In this series, we are covering the letter that Paul wrote to the Philippian church around 60-62 AD. I want to begin by reminding you of the occasion of this letter which I believe is threefold:
DISUNITY: There is disunity. Paul repeatedly urged them to be of one mind: 1:27; 2:1-5, 14; 4:2: I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord). In these passages, Paul addresses self-ambition, self-interest, grumbling, and arguments.
SUFFERING: There is suffering. Paul describes his experience of being in prison and facing execution (1:12-26), he explains that Christians are called to suffer for Christ’s sake (1:29), he quotes an old hymn that speaks of Christ’s death on the cross (2:8) and on and on Paul talks about suffering throughout this letter (2:17, 27-30; 3:8, 10; 4:12)
OPPOSITION: There is opposition. Paul expresses awareness in this letter that there are those who vehemently want the church of Jesus to crumble, to be destroyed. To do that, they will attack the faith of the Christians, so he pleads with them to stand “firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.” (1:27b-28a).
And within these three main occasions, Paul is teaching them what it looks like to live in light of the gospel and to remain in community as they partner for the gospel.
So my aim this morning is that we would get, to the very core of our beings, that the way to abundant life (more than enough w/ leftovers) is to lose our life (die to our flesh) for the sake of God’s kingdom and the building up of the rest of the body of Christ. With that, we can get into the text for the morning:
Phil. 1:18-26: 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, (take note: what Paul is about to say is the reason for his joy/rejoicing)
19 for (gár; a causative particle standing always after one or more words in a clause and expressing the reason for what has been before, affirmed or implied) I know that through your prayers and the help (provision, aide, supply) of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,
Here Paul uses the word “soterian” for the word deliverance, which is usually translated “salvation” and most of the time it refers to final deliverance of believers at the last judgement when they stand vindicated before God. Paul knew that whatever Caesar decided to do, that his fate was sealed in Christ. Do we know that kind of confidence? And nowhere in the text do we see even a hint of self-confidence or self-sufficiency.
20 as it is my eager expectation (like a runner going through the finish line with their neck stretched out and their head forward; Paul is pressing in to His suffering, he can’t wait for the honor Jesus gets!) and hope (a feeling of anxious expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen) I will not be at all ashamed (put to shame), but that with full courage (boldness and freedom to speak all that one thinks or pleases) now as always (God doesn’t waste anything!) Christ will be honored in my body (Rom. 12:1-2), whether by life or by death.
Not only was Paul confident in his eternal deliverance, but he was also confident that Christ would be honored in his body as well. Paul says it’s his eager expectation and hope. This is no hope in the American sense that “we hope the movie is good” or we “hope our home team wins the game”. No! Instead, the biblical hope we read of here is the kind of hope that knows that it will see something in the future.
Markus Bockmuehl says this: “God is God and has underwritten the future.”
Paul’s deliverance he says will come by life or by death, but either way, he will be delivered “saved”. He is confident in whatever outcome because of the sure promises of God, that through faith in Jesus, men will not only be saved from death, but they will also live with new glorified bodies, eternally made perfect, worshipping Jesus perfectly! “Paul’s hope of salvation is that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body.”1
Notice the pattern of what brings him hope and what comes out of his lips next:
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Wow! This is a colossal statement here…we will camp out here in a little bit). 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two (live or die…it’s such a hard decision for him: Why? Matt. 13:44-45).
My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account (this is at the core, the fundamental hope that the gospel brings: in life, I honor Christ and am being made like him so that others may know him; in death, I am made perfect and sin and death and pain are no more, and I dwell with God forever!).
The phrase “to live is Christ and to die is gain” Paul says more like this if you transliterated the Greek phrase exactly: tó zḗn – Christos (to live…Christ) / tó apothanein – kerdos (to die…gain). There is an absence of the verb “is”. It’s almost as if Paul wanted the Philippian church to decide what verb they wanted to use in the space: to live is Christ; to live means Christ; to live depends on Christ; to live honors Christ; etc…(Rev. 21)
For Paul, to live was Christ, and that looked like counting everything as rubbish: Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish (skúbala: refuse, manure, dung hill, or s*@t; this would’ve been considered an expletive to the Jews), in order that I may gain Christ. (Phil. 3:8)
According to the majority of our culture, to live is fornication; to live is to build wealth; to live is sports; to live is to work; to live is to shop; to live is to look good; feel good, have a companion, get the next high… And if this or anything else other than God is what it is to live, then when you approach death, it is the end of all things for you.
“When Queen Elizabeth I, the idol of European fashion, was dying she turned to her lady-in-waiting and said, ‘O my God! It is over. I have come to the end of it–the end, the end.’”2
But for Paul, death is an awesome possession of Christ in the fullest, and life is an awesome bearing of fruit for others (to live is Christ). Paul was a gospel-centered man, which meant he was an others-minded man as well. This is a picture of what it looks like to love your neighbor. Does this look anything like your worldview of loving people?
Let’s continue: 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith (gospel-centered mission, not man-centered mission), 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again (I want Christ to be magnified in all the earth, therefore I will endure chains, suffering, torture, rejection, abuse, hunger, whatever… because I love bringing God glory more than being glorified myself).
What do we get from this passage? What is Paul wanting the readers at Philippi to get in these passages? What is it that Jesus is wanting to say to Kineo Church through this divinely inspired piece of literature that holds authority in our lives?
v. 19 – Our prayers are only effective through the help of the Spirit of God, but God’s Spirit is not limited to work only within what we pray for:
“The way Paul combines prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit shows how closely human prayers and God’s provision are related. Our prayers have no power in themselves to help apart from the work of the Spirit. In fact, genuine prayer is possible only with the help of the Spirit (Rom 8:26). While the help of the Spirit is not limited to the extent of our prayers, we cannot presume upon the Spirit’s presence and power when there is not a concerted effort to pray for God’s provision of the Spirit.”3
Prayer matters. Prayer changes things. Prayer changes hearts. Prayer changes views of God’s character. Prayer changes views other people. Prayer matters. How is your prayer life? Do you pray? When do you pray? What/who do you pray for? Ponder your own prayer life. Is it you-centered, or is it gospel/others-centered?
v. 20a – Our lives were not meant to be kept from sacrificial living (discomfort); rather, those who are in Christ are a new creation which means they are not only saved through faith in Jesus, but are called to model the life of Jesus (The Open Secret, Lesslie Newbigin):
Romans 12:1-2: 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
v. 20b – Life and death hold different benefits in Christ, but death is far greater for the Christian; Why?:
1 Cor. 15: 42b-49: 42b What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
vv. 22-24 – But if God sees fit to keep us alive, we are to fruitfully labor for the advancement of God’s church, His people:
Eph. 4:11-16: 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
vv. 19-26 – For a Christian to truly experience life, they must stop living for themselves and start living for Jesus (which looks like being others-minded):
John 12:24-26: 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
But these five points in and of themselves have no power to do anything transformative in our lives, and that’s our prayer isn’t it? We want to be changed this morning, unless we are satisfied with us and don’t want anything about us to mature. I imagine all of us have sin in our lives that keeps us from experiencing Jesus the way we were meant to. I would even venture to guess that many of you here who profess to be Jesus followers are saying today that being a Christian isn’t what you thought it would be. Sin has consumed you. You can’t kick your addictions, your love of man, porn, companionship, need for others, and on and on. And you want to change but…
1) You aren’t convince of your “Father’s” unconditional love for you. You are trapped in a pattern of sin, and feel like your “Father” is fed up with you, and that affects the way you treat others. You are fed up, impatient, and ungracious or gracious in an unhealthy way towards others.
2) You don’t know what to do with your sin that is overtaking you, so you run or hide and isolate yourself from people who love you, and your “Father”. You point fingers, you blame others, and you believe the lie from Satan: “Those people really don’t love me!” you say to yourself.
3) You feel guilt for this and you project the guilt you feel onto others in the form of rules, corrections, and conditions. You fear that if you let people be real in front of you, then you’ll have to be real with your own sin.
4) Ultimately, you reject others while you are in this sinful, blind state because you believe you are better than others and would never do to them the things they have done to you. You become your own justifiers and leave Jesus on the side and say “I got this one covered bro!”
Well brothers and sisters, what ever shall we do? We have found ourselves in a terrible trap and we are bleeding out and will soon die. What’s the answer? How do we get out?
Let me suggest a principle to live by if indeed you are real with your sin (repentant) and want out of the snare of sin: Where sin is abundant, God’s love is overwhelming greater…and then some!
This is the gospel that the Christian must preach to him or herself daily. This is the scandal of the cross. Until you have experienced a relationship with your heavenly Father and know you are loved and accepted by Him despite your sin, you will not find the freedom from sin that the Scriptures talk about.
The one person who really loves you in this super-abounding gracious kind of way is your heavenly Father. He is not disturbed by your sin; He is disturbed that you are not allowing Him to fill your void that prompts you to run to your own vomit. Let’s close by applying this principle in three ways that I believe will help transform you:
1) Focus your attention daily on His passionate love for you just as you are. He knows that you don’t have the power on your own to change, and He knows that the power will come from your relationship with Him. So focus on him. Learn to kavanah!
John 10:27-29: 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (Heb 13:5; 1 John 3:1)
2) Entrust yourself to other people who love you as you are. Now don’t mistake those who care about your sin patterns as those who do not love and accept you (fan vs. friend). Seek out real friends, and a community of believers to share life with.
Hebrews 10:24-25: 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
3) Finally, commit not to hide your sin or be a pretender. Be real with yourself, be truthful to God (He will accept you), and confess your sin to your friends. One of the most basic principles for finding our Lord’s plan of deliverance like Paul understands, is to get your sin out in the open. Like fungus and bacteria, sin grows in the dark.
1 John 1:5-9: 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.