Summary: An examination of the joy that comes from belonging to the Christian community, as described in Phil 1:1-11.
Title: Joy In Christian Community
Series: The Joy of the Christian Life (Sermon # 2)
Text: Phil 1:1-11
Date Preached: July 27, 2008
COPYRIGHT © Joe La Rue, 2008 (All Rights Reserved)
A. Open your Bibles to Philippians, in the New Testament. We’ll be looking at the first eleven verses of chapter one today, as we continue our study about how we can experience true, lasting joy in our lives.
B. The poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself.” (John Donne, Meditation XVII). What that expresses poetically is what we feel intuitively: we are not as good alone as we are with one another. There is a reason that the most dreaded punishment in prison is solitary confinement: no one wants to be alone all the time. Community is important to us. We want a place where we belong. We all want a group that we can call our own. We to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We want to know that there are people who care for us, and who we can care for, too.
C. That was part of the genius of the early church: they bonded together into a community. Many of these early Christians were slaves. Many of them had no community to belong to at all—not even a family to call their own. They had no one to love them. They had no one to care about them.
1. And along came the Apostle Paul and other early missionaries preaching the good news that God loves them, and Jesus died to save them, and they can be born again and can join God’s family! And they grabbed hold of that message with fervor, because they saw God’s family as something worth belonging to. It gave their meaningless lives purpose. It gave their hopeless existence hope.
2. And it works the same way today. You’ve heard me say this before: “The Church of Christ, when it is functioning properly, is the hope of the world.” It is in the church that the lost have the gospel preached to them, that sinners are saved, and that forgiveness is found. It is in the church that we discover God’s plan for our lives. It is in the church that we find our lives’ true purpose and meaning. And it is in the church that we experience a family to belong to—a community that is bigger than we are, that we can be supported and loved and encouraged by, and that we can support and love and encourage as well. Even with the problems and imperfections that we humans bring into it, the Church of Christ remains the hope of the world.
D. It was to such a church that the Apostle Paul wrote the Letter to the Philippians, and spoke of all the joy that was theirs because they belonged to Jesus. In the first eleven verses, he speaks of the joy that comes from belonging to the Christian community. Look with me at the first two verses of Philippians, chapter 1. Paul writes,
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1:1-2, NIV).
1. Paul called these Christians, “saints.” We today tend to associate that word with great heros of the faith—we speak of St. Peter, and St. Paul. But actually, the Greek word ‘hagiois’ (ἁãßïéò) meant “ones who have been set apart.” “Holy” is another translation of this word—‘holy’ in the sense of ‘having been set apart.’ And it is ‘hagiois’ that is often used in the Bible to describe normal, everyday Christians—Christians just like us.
2. Now, there are at least three ways that Christians are set apart:
a. First, we are set apart in relationship: we now belong to God through Jesus. Jesus’ blood shed on the cross has paid the price for you, and now God says, “You are Mine! And you, and you, and you, and you!” We have been set apart to have a relationship with God through Christ, and to have a relationship with one another as well.
b. Second, we have been set apart from evil. God has redeemed us through Christ from the evil influences of this world, and we no longer follow evil desires. Instead, we follow God.
c. Third, we have been set apart for works of service. It’s not just that we don’t pursue evil anymore; now, we pursue the things of God. The Bible tells us that we have been saved in order to serve. God gives us a new life in Christ, and then He gives us a job. Isn’t that amazing? The King of all creation wants you and me to help Him bring about His kingdom here on earth. He lets us play on His team.