Summary: Sermon 4 in a study in Philippians
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
If the command to ‘have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus’ is one of the toughest commands in the Bible, then this ‘so then’, or ‘therefore’ as some of your versions read, has to be the most significant ‘therefore’ of the Bible.
As we come to it I think we would have to conclude once more that what we have before us is an admonition to do something on the one hand, and our knowledge on the other hand that we cannot.
I’ve said this before and I think it can apply here as well. Jesus loves telling people to do the impossible. Because at whatever point we slap our foreheads and say, ‘I can’t do that’, that is when He is able to step in and endow us with supernatural ability and show us once more that apart from Him we can do nothing.
I think maybe that’s why Paul chose this point to call them ‘my beloved’. Not that he was saying it with any degree of insincerity; I believe Paul loved them dearly, as he had already shown by expressing the joy he had at every remembrance of them and in prayer. But just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, and this is a pretty weighty thing he is calling on them for.
That is, it is heavy until they, until we, remember from whence comes our help, which he is quick to follow with, and which we will see before we are done.
Ok; so Paul says, ‘therefore’ and then he reminds them to continue in obedience. Obedience to what? Well, obedience to the word of God. Obedience to the admonitions of the Apostle as he has brought God’s Word to them and said ‘now do this’.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who humbled Himself, took on flesh, became a servant, delivered Himself up as an offering and a sacrifice for us all. Have that attitude in yourselves…
…and an exhortation to have that attitude presupposes life-action that will manifest that attitude.
Jesus didn’t go around saying “I am humble, I am a servant” and then live for His own comfort looking out for His own interests.
Therefore obedience to the call to be like Him means demonstrating Christ-likeness in the life.
It doesn’t mean wearing the right bracelet or the right t-shirts and attending the concerts and conventions and staying away from the ‘wrong’ places and being a ‘good Christian’.
It means wearing a cross – and I am not talking about the little silver one that hangs around the neck. It means servanthood toward the brethren. It means considering others as more important than oneself. It means letting God do the exalting at the proper time.
Just remember that in order for there to be a raising up there must first be a laying down.
Remember that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Jn 12:24
Therefore also God highly exalted Him. Even Jesus did not exalt Himself, but trusted the Father to do so at the proper time.
There’s a whole lot of talking in the church these days about power. Power for living. Pentecostal power. Power in the Holy Spirit. Successful living through claiming the promises and praying expectant prayers in the authority of the believer…
…Christian, the very first point of obedience called for and expected from the believer by the whole of the New Testament, is death.
You want to see Pentecostal power? You want to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit? “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23
Before I pass on from here let’s take notice of the way Paul presents this idea of obedience. Just as you have always obeyed in my presence, be even more diligent in my absence.
The wording is reminiscent of a father going on a long journey and encouraging his children before he goes. You’ve always been obedient children and you’ve been careful to listen to my advice; now it is very important that you apply even greater diligence to obeying and heeding my counsel while I am far away. This will be for your benefit in every way.
And there is a spiritual principle present here that we mustn’t miss. In the same way that it is important for the Philippians to continue in obedience in the absence of their spiritual leader, so must we be reminded that Jesus is at some point coming for each one of us. How beneficial it will be for each of us to have been diligent in obedience during the time when we were not aware of His immediate presence.