How It Started. How It's Going.
Good morning and welcome to this gathering of Hope Bible Fellowship. I am so overjoyed that you decided to gather with us to worship the Living God. Today we begin a series of messages that will take us on a journey through the book of Philippians. I know this is a favorite book for many and I’m excited to mine the depths of what God is saying to His people through it. I am indebted to Tony Merida for his diligent study and cohesive writing on this letter. He has helped me greatly. I would recommend his wonderful commentary on Philippians if you want to dig even deeper.
As we wade deeper and deeper into the glorious truths of this letter, you will find that it is extremely relevant to the very life situations you find yourself in day by day.
We ask questions like:
Is it easy to be a Christian in today's world?
Where should we look for true joy?
Where do we find meaning and purpose in life?
Do you need deep and encouraging friendships?
How does a church grow in unity?
Be on the lookout for the answers to those as we go on this journey together.
Philippians is a favorite book of the Bible for many. This is evident in how many "life verses" we see in the book.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Philippians 3:10-11, 13-14
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
In Philippians 2:6-11 there is this amazing Christ hymn that glories in the humiliation of Christ and His willingness to serve and give His life willingly.
This brings us to the beginning of how we are going to break down this introduction to Philippians for you. We are going to make a play on a popular meme or internet trend and look at HOW IT STARTED AND HOW IT'S GOING.
I. How It Started
I. How It Started
We need to get a little context to the letter so we can understand what is going on and what it meant to those first people to hear it. This letter is written by the Apostle Paul and there are very few who would dispute that. He is writing from prison, ten years after having established the church in Philippi. His tone is warm and friendly as this is a church that he loves. Throughout the letter, his theological instruction is woven into the fabric of his words and he gives care to those words because of his relationship with the church. This group at Philippi, this church, had special significance for Paul. It was the first church that he planted in Europe.
Philippi. It is written of Philippi that it was the most Roman city that Paul visited. It was so like Rome that when someone would come to Philippi they might look around and think, "this reminds me of Rome." Paul is writing this letter to Christians in this colony of Rome, Philippi.
In order to more fully understand what is going on in the book of Philippians, we are actually going to spend some time today in the book of Acts. Turn to Acts 16:6 and as we read it and the following verses we will see the beginning of the Philippian church.
As Merida points out, we see two things that factor heavily into the beginning of the church at Philippi.
A. Submission/Surrender to the Spirit
A. Submission/Surrender to the Spirit
And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
This is submitting to God working out His plan to get the gospel to the ends of the earth. We see this pattern forming of God using ordinary guys to fulfill the mission. His mission. He directs them by His "gracious providence" and the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Friends, sometimes we just need to recognize that in His providence and sovereign plan, God OFTEN directs our path by shutting doors."
Many of the most well known missionary giants that we look to as hero's had the experience of wanting to go somewhere but ending up serving somewhere else. Your task is to simply faithfully carry out the work that God gives you day in and day out. And always be ready and willing to change directions as the Holy Spirit leads you.
Maybe you are spending too much time on your five year plan and not enough on your next ten day plan. Don't waste your life. Follow Jesus now, not just in the future. What is there that you've been putting off? Telling someone about Jesus? A new work that the Spirit is leading you to start? Have you recently had coffee or lunch with someone who doesn't know the Lord Jesus?
These are important questions because a second point that factored into the beginning of the Philippian church was also: evangelistic encounters.
B. Evangelistic Encounters
B. Evangelistic Encounters
So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
The church in Philippi didn't really start with a bang. It didn't start with a big team of people and a band and a smoke machine. It started small, quiet, and lowly. It starts as Paul encounters this women's prayer meeting. He meets a woman named Lydia who was a God-fearer in all likelihood. She wasn't a Christian... yet. Paul begins teaching and God opens her heart and her mind to believe the gospel.
You are not alone when you share the gospel. The Spirit is working. We have to trust this truth that God is one who opens hearts. Paul went to a new area where no one had reached with the gospel. He preached the Bible and you know what happened? People got saved. People came to know Jesus. It still works like that.
This should act as encouragement for us to do the work of evangelism and church planting.
II. How It's Going.
II. How It's Going.
Paul's chief theme in the letter is encouragement. He wants to encourage them to live out their lives as citizens of a heavenly colony/kingdom. This would be evident by the outflow of increased service to God and one another. The way of life described by Paul was shown perfectly and uniquely in Jesus Christ. As we will see though, it was also evident in the lives of Paul, Timothy, and their good buddy Epaphroditus.
Paul and Timothy who is with him are sending this letter to the saints (Christians) in Philippi with the overseers and deacons. Their message was grace and peace, gratitude and affection.
Let's take a look at the first two verses in the letter to the Philippians and see how Paul addresses them and what we can take away from that to set ourselves up for the rest of the series.
Read Philippians 1:1-2 “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
At the beginning of the letter we have this salutation or greeting. Paul does some things in this section that if we aren't careful, we might zip right by.
First, he designates Timothy and himself as servants. This emphasis will carry on throughout the rest of the letter. It is especially evident in the section on the humiliation of Christ from Philippians 2:5-11.
We see God’s amazing grace in the stories of the lives of the senders of this letter.
Paul - from persecuting the church to planting churches
Timothy - taught about the Lord by his mother and grandmother and raised up as a pastor-elder by Paul
Paul refers to the Christians that he is writing to as saints. There is grace displayed in the simple fact that he can call them saints. What is a saint? It’s not some special designation of some super beyond amazing person or a turbo Christian. They had become saints because they had heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and repented of their sin and believed the good news. Paul preached pure gospel. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, perfect in every way, crucified as a substitute for us, sinners, died in our place, and risen from the dead three days later. And if you repent of your sin and turn to Jesus, trusting the good news that He died in your place for your sins and rose to life again, then you too get to be called a saint. It’s another word for Christ-follower. Christian. Saint.
As I mentioned earlier, Paul addresses the overseers and deacons. This is just a reminder that the overseers were the elders/pastors who have spiritual oversight over the congregation. Deacons are entrusted with matters of practical service. We see more grace displayed in that some of them had risen to the office of elders and deacons. Grace that God provides His church with qualified men to equip and serve the saints on their mission of advancing the gospel. The local church is plan A for spreading the gospel and there is NO plan B.
Another key theme in this affectionate thank you letter is joy even in hardship.
Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus are mentioned because they exemplified what a Christ-centered, gospel focused life Paul wanted the Philippians to emulate.
Because he was in prison, the only way for Paul to encouragement as he wanted to was via letter.
He’s assuring the church that even though he’s in prison, he is still in good spirits. He’s really eager as well, to thank them for their continued support. Epaphroditus had brought a gift from the church to Paul. So Paul is writing back and thanking them for their support and friendship. But it’s more than a thank you note. He’s wanting to encourage them to persevere with JOY in spite of opposition. He even draws on common military language of the time, exhorting them to spread the gospel bravely as fellow servants of the true king, Jesus, in the face of terrifying opposition. Yet another theme throughout is partnership for the advance of the gospel. It’s not just about joy but about fearlessly advancing the gospel with JOY and working together in hardship.
Merida points out six challenges of application from the book of Philippians as a whole. I want to share these and you can be looking for them as we go along.
1. Recognize that gospel advancement will cost us BUT Jesus is worth it.
2. Fight for joy in Christ.
3. Maintain the Unity of the Spirit.
4. Become a “Macedonian giver.”
- 2 Cor. 8:1-7
1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.
Not letting hardship or opposition curtail our generosity.
5. Learn what gospel partnership looks like.
6. As a church, let’s give the world a picture of the coming kingdom of God.
“This looks like the kingdom of God.”
Ask musicians to come up.
Response-At the Altar
Surrendering to what the Lord will show us in this letter as we walk through it. Signing the blank check and letting God fill in the amount with your life...
Some of you: God is going to probably tell you some things and show you some things and call you out on some things with this book and you need to decide what you’re going to do when He moves in you. Are you going to say yes, Lord or be obstinate and complacent? You need to make that choice.
I’m going to do something kind of different. I haven’t done this here with Hope yet but it’s something that I have done many times in the past. The front of this room, right up here, we are going to call our altar. We’re going to have some altar prayer time. So if the Lord has spoken to you and you need to do business with God I want to invite you as we sing this next song to step out of your row and make your way down here and simply kneel and do business with God. It might have something to do with the message and it might be unrelated but I want to invite you to come and submit yourself to what God has said and is saying to you in His Word. We won’t prolong it like one of those old tent revivals but I want to provide this time. It’s five or six minutes dedicated to God’s people seeking God’s face in prayer. You absolutely can pray in your row where you are at right now. If you physically can’t get down here do that. You can sit on the front row as well. The point is I once heard someone say that physical actions have spiritual consequences. I don’t know if that plays all the way out. But I do know there is something to it. So come and pray during this song. This is your time to seek the Lord. I ‘m going to pray and then you come.