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Grace, Gratitude and Growth

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Grace, Gratitude and Growth

Phil 1:1-11

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - July 29, 2012

*Philippians is a tremendous book of the Bible. Here God gives us some great words of comfort. For example in Phil 4 He tells us:

6. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7. and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

*Then in vs. 13 we hear Paul in chains triumphantly proclaim, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Then in vs. 19 Paul gave this promise: “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

*In this book God gives us great words of comfort, but He also gives us great words of challenge. For example in Phil 2, where Paul said:

3. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

4. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

5. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,

6. who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,

7. but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.

8. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

*Then we see the challenge of Paul’s great desire in Phil 3:10, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” In Phil 3, Paul also said:

13. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,

14. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

*Philippians is a tremendous book for us to study, and today in the opening verses we will focus on 3 major themes.

1. The first theme is grace.

*In vs. 2 Paul greeted those early believers with these words: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

*Paul opened most of his letters with these words, and altogether he mentioned God’s grace close to 100 times. The Apostle Paul never got over the amazing grace of God.

[1] Think about grace in Paul’s life: Did Paul need grace? -- Most certainly he did.

*In chapter 3, Paul will tell us that if anybody could have been saved by keeping the Old Testament law, it would have been him. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, but all of that was garbage compared to the grace Paul found in the cross of Jesus Christ.

*It also helps to remember that before he met our risen Savior on the road to Damascus, Paul did everything he could to terrorize early Christians. He was a radical fanatic against Jesus. Listen to part of his testimony. In Acts 22:3-4, Paul said:

3. "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.

4. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women,”

*Then in Acts 26:10-11, Paul said:

10. "This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.

11. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

*Paul hated Christians as much as Osama bin Laden or any radical Muslim terrorist does today. It’s no wonder that in 1 Timothy 1:15 Paul would say: “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

*Paul never got over the grace of God. Think of all he later did for the cause of Christ. But Paul did not take the credit for himself. In 1 Cor 15:9-10, Paul said:

9. I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

10. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

*“I am what I am by the grace of God.” Paul never got over God’s grace, how much God loved him, how much Jesus Christ had done for Him on the cross and on the road to Damascus.

[2] That’s grace in Paul’s life, but we also need to think about God’s grace in the lives of the Philippian Christians.

*Acts 16 tells us that Paul didn’t even want to go to Philippi. He wanted to go to Asia. Paul planned to go to Asia, but by His sovereign grace, God said “No.”

*Then Paul had a God-given dream that led his mission team to Philippi. We find this in Acts 16:9-10:

9. A vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."

10. Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

*Philippi was in Macedonia and within days they were there. God’s grace sent Paul to Philippi.

*Then we read the story about the Philippian jailer. Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown in the inner prison after Paul cast a demon out of a fortune-telling girl. There they were praising the Lord at midnight, when God sent a miraculous earthquake that opened all the doors and loosed the prisoners’ chains.

*When the jailer saw that scene, he was about to kill himself, because the penalty for losing his prisoners was death. Then in Acts 16:28-31:

28. Paul called with a loud voice, saying, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here."

29. Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.

30. And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

31. So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."

*That jailer will forever have a story of God’s amazing grace. And so will we IF we have trusted in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.

*All of us have a story of God’s grace in our lives. God Himself is writing this story every day in ways big and small. And the truth is that every good thing that has come to us and through us has all been by the amazing grace of God, especially the eternal life we have in the cross of Jesus Christ.

*Paul never got over God’s grace and neither should we!

2. This brings us to the 2nd big theme in these verses, which is gratitude.

[1] Think about the object of Paul’s gratitude.

*In vs. 3-5, Paul overflowed with thanksgiving as he told that church:

3. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,

4. always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy,

5. for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now,

*Notice that Paul gave thanks for his relationships. That’s what meant the most to him. And the first relationship Paul highlighted was the loving, personal relationship we have with God through our Savior Jesus Christ.

*In vs. 3 Paul said “I thank my God.” It reminds me of what David said in the 23rd Psalm: The Lord is MY Shepherd. Aren’t you glad that He is your Shepherd? Aren’t you glad that He is YOUR God? -- A thousand times yes!

*Paul was thankful for his relationship with God. And he was thankful for his relationship with the believers at Philippi. In vs. 3, Paul told those Christians: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.”

*What kind of a person would you have to be for someone to be able to honestly say, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you”?

*Well, chapter 4 will show us that the Philippians were not perfect people, but they surely were good and Godly people. Paul tells us a lot about them in today’s verses.

*What kind of people were they? -- In vs. 4, they were people who gave Paul joy, so he could say, “in every prayer of mine (I make) request for you all with joy.”

*In vs. 5, they were people who gave fellowship, so Paul said he was thankful “for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” That word “fellowship” or “partnership” in vs. 5 is one of the most famous Greek words. It’s “koinonia,” -- the idea of sharing, doing things together in love and mutual concern. And this word “fellowship” includes the idea of participation and cooperation in a common interest.

*In vs. 7, these Philippian Christians really cared about Paul, so he said: “It is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.”

*The Philippians were in Paul’s heart, even as he was in their hearts. Notice in vs. 7 that they cared for Paul in the hardest times (i.e. while he was bound up with chains). They also cared for Paul in the most important things: “the defense and confirmation of the gospel.”

*Next, in vs. 8, the Philippians were people Paul wanted to be with, so he said: “God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.” Paul said, “I long for you.” That word “long” here means “I yearn for you. I intensely, earnestly desire to pursue you with love.”

*Those Christians so lived their lives that Paul could say, “I want to be with you.

-He could have said, “I don’t come to church because I ought to.

-I come because I want to.

-The Lord has put that desire in my heart.

-And I want to be with some of the best people in the world.”

*A few years ago, one of my friends was on vacation up in Arkansas, and he went to a First Baptist Church somewhere up there. It was Wednesday Prayer Meeting, and about 20 people were there that night.

*The astounding thing was that the whole time he was there no one ever spoke to him, -- no one that is except a lady who said: “Would you MIND closing that door?” She didn’t even say “thanks” when he got up to close it!

*I’m so thankful that our church isn’t like that. The Philippian Christians lived their lives so that Paul could say, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.”

-And that’s the way God wants us to live.

-They were the object of Paul’s gratitude.

[2] But we also need to focus a little on the obstacles to Paul’s gratitude.

*What was going on in Paul’s life as he wrote these words? -- In vs. 7 Paul reminds us that he was in chains.

*He was not exactly having a banner year. In fact, Paul had been held as a prisoner for over two years, even though he was completely innocent of any crime. Paul was in prison simply for believing and preaching the good news about Jesus Christ.

*He could have overflowed with bitterness, but he overflowed with gratitude. Paul had praise-the-Lord-anyway gratitude. Yes, he was in chains, but he was counting his blessings!

*How long would you have to be in prison on false charges before the flower of your gratitude was crushed? -- I get a little chapped when there are more than 3 people in front of me in line at Walmart. How about you?

*Finish this thought: “I get impatient when ___________________.”

*We need more of Paul’s grateful attitude. And we need to live so other people can honestly say, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.”

3. In short, we need to grow as Christians. And this is the 3rd big theme in our passage today: Christian growth.

*Paul prayed for Christian growth in vs. 9-11. There he said:

9. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,

10. that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,

11. being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

*Paul prayed for these good and Godly Christians to keep growing in love, wisdom and goodness. And what a high standard Paul gives in vs. 10: “that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.”

*How are we going to grow like that? -- Today’s Scripture gives us 4 keys.

[1] And one key is prayer.

*We can certainly grow and help others to grow by prayer, even as Paul prayed here. And most of us need to grow in our prayer lives.

*Sherrie Leard reminds us of this truth in a story she told about her young son. They were on their way to McDonald's, when they came to a car accident. Sherrie was trying to teach her son to pray for any accidents they passed on the road. So, she felt a swell of pride when her little boy bowed his head...

*But then, she heard him pray: “Dear God, please don't let those cars block the entrance to McDonald's.” (1)

*Sherrie’s little boy needed to grow in his prayer life.

-So do I. -- How about you?

[2] But another key for our Christian growth is our relationship with each other.

*Paul was a blessing to the Philippians and they were a blessing to him.

-Just so, we can be a blessing to each other when we gather together like this.

[3] One more key then is to study God’s Word, like we do here Sunday after Sunday.

[4] But vs. 11 gives us the greatest key to Christian growth. Here Paul speaks of the Philippian Christians “being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

*The only way for us to really grow in goodness is through our relationship with Jesus Christ. And if we have this relationship, if we have trusted in the Lord, then we can have the same confidence Paul had in vs. 6 where he said he was “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

*Christians, God has started a good work in us. Paul calls it “a good work.” And I would never disagree with him, but that almost seems like an understatement to me. We could rightly call it a fantastic, amazing, glorious work, because it means:

-We have peace with God.

-We have been saved from hell.

-Our sins have been forgiven.

-We are accepted by God.

-We are part of the family of God.

-And we have a home in Heaven!

*God has started an amazingly good work in us! -- Jesus paved the way for this work when He died on the cross for our sins, rose again from the dead, ascended back into Heaven and sent His Holy Spirit into the world.

*God has started an amazingly good work in us!

-And He is going to finish this work through our relationship with Jesus Christ.

*How are we going to grow as Christians?

-Through prayer...

-Through our relationships with each other...

-Through the study of God’s Word.

-And most of all, through our relationship with Jesus Christ

*We can surely grow through these good and Godly things. But are we growing?

*Dr. Donald Potts was one of my seminary professors at the extension in Shreveport, one of my favorites. He was hilarious and kind, an excellent historian, good teacher, devoted Christian, willing to take a fearless stand for the things of God.

*One day Dr. Potts told us about taking a trip to Egypt. On the tour, they came to a river, and Dr. Potts saw a woman washing her clothes in the river. Then he looked upstream and saw a big water buffalo standing in the water. Then he looked downstream and saw several people getting their drinking water!

*How would you like to have a big drink of that? -- Disgusting.

*Of course you can’t get clean water from a dirty stream. And Dr. Potts wanted us to know that you can’t get a clean life from a dirty world. So we have choices to make every day.

*God is surely going to do His part, but we have to be committed to do our part.

-God help us to have Paul’s commitment in Phil 3:13-14:

13. . . This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,

14. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

*As we close in prayer tonight, let’s focus on these 3 things:

-God’s Grace...

-Our gratitude...

-And our spiritual growth: more of God’s goodness in our lives.

1. "Life in these United States," READER'S DIGEST, April 2002, p. 133 - (Source: Dynamic Preaching Sermon “A Platform for Life” by King Duncan - Romans 8:26-39 - Fourth Sunday, July 2002)

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