We recently began a new series of messages drawn out of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
He wrote to this church that he established some 10 years prior to this writing.
Paul wrote the letter from a prison in Rome along with Ephesians and Colossians known as the “Prison Epistles (letters).
Maintaining God’s joy while managing the world’s junk.
I also like a title I found on a title slide from the internet.
“Joy No Matter What”
In order to maintain this joy, we must align our life around four critical focal points which unfold in each of the four chapters of Philippians.
I. ADOPT THE RIGHT AXIS -- SUPRERIOR LIFE PERSEPECTIVE
The Exaltation of Jesus in Everything
II. MAINTAIN THE RIGHT ATTITUDE -- SUPERIOR PATTERN OF LIVING
Serve Like Jesus
III. PURSUE THE RIGHT AIM -- SUPERIOR LIFE PURSUIT
The Passionate Pursuit of Jesus
IV. ACQUIRE THE RIGHT ABILITY -- SUPERIOR POWER SOURCE
The strength of Jesus
Paul opened his letter with a greeting and prayer.
His prayer praised God for their partnership in the spreading of the Gospel and petitioned God to increase their love for one another that would result in a pure walk that glorifies Christ.
The rest of the letter addressed the details of an increasing God-honoring love included in the prayer.
The first perspective necessary to experience joy no matter what is adopting the right axis in life.
Paul’s life revolved around one specific objective; to see Christ exalted in everything.
I. Adopt the right Axis – the superior perspective
The exaltation of Christ in everything.
according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. Philippians 1:20
A. Paul Encouraged a right axis by personal example 1:12-26
B. Paul encouraged unity by pastoral exhortation 1:27-30
• The Mandate #1 – unity against the opposition 27-28
Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. Philippians 1:27-28
He encouraged a worthy walk.
He mandated behavior suitable for a citizen of the Kingdom of God.
That behavior focues on standing firm and striving together against the opponents.
• The Motivation #1 - God’s gifts of belief and suffering 29--30
For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me. Philippians 1:29-30
“For” usually introduces a purpose or motivation statement.
In this passage, Paul cites two motivating perspectives.
God “has granted”.
a) God gifts belief in Him
b) God gifts suffering for Him
These are both gifts intended to benefit the cause of Christ.
Both our belief and willing service bring glory to the one we serve.
First, Paul exhorted them to a united stand against the enemy.
Next he urged them to unite in their love for each other.
First is fitting citizen behavior in relation to external opposition.
Second is fitting citizen behavior in relations to internal relationships.
In this case he began with the motivating factors and then addressed the behavior.
Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:1-4
• Motivation #2 – God’s encouragement & consolation 2:1
Here Paul began with the motivation before he issued several relational practices to consider.
Paul employed four conditional phrases to actually emphasize their reality.
The Greek language employed at least three levels of conditional phrases.
If, and it may or may not be true. (most come to our use)
If it rains, then I am not going.
If, and it has a very low possibility of happening.
If I win the lottery, then I will…
If, and it has a high probability of happening or it is also called the case of the hypothetical.
If we have been raise up with Christ, then see the things above.
In English a good translation would be “since” If this, then that.
If it is the case and it most certainly is, then…
In our current passage all four of these conditions have high probability.
Another way to translate would be…
Suppose (hypothetically) and I assert there is any encouragement in Christ the how should that dictate our behavior.
Here are the four assertions.
I see these as privileges of citizenship in the kingdom of Christ.
If there is any encouragement in Christ (and there most certainly is)
If there is any consolation of love (and there most certainly is)
If there is any fellowship of the Sprit (and there most certainly is)
If there is and affection and compassion (and there most certainly is)
Make my joy complete by living in unity and mutual service.
Paul found joy in both the difficult (struggle) and the delightful (unity).
These four verses are one sentence in the original. All the parts of the sentence support the mandate to bring joy to Paul’s heart. This most certainly stems from the depth of their long standing relationship. The argument basically flows along this line.
If Christ has made ANY difference in your life, then stir up joy in my heart by how you relate to one another in love and unity. The motivation for the mandated behavior is the ministry of Christ.
Let us first explore the resources available through connection with Christ. I find the use of the term “any” significant.
Not absolute encouragement.
Not absolute love.
Not absolute fellowship
Not absolute affection and compassion
But ANY level of those things through Christ is cause for unity.
The reality is that we have the full deal in Christ, but we may not at all times feel the full impact of our kingdom privileges. Paul argues that ANY sense of Christ’s work in your life should motivate unity. What ministry does the Trinity offer to us in this life?
SINCE THERE IS CONTINUAL ENCOURAGMENT IN CHRIST
Paul employed a very rich term with significant impact both in the noun and verb form. It merges two Greek terms “to call” and the preposition “para” which means alongside, or beside. Thus the literal rendering of the merger would be “to call alongside.” The implication is someone who comes along side another in their struggle and offers the necessary “encouragement” and help to deal with life. It was the term used for a legal advocate, defender or intercessor, advisor or counselor. Our English translations translate it encouragement, comfort, help, consolation.
Jesus is called our “encourager”
My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate (encourager) with the Father—Jesus Christ the righteous One. 1 John 2:1 (HCSB)
And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation (encouragement)of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. Luke 2:25
The Holy Spirit is called our “encourager” along with Jesus.
"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Encourager (just like Me), that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17
Same word used there of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is ANOTHER comforter of the same (allos) kind not a different (heteros) kind. This kind of encouragement comes from words and presence. There are two levels of encouragement in Christ. One comes from Him personally by His words, works and presence. The other comes from others who are also “in Christ”.
Where do we receive encouragement?
• Jesus, The Holy Spirit, God
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in all our affliction so that we will be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. 2 Cor. 1:3-4
• The Scriptures
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, Romans 15:4-5
Since we are part of a kingdom of encouragement, focus on unity. What is it about being “in Christ” brings you encouragement?
Because I am in Christ…
Barnabas lived up to his name “son of encouragement”. The term runs all though the New Testament. The noun nearly 20 times. The verb over 100 times. Coming along side of others to uplift and help because of the encouragement found in Jesus stands as a valued behavior in the kingdom.
SINCE THERE IS DEEP CONSOLATION IN GOD’S LOVE
This term in its noun form only appears here meaning consolation or comfort from soothing words or actions.
The verb form appears four times meaning “to speak alongside.”
and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. John 11:19
Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. John 11:31
just as you know how we were exhorting and consoling and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, 1 Thes. 2:11
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, console the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 1 Thes. 5:14
The three word pictures visualize the meaning of this word.
Friends at a funeral
Parents lovingly training their children
Friends helping the fainthearted (small souled)
Whereas the “encouragement in Christ” is more general encouragement, for direction and strengthening. The “consolation of love” is more specifically related to deeply troubling circumstances. This is the feeling that comes from the sense of being deeply loved. When we face devastating circumstances we most need to know we are loved. Paul calls these kingdom citizens to respond to the assurance of God’s love for them by loving their fellow citizens.
Multiple passages passionately proclaim the depth of Gods’ love for us.
By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 1 John 4:9
But in all these things (difficulties in life) we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39
See how great a love I have bestowed on you, that you would be called My beloved children; and such you are. Beloved, now you are My children, and it has not appeared as yet what you will be. But know for sure that when My Son appears, you will become like Him, because you will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:1-3
How does the knowledge of God’s love for you bring consolation?
SINCE THERE IS EMPOWERMENT IN THE SPIRIT’S FELLOWSHIP
The central term here is “fellowship”; the Greek word “koinonea”.
It was a term used during those times to indicate intimate partnership, to have in common, sharing, close mutual association, communion. Paul encouraged the Philippian believers to think about their relationship with all three members of the Trinity
Since there is encouragement by reason of being “In Christ”…
Since there is deep consolation in understanding God’s great love…
Since there is a life-altering partnership with what the Holy Spirit…
Bring me full joy by living in unity as worthy citizens of the Kingdom. This is not the only place that indicates our connection to the Godhead. We have been unified by the work of the Holy Spirit who lives in every citizen.
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Cor. 12:13
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6
The Holy Spirit who lives in every citizen is the unifying factor between us. There is an essential unity by reason of the Holy Spirit’s presence. Our partnership with Him enables partnership and unity with each other.
What is your relationship to the Holy Spirit today? Are you even aware of His presence? Have you surrendered to His agenda? Remember!
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body.
1 Cor. 6:19-20
If we are to live a selfless life, we need the encouragement of Christ, the consolation of knowing God’s love and the partnership and daily connection to the Holy Spirit. There is a final motivation offered by Paul to selflessly serve others.
THERE IS DEEP AFFECTION and TENDER COMPASSION FROM GOD
There an emotional element to motivation? “Affection” here literally means bowels. This culture considered the inward parts as the seat of tender emotions. We call it the heart. They called it the bowels or the liver. These were important and became the choice parts to offer in sacrifice. Paul references a deeply emotional connection between God and us. Does God feel deeply for us?
Listen to the Spirit inspired prophesy of Zachariah concerning his son John.
"And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS; To give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender affections (bowels) of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, to guide our feet into the way of peace." Luke 1:76-79
I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has granted them according to His compassion and according to the abundance of His lovingkindnesses. Isaiah 63:7
Jesus demonstrated such compassion and emotion for people. In Him we see the Father’s heart.
Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36
When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. Mat 14:14
And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, "I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way." Matthew 15:32
And two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" The crowd sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" They said to Him, "Lord, we want our eyes to be opened." Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him. Matthew 20:30-34
Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed." Mark 1:41
God does not just love us as an act of the will. God experiences a deep emotion toward us. Not only does he feel deep affection but offers tender mercies. “compassion” mercies, to feel sympathy pity. God emotionally responds to us as creatures made in his image with deep affection. God emotionally responds to us as fallen creatures horrible marred by sin.
I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 2 Cor. 1:3
If God responds to us as image bearers with deep affection from the core of His being and he does, if God responds to our miserable condition with feelings of pity, sympathy and compassion and He does, how can we do less to each other? The opposite would be hardness of heart.
"If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. Deut. 15:7-8
But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 1 John 3:17
You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections. 2 Cor. 6:12
Have you closed your heart? Are you restrained in your affections to others? If God feels deeply about us, we must allow ourselves to feel deeply about others.
• Mandate #2 – joy producing unity among one another 2:2-4
This call to relational health flowed out of his regular prayer…
…that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment… Philippians 1:9
Paul’s instruction was based on God’s investment in our lives.
If there is ANY or since there is abundant…
Encouragement in Christ’s presence
Consolation in God’s love
Empowerment in the Holy Spirit’s partnership
Compassion and mercy in God’s heart
…complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:2-4
We will explore the joy-stimulating actions listed here, next week.
This humble selfless unity called for by Paul was clearly demonstrated by Jesus.