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Unity in Christ

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Today, we are starting a new series, and we will be in the book of Philippians.
We will be in the book of Philippians, till the middle of July.

What is Joy?

How would you define joy?
It’s not that easy of a task.
Sometimes it’s compared to happiness.
Sometimes it’s compared to happiness.
In Christianese, that’s our own church language that we use around Christians, we substitute the word happy for joy.
Sometimes we think it’s wrong to be happy, but its good to joyful.
But deep down we define the words exactly the same.
All we’ve done is taken the word happy out and replaced it with joy.
We also know that it’s commanded for us to be joyful.
It’s one of the Fruits of the Spirit.
A spirit-filled life, is one where there is Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Joy is the evidence that a Christian has the Holy Spirit within him, and is being lead by him.

But how do we have joy? How do we exhibit it?

The world around us doesn’t know how to answer that question.
There are multiple ways that the world pursues joy.
One of the ways that it pursues joy is to distract the mind.
Take a trip to Disneyland, the happiest place on earth.
Some of the ways the world
There you also see the confusion between joy and happiness.
It’s the Magic Kingdom.
Costumed characters.
Immersive rides.
Themed lands.
And clam chowder in bread bowls.
And you will be able to forget your problems.
If only, your credit card company would forget the debt you went in to go there.
Another way the world tries to find joy is to eat up time.
See a movie.
Turn off your brain for an hour and a half and all your problems will go away.
Other ways that people pursue joy is:
You don’t think happy thoughts, so take a drug that will give you happy thoughts.
Then there is sin.
The root of sin is our passions, our corrupt hearts want opposite of what God wants.
The lie is that if we pursue our passions, no matter how opposed to God, at least we will be happy.
The world is confused about how to find joy, so how do we have joy?
In God’s providence, He has given us the letter to the Philippians.
And when a Christian isn’t happy, we think it’s the same as joy, then we’ve got confusion.
Because when a Christian isn’t happy, then we think it’s the same as not being joyful, and we say that there is a spiritual problem.
And when the Christian isn’t happy, or isn’t joyful we think something is wrong.
It’s a letter written by Paul, to the Philippian church.
But if joy is happiness, then it’s just a feeling that comes and goes.
Paul is writing the letter while in Rome, and in prison.
He’s chained to a Roman guard.
And there’s a possibility, he will even be executed.
Certainly, a dire situation.
Yet, this is a letter that is filled with joy.
Paul has joy, and he wants the Philippian church to share in the joy that he has.
One of the reasons for him writing to the Philippian church, is so they wouldn’t worry about him.
Talk about irony.
He’s in jail.
He’s uncertain of his future.
And he’s telling the Philippians, “I’m fine, how are you?”
We will be in the first 11 verses of Philippians.
And in these 11 verses we see how Paul has joy.
And I think that they will help understand how to have joy as well.
Let’s read .

The first part of joy is to have Joy for the Church.

Paul begins his letter, as he often does, by saying who is writing, who he’s with, and who he’s writing too.
So Paul introduces himself and say that Timothy is with him.
And in this case he’s writing to the church in Philippi.
He calls them saints.
Saints means those who are holy.
Saints aren’t the really good Christians.
They’re not the extra special Christians.
All Christians are made holy, because they are chosen by God, saved by Christ, and indwelt with the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, all Christians are saints.
In addition to the saints who are in Philippi, he also writes to the overseers and deacons.
This tells us that the Philippian church is an established church and a mature church.
They have leadership.
Paul is joyful for this church, why? Because they exist.
It’s a miracle that there are saints to write to, and it’s a miracle, that there are elders and deacons at this church.
You can find this in , but let me paraphrase it for you now.
About 5 years before writing this letter, Paul was on one of his mission trips.
He came into Philippi and preached on a Sabbath.
There he met a woman named Lydia, she was a business woman there, who sold purple goods.
She was a worshipper of God, but she was not saved.
Just because someone worships, and goes to church doesn’t mean they are a Christian.
Jesus Himself said, “Many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do all these great things for Him, but on that final day of judgment, Jesus will say, ‘Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
This woman worshiped God, but she wasn’t saved.
She hadn’t been born again.
Which is a reminder, that just because someone worships God, it doesn’t mean they are saved, or regenerated.
Just because someone does religious actions, even towards the true God, it doesn’t mean they are saved.
A person must be born again, they must receive a new heart.
says that the Lord opened her heart, and she was able to understand what she was taught.
Something supernatural happened.
The Lord saved her.
Shortly after, her and her entire family were converted and were baptized.
After that, Paul was preaching and a demon possessed slave girl showed up.
Paul commanded the demon to leave her.
The owners of this girl were upset, because they had been using this poor girl to make a profit.
They had Paul beaten and then thrown into prison.
While in prison, Paul who was with Silas, spent the night praying and singing hymns.
They were having a little revival meeting there in the jail.
In the middle of the night there was a great earthquake.
The prison doors were opened, and not just for Paul and Silas, but for all the prisoners there.
The jailer woke up, and saw the prison doors open and assumed the worst.
He thought that the prisoners that he was responsible for had fled, which would mean he would executed for failure to follow through with his duty.
He pulled out his sword and was going to kill himself.
Paul jumped in just at the nick of time.
He pointed out that everyone was still there.
The jailer was so astounded by what happened, he asked what he needed to do to be saved.
Paul said he needed to believe in Christ and he would be saved.
After that, the jailer cleaned up Paul’s wounds and he and his family were also baptized.
Now you have Christians in Philippi.
So think about this church.
Paul enters Philippi and there are no Christians.
Paul leaves Philippi and there are Christians.
There are families of Christians.
And the Christians there represent a diverse group.
A seller of expensive fabrics and her family.
A slave girl.
A jailer, and his family.
And who knows if any of the people in jail were converted that night as well.
What started as a rag tag group of Christians, ends up being a full-fledged church.
They support Paul in his ministry.
They have biblical leadership in the form of Elders and deacons.
So again, picture this scene.
Paul’s in jail.
He’s chained to a Roman guard.
He possibly could be executed in Rome.
And he thinks to himself, I’m so glad there is that Philippian church.
Isn’t it amazing God saved them.
Later in this book, in , Paul will say, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
You see that acted out by his thoughts going towards the Philippians.
He’s dwelling on good things.
Therefore, we must stop and thank God for providing the church.
You can be grateful that God didn’t save you and place you on an island.
Instead, He has placed you within a church.
He has provided you with elders who love to serve you.
And I’m happy to see that God is raising up people here who serve, and are beginning to adopt responsibility to serve in specific areas in the church.
There is joy in knowing there is a church.
Therefore, a way to have joy is to be a part of the church.
To admire the diversity of the church and how God has provided it.
You want joy?
Think about the church.
The church is that group of people that God loved so much, that Jesus purchased them with His own blood.
He takes joy in the church, we too should take joy in the church.

The second part of having joy is to have a Joy in prayer.

The outline in your bulletin says, “Joy in Others”, but I’ve changed my mind on that.
Look at verses 3-5 “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.”
When I was growing up, I was always told to say thank you for a gift.
Christmas comes, you open a gift … I was expected to say thank you.
I was 9 and opened up a Game Boy.
I was so excited to start playing Tetris.
I’d tear into the packaging, open it up and be in awe of that lime green screen.
But before I could do anything with the Game Boy, I had to tell my mom and dad thank you.
Under the tree would be a present from Santa Claus.
I’d be equally excited about those presents as well.
I was expected to say thank you for those gifts as well.
I didn’t matter if I believed in Santa or not, I was expected to say thank you.
How do you say thank you to Santa?
You tell your mom and dad to tell Santa thank you, *wink - wink*
Paul had joy in the Philippian church, but then he expressed that joy, by praying for them.
He went to the Lord and said, “Thank you for the Philippians.”
Anytime he prayed for them, it was always with joy.
Specifically, his joy was that they had participated in the Gospel with him.
They were saved.
And they had fellowship together.
And then He expressed that joy in prayer.
He went to the Lord and offered prayer for others.
This shows us that a joyful Christian is a praying Christian.
If you want joy in your life, then there needs to be prayer to the Lord.
And I emphasize to the Lord, because many are confused about what prayer is.
Think about the language that the world uses to describe prayer.
Someone is sick, and people say:
“I’m wishing you the best.”
“I’m thinking of you.”
“Sending you my prayers.”
“Sending you good thoughts.”
I don’t even know what that means.
What does Paul say?
“I thank my God ...”
He’s not praying to the Philippians.
He’s not making a wish.
He’s certainly not sending good thoughts.
He’s talking to God.
That’s Who he’s directing his prayers to.
“… always offering prayer with joy ...”
The response is that there is joy in his prayers.
Why is there joy?
At the core of prayer is the acknowledgment that God is God, and you are not.
We make requests of God because we know our own powerlessness.
And we thank Him because we know that “every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above ...” .
If you are lacking joy in your life, perhaps it’s time to examine your prayer life.
And also think about what you are praying for.
Is prayer an endless wish list from God?
Or do you ever stop to think about God’s providence and His sovereign plan.
It’s good to think about what God has given you.
As well as to think about where God has brought you.
Paul is writing this while under house arrest, perhaps facing execution.
He sits back and thinks about God’s sovereign plan, and realizes God knows exactly what He’s doing.
Verse 12 Paul will say, “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,”
He rejoices in prayer for others because He is seeing how God is working in their lives.

Next we find Joy in God’s Work.

Verse 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.”
Paul says, “For I am confident of this very thing ...”
That’s a great description of faith.
He has a confidence in God.
He trusts in God.
He knows that God is going to do something.
Maybe one of the reasons Christians are so joyless, is because they think too little of God.
Remember, that the God we worship is the God who created everything that there is, and He did it with His spoken word … “Let there be light” and there was light.
They are essentially faithless.
They lack joy, because they think God can’t do something, or God is unable to do something.
Paul’s confidence is that he who began a good work will bring it to completion.
What was the work that He began?
Namely, it’s salvation.
Salvation is something that God starts.
May I be blunt for a moment.
We hold to reformed principles.
We believe that God predestines.
We believe that God elects.
We believe that God calls.
We believe that God saves.
We believe that God keeps.
Therefore, we, those who are reformed, Calvinists, those who hold to the sovereignty of God, we should be the most joyful people there are.
Because people are totally depraved.
That doesn’t mean we are as bad as we can be.
But it does mean that on our own we want nothing to do with God.
says “as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God;”
This means that in our natural state, we want nothing to do with God.
We don’t seek God.
We don’t want God.
We don’t love God.
says we naturally are children of wrath, servants of Satan.
Bear with me here for a moment, this means that if God did nothing to us, if he left us only to our free will … we would never ever come to God, there would be no Christians in this world.
This means that if Jesus were to die for people, and all that would be needed is for people to come to Him and believe … no one would believe
This is why Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him ...”
But we believe what the Bible says, that God does draw us.
says that Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith.
He’s the author of our faith.
We don’t make faith, it comes from Him.
Faith is given to us by God.
says “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,”
We are not saved because of anything we have done, or because we are better than anyone else.
It is only by His mercy.
says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,”
Do you see the pattern here?
Conversion is something that God causes to happen within the Christian, despite who they are.
And now here in , Paul says that He who began a good work in us.
That’s salvation.
Our response should be relief.
It should be gratitude.
It should be joy.
Reformed Christians should be the most joyful people there are because we know that salvation is entirely of God.
And the work that God started at salvation … He will continue until we are brought to him in glory.
There are 2 things to hold onto here.
First, sanctification.
This is you becoming more and more Christlike.
You don’t become a Christian and boom, you are perfect and know everything and never sin again.
God will progressively change you.
Just like how a child matures, you will spiritually mature.
And this will continue your whole life, until the day of Christ Jesus.
When you die, you will be brought to Christ, and in glory.
And none of those old sins, weaknesses and habits will plague you.
That is sanctification.
And He who began it, will complete it.
The second thing is this also means that if God started a work in you … He will keep.
We call this idea different things:
Once saved always saved.
Eternal security.
Perseverance of the saints.
Preservation of the saints.
Whatever you call it, just know, that if God starts a work in you … He will bring it to completion.
We are not that way.
We start things … we don’t finish things.
I read books on my kindle.
Digital books.
They’re cheap.
They’re affordable.
I go into Amazon, see all these cheap books and think, “Cool, I’ll get them all.”
I fill up my Kindle with all these books.
Many of them I start … and I never finish.
I have a book I’ve wanted to write.
It’s outlined.
I’ve even got a title for it, A But God Theology.
I’ve never written it.
We start things … and we don’t finish things.
Whatever God starts … He will finish.
Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega ...”
I’m so glad He’s not just the Alpha.
He’s the beginning and the end.
He completes what He starts.
says, “and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
I’m so glad God doesn’t just predestine … He completes what He plans.
And dear Christians, God saved you, and He will keep you.
We find joy in God’s work.
Maybe one of the reasons why so many people lack joy, is because they don’t look at the one who finishes His work.
They think too small of God.
And they don’t give Him credit for His work.
Do you have joy?
Then look to the one who saves, and look at His work.

The next thing is there is Joy in Unity

Verse 7 Paul says, “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.”
You can see His love for the Philippian church in these words.
He mentions that they are united in his imprisonment, defense and confirmation of the Gospel.
There’s a bit of a play on words here.
Paul says they are partakers in his imprisonment.
Yes he’s in jail, but they aren’t.
So how are they partakers in his imprisonment?
He’s also a slave of Christ.
That’s how the book begins, that he is a bond-servant of Christ, a slave of Christ.
But so are the Philippians.
Christians go from being slaves of sin, to slaves of Christ.
They share this in common with each other.
Paul is saying that he has them in his heart, His joy overflows from his heart, because they are fellow participants in the Gospel.
The church is a beautiful thing.
The Philippian church was a miracle of God’s unifying grace.
A jailer.
A merchant.
A demon possessed girl.
Their families.
And who knows who else.
Then there is Paul an ex-Pharisee, who killed Christians.
All united in Christ.
Fellow servants.
Fellow partakers of grace.
says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, Coming down upon the beard, Even Aaron’s beard, Coming down upon the edge of his robes.”
How good it is to be united in Christ.
How good it is when a church is united.
Within the church we must be united in our beliefs and in the Gospel, and when there is this sweet unity, then we become partners in the work of the Gospel together.
He says the defense and confirmation of the Gospel.
The Philippians demonstrated their unity by supporting Paul in his house arrest.
says that he was responsible for coming up with his own money and paying for his jail stay.
That’s kind of hard to do when you can’t work.
So the Philippians financially supported him, as well as physically providing for him.
If we are united in Christ, then let’s put our unity to action by working together.
You can demonstrate that unity by:
Participating in Gospel to the Valley
Inviting people to church
Serving within the church.
Taking a slot during the mall evangelism.
Serving with one another.
The Philippian church financially supported Paul’s mission.
Show your support by giving regularly, and by joining in opportunities to spread the Gospel abroad.
We are getting ready to go to the Czech Republic in July.
We will preach the Gospel, as well as bring them financial support.
That is an opportunity for you.
There is power in the church.
There is power in our relationships.
And that’s because the church is something that God has designed and God has built.
The model for the Christian life is that we participate in the local body.
Not just attending;
But being involved in the body.
Serving in the body.
Acting as partners within the body.
If you are lacking joy, then a good place to start, is by being around like minded believers.
Coming on Sundays is a great start, but that’s not all this church is.
Dive into relationships.
Come on Wednesdays.
Stay for CU.
Invite people to your home.
There is joy in unity.

And lastly, there is Joy in Growth

Paul loves the Philippian church.
He says that God is his witness to how great he loves the church.
The word for affection says that it comes from his guts.
It’s deep within him.
He has a pastoral love for the church.
What does a pastor’s love for the church look like?
And his love is expressed by having the church grow spiritually.
In verses 9-10 he prays, “that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;”
Here you see a pastor’s heart.
God has given the church pastors and elders so that they would teach, preach and equip the congregation.
We see here that there is joy as you learn more about Christ.
And my joy, is when I get to experience you change and watch the Lord change you.
As you learn real knowledge.
As you approve things that are excellent.
This may sound cliche, but as you learn:
As you learn about God.
As you learn about His word.
As you learn about Christ.
As you learn … real knowledge, there is joy.
Spend some time reading .
There you see the Psalmist’s joy and love for the word of God.
And as you learn about Christ, you too will experience greater joy.
Notice the prayer of Paul is that the church would have more love for each other.
And where does that love come from?
Growing in knowledge and discernment.
One of the reasons why we offer things like CU and Wednesday Night Bible Studies, is because it’s an act of faith on the church leadership.
I know that there are lots of fun things we can do in life.
There are social clubs that go paint balling, travel the world, and go on adventures together.
People are looking for intense community.
The faith that the elders have, is that true community and fellowship comes by us sharing in God’s Word together and growing in truth together.
You can’t have growth without a church.
You can’t have a healthy church, without spiritual growth.
Therefore a key to joy, is to pursue growth within the body of Christ.
I’d recommend pursuing greater fellowship.
Perhaps a reason for your lack of joy is you don’t
Come on Wednesdays.
Stay for CU.
As you grow, you will also grow in your love for one another and you will have joy.

Today we’ve seen Paul’s recipe for joy.

And Paul’s recipe is different from the world around us.
Joy is found in the church
Joy is found in prayer.
Joy is found in God’s work.
Joy is found in unity.
And joy is found growth.
I want to see you have joy.
And hopefully, you are able to see where joy is lacking, and how you can pursue it.
But all of this is empty if you don’t have Christ.
If you don’t have Christ, you don’t have the Spirit and if you don’t have the Spirit, then you don’t have joy.
If you aren’t in Christ, then you don’t understand God’s work.
You don’t understand the church.
You don’t understand how to properly love others.
You are joyless.
This isn’t some pop-psychology mumbo jumbo.
I’m not attempting to just get you happy.
And I don’t want you to come to Christ just so you can have joy.
I want you to come to Christ, because He is Christ.
He is the treasure hidden in a field.
He is the pearl of great value.
He is Lord.
There certainly is joy … but it’s the side-affect, the product of knowing Jesus.
Come to Christ.
Know Him.
And rejoice.
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