Summary: What are the interests of Jesus? What are His main concerns?
Sermon for CATM – Thanksgiving Sunday – October 12, 2008
Today’s passage is challenging because Paul spends some time here speaking of personal concerns, things that hint at some key relationships in the early church, and some of the drama that he was dealing with on a personal level.
So within the book of Philippians, most of today’s passage is a bit of a diversion from some Paul’s main focus. You will find that quite a bit as you read the New Testament letters or Epistles.
These ‘diversions’ are really important actually because they help to remind us that these letters were written in real time, with real people and characters who faced troubles of their own, just like we do.
Briefly, here Paul talks about Epaphroditus who was a fellow Christian missionary of St. Paul’s. He’s mentioned only three times and only in the book of Philippians. Paul calls him "my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier."
The three words are arranged in an ascending scale: common sympathy, common work, common danger and toil and suffering. Epaphroditus devoted himself so much to the work of Christ as Paul’s assistant, and did it so intensely that he lost his health and came close to dying.
He recovered though, mercifully and Paul sent him back to Philippi with this letter to quiet the alarm of his friends, who had heard of his serious illness.
So again, we are reminded that the Biblical story is not simply about the theology and highs and lows of the spiritual life. The Biblical record is the record of real people encountering God in real time and struggling with the implications of living for God, who has so clearly and concisely revealed Himself in Jesus Christ.
The one comment of Paul that I’d like to focus on in today’s shortened message is Paul’s comment about another fellow, Timothy. He writes: “19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ”.
This may ring a bell for those who have reading along in Philippians. A few weeks ago we looked at the beginning of chapter 2 where Paul writes: “4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus”.
Paul highlights something that I think it’s worth spending a moment to reflect on, on this Thanksgiving Sunday. Paul refers to “the interests of Jesus Christ”.
And I might ask, “What are the interests of Jesus?” What is Jesus concerned about, first and foremost. What tops God’s list, as it were, it terms of the things that matter.
A few weeks ago we discussed how in chapter one verse 6 of Philippians, Paul states that: “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.
And we discovered that God’s promise to fulfill the good work He’s start in you is rooted in the fact that you…we…are God’s priority. God completes what matters the most to Him, and that’s why we’re confident that God will always finish what He starts in our lives.
So it’s fair to say then that among the interests of Jesus, His church, you and I and all who follow Jesus as Lord and Saviour, are tops. And as He completes His work in us, He prepares us to be vessels of blessing. His work doesn’t stop with us of course. His work continues through us, as we become His hands and His feet to bind the wounds of a hurting world.
The interests of Jesus are also about others. Jesus laid down His life for…others. Jesus’ primary concern in life was…others. Jesus brought healing to…others. Jesus taught so that…others…might grow.
Jesus did miracles for the benefit of…others. Jesus left the comforts of heaven not for His own benefit, but for the well-being of…others. So it seems pretty clear that being “others” oriented is a big part of what it means to be like Jesus.
But…what about my needs. What about covering my own back and looking out for number one. Well, a bit later on in Philippians we learn of an important characteristic of God…He takes care of His own: “4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus”.
God will take care of ALL my needs? Why? Well…if our needs are taken care of by God, we’re free…we’re freed up to meet the needs of others. We’re free to live generously. ’It is more blessed to give than to receive.’