Intro: An old dog was watching a young dog chase his tail. The young dog stopped to rest, and told the older dog, “I believe happiness is in my tail, and if I catch it, then I will have happiness!” The older, wiser dog said, “I caught mine once. . . and I found out that happiness is not in the catching, it’s in the pursuit.” In this letter Paul is cheering the Philippians and you to have joy in Jesus constant presence and persistent work in them. It is the pursuit of Christ despite the pressures of life that bring overflowing joy.
I. Paul’s greeting
A) From slaves of Christ
Choosing the best begins with our response to God. Paul was an apostle, a missionary, a preacher and writer but he chose to begin this very personal letter to the Philippians identifying Himself as a slave of Jesus Christ. Paul is no longer the proud and pompous Pharisee; he is now the bond slave of Jesus. So how do we tell if we are truly bond slaves of Jesus? Someone once said it is how we react when we are treated like one. Paul joyfully served Jesus not matter the pressure or pain and as he did with Timothy in this greeting he elevated others instead of Himself.
B) To the saints of Christ
1) This is not determined by the church
2) This is not determined by your works
3) This is determined by your reception of God’s grace (God’s riches at Christ’s Expense)
Saint comes from the word Hagios which simply means to set apart. In the Old Testament the Tabernacle and Temple were set apart for God alone. All the furnishings and utensils especially the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy of Holies were set apart. They were chosen by God for special use. There were no longer supposed to be used for common tasks. The tribe of Levi was set apart to serve God as priests. They did not inherit land because they were to devote their time and energy in serving God. The people of Israel were set apart to be his special people to take the glorious light of His person to the gentiles. To be a saint means to be set apart for God’s purposes.
C) From the source Jesus Christ
Where does lasting joy come from? It comes from our connection to God the father through Jesus Christ. Joy is the pleasure that comes from our relationship with Jesus. Joy does not come from a change in our circumstances it comes from a change in our character. In Philippians 4:11 Paul said, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in.”
Forty times Jesus’ name is mentioned in this letter. The center of Joy is Jesus. He is the hub and the spokes radiate out from our dependence on Him daily.
II. Paul’s gratefulness
A) As a result of the Philippians partnership in the gospel (Philippians 1:5)
The word Paul used for partnership in the Gospel is the same word we learned in Acts 2, fellowship in the Gospel. They didn’t just hear Paul’s message they helped with Paul’s ministry. It is the word translated fellowship. It does not mean food gatherings!! It means sharing common concerns, goals, lifestyles, dreams and partnering together so that there everyone in our circle of influence hears the name of Jesus and the good news of the gospel! Paul is so thankful here because the Philippians weren’t just spectators in History they were participants.
What did they share? The Philippians shared life, prayer, praise, thanksgiving, love, service, evangelism, separation from the world, and God’s great grace. The purpose is what Paul is thankful for. It wasn’t fellowship from mans point of view but it was for the purpose of Heaven coming on earth in and around the body of Christ.
B) As a result of Jesus persistent work in the Philippians
Paul’s confidence rested on God’s ability to complete His work in the Philippians lives. We too can have the confidence that God will finish His work in us. Realize Paul is calling us to confidence not arrogance. Since God is the one who completes it the work will last it will be permanent. Remember also that our entire life is an ongoing work of God’s Holy Spirit in us to transform us into the image of Jesus.
God’s goal in our life is not a lack of stress, doubt or struggle. His goal is for those things to have less and less control and impact on us as we are every day controlled more and more by His will!
How do we do this? How do we allow God to have more control over us than the circumstances that constantly surround us?
1) Remember God is always present
2) Rely on God through prayer – Begin the day saying God this is the day you have made I will rejoice in it and rely on you!
3) React as if God has already done something about what you are facing.
How do I know that I am a saint of God? Is it the lack of struggle, the absence of doubt, fear or failure? No being a saint isn’t about what we lack it is God’s grace that makes us a saint. He freely gives Himself to us and if we receive His free gift of forgiveness and we turn over control of our life to Him it will cause a hunger for His Holy Spirit to renovate our life completely. That is what Paul is so grateful for!!
III. Paul’s request for the Philippians growth in grace
An increase in love (Philippians 1:9-11)
A) Will lead to choosing what’s best (1:9-10)
There are many things to choose from in our world today. Sadly we can choose the good and the better and miss the best. Dunnam, “Our culture is so far gone down the path of sexual promiscuity, selfish indulgence, immoral indifference and flabby thinking that only those who consistently choose the superlative good can make a difference.”
Discernment isn’t only about being able to choose between good and evil but being able to choose between good and best. God wants us to be able to tell the difference between good and evil and good and best.
Film maker Walt Disney was ruthless in cutting anything that got in the way of a story's pacing. Ward Kimball, one of the animators for Snow White, recalls working 240 days on a 4 1/2 minute sequence in which the dwarfs made soup for Snow White and almost destroyed the kitchen in the process. Disney thought it was funny, but he decided the scene stopped the flow of the picture, so out it went. When the film of our lives is shown, will it be as great as it might be? A lot will depend on the multitude of "good" things we need to eliminate to make way for the great things God wants to do through us. Discernment is God’s gift to us to choose what is best.
What are the characteristics of what’s best?
1) It is for God’s glory
2) It is for changing us into Christ’s image
3) It is for building Christ’s body
1 Corinthians 10:23 encourages us to ask is it helpful and Jesus encourages us to ask is it harmful.
B) Will lead to character correction
Growth in love and knowledge of Jesus person and principles does not end with making the best choices. The direction of our journey with Jesus leads us to transformation of our entire person.
Pure or sincere comes from a word that means sun juged. So literally when love is having its result we are sun-judged. The best way to understand this is from Paul’s time. Sculptors would use blemished and defective stone. When they finished sculpting they would fill any holes or imperfections with wax and then paint them. After a period of time in the hot sun the wax would melt and revealing the glaring imperfections. Paul’s challenge is grow in Jesus in such a way that your aren’t a phony. Be real. This comes from choosing the best.
Ephesians 5:8 “Live as men who are @ home in the daylight.” NEB Live with nothing to hide.
It is our character and conduct that reveal whether we choose good or best.
Conclusion: J Vernon McGee’s tells about moving to Las Angeles and having stories told about him. Paul is cheering the Philippians on!! Go all the way for God. Make sure you are real and free from hypocrisy. Church I want to challenge you not to quit. I want to encourage you to press on toward God and the high calling of Christ. I thank God that many of you are living as followers of Christ at home in the light.