Philippians Week 4: Holistic Gospel-Living (1:27-30)

Read Matthew 21:1-11 (and note that Jesus wept when he looked over Jerusalem)

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, (Phil. 1:27) Just as Jesus strolled up in Jerusalem, so we are to stroll up in our neighborhoods and circles of life with a life that is worthy of the gospel. Ambassador: truth of the gospel united with love for people…Represent!

Phil 1:27: This is a huge statement. We must remember that Philippi was a Roman city that was created to be a retirement home for Roman soldiers who got too old to serve in the military… this city would be full of the equivalent of retired military vets in Texas who put bumper stickers on the back of their cars that say: “Don’t Mess With Texas!” They have an arsenal of weaponry that could take over the city. You tracking with me?

Paul is also making a parallel between what would be on the top of the Philippians’ minds as they read “Only let your manner of life be”; in Greek it’s only two words: mónon politeuesthai,

Mónon is an adverb that can mean “only”, “simply”, “whatever happens” or “just one thing”; and politeuesthai which shares its root from the Greek word “polis”, which means “city”. So “politeuesthai” is referring to being a citizen of a state.

So Paul is essentially saying with this short phrase: “Whatever happens, remember one thing, just as Philippi is a colony of Rome, so to is the church a colony of heaven; therefore, live in light of the gospel of Christ which makes you more of a citizen of heaven (Phil. 3:20) than a citizen of Rome.” This gets people killed in city’s like Philippi.

“Here Paul challenges his beloved Philippians with a ‘counter-citizenship whose capital and seat of power are not earthly but heavenly, whose guarantor is not Nero but Christ’” (Bockmuehl).

These retired Roman guards and families of these guards were enjoying protection and provision from their kyrios (lord) Caesar. But those in the Philippian church were subject to the only true Kyrios (Lord), Jesus Christ, in whom every knee (including Caesar’s) will bow and every tongue will confess (Phil 2:10-11) that Jesus is the One True Lord.

So what does this manner of life, this citizenship look like? The next 33 verses Paul uses to flesh out what he means. We will only cover the next 3 today: so that whether I come and see you or am absent (Paul wants them to act the same whether he is there looking over their shoulder or not), I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side (sunathléō; “sun” means along with; sunathléō means to compete, this is where we get the word athlete) for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.

Christians who had the courage to stand for Christ and declare to the Romans that they are “first” citizens of heaven were declared to be “un-Roman” and essentially an enemy of the state and disruptive of public order. This is why there was public, wide-spread persecution of the early church and this is a major occasion of this letter.

Paul says here that their unity in the Gospel will advance God’s good news as his people labor together in love and faithfulness towards each other, but it will also be a sign to their opponents (those who oppose Jesus) of their coming judgement for their neglect of God, while it will serve as church’s assurance of eternal salvation.

28b This is a clear sign to them of their utter lostness (and they may turn to Christ once they see that clear sign), but of your salvation (after death), and that from God (being that if it is from God, then it is secure).

The way the Philippians lived their lives was of utmost importance. It was not this grace that set them free to live however they like. No! Rather, this grace, this gospel, makes them worthy of eternal acceptance before God Almighty, and in turn, compels (2 Cor. 5:14) them to defend (side by side) the gospel…and live radically different!

Paul now follows up his exhortation with an irreducible connection between the way they are to live, and the life they are to expect in return:

29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Let me translate a little better for you what Paul just said and means here from the Greek. Paul uses the word “charisthḗsomai” which comes from the word “charis”; which means grace. So “charisthḗsomai” means to give or grant graciously and generously, with the implication of good will on the part of the giver.

So in other words, Paul says: “For it’s been graciously and generously given to you on behalf of Christ, that you should not only believe in Jesus, but also suffer for his sake. Philippians, you don’t only get the privilege of coming to faith in Christ, but you also get to suffer for Christ as well!”

This isn’t how we normally offer gracious and generous words. This is a whole new way of living and Paul is intentionally writing this as a loving father would write to his children on how to truly live and experience joy in life. This is a whole new ethos!

Let me note though, that our suffering cannot add to the atonement of Christ. Rather it can serve as an assurance of the grace you have received from Christ, as before you were saved by grace, you never would have had the grace and strength to suffer for anything in life.

This should not be news to any of us though. Jesus warned and taught often of the suffering His followers would endure. Jesus told his disciples in John 15:20: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. And later in this same discourse from Jesus, He says: In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33b).

In Mark 8:34b Jesus tells His disciples: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. This is a death sentence to first century ears. To take up your cross to their ears 2000 years ago would mean to carry a cross-beam on your shoulders, to walk (or crawl) to the place of execution, and give your life up to be brutally nailed to that beam and hung up in front of all to see you in shame.

Now we know that this was a metaphorical picture of what Christ is asking of us to do internally as He internally gave us new and living hearts and His own righteousness.
So as believers, we are to daily give up all hopes of accomplishing or pursuing self-driven interests, to lay ourselves and our desires down before Jesus and have Him align your will to His will.

This is discipleship: “Giving up what you cannot keep, to gain what you cannot lose.” Many of us listen to this and think, “Paul and Jesus surely didn’t mean that this would continue. That message was for the disciples or the Philippians, but now we are more civilized these days. What kind of suffering are we to face, or going to face?”

I would like to say that it was only given to the apostles or the early church to suffer this way, but this is simply not the case. DA Carson, in his commentary on Philippians says that “Missiologists who track these things tell us that the greatest period of gospel expansion has been the last century and a half. That same century and a half has witnessed more Christian martyrs than the previous 1800 years combined.” (57)

We are called not just to believe on Christ but also to suffer for him, for it is in the face of suffering that we stand next to the cross and gaze upon Jesus the Christ. This is God’s tool for raising up his followers. How could one be arrogant, dry, apathetic, or disconnected from Jesus and His people when they are standing next to the cross of Christ?

Suffering brings us face to face with Jesus and to the foot of the cross. The atonement that Christ accomplished on the cross is the only thing that is able to cause us to cheerfully make self-denying choices out of a heart of worship, instead of it just being the right thing to do.

As Paul would tell Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Alright, let’s bring all of this full circle as we close and see how this passage bears on us at Kineo in 2012, this morning:

Christian, you are a citizen of heaven! Through faith in Christ, you are a son/daughter of the King. You have been marked by a new heart and sealed into God’s heavenly kingdom by His Spirit. Let your life match outwardly that which is a reality inwardly.

Those who claim citizenship in heaven and never have their lives match outwardly what has taken place inwardly (to some degree at least), will sadly find out one day that they were never truly citizens of God’s kingdom.

Is that you this morning? Do not assume God’s grace applies to you if you are living for this world or yourself. Confess your sin, repent and turn to Jesus for redemption. If you are a redeemed child of God, but not living in line with the gospel, be honest with yourself. Let Jesus reach into your life and grow you up.

Consider how Jesus grew: Luke 2:52: And Jesus increased in wisdom (intellectual) and in stature (physical) and in favor with God (spiritual) and man (social and emotional). Jesus grew as a citizen of heaven grows. How are you in the area of intellectual growth.

Intellectual: Are you growing in the knowledge of God and his word. How much time do you put in to learn about your savior vs. other things that peek your interests? Maintain a consistent reading program…be a learner. Take classes somewhere or commit to Surge for a year. Ask to be mentored, commit to a study or a group of men or women who are committed to growing up and maturing as believers.

It’s a huge privilege we have to be able to read, write, think and speak freely. The problem is, we have more people coming out of high school and college who can’t critically read, write or think, outside of what they had shoveled to them. If you can’t do any of those, then what can you do…and don’t tell me you can play video games…

Physical: What about physically? Is your money under control, or is it controlling you. What about your material possessions? How about your sex life or your sexuality? What are your eating habits like? Do you exercise? How well do you sleep? Do you over work? Don’t brag about not drinking or smoking and protecting your temple if you’re burning late night hours and over working. You are not fooling any one with your appearance of righteousness.

We should not neglect our physical bodies. After all it is our body and soul’s that will be redeemed ultimately, so we should model that as best we can. Where do you need to grow up more physically? Identify it. Expose it. Get help with it. Don’t allow it to remain hidden because of shame or fear and inevitably master you. You should only be mastered by One.

Social and Emotional: Who are your friends? Who you running with? Are they Judaizers or Gentiles who mock righteousness and destroy the flesh, or are you running with the Timothy’s and Epap’s of the world? Do you have friends who aren’t believers? Do you love people and show kindness only to witness to people, or do you really care for them? Enrich your circle of friends and don’t be scared of people who are different. Give of yourself emotionally and let others speak into your life. Be humble and compassionate. Be yourself, confess your sins regularly, and let people “truly” know you. This is why it’s important as to who your Christian friends are.

You cannot live a gospel-centered life alone. You can’t live a gospel-centered life while being disconnected from God’s people. This means you gotta go on your own journey and begin to grow up emotionally so you can labor along side other hurt people without being so hurt by their hurtfulness. Paul writes to the local church in Philippi: Stand firm in one spirit. Have one mind among you. Strive side by side for the faith of the gospel.

This was a huge part of Jesus’ prayer for us in John 17:22-23: 22 The glory that you (Father) have given me (Jesus) I have given to them (us), that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Spiritual – The Gospel: As you live as citizens of heaven, you will adore the gospel of Jesus and grow in your intimacy with Jesus. And it is the very gospel of Jesus (when you encounter it face to face in an intimate way) that will compel you to live like a citizen of heaven. And here is the gospel in a nutshell:

You are more sinful and evil and wicked than you ever dared believed, but you are more valued and accepted and loved than you ever dared hoped, both at the same time only by faith in Jesus that He lived the life you couldn’t live and died the death you should’ve died, as your substitute in your place, so that God can receive you not for your record and for your sake, but for Jesus’ record and for Jesus’ sake.

And this is to be proclaimed to all nations! (Luke 24:46-49: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”)

This is part of the role of suffering. God has appointed suffering of believers for His glory and our good. Suffering bringing us to the end of ourselves, and that is where we see Jesus more clearly. He is jealous for us, so suffering is activated in our lives so we long for Jesus more and grow spiritually.

And here’s the crazy thing…when we suffer and we catch a glimpse (or many glimpses) of God’s beauty and majesty, the pain of suffering isn’t removed, but the purpose of our suffering is revealed and the joy of our salvation is more fully realized than any other time in our lives. Oh that we would suffer well and that we would see the beauty and majesty of Christ and live a life abandoned for Him more and more.

Go ahead and start working on these things knowing that Jesus covers you where you fail. Don’t let failure freeze you. Let me pull a little Jesus on you: Consider the babies, in a crib, watching these larger babies walking to and fro with beautiful kinetic motion and they say to themselves, “I can do that.” So behind the prison bars called the crib, they learn to climb out only to find that they fail constantly at modeling that beautiful kinetic motion, but they keep at it, and here you are today, walking beautifully. Some of you can even do it in your sleep…literally! So go for it, grow up, act like a citizen of heaven and not fornicator throwing your jewels to the next thing that looks cool.

Let’s Pray!

Philippians Week 3: Life to the Fullest (1:19-26)

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.

Let’s pray!

Philippians Week 2: Boundless Love (1:7-18)

This week’s passage is a continuation of last week’s passage, but for the sake of thoroughness, I broke them up into 2 sermons. Paul is still very much in his introduction to the Philippians. We pick up this morning in verse 7 as we remember that the occasion of the letter is disunity, suffering and opposition; and the purpose of the letter is learning how to live out the gospel in community while enduring disunity, suffering and opposition:

7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers (koinonos; a fellow joint sharer in all things with you) with me of grace, both in my imprisonment (Acts 20:22-23) and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel (by way of notes, the word “gospel” appears more times per line in Philippians than in any other book in the NT, 9 times!)

Paul calls his imprisonment and ability to defend and confirm the gospel a “grace”, and he tells the Philippians that they are sharing in this grace with him. Paul considers it to be an undeserved gift to be in prison for the gospel.

Again, Paul is tying back to what he has just said in the first few lines of his greeting. He is a partner with the Philippians and they with him. His chains are their chains. Their freedom to walk about and minister the gospel is his freedom to rejoice in to. It is all not only a part of God’s saving grace of them, but also God’s sovereign grace who directs all things for His glory and for our good.

“Partnerships are usually based upon the ability of partners to share their wealth and skills to accomplish common objectives.”1

And there is nothing else in the universe that can bring together all different sorts of sinners than the gospel of Jesus Christ! The passion of the gospel is what ties people together and it is what allowed Paul to tell the Philippians that he “holds them in his heart”. It is the gospel alone that allows sinners to partake together in the mercies of the Lord God!

8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus (again, this shows the union he feels with them and desires for them to know this deep intimate unity in Christ; much like the unity of the Trinity; What a model! Father, Son, Spirit // Christ, Me, Others) 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent (Rom. 12:1-2), and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,

This prayer is familiar to the prayer he had for the Thessalonians too: 11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. 1 Thess 3:12

In verse 9, Paul lets known to us his three petitions in his prayer for the Philippians:

1) that your love may abound more and more: Paul does not specify if he wanted their love for God or for people to grow more and more as he does in 1 Thess. I think he left it open ended or unanswered because Paul knew that if their love for God abounds, that meant that their love for people would abound as well. And if they were loving people more and more, then they would be loving God. Horizontal love flows out of vertical love…And this Christ-centered, Spirit-compelled love moves us towards extending grace, mercy, forgiveness, justice, and on and on… to others.

2) with knowledge and all discernment: Paul doesn’t have in mind here sentimentalism or the rush of pleasure spawned, for example, by a large conference or a very compelling video that grips your guts. No! ‘I pray,’ Paul writes, ‘that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.’ The kind of love Paul has in mind is the love that becomes more knowledgable about the things of God.

We live in a society that satiates the body and starves the soul. Scripture feeds the
soul, leading to spiritual maturation, without it, we are starving Christians. (1 Peter
2:1-2).

Paul wants them to be knowledgable about the things of God and His kingdom. Paul sees this knowledge (epignosis; a personal knowledge, profoundly relating to the reality of being human, relational and responsive knowledge) as essential to love God and people (think marriage: the more you get to know the love of your life, the more you will grow in your love and service to them, etc…). The more we know God and His gospel, the more reason we will have to love Him! “A superficial love for God is a sure sign of a superficial knowledge of God.”2

(Think also about KONY 2012) The more you know the more you want to get involved. But God’s knowledge of injustice and the solution for it is much more motivational than the KONY movement, although (minus their non-Christian worldview; hope equals world peace or a safe world to live in) this is a great cause.

3) so that (here’s the big idea) you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ: Paul clearly wants the best for the Philippians, namely because he wants what’s best for the name of Christ. When God’s best is pursued, our good is taken care of. They are partakers with Paul and they are partakers with Christ. He wants them to live that way. Approve to me, yourself, and others what is best for the world…obedience to God. And Paul is not encouraging them to pursue holiness for reputation sake, but for the sake of being holy as they’ve been called to be holy for God’s and the world’s sake (look at the end of verse 11: to the glory and praise of God.) Think of what Jesus’ obedience accomplished.

We know that Paul is not referring to man trying on their own to be an approved workman because of this next verse (re-read vv. 9-10 with this verse): 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Paul’s prayer is that they would labor for the Lord, and be approved by God, and that they will mature and become more like Christ Jesus, but He qualifies that desire with the reality of how it will get done. It will get done if you are “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ”, not with the fruit of righteousness that comes from yourselves or your own labor. You tracking with me here?

Paul wants the Philippians to partner with him in the gospel and to labor for the Lord in obedience to God, but He doesn’t want them doing it out of their own righteousness or for their own agenda or for their own significance.

Paul so desperately wants the Philippians (and us!) to get that our sanctification (our growth and maturity and obedience) is rooted in the righteousness of Jesus which gives us our approval, not our own righteousness. “A tree that bears fruit is alive. But a tree that is filled with fruit glorifies the gardener’s care!”3

And because of this great news (the fruit of the righteousness of Jesus Christ), Paul breaks out in worship with a doxology: “to the glory and praise of God.”’

So why does Paul go here? Why this kind of prayer. Because like Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), Paul knows that “The person who thirsts for God easily studies and meditates on the inspired word, knowing that there he is certain to find the one for who he thirsts.”

His experience revealed to him that the soul becomes like what it desires. If we desire sin, we become sinful, to desire God is to become like God. If our passion is, divided our soul splits (Jam 1:8). If we desire what is perishing and changeable, our souls become enslaved to vain pursuits. You get what you want and Paul prayed that they wanted more of Jesus in all areas of life.

How much do your prayers long for what Paul longs for (that you and/or others at Kineo would abound in love, knowledge, discernment, for the advance of the gospel and for the glory of He who has redeemed you)? What do you pray for? What do you focus on when you pray? What’s your motivation for justice and mercy. Reaction or Proaction?

And Paul goes on: 12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel (this is the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ; this is a part of my approval that Christ Jesus will surely complete), 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord (having trusted in the Lord) by my imprisonment, are much more bold (courageous, sustained confidence) to speak the word without fear (fearless in their reasoning/declaring of the gospel at will with anyone whom God brought before them).

Among pagans and among Christians, God’s sovereign grace upon his life (his imprisonment) has served to make Christ known to those who were chained to him and did not know the gospel and to encourage those who are preaching or who desire to preach the gospel (encouragement and endurance; Rom 15:4-5).

So beautifully and ironically, Paul’s chains brought to the very center of Roman politics and secular center of that city. Could there be a better plan to get people’s attention? Paul doesn’t think so and he rejoices in it! This is reminiscent of the words of Jim Elliott who penned these words before he died by the hands of the very people he tried to help: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”4

Do you think the cause you live for doesn’t make that big of a difference if it’s not global or at least successful by hundreds of people being on board? Are you content labor ing for Jesus in the way Jeremiah did? Or would that not be as fruitful as you would like? Are you partnering for the gospel for God’s kingdom sake or for your sake? Paul goes on…

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment (Matt. 13:24-30; the wheat and the weeds). 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. (Phil. 1:7-18)

Paul gives us a glimpse in to how he is so patient with affliction and suffering. He loves God more than life, therefore he wants more than anything God’s gospel to be known by all people. “Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed.” This sounds very much like his words before he was sent to Rome which we will close with:

22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:22-24)

As we close, I want to highlight two cravings that keep us from being faithful to God in the way that Paul is calling us to and then give us four reason why God gives us more to crave than anything else in this world. So here’s two cravings that keep us from being faithful to God: thrill & significance.

One quote regarding teen pregnancy says this: “Teenagers are far more likely to have babies when their lives begin to seem pointless and when the doors to the future seem closed.” There is a very close connection between saying “life has no point” and saying “life has no edge”. Sex, porn, jobs, sports; they all create cheap thrills and false significance. Thrill and significance is what we all long for.

If we put these two deep longings together, I think what it’s saying is this: “I want my life to have meaning that is exciting to me and others. I want my life to be admirable. I don’t want to suck in life; I want more thrill and joy in my life. I want to live for something that I would give my whole life for.”

Think about this: When you define yourself by what you do, then when you don’t do that thing that defines you, you cease to be significant (there’s no thrill for you).
Oddly enough, the 2 things that keep us from being faithful to God are thrill and significance. These are the very things that are satisfied in us when we are faithful to God. ETERNAL THRILL & DIVINE SIGNIFICANCE!

Acts 20:24: “if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” In this we see the realities that Paul was living for that are much bigger than life as we know it as well as when he says Phil. 1:18: “Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed.” These realities were enough to Paul walk right in to the fiercest of battle and risk life and limb to fulfill the reality that he believed in. This is the kind of reality we need to see Scripture through!

Here’s the realities that Paul sought to grow in in all knowledge and discernment:
1) The Reality of God: Since we come from God and are made for God, you can mark it down as absolutely certain: Any list of goals that you choose to live for will leave a deep void in your soul if GOD is not the centerpiece in that list, guiding and shaping all your choices. God was the center and source of Paul’s life, and the glory of God was the light of that enormous cause which led his every step, and all the other aims of his life were like tiny flickers from a dead lighter that would only light if God’s light was there to let it light. This is a driving force that creates a radical edge in life.

2) The Reality of God’s Grace: The power of God’s holiness and justice are unimaginable to us, the only picture we get that could compare is eternal darkness and separation from light and any life for eternity. So now, the grace of God is just as enormous in the opposite direction; eternal light, and reconciliation to the source of light and life. Grace is the center of God’s reality. Grace, or love, is the essential calm at the center of the perfect storm (1 Tim. 1:12-16).

3) The Reality of the Gospel: First, there is the reality of God himself, breathtaking in all his glory. Then, there is the reality of God’s grace, rescuing sinners from the perfect storm of his righteous wrath and giving them a place next to his heart forever in the eye of the storm. Then, the Gospel. The very message of God’s grace to all the world that these things are so and free for those who believe! A great and perfect God truly does exist. He is holy and cannot fellowship with sinners because of His perfection, but there is a way to safety with this God, through the death and resurrection of his Son. All who submit to His Son, Jesus, and trust in His grace will be rescued and drawn into the place of peace and wonder at the eye of his storm. This is the gospel. This is a breath-taking reality that will grow your love in all knowledge and discernment so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.

4) The Reality of God, His grace, and the Gospel that transforms us as being our cause to live for: The cause of testifying to the grace of God is bigger than life as we know it because a cause is as big as its source and goal. The source and goal of Paul’s cause was God Himself. This cause is also bigger than life as we know it because a cause is as big as the effects that it has on those who are committed to it. I once was lost, but now I’m found! I was blind, but now I see. I was dead, but I was given life! I was an enemy of the Almighty, all-loving, righteous and perfect God, but He chose me to be His son and redeem my life! I was living for nothing, but now I am living for His kingdom!

The benefits of God are not always as you want them to be, but they are His means of grace none the less. Receive gladly today what God has given you, whether suffering or rejoicing, and seek the benefits of God with eyes that love God’s kingdom more than your own kingdom.

This is how our love will abound more and more with knowledge and all discernment so that [we] may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Let’s pray!

Philippians Week 1: The Missional Gospel (1:1-6)

Today is week 1 of our 12 week study on Philippians and we have a lot to cover so we will get right in to the text and unpack the purpose of the book as we go:

1a Paul and Timothy, servants (slaves) of Christ Jesus, to all the saints (those who are set apart) in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons (this shows that Paul made sure the church had proper leadership and he knew of it): 2 Grace to you and peace (grace and shalom are both things we receive freely from the gospel) from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (may we extend this same kind of greeting to one another!)

Right off the bat, we can see the humility and personableness of Paul in this letter. Not only does he not say, “Paul an apostle of Christ” as he does in all his other letters to the churches (Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1), but he also places Timothy on the same level as himself and gives no distinction between him (the apostle) and Timothy (the young pastor). This gives flavor to the whole letter!

And we can also see in this greeting, “The threefold repetition of the name – Christ Jesus, Christ Jesus, the Lord Jesus Christ – [this] presents the central theme that reappears throughout the letter and unites everything around the person of Christ.” 1

Okay, here’s a little background on the church at Philippi. It is clear that the letter to the Philippians was written when Paul was in prison (1:7, 13, 14). This imprisonment was serious (1:20–24, 30; 2:17), for his trial could result in either life or death for him. Paul links this imprisonment with his ministry, claiming that he had been put there “for the defense of the gospel” (1:16). The letter most likely arrived late in Paul’s imprisonment, after A.D. 60-62, most likely from Rome. At its core, this letter is centered around the mission of the church, what it looks like, and the cost of it.

This letter has its roots from Paul’s second missionary journey that was directed by the Holy Spirit, who led Paul, Silas and Timothy (and eventually Dr. Luke) to Macedonia. Philippi was the leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. It was here that Paul ran into some women praying (where’s the men?), and Paul sat next to them, spoke to them of Jesus, and the gospel, and the Lord opened the heart of Lydia from Thyatira (she is Asian; Thyatira and a seller of purple goods which means she would have been the business owner, so she was wealthy), which means to hear and receive Jesus as Lord. She was baptized along with the rest of her whole household, and insisted that Paul and his men come stay with her (Read 16:11-15).

(Read v. 16-24). We know that spiritual opposition arose quickly in Philippi as a slave girl who had a spirit of divination” (v. 16; literally “a pythonic spirit,” referencing demonic control), persistently for days kept yelling at Paul and his company, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” (17).

Kent Hughes, a commentator on the book of Philippians says that this “was a demonic attempt to co-opt the gospel and destroy it. Paul exorcised the spirit on the spot — and found himself in deep trouble because he had driven out the girl’s owners’ source of income! Paul and Silas were seized and were taken to the “Roman” magistrates, were identified as “Jews”, and were savagely beaten by the…”2 officers of the magistrate.

(Read vv. 25-33). So off to prison go Paul and Silas, and in chains they are singing hymns to God so that all the prisoners and guards can hear them, and then suddenly there is a great earthquake and all the prison doors flung wide open and the chains fell off the prisoners. Paul and Silas remain in prison, Paul tells the guard of the gospel, the guard receives Jesus as well as his whole household and thus we have he beginnings…

Hughes says: “Lydia and her household, the jailer and his household, perhaps other God-fearing women from the riverbank, maybe even the ex-pythoness. The flag of the gospel had been raised on a new continent. We should take note in this day of the science of church growth… this was not a homogeneous (from the same family) church plant but rather the body of Christ in glorious diversity.”3

Paul makes this clear to us the kind of relationship he had with this church: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (1:3-5).

The word “partnership” in Greek is koinonia, “fellowship”; a pledge of communion; a linking of arms together — Paul feels a warm “fellowship in the gospel” with the Philippians. “And we shall see that this is not a church social fellowship as Christians today often think of the word, but a robust fellowship that rides on their mutual commitment to the gospel.” 4

I say all this because if we don’t get the passion, the intimacy, and the urgency with which Paul writes this letter, we will miss God’s heart in it. This community (this koinonia) is bound together not only by the gospel, but through lives that have given everything up for the provision of one another and the advancement of this great news which is God’s mission. This is a band of bros, with sisters in it, but there’s issues:

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. “Paul condemns disunity and calls for unity in the church so that it will give a clear witness to the gospel in the public square.” 5

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). He writes that they live in the midst of a “crooked and twisted generation” (2:15); He warns them to watch out for “the dogs… the evildoers… those who mutilate the flesh.” (3:2); He sorrowfully writes about those who have become “an enemy of the cross” (3:18-19); He also mentions those who oppose him and mean him harm (1:15-17).6

With these 3 ever apparent occasions in which Paul writes this letter, Paul is discipling the church at Philippi by modeling to them a new way to live among the disunity, the suffering and the opposition, and not get off mission.

Paul models to them joy unspeakable. In chains and rejoicing. Worshipping while suffering. Praying for the opposition and caring more for the advancement of the gospel than yourself. Paul wants the Philippian church to learn how to live on mission for the gospel of Jesus in community with joy!

The problem is that we are more “connected” that we’ve ever been, yet more lonely than ever. Loneliness is one of the most dangerous and widespread problems in America today. Some estimate that loneliness has already reached epidemic proportions and say that if it continues to spread, it could seriously erode the emotional strength of our country… and I’m not talking about those who aren’t Christians.

A recent poll said that 92% of the Christians attending a recent Bible conference admitted in a survey that feelings of loneliness are a major problem in their lives. They all shared a basic symptom: a sense of despair at feeling unloved and a fear of being unwanted or unaccepted. This is a tragic commentary on the people about whom Christ said: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

This is a problem because we are connected, but not because of the gospel. We are selfishly connected. But connected to people I’m not so sure of? Carve time out of my life to be uncomfortable with those who are far from Jesus? That’s asking too much. Meet once a week in a CG and do other things with them throughout the week to bless others so that they will the the risen Savior displayed in my life in a sacrificial way? I don’t have time! I’m busy bro! (There’s your sign!) We were created to be in relationship with one another. Okay, let’s unpack vv. 3-5 a little further:

3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, Paul tells us about the frequency of thanksgiving in his prayers… “always!” He remembers the Philippians in every prayer, and he always thanks God for them. He also says “you all”, meaning the whole church, again, he’s working towards unity and getting rid of the divisions among Christians and speaking against individualism. The whole church brings Paul “joy” (which is a major theme of this book because it is found 14 times).

Why do the Philippians bring him joy? Paul tells us in the next verse.

5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (Gk. koinonia: this word is used 6 times in this letter / it means fellowship; a pledge of communion to one another; a linking of arms together, involving mutual interests and sharing).

The gospel has the transforming power to create a community (koinonia) of believers in Christ. When a community is centered around the good news of Jesus, then it will share mutual interests no matter what the cultural differences, socio-economic difference, racial difference, etc… It will also share in joy like Paul. Joy is a by-product of living on mission. Love and truth create mission. If you know the truth and love people, then you will be on mission. (examples: think about having the answer for a friend who’s hurt, etc)

This is why your faith is not a private matter. If you think your faith is private, then you either do not know or fully believe in the truth that redeemed you, or you do not have love for others, which means God’s love is not in you. This truth with love for people drives mission, incarnational, Christ-in-you kind of living.

Thus the joy of living for God’s mission and partnering in that mission with other believers. Mission creates joy. Look at Hebrews 12:2: looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Do you have a lack of joy in your life? If you have a lack of joy in your life, then you have a lack of mission in your life. You need mission. You were created for mission. There is a tight link between joy and mission (being sent; sent-ness).

For the joy that was set before Him (the mission of God!). Jesus wants to send you on mission so that you will have the fullness of His joy (John 15:11; 17:13).

Children know this well. They love mission. Heroic quests. World saving mission. That’s what every great book, movie, story is about that most excites you. And before we destroy children’s passion for mission (before they become boring cynics like us), they all have a desire to do something heroic or adventurous for a living (a doctor, a firefighter, a lion tamer, a forest ranger).

Have you ever asked a kid what they want to do when they grow up and they say “Well, I kind’ve been wanting to work in a cubicle when I grow up. I’d love to spend 8 hours a day in front of a computer screen, pushing paper around, then clock out at 5.” You don’t hear that from children because they desire mission, and there is a joy about that mission because there is a link between joy and being sent (mission).

It’s like all the baby boomers who went on peace marches in the 60’s and 70’s and marches against capitalism and hated the corporate machine and said they’d never have their own business. Then you got the 80’s and 90’s and they all caved in and gave in to what they hates. They got drawn in by the machine.

Why? They lost their mission (love and truth) because they all bought in to the belief that there was no truth, it was all relative, so overtime there was nothing to live for anymore, except individual fulfillment. And therefore all promises, commitments, and passions all took second fiddle to my fulfillment and what ever gets in the way of my fulfillment wasn’t important anymore.

There was no higher cause to live for than my individual happiness, and that destroys happiness. If there’s no higher cause than my joy, then there is nothing to live for but myself/my joy. There’s nothing left to die for. Essentially, by exaggerating our significance (or we can say raising our needs to the highest level), we lost our signifi-cance and joy.

Here’s the irony though: when we give up our significance and joy, we gain infinite significance and joy.

This is true because God, through Jesus Christ has infused you with Himself and His power, He has opened your hearts in the midst it’s darkness and lifeless realm, and has put His well of living water in your soul, to send you (give you a mission) to go into this world to be an ambassador (a display) of what God is really like. The rest of your life now is to show off to the world this great God connected with His good news.

6 And I am sure of this (being confident of this), that he who began a good work in you will bring it to (carry it on to) completion at (until) the day of Jesus Christ.

Paul’s joyful thanksgiving for the partnership in the gospel with the Philippians comes from the “confidence” that he believes this is all the “good work” of God! And if it is God’s good work, then Paul is sure that it will be completed. And this is God’s mission that is much bigger than himself, therefore the joy of being on mission for God.

But what is this good work? There is much debate as to what Paul is referring to here. Many readers believe that Paul is referring to the individual salvation of each believer, which is not necessarily a false understanding, but it is not the full understanding of this passage.

That is actually an individualistic, post Enlightenment way of viewing salvation though. Paul is talking about the koinonia (plural) in the gospel. God created this koinonia and God will see it through. The people of God, not the person of God. (temple=me or temple=church? both, but more often Scriptures refer to the latter).

The good work that God began was a corporate (or we can also say a ‘cosmic’) formation of a people who are set apart for God’s eternal glory. Those who belong to this koinonia also belong to God who chose them before the foundation of the world to be a people called out by God to know Him, enjoy Him and His entire creation:

So that (here’s the mission!) they can infuse the world with this incarnate view of Jesus who redeems those who are far from God. God’s plan of redemption is cosmic in scope and we must not over individualize it, even though we all must come to know Christ individually.

What our humanistic (man-centered) and consumeristic (a pre-occupation of acquiring material goods) culture has created, is this me-centered Christianity, to where our view of God isn’t much bigger than our view of ourselves. (individualistic, rationalistic, dualistic, spiritualistic – these are the 4 areas other cultures outside of the Western culture have been critiqued on for the last 30 years – and they’re all saying it)

Our view of our salvation should be a cosmic view first, then a communal one, which leads us to our realization of our individual salvation in which our eyes were opened and hearts were won by the Lord and we surrendered to Jesus!! This is the epitome of gospel partnership.

This is the basis for gospel communities. If it all depends on you, then you have to be the one to maintain it and make things happen. But this is not how our Lord taught us to get things done. Remember the night before He was betrayed and then crucified? What did He tell His disciples?

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing…11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:4-5, 11)

May we have eyes to see God’s cosmic plan of redemption, in which God has called to Himself a community of faith unto Himself, to know Him, enjoy and to make His glory known. And within His cosmic plan, He had you in mind and called you to Himself to be a part of this grand story of redemption that will one day come to completion: personally, communally and cosmically.

It is with this urgency and with this confidence that we invite you into this journey of being God’s display people who love God and people. Who share life together. Who deal with our own junk so we can be healthy to minister to others. Healing + Community + Leadership Training = Missional Disciple (take time to unpack).

Let’s pray!

Job 42:7-17 – Beauty From Ashes

After God put Job on trial and displayed His power and goodness to Him, Job repents and turns to trust in God’s righteousness, not his own. Now Job has a new sense of God’s reality. It is more than intellectual knowledge or speculation. It is knowledge of the heart. He has tasted the goodness and power of the Lord, and now he sees. And the result is a broken and changed man. This is what God is after!

Today, we see God rebuke Job’s three friends’ wrong views and accusations of Him, He calls them to repent and offer sacrifices for their sin, and then blesses Job by doubling the wealth that he had before all this happened.

Let’s read the closing passages of Job together then we’ll unpack it: Job 42:7-17:

During the long debate (if you will) between Job and his three friends, his friends saw all justice working itself out in this life. But Job eventually broke through to the truth that much that is wrong in this sin laden world would be made right in the life after death (19:25–27). Job was right!

So God humbled these three friends by showing them that the very one they condemned was in fact the better theologian even if he was not perfect. And after we talk briefly about the beauty from ashes that God works in His children, we will address our own current false theologies about God and then repent and turn to God.

Beauty from ashes. This is what happens. Job was sitting on an ash heap outside of town and was the laughingstock of his town (Job 2:8; 29:1-25). He once had it all and quasi-acknowledged it was all from God (29:1-25). God brought him low, re-ordered his and his friends’ thoughts about Himself, and then brought a double portion to Job. There are many reason why I believe God restored Job’s fortunes, but here’s my top three:

1) To validate the truth that Job had come to. People would not believe Job’s new found theology (or his three friends’) in that culture, had God not restored Job’s fortunes. God always validates His truth! (Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jesus, Paul, need I go on…)

2) To have Job continue to bless others with the wealth God had given him (Gen. 12:2: And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.) But our culture has taken a drastic turn, much like many other cultures who take care of number one to the neglect of those who need help. Tim Keller has this to say about our current cultural problem:

Our culture gives us a mixed message. It says: make lots of money and spend it on yourself; get an identity by the kind of clothes you wear and the places you travel to and live. But also do some volunteer work, care about social justice, because you don’t want to be just a selfish pig. However, Christians’ attitudes toward our time and our money should not be shaped by our society; they should be shaped by the gospel of Christ, who became poor so that we could become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).1

Here’s what Solomon says about this issue: Proverbs 25:16, “If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.” Solomon seems to be speaking directly to the overindulgent affluent culture that has justified living in luxury by giving the religious ten percent tithe, then consuming more than enough honey for themselves and many others. It seems that Solomon is saying that this selfish overindulgence makes one sick, even to the point of vomiting, so that the body extricates unnecessary and harmful things within it.

Here’s what the Jeremiah has to say about this issue: Jeremiah 5:21-23, 28, 21 “Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not. 22 Do you not fear me? declares the Lord. Do you not tremble before me? 23 But this people… 28 they have grown fat and sleek. They know no bounds in deeds of evil; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy…”

Here’s what Jesus has to say about this problem: Luke 12:33-34, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

I could go on and on. I’ve got pages of notes and verse that speak to wealth being hoarded, the way of the gospel being not just spiritual justice, physical justice for the poor, the needy, those who are in need. This is at the core of Jesus’ message (Luke 4:16-30; Matt. 25:31-46)

3) To show us a glimpse of our eternal glory we have with Jesus. Those who repent and turn to the Lord, God makes beautiful. And to come to the Lord, you have to realize your poverty, and your deadness without the Lord, then He makes beautiful what was once dead.

Isaiah 61:1-7: 1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. 4 They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. 5 Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks; foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; 6 but you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast. 7 Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.

Isaiah gives us a glimpse into this renewal that takes place in Christ. But there is so much more. I want you to see something. Let’s re-read Job 42:7-9 again and see a deeper meaning behind the restoration of Job’s wealth and health:

7 After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them, and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.

God tells the three friends to offer sacrifices and that have Job pray for them, then God will hear his prayer and show mercy to them. There is someone else after Job who does this, someone much greater. Except this man who came after Job was the perfect sacrifice, who God chose to inflict in many way, even unto death. And this perfect sinless man was Himself the sacrifice, and He Himself offered up prayers to the Father to not deal with man according to their folly.

This man is Jesus. He was not just blameless and upright, but He was perfect, the Godman who takes away our sins. Consider Romans 3:23: 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

And listen to the hope that this Godman, Jesus, brings to those who believe in Him by faith in His sacrifice and power over death:

Dead to sin (Rom. 6:11)
Spiritually Alive (Rom. 6:11)
Forgiven (Col. 2:13)
Declared Righteous (1 Cor. 1:30)
A child of God (Rom. 8:16)
God’s possession (Titus 2:14)
Heir of God (Rom. 8:17)
Blessed with all Spiritual Blessing (Eph. 1:13)
Citizen of Heaven (Phil. 3:20)
Set free from the power of sin (Col. 2:11-15)
Free from the Law (Rom. 8:2)
Crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20)
Victorious over Satan (Luke 10:19)
Cleansed from sin (1 John 1:7)
Declared blameless (Phil. 2:15)
Set free from the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:24)
Secure in Christ (1 Pet. 1:3-5)
Sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13)
Guaranteed inheritance (Eph. 1:14)
Granted peace (Rom. 5:1)
Loved by God (1 John 4:10)

I could go on, but time won’t warrant that. All this and we haven’t even gotten to Rev. 21 yet. This is the best part. Paul says that “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 COr. 2:9)

Just what is Paul referring to. He’s referring back to our Lord’s words the night before he was betrayed and crucified: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:1-7).

And the best picture we have of this place is found in Rev. 21-22. Let’s turn there and then close with this glorious hope that awaits those who trust Him.

Let’s pray!

Job 38:1-42:6 – Death to Self

By way of summary of this series, we began in chapter 1 by being introduced to this righteous man named Job. He was wealthy, respected, faithful and feared God. Then Satan didn’t believe God’s word about Job’s love for God, so God allowed Satan certain limits to bring upon suffering to Job to see if he would worship God if his wealth, health and family were taken from him.

After Satan was done with Job, Job was stuck in unrelieved misery for months with open sores all over his body. During this time he bore the grief of seven dead sons and three dead daughters. All of his wealth had vanished in one afternoon. He had become disgusting to his wife, loathsome to his brothers, and even little children despised him as he lay on the ash heap outside of town.

At first Job bore these calamities with amazing submission: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord (1:21); Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil? (2:10).

But as the misery drug out over the months, Job wavered in his confidence that God was for him. In defending himself against the bad theology of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, he said things about God that were not true. He began to insist on his own righteousness at the expense of God’s justice.

For example, in 13:23-24 he said, 23 How many are my iniquities and my sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin. 24 Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy? Although, he did reach the point where he confessed that after death he would see God as his Redeemer (19:25-27).

Then we come upon the bad theology of Job’s friends. They had taken the position that the severity of Job’s suffering must be the sign of some terrible sin in his life, so God is punishing Job.

But Job silences his friends by showing them that there is no correlation in this world between righteousness and prosperity or between wickedness and suffering. The righteous often suffer more than the wicked and the wicked often prosper more than the righteous. Job is victorious over the superficial theology of his friends.

Then last week we covered Elihu’s rebuke and counsel of Job and his 3 friends in chapters 32-37. The three friends of Job had not been able to account for the suffering of this good man with their theology. And Job had said rash and presumptuous things about God in order to justify himself, and Elihu burned with anger towards them.

Elihu’s point of view is that Job is a righteous man, though not perfect, and that he is loved by God. God is not treating him as his enemy but as his child and friend. God originally allowed Job’s sufferings to commence in order to show Satan and the armies of heaven that Job cherished the worth of God more than his possessions and his family and his health.

But after Job showed that he did in fact love God more than all else in the world, there was another purpose that God sought to achieve by letting his suffering drag on for several months.

According to Elihu, God’s purpose was to purge out of Job’s life a residue of pride that had rested quietly at the bottom of his life. When Job was shaken by suffering long enough, the real pride of Job surfaces and showed its ugly face.

The twofold purpose of suffering in Job’s life was to demonstrate God’s value and glory (on the outset), and its ongoing purpose was to refine Job’s righteousness. His suffering was not punishment. It was not a sign of God’s anger.

Job’s pain was not the pain of the executioner’s whip but the pain of the surgeon’s scalpel. The removal of the disease of pride is the most loving thing God could do, no matter what the cost.

Remember the words of our Lord: It’s far better to suffer the terrible pain of plucking out your eye than to let any sin remain in your heart. If this does not seem obvious to you—namely, that sanctification is worth any pain on this earth, then it is probably because you don’t hate sin and prize holiness the way God does.

We must examine ourselves carefully at this point, so as we dive in to this text this morning, let’s lay our hearts on the surgery table for the Lord to work on:

38:1-3: 1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: 2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.

God has been questioned by Job long enough. Now it is time for Job to be put on trial. It’s time for God to be who He always has been…the Righteous Judge. SInce God’s discourse is so long, we must try to summarize His interrogation of Job without reading the whole thing. The outline basically goes like this:

God questions Job about the created order
38:4-5: 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? “It was I who laid the foundation of the earth and determined its measurements. You weren’t there Job when I made the earth!”

38:8: “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst from the womb?” “It wasn’t you Job, it was I. You don’t know my power. You weren’t there when I created the seas.”

38:12: “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place?” “You can’t do it Job. It is I who does, and it is I who always will.”

38:18: “Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.” “You have never even been across the ocean to see all the earth that I have created and you take the liberty to call me out.”

God questions Job about the heavenly order
38:19-21: 19 “Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness, 20 that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home?” 21 You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!
“You do not know these things Job, yet I do, because I AM!”

38:22-24: 22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, 23 which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war? 24 What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth? “What about the snow, the hail, the lights, the wind, the rain, the dew, the ice, and the frost? Make them at your command Job, if you can?”

38:31-33: “Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?” “If not, then maybe we should come back down to the earth again…”

38:34-35: 34 “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that a flood of waters may cover you? 35 Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? “It seems as if you are unable to give me an answer to my questions Job. But what about your wisdom in your questioning of me Job?”

When before the Lord, Job is weak and powerless and speechless! Job realizes that he is surrounded by mysteries all around him. We are too! And God is not impressed with our recent scientific understandings over the last 200 years. We should be utterly humbled and overwhelmed with our ignorance.

And as if Job hasn’t gotten the point, God now questions him about the order of the animals:
38:41: Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God for help,
and wander about for lack of food?

39:1-2: 1 “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you observe the calving of the does? 2 Can you number the months that they fulfill, and do you know the time when they give birth,” “I do Job, because I am over all things, and I’m always there.

39:5-6: 5 “Who has let the wild donkey go free? Who has loosed the bonds of the swift donkey, 6 to whom I have given the arid plain for his home and the salt land for his dwelling place?” “I ordain even the steps of donkeys Job…asses!”

39:9: “Is the wild ox willing to serve you? Will he spend the night at your manger?

39:13-14: 13 “The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, but are they the pinions and plumage of love? 14 For she leaves her eggs to the earth and lets them be warmed on the ground,

39:19-20: 19 “Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane? 20 Do you make him leap like the locust?

39:26-27: 26 “Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars and spreads his wings toward the south? 27 Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high?

Job remains weak, powerless and silent! Job still has no answer and is proved to be nothing compared to God. At the beginning of chapter 40, God pauses for Job’s response…

40:1-5: And the Lord said to Job, 2 “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.” 3 Then Job answered the Lord: 4 “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. 5 I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.”

Job is now getting the point: a finite creature who has no wisdom to run this world has no business instructing his Maker and Ruler on how to run the world, even condemning God for the way he runs it. Think of how absurd this charge against God is. Yet we all do it when suffering comes.

God begins to press Job some more
40:6-9: 6 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: 7 “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. 8 Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? 9 Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?

This is a disturbing argument. Does God mean that we are to submit to the justice of his ways simply because he has a powerful arm? Are we supposed to acknowledge his right simply because he has might? Is something right and good just because God does it?

Yes and no! There is no greater reality than God Himself in which we can judge God’s actions. He would not be God if he submitted to something outside of himself. But when we say the sentence, “God is good,” or, “God always does what is right,” God wants us to see that his power does not make things right in the sense that He could be volatile, unjustified, or irrational and still be right and good just because He’s God.

Instead he wants us to see that his power is purposeful, He Himself is good, and whether it seems He is meaning earthly good to us or not, that He is always in it for our earthly and eternal good, and His glory! You tracking with me?

So in 40:10-14, God challenges Job to join Him in this holy, good and purposeful might:
10 “Adorn yourself with majesty (beauty) and dignity (worth); clothe yourself with glory (beauty) and splendor (worth). 11 Pour out the overflowings of your anger, and look on everyone who is proud and abase him. 12 Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand. 13 Hide them all in the dust together; bind their faces in the world below. 14 Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you.

After this passage, God goes on to display His sovereign power to Job, but we are going to pause here at this passage and unpack what God is and isn’t saying:

God isn’t saying, “Job, I want you to acknowledge that my power is right no matter what I do.” Instead, God says, “I use my power to clothe myself with beauty and worth and to bring low the proud and to bring up the humble.” In other words the rightness of God’s power is not merely that it is God’s, but also that its purposes are consistence with his excellence.

So as God is bringing Job into submission, God isn’t simply saying, “Might makes right.” What God has said throughout this whole discourse is this: “Job there are millions of things about running this world that you don’t know the first thing about, but I know perfectly.”

So it is arrogant and presumptuous for Job to assume that he can counsel God about how to run a more “just” world. Job can’t even begin to know all that has to be taken into account in regards to making decisions about how to run the world for God’s glory and for the good of His people….for eternity, not just our short stint on earth

In 40:14, God eludes to that fact that Job cannot save Himself unless he was God, thus Job needs God to become righteous. He cannot obtain righteousness on his own…

Job humbles himself and heeds God wisdom. His confession and repentance is 3fold:
42:1-2: “Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. He submits to God’s absolute sovereignty: God can do whatever He pleases, and is not constrained by anything outside himself.

42:3: He quotes God then gives his response; ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. He submits to God’s infinitely greater wisdom and knowledge: he has spoken about things of which he is very ignorant.

42:4-6: He again quotes God and then gives his response. “‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job 1) acknowledges his sin, 2) confesses his helplessness, and 3) turns to God for salvation.

This all points to the gospel, the very thing that Christ has done. We on our own are hopeless to save ourselves, God in His power and goodness, sent His Son Jesus to be His right hand of salvation for proud, arrogant, self-righteous, evil people, so that those who look to God in humility and know that He alone is God and He alone is their salvation, may have eternal life.

Do you see this? This is the beauty and worth of God. This is the beauty and worth of Jesus Christ our Lord.

We are all like Job: in pain, afflicted, desperate, confused, and hopeless without
God’s powerful right arm coming in to bring salvation.

Will you surrender like Job did to God’s sovereign and good power?

Will you confess your arrogance and pride in thinking that God sucks at running the universe because He has allowed suffering in your life?

Will you turn from being your own savior, to Jesus who alone is able to make you right with God.

He alone has atoned for our sins. He paid the price of death that we owed, conquered death, rising out of the grave removing death’s power, then sitting at the right hand of God the Father, sending His Spirit to dwell with His people and to reveal Himself those who are perishing. This is our good and powerful and sovereign God.

Let’s pray!

Colossians 2:9-15: 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Job 32:1-37:24 – A Good Theology of Suffering

Last week we covered chapters 2:11-31:40. In those chapters, Job conversed with his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar about the meaning of suffering. The outcome of it all was that the theory of his friends was unsatisfactory. The Retribution Principle, which essentially says God blesses/protects the righteous, and curses/punishes the wicked. This is a dangerous half truth that we unpacked last week, and I consider it to be a terrible theology of suffering.

Today, we are going to hear from Elihu whom I believe had a much better theology of suffering. All three of Job’s friends obeyed God out of fear of being punished and not getting “good” from God, thus they were essentially obeying for their own good. And they all argued that al this suffering has come upon Job because he was being punished for all of his sin.

Job had defended himself all along by saying, contrary to his three friends’ opinion, that there is good evidence from all over the world that the wicked often prosper and the righteous often suffer (21:29–30). And in his case in particular he was not an enemy of God and had not committed any grievous sin that would set him up for such suffering above others (1:8).

But we also see that Job wavers in his belief in God’s goodness and approachableness during this time as well. (Read excerpts from Job 9)

None the less, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were not able to sustain their theory in the face of Job’s realism and integrity. Their speeches became repetitive, hostile, and shorter as the conversation comes to a close. Finally, only Job was left speaking, but there still was no answer as to the problem of righteous people suffering and wicked people prospering.

We do hear very plainly from the book of Job so far that God governs the affairs of men, and no doubt He does so with great wisdom (28:12-28). And this is not that bad of an answer. I suppose many people could (and do) live their whole lives with this under-standing (that God is sovereign and don’t question Him), but the writer of the book of Job gives us more. God wants us to know that there is so much more purpose in suffering than we may think.

And this is where the young, bold, shameless, and angry Elihu breaks into the picture. Let’s pick it up in 32:1: 1 So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. 2 Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. 3 He burned with anger also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong. 4 Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. 5 And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger.

6 And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said: “I am young in years,
and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you. 7 I said, ‘Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom.’ 8 But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. 9 It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right. 10 Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me; let me also declare my opinion.’

So Elihu clearly has an opinion and demands to be heard, but why should we listen from him more than we should the other three friends? Shouldn’t we clump him together with Job’s three friends because of his retribution principle statements (Job 34:10-12)?

Let’s quickly discuss why Elihu’s response should be received by us:
1) His response is separate from the 3 cycles of responses, indicating that what he is saying is different from that of Job’s 3 friends. It also says in 32:2-3 that Elihu burned with anger toward Job and his 3 friends, which tells us that he believes their responses not only fall short of the truth, but to be detrimental to their understanding of God in the midst of suffering.

2) The inadequacy of the theology of the three friends was demonstrated by the fact that their speeches got shorter near the end, and then died out completely. Bildad finishes with six verses (25), and Zophar can’t even manage a closing comment.

It would be very strange, then, if Elihu were given 6 chapters at this point to say all the inadequate things all over again and make no advance on the inadequate theology of these other 3 friends. Surely this large space given to his words signals that something crucial is being said here.

3) In 33:32-33, Elihu says to Job: 32 “If you have any words, answer me; speak, for I desire to justify you. 33 If not, listen to me; be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.” Job was successful in silencing his other 3 friends, but he remains silent with Elihu, indicating that he agrees with Elihu. In fact, in 42:6 Job does repent for some of the things he said, which shows that Elihu’s rebukes are not all missing the mark.

4) In 42:7, God rebukes Job’s 3 friends: 7 After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Then God goes on to tell them how to appease Him with repentance and sacrifices, but no rebuke to Elihu is recorded. It seems as if Elihu’s words are true and pure, and they prepare the way for the final words from God.

5) He was moved and prompted by the Spirit of the Lord (32:18: For I am full of words; the spirit within me constrains me. // 33:4: The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.)

So with that, I believe we should receive Elihu’s words this morning and unpack his wisdom and fresh take on suffering. It is clear that Elihu thinks that Job has been wrong in some of what he has said earlier. In 33:8-12, Elihu points out Job’s main error:

8 “Surely you have spoken in my ears, and I have heard the sound of your words. 9 You say, ‘I am pure, without transgression; I am clean, and there is no iniquity in me. 10 Behold, he finds occasions against me, he counts me as his enemy, 11 he puts my feet in the stocks and watches all my paths.’ 12 “Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you, for God is greater than man.

Whoa! What an indictment! And what a good and loving friend to care enough to speak this truth: “You are not right Job! Is not God greater than man? Then why would you claim innocence before the sight of God even in the midst of your obedient life?”

Again, we can look at 42:6 and see that Elihu was right by Job’s repentance. Job’s suffering (much like us in our suffering) has driven him to an overly optimistic view of himself, and created a disrespectful attitude and toward God. Even though Job was a righteous man, he was not perfect. This is clear in Scripture that we can be righteous in Christ, but we will not be perfect while we are still in the flesh.

So what is Elihu’s view of suffering? What is his answer to the problem of suffering?
Turn to Job 33:15-30 and let’s unpack what Elihu says:

God uses suffering to save, not punish.
vv. 15-16: Elihu here explains the way in which the Lord speaks to man. In his day, there were no written Scriptures yet, so God revealed Himself through speaking to mankind in dreams and visions and also through suffering. God’s purpose in these night terrors and in this painful sickness and soars is not to punish, but save.

– To save us from selfish or arrogant pride that destroys our lives, others lives, and our fellowship with God (v. 17). The righteous still have sin that needs to be rooted out.
– To save us from the pit, or from perishing by the sword of God’s wrath (the promise of God sanctifying his people, if God stops sanctifying, we are not saved) (vv. 18, 30).
– To save us from the love of the world (vv. 19-20).
– To save us by sending a mediator (which is fully realized in Jesus) (vv. 23-24).
– To save us from our self-righteousness (vv. 25-26).
-To save us from depression/hopelessness (vv. 27-28).
– To save us from our false views of Himself (v. 27)

Elihu has showed Job’s three friends to be wrong. They said that the only way to explain Job’s suffering was to say that God was punishing him for sin. Elihu shows that this is not the way to explain Job’s suffering.

The righteous do suffer. And their suffering is not a punishment for sin but a purification of their holiness. Suffering awakens their ears and eyes to new dimensions of God’s reality and new depths of their own imperfection and need. Suffering deepens their faith and godliness. So the three friends of Job are wrong.

But Job is wrong too. He had no better explanation of his suffering than his three friends did. His conception of God’s justice was basically the same as theirs.

Only Job insisted he was righteous, and so he could not make his suffering fit with the justice of God. He became so irritated at times that he thought of God as his enemy. (chapter 9; 13:23-24: 23 How many are my iniquities and my sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin. 24 Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy?)

Job tried to justify himself by his own righteousness, and became upset at God’s treatment of him because he has slaved and labored for God and this is what he gets?! (the story of the gardener, the king and a nobleman in the courts of the king)

So Job was well on his way to being a Pharisee who trusted in his own righteousness, thus needing no savior.

Jesus would have been a good guy, a friend, a role model, but not a savior to Job. And God saved him from that! Job’s suffering has brought out the hidden sin of pride, self-righteousness and ultimately self-reliance.

Now Job’s ears and eyes are open to 2 things in a radical way:
His sinfulness even among his strict obedience to God’s law. God’s holiness and perfection that cannot be attained through his own obedience to the rules of God.

He needed a rescuer, a redeemer, and he must look outside of himself to be saved.

So the central lesson for us from the book of Job today is that the children of God (those who trust in God and are led by his Spirit and have their sins covered by the blood of Jesus) may indeed suffer.

And when they do suffer, it is not a punishment for sin. Christ bore all of the punishment for our sin, and God does not double dip. 1 John 4:18: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment (Jesus took the punishment of sin), and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

John Piper: Suffering is not dispensed willy-nilly among the people of God. It is apportioned to us as individually designed, expert therapy by the loving hand of our great Physician. And its aim is that our faith might be refined, our holiness might be enlarged, our soul might be saved, and our God might be glorified.

Suffering is not based on the retribution principle. Rather, it is the “free” application of sovereign grace principle. God, the Righteous One has chosen us freely from before the foundation of the earth. He has regenerated us (made us come alive) freely by the work of the Holy Spirit. He has justified us (declared us righteous before God) freely through the gift of saving faith in Jesus. He is now sanctifying us (making us like Jesus) freely by His sovereign grace through His word and through suffering, according to his infinite wisdom and grace! Praise be to God! May this cause us to break out in worship of Him!

James 1:2-4: 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

1 Peter 1:6-7: 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you `have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Let’s Pray!