Thursday, 30 June 2011

What really Matters: Philippians 1:12-30

What is one the agenda of your life? You may never have thought of it that way but we all have certain things we are planning to do be it short term or long term. It’s like a mental list of the important things to be done in your life, they are the things drive your living, your decision and your day to day activity. I just want you to take a minute to think about what they are; it might be things like 1. Get degree, 2. Get job and so on but be honest – no one else is going to look at these unless you let them.

Philippians is a thank you letter from Paul to his partners in the gospel in Philippi. In it Paul thanks them but he also takes the opportunity to ensure that they are not thrown by his circumstances or what is happening to him, he wants them to know joy, not a circumstantial temporary fluctuating joy but the distinctive Christian joy which permeates every area of their living. Paul has just prayed: “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.”

Thanks for your gospel partnership and I pray that the gospel would fill and overflow your lives. Now as we move into chapter 2 he wants to encourage them to grasp the nature of the gospel so that they know that joy.

 1. The unchainable gospel(12)Paul has a concern about the Philippians, he is worried that they are discouraged because he is in prison, so he writes to reassure them.

Imagine that tomorrow you woke up as your mobile went off and it was someone telling you that this morning the Police carried out a raid and have arrested and charged your pastor for what he preached yesterday.  How would you feel?

I guess that you would be worried and anxious, maybe a little discouraged, what would this mean for the rest of the mission? What would it mean for you? Do you keep teaching and preaching the gospel? Or should you stop or do it more quietly? You’d probably be a little worried about him, how is he, is he discouraged, what would he want you to do?

Paul is the guy who planted the church at Philippi, as he preached the gospel to Lydia and her family and they accepted it and were baptised. Then he casts out the demon from the female slave, then the jailer and his family believe and are baptised and from this small group the church there began. And Paul was vital to its start, the gospel he preached is its bedrock, what unites this disparate group, and now his is in prison, and not just any prison but in Rome itself. You can see why Paul worries they may be discouraged.

But (12)he says don’t be “what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” Don’t be discouraged but be encouraged. My imprisonment hasn’t had a negative affective on the gospel or even no effect on the gospel it has had a positive affect on the gospel – it has increased and accelerated its progress. That is an amazing statement.

God in his sovereignty has used my chains to unshackle the gospel. It’s a lesson we see again and again. Take Acts 8 we would instinctively say persecution would hinder the spread of the gospel but as Saul breathes out murderous threats against the church we see its amazing spread across the world. It’s a lesson repeated throughout church history, even recently in places like Romania and China where persecution has increased the progress of the gospel even while trying to chain it.

Paul may be in chains but the gospel isn’t and Paul provides 2 proofs for the Philippians that he is encouraged with the progress of the gospel so that they may be encouraged.

The first is in (13) **what is it? “it has become clear throughout the palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.” Now that is a staggering claim when you realise that the palace guard was composed of 9,000 men, is Paul really saying everyone of them knows about him. Yes he is, he is not saying he has spoken to everyone but that everyone knows he is in chains for Christ. It is clear that he is not a common criminal but that it is because of his faith in Jesus Christ that he is awaiting trial before Caesar. The gospel is unchained at the very heart of the Roman empire, and it’s not just among the soldiers but among everyone else.

Even Paul’s detention was providing further gospel opportunities, the gospel was unchained even while Paul was chained. Don’t be discouraged but encouraged.

Secondly(14) the believers in Rome have been emboldened in their gospelling, **why? “because of my chains”. Its as if Paul’s gospel commitment has inspired them; if Paul can keep on preaching even though he is being detained then so can we, if the gospel is so precious Paul will face Caesar for it then we can share it with others. And you can imagine it opened up opportunities too, as people would have gossiped about this Jew standing trial for his faith in Jesus. Something of Paul’s passion is rubbing off and his imprisonment is opening up opportunities. The gospel is not chained in Paul’s imprisonment but has been unleashed in Rome itself, don’t be discouraged but encouraged.

However, Paul is a realist and he knows that there have been some undesirable results of his imprisonment (15)whilst some of those emboldened to preach do so because of love of the gospel, others were not doing so from gospel motives but did so hoping to pile pressure on Paul while he is in chains.

It’s worth asking who these painful preachers were? They are different to the false teachers in Galatia – because Paul can say that they are preaching the gospel not legalism, they are not like the false teachers he warns Timothy about whose teaching spreads like gangrene. **Paul’s issue with these false teachers is what? The motive of their preaching – they preach Christ out of envy and rivalry.

But we see Paul’s passion for the gospel overrides any concern he has for his reputation – he longs to see the gospel unchained, even if it is by those opposed to him, who seek to take opportunity while he is not around. The gospel does not depend on Paul, what matters is that Jesus Christ is preached(18).

Be encouraged, it would have been tempting for the Philippians to look at the circumstances Paul their church founder in prison for the gospel with others preaching out of envy and rivalry and be discouraged. But Paul encourages them that the gospel is unchainable – his chains have not stopped ihim preaching Christ in fact they have opened up new opportunities, the gospel is unchainable it is not bound by prison walls but is now unleashed in Rome, and it is not tied to or dependent upon Paul but is being taught on the streets of Rome by others.

**And what is Paul’s response to all this? “And because of this I will rejoice” Paul is thrilled because his passion is for the gospel not for his ease or comfort, or for his kingdom and ministry but for Christ to be proclaimed.

It poses questions of our motivation – what is my motive? Do I share Paul’s passion for the gospel? Joy flows from a passion for the gospel.

2. The win win of the gospel(19-26)
Paul’s passion or the gospel means that he can rejoice in seeing the gospel unleashed even as he is chained, but(19-26) give us a snapshot of another reason why Paul is joyful and rejoicing even when in prison and this time it concerns the future. Paul understands the reality of his situation; the gospel means he is in a win win situation.

Paul is not just being an optimist as he looks at the future, it’s not just that he is a glass half full kind of guy, Paul is a gospel realist. (19-20)What we see is his gospel confidence that through their partnership with him in prayer and the Holy Spirit God will work out everything to his vindication, not necessarily his being declared innocent but that he will live faithfully and remain true to the gospel as a witness to Christ no matter what. Paul knows that in every situation the believer either commends or shames the gospel, and his longing is that he will not be ashamed not because he knows himself to be strong or positive but because he knows God to be powerful, at work through his peoples prayers and the Holy Spirit. His confidence is in God.

We see why he has this confidence in (21)“For to me, to live is Christ to die is gain.” Do you see the win win of the gospel. If Paul lives he gets to keep on serving Christ; to minister for Christ to preach and proclaim and teach and disciple others. But if he dies he gets to go and be with the one he has given his to serve, he gets to not just proclaim and serve his saviour but will get to stand before him and here his well done!

Do you see the gospel win win? Either joyous service of his Saviour or the joyous and glorious realisation of his Saviour in heaven. There are two outcomes for Paul whilst he is in chains and he loves both of them, there is no sense of drudgery, or guilt, but a burning desire to know and serve his Saviour, so much so that he is in a real sense torn between which one he would choose(22-23).

Notice the connection he makes – to love and desire to be with Christ is expressed now by a love and desire to proclaim Christ and serve his people. His heavenly eternal longing has an impact on now! You cannot love Christ and not love people especially his people. Isn’t that what Paul had learned on the Damascus road when Christ appeared to him and told you him you that if you attack and persecute my people you attack and persecute me. To love and pursue Christ is to love and pursue his people.

Paul is in a gospel win win – either with Christ for eternity or serving Christ as he serves his people, and he knows that the Philippians need him(24-26). His passion for Christ and the gospel is so great that he will choose what is best for Christ’s body rather than himself – he wants them to grow in their faith, to progress, to have joy – to know the deep seated content and continual rejoicing that sees the win win of the gospel in every situation.

Do you see Paul’s unrivalled joy in the gospel – it is what fuels his ministry and what shapes his agenda. He knows the gospel is a win win – either serving Christ or being with Christ.

Just think back to how you answered that opening question, how influential is the win win of the gospel in setting the agenda of your life? How is serving Christ moulding and shaping your plans and dreams? How does the win win of gospel living for the believer channel your thinking?

How will it influence what you do with your time at university? How will it influence and fuel your witness to your friends? How will it drive the decisions about what job you do? Where you will live? Who you will marry?

If to loving Christ is to love and serve his people how will we engage in that?

3. The uncompromising call of the gospel(27-30)**How does v27 begin? “Whatever happens, as citizens of heaven live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ...” – no matter what circumstances, no matter whether I return or not be who you were made to be. You are citizens of heaven live out your citizenship here and now, live out who Christ has made you to be, what are they to live like? (3:7-14).

But what might stop them doing so? Opposition, suffering and struggle. The antidote is to recognise who you are and where you are. They are God’s people, citizens of heaven but they live in a world at war with God and his people. That means the church has to be on a war footing, the images given here are not of the church as a cosy club enjoying cream tea on the lawn but of troops in a barracks training, supporting and equipping one another for battle, coming back after each battle and evaluating, supporting, encouraging, retraining, re-equipping and going out to fight again.

Look at what he calls them to do “stand firm in one Spirit...strive together...without being frightened of those who oppose you... it has been granted to you to suffer...the same struggle.” They are battle words not ease and comfort words. And Paul’s emphasis is on the need to stand together as we face the world in its hostility to God seen in its hostility to his people.

The gospel calls us to stand, to strive, to contend. Our salvation is secured through the suffering of Christ who (2:5-11)goes through suffering to attain glory and our path is no different. The call of the gospel is uncompromising, but even as we suffer and struggle the gospel in not chained but is at work, and even as we struggle and face sufferings we live life in the win win of the gospel which means that we do not meet difficulties with a stoical stiff upper lip but we can rejoice – because God is at work to bring us through suffering to glory just as our saviour blazed a trail for us.

Know who you are in Christ, know where you live in a hostile world, know the uncompromising call of the gospel, know that the gospel cannot be chained and that your reality is win win – to live is Christ to die is gain.

Let those realities set your outlook your attitude your goals and your agenda.

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