Monday, July 9, 2007

The MAIN thing: Called to JOY

Philippians is the most personal letters written by Paul to a group. He writes of his personal contact with these people. He is always THINKING OF THEM 1:3-6. He tells them that THEY ARE IN HIS HEART 7-8. He tells them he IS ALWAYS PRAYING FOR THEM (9-11). This shows us what real fellowship and community is all about!

He speaks of the threefold work of the Gospel in people's hearts and lives:
o the work God does for us-salvation
o the work God does in us-sanctification
o the work God does through us-service

He speaks of the love that is found in those who hold onto the Lord as one that always forgives and forgets. ILL:
“Tell us of the blunders your wife has made,” asked the radio quizmaster to a contestant. “I can't remember any,” the man answered. “Oh, surely you can remember something?” “No, I really can't. I love my wife very much and I just don't remember things like that!”

1st Corinthians 13:5 says the “love keeps no record of wrongs.” niv

Paul has more than just a passing concern for these people; he really loved them! But it was not Paul's love channeled through Christ (not a human thing made to look Christian); it was Christ's love channeled through Paul. When we allow God's love to perform His good work in us, then we grow in our love for one another in a big way. And that builds community!

Paul has, indeed, a single mind; that is-he lives for the Gospel and for Jesus. His hardships that he faced-even in a Roman jail-he considered as joy because it all caused the Gospel to advance. His life strengthened THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE GOSPEL 1-11, promoted the FURTHERANCE OF THE GOSPEL 12-26, and guarded the FAITH OF THE GOSPEL 27-30. It was centered on Jesus.

For Him alone! Not a concern for the things of life-directed on Jesus.In fact, it might be good for us to stay here all summer long! This book is becoming my number one book in the Bible. All we need to know about Him is in here. Its focus is on the positive!

Three items Paul brings to the table and then gives details:
1. Here is Paul's own personal goal for life-his deepest yearning to be like Jesus at his own resurrection. Something to live toward!
2. This letter contains one of THE most detailed and powerful New Testament affirmations of Christ's Deity and Lordship. Jesus who was God for all eternity emptied Himself in obedience to His Father become a man and after suffering death and separation, was raised again to His original glory and given the Name that is above all names: He is LORD! Is He Lord of your life?
3. The need for Joy to be in the believer's life. Rejoice and joy occur many times and Paul suggests a helpful strategy for those who want to follow this advice. Do need joy in your life?

In two places in the Gospels, Jesus invites us to have JOY in our life. John 15:10-11

10 If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father's commands and remain in His love. 11 I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

John 16:24 24

Until now you have not asked for anything in My Name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

Joy comes from the Holy Spirit and is a fruit of His presence in our lives.

Gal 5:22 22

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

1 Thess 1:6

6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

Joy does not come to us through material possessions but rather is overflowing of salvation. Acts 8:8
8 So there was great joy in that city.
People were excited and filled with JOY=Salvation.

34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God-he and his whole family.
Salvation came to them!
Even when things go hard for us, His Joy can be realized.
James 1:2-3 2
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
1 Peter 1:6-7

6 In this Salvation you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Even deeply pagan people can find joy in what they experience around them BECAUSE it was God Himself that provided those things in life. They can find joy in the things that God has given so liberally to ALL mankind. It is His pleasure to do so as it is a means of letting the World know of His salvation.
Two words: Happy and Joy. Matt 5:6

Happy is the man who's greatest desire is to what God has required him to do. God will satisfy Him fully. (GFMM)

What makes you happy? What keeps you happy? What brings you Joy? What makes you joyful?
As we realize WHERE Paul is when he is penning this letter puts a new light on the reality of his Faith. He was in prison in a rented room that he was paying for all while being chained to two guards who could hear the whole message. The one who was called to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles was now locked up-his letters however, were free to go well beyond his confinement.
And as we read this letter, we can hear the same joy he had when he was in their city. He had been in their jail there as well! Now, he had reached the most distant countries by prayer and by letters. He was convinced by his own Lord that (vs 6)
6 being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the Day of Christ Jesus.
There were other areas he could feel confidence; by being chained to Prae-to-ri-an guard. These men had dealings with the leaders of Rome. Men of incredible rank and power. By being thus 'tied down', he was not able to finish his traveling but the Word did get around. Some found it sad for Paul while others went at it 100% in the wrong direction. Yet some had become more zealous in sharing the Good news because of the chains.
The Praetorian Guard consisted of a special force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors.
Look at 1:4-5
4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now.
He writes of praying with joy for the church because of their partnership in sharing in the spreading of the Gospel and not because of the salvation itself. It was not a “YEAH for us! We got IT!” But that the joy that was set before the followers of Christ was that they helped get the Word of God out into the world around them. How is your joy factor? What joy do you find in sharing in this Gospel Band?
When things hit the floor and go thru it, Paul said it was great! Well, see 4:11.

11 for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances

“These chains are my friends!” because it brings me closer to Jesus than without them.
He was also 'glad' when others used his time in jail to promote their own program. He was glad because the Word was getting out there regardless of his expense. “Christ is preached” was his joy. (4:8)

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.

Paul shows us that when we engage in the sharing of the Gospel, we too would find real joy. As we find ourselves reaching out to the needs of others around us with the Good News of Jesus' Gift of Salvation, we too will find and discover that ever present overflowing Spirit-produced inner joy.
Paul was interested in community. When Paul wrote 2:2,

2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

What did he mean?
Turns to an Old Testament image to liken himself to a drink offering…as a sacrifice. 2:17

17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.

Such an offering was intended to add its own rich savor to the basic sacrifice-like what salt does to food. He had a different view of his death then most anytime! His death would not be a loss, but it would be a joyful service on his part for those who came to know Jesus thru him. He encourages his followers and fellow believers NOT to look at his death as something wrong or lacking in joy but rather to rejoice with him that he was counted worthy to give himself up for them.
His final joy in this chapter was that he was joyful that one from their city, Epaphroditus, who had came close to dying, was now well and alive. His deep illness was a cause for concern for Paul.
Here is a walk on thin line. When is it OK to be concerned for something/one and when is it too much to be concerned? By keeping our focus on Jesus; WWJD? In the storm, He slept. Friend died, He waited three days-to bring Glory to His Father-us too!
Here, the emphasis or focus is not on the Gospel itself as on those who have responded to that call to follow. Trust in Him!
Joy, according to Paul, comes from Jesus Himself: by knowing Him in His fullness. Not the regular Sunday School material here. Are you ready to go deeper with the Lord than you had before? And why not? Don't you desire the Joy of the Lord?
When we have been drawn near to the Lord Jesus, rather than become anxious, we are to present everything to the Lord-all our needs/ concerns/ fears/ demands/ pressure/--all that is on us and give it to Him. As a living sacrifice…” And do that with all thankfulness in our hearts and minds. As we do that, God's Own Peace and Joy will be ours! His Joy will fill us.
And as we continue to be thankful, we are reminded to bring all thoughts under His Power and control. We are to fix our hearts and minds on Jesus. We are to focus all on whatever is true, and noble, putting our faith in Jesus into practice, and in that way, experience God with us-incarnationally. Him-alive in us, the Hope of Glory.
Philippians 3:14-15

13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.