I'm So Glad I'm a Part of the Family of God
Last week I used the example of the bygone service station where a service station attendant would come out and pump your gas for you and check your oil and tire pressure. I used that example to show that we rarely see a model of service in today’s society. I want to continue in that line of thinking to say that when I was a young boy, people bought gas from people. My dad didn’t buy gas from the Shell Station, he bought gas from Wayne who owned the shell station. We didn’t buy groceries from a store, we bought groceries from Bill Lane who owned Lane’s store. People had real relationships with real people. When you started having to pump your own gas, you at least had to go in and pay for it. Today you don’t have to speak to anyone, for all you know, there may not even be anyone in the station. You just pull out your debit card and pay at the pump.
Technology has allowed us to isolate ourselves almost completely from other people. With an ATM card, you don’t have to talk to anyone to make a deposit or withdraw from your checking account. You can buy anything you want or need off the internet and have it delivered in a few days. You can pull into your garage after work; shut the door and not have to see anyone until you go to work tomorrow.
Technology has brought us wonderful conveniences, but it has also separated us from people and relationships. There is a website called Cyber-Church.com that offers online sermons, counseling, prayer partners, a place to give your offering, and all the conveniences of church brought to your home. You can tell people you have been to church and you never have to get out of your pajamas on Sunday. Our society is moving further away from fellowship and relationships and closer to independence and isolation. Is technology really progress? We live in the richest nation on earth and for that I am thankful, but I believe we are rich in possessions but poor in relationships. One writer said that we are increasingly efficient at leading meaningless lives. We are increasingly efficient at leading meaningless lives.
We live in a day that is like no other in Christian history. We live in a culture and society that exalts individualism and independence from other people. Independence as a nation is a wonderful concept, but independence from people and relationships is destroying our nation. God created us with a craving for relationships. God created us in His image and God is a God of relationships, fellowship, and community. Genesis 1:26 says “then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” God the Father always had perfect fellowship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and we were created in His image. We were made to have close fellowship with one another, and the place that we find Biblical fellowship is in the local church.
The local church was first established because God created us to be in close relationships with each other. Listen closely to Ephesians 2:19-22: So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. God means for us to be fitted together. We as Christians meeting at New Columbus Baptist Church are built together as brothers and sisters in Christ. If you say, I just don’t like the people I go to church with, something is wrong. God has you here to be in close relationship with the other believers at New Columbus Baptist Church. Paul knew being a Christian meant that you had entered into close relationships and fellowship with other believers in your local church. I want to read Philippians 1:3-11. This will be our text today, and I want us to listen to Paul’s excitement that he was in real relationships with other Christians. That is the main idea of the sermon today; Rejoice that you are in real relationships with other Christians.
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Paul begins in verse 3 by telling the Philippians how thankful to God he is that the Philippians were Christians. He says in verse 3 I thank my God. And then in verse 5 he tells why, In view of your participation in the Gospel. Some commentators have suggested that what Paul means when he says, “your participation in the Gospel” is the money that the Philippians sent him. However, I believe he is talking about their participation in receiving the Gospel, because he uses a word that most often means a sharing of fellowship. This is a sharing of our hearts, lives, and affections and not our finances. This word translated as participation, means fellowship, association, community, communion, togetherness, and when it is connected with the word Gospel, it shows what our common bond is.
When we play softball for New Columbus Baptist Church, what binds us together is not our outstanding softball skills. The bond that keeps us together is our relationship with Jesus Christ. When we go to the Relay for Life event and sit under the New Columbus Baptist Church tent, a cure for cancer is not what binds us together, we are one in Jesus Christ. He is the head and we as His church are the body.
So we need to learn something from Paul. We need to thank God for other people’s participation in the Gospel. We need to rejoice that God saves people and brings them into the family of God. So my first point is we need to thank God for saving people. Thank you God for saving sinners, not just me, but the people I go to church with. Thank you Lord for saving people at New Columbus Baptist Church. You all are my family and I thank God for saving you. If I were away from you, I would love to write a letter like this to you. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.
Paul uses a very personal, heart felt thanks to God for saving people in the Philippian church. In Colossians 1:3 Paul said, “We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you.” This was not nearly the deep personal prayer that he was praying to God at the beginning of Philippians. He said, I thank my God. I see three reasons we should have the same heartfelt thanks to God for saving sinners. I am sure there are more but here are at least three:
1. We should thank God for saving sinners because we are commanded to love our neighbors. Paul said in
Gal 5:14 “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
When the lawyer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied with the story of the good Samaritan. The story teaches that everyone is our neighbor, and we are to love them. If we love people we will rejoice when they come to know Christ. If someone comes to know Jesus and it doesn’t excite us, we need to check and make sure we know Jesus. John said in 1 Jn 3:10
By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
2. The second reason to rejoice that God is saving people is because we are fighting a battle and we want all the soldiers we can get. Paul said in 2 Ti 2:3-4
Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
We are enlisted in the King’s army and we want as many reinforcements as we can get. Sometimes a soldier gets wounded in this Spiritual battle and we need to pick them up with encouragement and prayer. The more people we have fighting this battle the more glory God gets. Thank you God for enlisting soldiers. We are in spiritual battle and God has made life in such a way that we don’t have to fight alone.
3. The third reason I see for rejoicing that God is still in the business of saving people, is that it helps to take the focus off of our self. Yes we should rejoice in our salvation every day, but we have a tendency to think that God created the world and all that is in it just to save us. Our sinful heart wants us to think it’s all about us. There used to be a song that said something like, “If I were the only person on earth, Jesus would have still died for me.” Well I’m not sure about the theology of that statement, but I do know you are not the only person on this earth and Jesus died for many people. We should rejoice when someone gives their life to Christ because it’s right that we should feel this way about someone coming into our family.
Paul says in verse 7, For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, it is right to rejoice when someone comes into the family of God.
The second main point from the text is that we should rejoice that God has saved us. Not only should we rejoice that God has saved those around us, We should also thank God for saving us. When was the last time you thanked God for saving you? We often times thank God for our food, our home, or our health, but how often do we give God thanks for our salvation? Thank you God for saving me, I couldn’t save myself but you reached down and saved me from hell. Paul said, it is right for me to feel this way since you are partakers of grace with me. Paul again focuses on the relationship that he has with other believers, and this time he includes himself as the recipient of the blessing of grace and salvation.
First Paul praised God for saving those he loved and then he said it was right for him to feel this way because he was a Christian too. Paul realized that since he was a Christian, and the Philippians were Christians, they were members of the same family. We need to learn from Paul on this one; if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you have a family and that family is visible here at New Columbus Baptist Church. Paul knew that all Christians have been adopted into the family of God. He said in Ephesians 1:5 [God] predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will. God graciously adopted all the Christians that are in this room right now. All the Christians here today are members of the same family and this was what made Paul rejoice.
I went to an adoption hearing on Friday and I was amazed at the words the lawyer used when questioning my friends who were adopting a little girl named Chloe. The lawyer said to my friend, “Michelle do you realize that Chloe will be born of your flesh?” Next she asked the dad, “Charlie, do you realize that Chloe will be born of your flesh?” Both parents said yes, and the judge declared that Chloe was now their daughter. What a wonderful picture of what it means to be adopted into the family of God. When we are saved we truly become adopted sons and daughters of God. That means that we now have brothers and sisters that we are to love like Paul loved the Philippians. In years past it was common to call our brothers and sisters in Christ, Brother Bill, Brother Lloyd, Sister Gladys, Sister Naomi. Maybe our forefathers understood being adopted better than we do today.
This adoption was why Paul was rejoicing in Philippians, and we need to be more like Paul. We need to be thankful for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Will they ever do anything that gets on our nerves? Sure they will, but didn’t your brother and sister do the same thing when you were growing up. We are to love one another at New Columbus Baptist Church, not because our brothers and sisters are without fault, but because we can love them in spite of their faults. We all have faults, we all mess up, but we are called to love our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Paul said in verse 9 that he was praying that the Philippians love may abound more and more. Not a love based on emotion but a love based on real knowledge and discernment.
We must be diligent in our study and understanding of God and His character if we want to experience true and lasting love. Real love is based on knowledge that comes from the study of the Scriptures so that you may approve the things that are excellent.
Paul is thanking God for the brother/sister relationship he has with the Philippians and he is praying that God will increase their love, but in a way that is based on knowledge and discernment.
Thank God for your Christian family, pray that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and discernment.
1 John 1:5-7 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.