Love In God's Family
When you look at people….just people in general….what do you see? Do you see old people, short people, tall people, people of color, men, women, children, large people, skinny people, beautiful people, people not so good looking, brown hair, blonde hair, short hair, long hair, no hair, goatees, beards? Or do you look at people and see the rich, poor, homeless, pretty clothes, ugly clothes, dirty clothes, torn clothes, beautiful gold necklaces, sparkling ear rings, holey socks, nice shoes, and so on. Do you look at people and see their attitudes or good behavior? Do you see the educated or uneducated? Is this what you see when you look at people? Do you see the outward presentation of people? Or do you see people to love… regardless of appearance? Do you see people as those that are far from Jesus and those that are with Him?
Do you see people the way Jesus sees people? Do you see the people Jesus died for and was resurrected for, so they can be with Him forever? Where is your heart when it comes to people? Is your heart in line with the world or is your heart in line with Jesus? The way we see people dictates how we interact with them. We interact in judgement of others or we interact in love for others. If you see people the way Jesus sees people, you’ll see people to love, to forgive, and to fellowship with.
Today marks the second and final week of the Clean Break sermon series…which is based on the New Testament book of Philemon. Just as we did last week, this week we’re going to talk about love, and fellowship, and forgiveness.
We’ll talk about love because “God is love” (), and “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” ().
We’ll talk about fellowship because “…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. (1 ) and because the first Christians “…devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” ()
And forgiveness “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” ()
Last week I asked you to think of a name of someone that you need to forgive and write that name on a piece of paper. Personally, it took me a while to think of a name, but I have one. I have a name of someone I need to forgive and be reconciled with. If you have a name of that someone…I hope you wrote their name down and began to act on the process of forgiving them. If you are not there yet, I hope you are in prayer about it and seeking guidance from one of your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Also from last week, we learned the Letter to Philemon is a one-page, New Testament letter that sits between Titus and Hebrews. We learned the Letter was written while Paul was in a Roman prison around the year AD 60. We learned the letter contains 335 words in the original Greek and approximately 460 words in the English Standard Version of the Bible….making it one of the shortest books of the Bible. We also learned the main figures mentioned in the letter are Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus. Paul an apostle of Jesus and inspired writer of most of the New Testament. Philemon, a gentile, bondservant-owning follower of Jesus. And the useful or beneficial Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway bondservant. Onesimus became a follower of Jesus while with Paul in Paul’s imprisonment.
The letter to Philemon is a rich and awesome piece of scripture……we learned the letter contains so much of what it means to be a Christian…….and through it we can see the Gospel….we see how Christians are to interact with one another, we see love, we see free will, we see the need to make right choices, we see obedience to our Savior, we see the Christian heart. We don’t see judgement, or hate, or an affirmation of slavery, or intimidation, or abuse of authority, or the need for religious tests. We see the things Jesus taught during His ministry on this earth….we see Jesus….we see God’s sovereignty…. we see His love and mercy and grace that He freely gives to everyone that seeks His forgiveness……it is there for anyone that has ever or continues to run away from Jesus.
If you could, please open your Bibles or mobile Bible app or whatever you use to read the Bible to Philemon. Again, it’s in the New Testament towards the back of your Bible and sits between Titus and Hebrews…… or just follow along on the screen. Starting in verse 1…..
“Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love's sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you. Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus (a ris star chis), Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
Last week we covered the first 11 verses. We discussed Philemon’s faith…that he lived out his faith in word and in deed for the furtherance of God’s kingdom, and how Paul and others were blessed through Philemon’s love in action. We concluded by learning of Paul’s appeal to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus…who was no longer just a bondservant…Onesimus had a change in status….he was also a brother in Christ. Paul began his appeal by stating his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ….but instead of using his authority to get the proper outcome….Paul made an appeal, in love, to Philemon’s free will. And that is where we pick it up for today….we’re going to finish the Letter of Philemon starting in verses 12 and 13.
In verses 12 and 13, Paul states he is sending his loved brother in Christ, the bondservant Onesimus, back to Philemon. Paul loves Onesimus and could have asked Onesimus to stay. But Onesimus had wronged and owed something to Philemon when he ran away. The debt Onesimus owed to Philemon had to be paid. The wrong had to be righted. The conflict had to be resolved.
In verse 14, Paul did not want Onesimus to stick around without Philemon’s consent. Paul did not want to prevent reconciliation between Philemon and Onesimus. Paul also did not want to remove any chance of Philemon doing the right thing by loving, forgiving, and being in Christian fellowship with Onesimus. Paul wanted Philemon to make the free will decision to do so.
In verses 15 and 16, Paul suggests that God may have even orchestrated Onesimus’ departure so that their relationship could be one in Christ instead of what it was….one of a master and a bondservant. When Onesimus ran away, he ran to Paul…and ended up becoming a Christian….a follower of Jesus. Onesimus became a brother in Christ to both Paul and to Philemon….Onesimus confessed with His mouth that Christ is Lord and believed in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead – saving Onesimus from an eternal existence in hell to an eternal existence with God in heaven. How awesome is that! Paul further states that the presence of his brother in Christ, Onesimus, meant a lot to him….and now that Onesimus is back with Philemon…Philemon gets to benefit from having Onesimus back as a fellow worker in Christ Jesus and a worker, who is a Christian, doing things for his employer, or in this case, owner…. Onesimus would be compelled by Christ’s love to do even more for Philemon than he had done before….because they also have Christian fellowship.
Us LifeSpringers do things for one another, and serve one another, and care for one another, and help with set up and tear down each Sunday, and host or lead Life Groups, or serve our children and our youth, or serve on the worship team, or on the frontline ministry areas because of the love we have for one another….would you agree? Its love for Jesus and love for one another that compels us to serve. We don’t do it out of compulsion because of some religious test…but because of love. Love for the fellowship of believers at LifeSpring Church. For the love of those that are unchurched and those lost in their sins and far from God. Wanting those far from Gods to know Jesus and His love and grace and mercy….to redeem the lost to God by the broken body and shed blood of Jesus at the Cross – so they can be forgiven of their sins – no longer being separated from God but being with Him forever. That is why we do for one another and everyone else…it’s through love….love of our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus…and the love of and for Jesus.
In verses 17 to 19, Paul asks Philemon to receive Onesimus as he would Paul….not as a runaway bondservant…but as a brother in Jesus showing the same love he would show Paul. Paul is asking that Philemon not treat Onesimus as a runaway bondservant according to Roman law….but under the law of Jesus….according to love, grace, and mercy…like brothers and sisters in Christ are supposed to treat one another….in love. Paul says that if Onesimus owes you anything…if Onesimus has any debt to you….charge it to me….I will repay it….
Jesus paid our debt did He not…..we owe God our very lives….He created us and we have all sinned against Him….all of us…..and sin has a penalty…..the penalty is eternal death….eternal separation from God in hell…..but God charged our debt to Himself….God the Son, Lord Jesus, paid the penalty for our sins so that anyone who calls on His name would be saved…removing the penalty of eternal separation from the equation.
In verses 20 and 21, Paul appeals to Philemon to do the right thing….Paul says act like we are from Missouri and show me…show me the love of Christ is in you like I have seen and heard of before….show everyone….like all those in the church have witnessed in you previously….give us an example of Jesus’ love here on earth….do the right thing and show that you love your brother in Christ….show the same grace to Onesimus that Jesus shows everyone…..show the same mercy that God demonstrated for all of mankind. Paul further states that he knows Philemon will do the right thing and go far above and beyond the bare minimum in demonstrating love, grace, and mercy to Onesimus. Paul was confident in Philemon response…that Philemon would see Onesimus as someone to love, to forgive, and to fellowship with. They were all brothers in Christ after all.
Onesimus did wrong by Philemon when he ran away. Yet Paul appealed to Philemon, letting him know that he must demonstrate the same love Jesus demonstrated when He died on the Cross for our sins, so we could be forgiven of those sins. Philemon had to forgive Onesimus out of authentic faith, in love, for the fellowship.
Just over 2 years ago, I fell into depression…. and it took me a while to realize it. It took me even longer to seek some help. I ended up going to a total of 5 of my brothers in Christ for help. The first two had something else going on, and one of those was in no state to help me, though I did not realize it at the time. The next two changed the subject as soon as I stated what I was going through. The last one I went to twice….and both of those times he just talked about himself. And during the second time, I had even told him how much I was hurt by the first discussion…and he just talked about himself again. I received no help or relief from any of them. I went to each of the first 4 men and discussed my previous attempts for help….we talked and forgave one another. All good…still friends with each. The 5th one I have not gone back to for a 3rd attempt….we haven’t talked since our last discussion. I have known for a while, in my heart, that I need to forgive and move on. He is the one I have on paper that I need to forgive.
Do you have someone to forgive? Has someone wronged you. Has that someone sought your forgiveness? Did you withhold that forgiveness? Has another Christian or a group of Christians wronged you? Has someone here offended you or wronged you in some way? Do you look at people and see outward appearances…or do you see people the way Jesus sees people? If any of this is true for you, I urge you to see people the way Jesus sees people. I urge you to forgive just as Jesus forgave you. He died on the Cross for you, so He could forgive you for your sins…all the wrongs you’ve done against Him. Jesus did it all for you because He loves you. He forgave you and so you must forgive others. If you are a Christian and your love is authentic….you must forgive for the sake of the fellowship of believers and love for our Lord and Savior.
The fellowship of believers is anyone anywhere that confesses Jesus is Lord….believing, preaching, teaching, and proclaiming the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus according to God’s Word….believing in the one and only true God and Creator of the universe….God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Now go back and look at the name you wrote down last week. That someone that has wronged you, that person you have not forgiven needs a clean break from your unforgiveness – you need a clean break from an unforgiving heart – because to love is to forgive……and if they are a Christian…if they are in the fellowship of believers…you need to forgive them because of the love we are to share and to live as part of God’s family. Amen!