the heart and mind. The good news of Jesus Christ splashes over us with warm hues and shades. The Spirit is busy creating his masterpiece. He leads us to the Word again and again, covering and coating us with the promises of God. With heavy strokes the Holy Spirit layers us in mercy --“Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him --and with a gentile touch, the Spirit applies his grace --“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

The Spirit of God intends to paint a picture of joy, which involves peace of mind. Yet, this is not an easy canvass on which to work; this stubborn, fleshly heart and mind of ours. Time and again, it wants to spurn those warm colors of grace, and reject the Spirit’s gentile touch. Consider the portrait we see in the letter to the Philippians. This was intended to be an image of unity and peace. Now, the integrity of that portrait was threatened. Two individuals, Euodia and Syntyche, were suddenly at odds with each other. We don’t know the exact cause of the trouble. We do know that, at one time, they were enthusiastic helpers in the gospel ministry. They were energetic and talented, a blessing to the congregation. Now, some disagreement had arisen between them --perhaps it was the result of jealousy or envy – and where there once was harmony, there was now friction.

What was happening is that the strong colors of sin were threatening to overshadow the colors of the gospel. This canvass – the heart and mind – is not blank or empty. It is painted heavily with sin. What’s worse is that those dark undertones of sin keep threatening to bleed through and cancel out the warm colors of the gospel. Our sinful nature keeps trying to undo the Spirit’s good work. The basic problem is that this canvass, our hearts and minds, wants to be the artist itself. Deep down, we have the desire be in control. We want all the credit and attention.

This leads to people who are coated in dissonance, not harmony; to people petty and selfish. We are sinful. What was once a picture of joy is transformed into one of gloom. The colors of sin threaten to clash and dominate. Sharp words. Hurt feelings. Grudges. Bitterness. Resentment. Envy. Jealousy. These are the colors on sin’s palate, which try to destroy the Spirit’s masterpiece.

Yet, notice that God is persistent and faithful. He clashes sin with grace. He combats sin’s murky undertones with the vibrant colors of his love. The apostle Paul knew the riches of grace that are in Christ Jesus, and he dipped into the Holy Spirit’s palate, the gospel, and applied it to the people’s hearts and lives. He says: “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.” Paul doesn’t sink to name-calling or slander. He trusts that the Holy Spirit has not given up. He trusts that God is not willing to trash the canvass and start fresh. The Lord alone is able to transform sin’s ugliness into something truly beautiful.

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