Faithlife Sermons

2018-04-08 Philippians 1:9 Fellowship in Growth (1): Growth Means Loving Fervently

Philippians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  42:36
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FELLOWSHIP IN GROWTH (1): GROWTH MEANS LOVING FERVENTLY (Philippians 1:9) April 8, 2018 Read Phil 1:9 – A new father said to his bachelor brother one day, “Steve, if you like kids so much, why don’t you change the baby.” Quick on his feet, Steve replied, “I’d really like to – but he’s got to want to change.” Oh, for a child who wants to grow up, right?! And guess what? That’s not only what God wants for His children. It’s what He expects of them. To grow up. God gave leaders in Eph 4:12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. . . to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children.” Paul’s goal in Col 1:28b was to “present everyone mature in Christ.” So he urges in I Cor 14:20: “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking.” “Grow up!” The Word is critical to this process. I Pet 2:2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” We must know the Word; we must live it. That’s Paul’s point in Phil 1:9-11. He wants them to grow – “abound more and more.” “Don’t be satisfied with where you are – grow.” We’re all moving one direction or the other. Forward or backward. Stagnant is movement in reverse. Growth is our lifetime privilege. Howard Hendricks had an 86-year-old friend he met at a Christmas party. "Well, Hendricks, I haven't seen you for while. What are the five best books you've read recently?" 86 years old – still growing. When she died shortly after her daughter found what she had written the night before – her goals for the next 10 years. She knew when you stop growing, you start dying. So Paul urges two elements of growth I. Love Fervently (9). II. Live Fruitfully (10-11). This is fellowship in growth. It’s what he prays for them. It’s what I pray for all of us. So, how do we love fervently? I. Love Increasingly Paul’s prayers are always for spiritual welfare? He cared about physical infirmities – but he always had eternity in view. That’s instructive to us. Here he starts with the highest priority: “9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more.” “The greatest thing I can hope and pray for you is not that you will be more right – but that you will be more loving.” 1 Note, love has no object here? Is Paul praying they will love God more – or others? I think he purposely left it open. They are one and the same to Paul. We can’t just conjure up love on demand. This love comes from God as we know and love Him more. I Jn 4: 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” See the connection? “Whoever loves knows God.” The key to loving both God and others is to know God. The more we know Him, the better we love – both Him and others. Love abounds when we know God better and better! So how do we to get to know God better? Same as with anyone. You spend time with them. You talk, listen, reminisce, look forward, mourn and rejoice – you do life together. God is no different. As we listen to Him daily in His Word, talk to Him in prayer, remember past blessings and plan future events in His will – as we mourn and rejoice with Him – living life with Him we will abound in love more and more. Our devotional life is the key to our love life! Paul Manning and his wife Marie toured Norway a few years ago. Marie went out alone one morning and she came across a garden so lovely she could not resist opening the gate and entering. Shortly she became aware that she had aroused a man napping in a hammock. Immediately she said, “I’m so sorry, but I just could not resist coming in; your garden is so magnificent.” It turned out the man she had aroused was Norway’s King Olav who said, “You’re welcome to look around. I’m happy to have people enjoy it.” Well, God’s inviting us into the garden of His presence – to find that it is so magnificent that it changes us. How can we be angry at some petty issue when we see God is in charge of everything? How can we pray for others and still stay mad at them? Know God better and you’ll love others more. Some of the Philippians – well-intentioned – loved co-laborers of Paul – were mad at each other. We don’t know the issue. Maybe it was door-to-door evangelism vs. friendship evangelism – blue carpet vs. beige. We don’t know. But both thought they were right and wanted it their way. They failed to see it was more important to LOVE each other than it was to be RIGHT! Most of us never learn that critical lesson. The Corinthians fought, too. Those speaking in tongues felt superior. Those who prophesied thought they had the edge. Paul rebuked both. II Cor 13:1, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I 2 have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” So I could speak in a hundred languages, author the book of Revelation – give my very life – but without love – IT IS NOTHING! You can be completely right – and still be wrong! How – no love! God puts way more premium on loving others than on being right. We can’t sacrifice truth or morality. But beyond that, Paul’s message is Get over yourself. You want to abound in something? Abound in love! Get an A+ in that! Edith Rodriquez arrived at an ER in LA one night with a perforated bowel. She was bleeding to death and needed attention. But the staff didn’t believe it was serious and made her wait. A janitor mopped up around her as she lay on the floor vomiting. Her boyfriend called 911 – but they declared it was not an emergency since she was already at the hospital. Mary died a short time later. The hospital was eventually shut down. Like a lot of churches ought to be shut down – ignoring hurting, dying people while keeping the floor clean, the colors right, having it our way. God doesn’t care if it’s done your way or not – but He cares deeply if we love one another. Let’s work hard on that! II. Love Intelligently 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge.” Love with knowledge. What does that mean? Drop the sentimentalism. True love doesn’t say, “Well, if that’s what you want, go for it. Don’t want to hurt your feelings. You know what’s best for you; I’m just here to support you.” That’s not love. That’s sentimental nonsense. Love tells the truth. When your 2-year-old reaches for the butcher knife you don’t say, “Go for it, Johnny. I won’t hurt your feelings. I’m just here to support you.” You’ll gladly hurt his feelings to keep him from danger! You have knowledge your child does not have. True love expresses that knowledge – even if it hurts. Tell the truth. Do it with love but tell the truth. Otherwise, it isn’t love; it’s sentimental hogwash. Paul says in Eph 4:15 we are to be “speaking the truth in love.” “Speak the truth. Do it in love; but speak the truth.” The foundation of love is knowledge – knowledge from the Word. Col 1:9, “ . . . we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” The knowledge Paul prayed for them was the knowledge of the Word. Why? Bc he 3 loved them. See, true love has content. Peter urges in II Pet 3:18a, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” How does one grow? By knowing Christ. We should want that for every believer. So, in real life, how do I love with the knowledge? Suppose one of you young people come to me with your boyfriend or girlfriend. You want to marry and honored me by asking me to officiate. Here’s what you need to know. At the first session I’ll ask you, “Are you sexually involved?” Tough question. Why do I ask? It would be a lot easier not even to bring it up. Don’t I want you to enjoy an intimate relationship? Absolutely. And human wisdom says, “It’s okay if you’re committed. It would be unloving to deny that expression”. But the knowledge of the Word says that relationship is wonderful within marriage and potentially devastating outside of it. Sex is potent. It’s like a fire – works great in a fireplace – but let it get out onto the carpet and catch the Christmas tree on fire and devastation ensues. Intimacy in marriage is one of God’s greatest gifts. Outside marriage it is a time bomb. And I would not be loving you if I did not tell you that. Love – with knowledge. Anytime we do or tell someone something contrary to the Word – even with the best intentions in the world, we are not loving them; we are cheating them of truth they need, and enabling their rebellion against their Creator – even tho it feels oh so kind and loving. Even churches are not immune to this error. A couple of years ago the Presbyterian Church USA asked songwriters Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend to change the lyrics of In Christ Alone. Instead of “On that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied” they wanted “On that cross, as Jesus died, the love of God was magnified.” They felt God’s wrath would offend people – be unloving – so they wanted those words out. To their credit, Getty and Townsend refused. They realized what would be unloving would be to hide the truth of the Word. They preferred to abound in love with knowledge – not hiding knowledge. Hiding truth is never loving. Oprah Winfrey is a lover, right? Wouldn’t want to hurt anyone. So she recently assured an audience, “One of the biggest mistakes humans make is to believe there is only one way. Actually, there are many diverse paths leading to what you call God.” So now everybody goes away feeling good about themselves – feeling loved, right? But what if what God says in Prov 14:12 is true: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” What if Jesus was right when He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” What if that’s 4 true? Then was Oprah exhibiting love – or mere sentimentalism not based in knowledge. Love must always be based in the knowledge of the Word. III. Love Insightfully 9) And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.” Discernment -- moral discrimination or ethical judgment. In this context it means an ability to apply knowledge to a real-life experience. And this may help. It is the opposite of enabling. There is a fine line between love and enabling. We must always ask, “Will my actions help this person or will my actions enable this person to continue down a path of bad judgments.” That answer may differ greatly depending on the temperament, personality and repentance of the other person. It takes discernment to see the difference. True love does not always mean to give everything you can to someone. Love is sometimes indicated by withholding. Discernment under the power of the HS help is tell the difference. Someone has said, “A child, like your stomach, doesn’t need all you can afford to give it.” We all know it would not be loving to give all ice cream to a child even though that might be their definition of love. Abounding love is discriminating. It is insightful regarding what is really needed in a given situation. Alexander Strauch, who has written some wonderful books on pastoring and church government was fired from his first job as a youth pastor. He confronted a supposed Xn young man about his drug use. When that failed he went to the parents. But they would not believe him. That led to a year of conflict and false accusations against Strauch leading to his dismissal. The parents and the church leaders believed the boy as opposed to Strauch. Were they loving their son by backing him up? No – they were destroying their son by enabling him to continue his drug use by their misplaced faith in him. He later repented his sin, confessed to his parents and others, including Strauch and got help. But no thanks to Mom and Dad. They loved their son, yes, but not insightfully, with discernment and true leadership. In that situation he could not grow and they could not grow. A faulty love stifled the whole process. Love sometimes hurts; but love that abounds more and more is willing to confront, to rebuke if necessary, to withhold where appropriate and to challenge. It is never condescending or judgmental, but it is discerning and insightful. 5 Conc – Heb 10:24-25 challenges us: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” So how do we help each other grow to Christlikeness? First priority – love fervently. Not half-heartedly. Not purely out of a sense of duty, and not just those for whom we have a natural affinity. But fervently – realizing that in acting in a loving way toward all believers we are actually loving our Lord. That allows us to love fervently. And that grows all of us. When R. C. Sproul was in seminary he was asked by a wise old pastor, “Do you see the church as an army or as a hospital?” As a zealous student, Sproul answered that he saw both dimensions but concluded, “I see the church primarily as an army mobilized by God with the mission of changing the world.” That’s where the excitement was as he saw it. But the wise old man replied, “Son, unless the church is first a hospital it can never be an army.” Loving one another to health and Christlikeness is the priority that leads to growth and excitement and mobilization – not the other way around. The famous atheist, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, made the cynical comment, "The church is the only army who shoots their own wounded." That statement is partially an exaggeration driven by her hostility to Christianity – but it’s partly true, isn’t it? Makes you wonder if Mrs. O’Hair was once the victim of a church-imposed wound. Oh, Beloved, let it not be so with us. Let us love fervently – love God and love each other. Let’s pray. 6
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