Last week Cheryl & I went with Scott & Tina to get some fruit trees at the Fairgrounds — and we bought two different avocado trees and two satsumas. I LOVE avocados, so if those trees really produce a good crop, I will be in hog heaven (or guacamole heaven!) here in SW Texas! We planted those trees that Saturday morning we got them, and we tried to follow the directions, and do all we were supposed to when we planted them, but I don’t know how much confidence I would say I have that we will ever get fruit from them. There are SO many variables: frost can take them out, I hear, and root mold — plus I don’t trust myself to keep them up and protect them the way I should. We’ll see; I mean I HOPE so, but on a scale on 1-10 … I don’t know how confident I would say am that we will see fruit from it!
But thank God we can have more confidence than that in our future as God’s people! Paul writes to the Philippians here about the confidence he has in their their future, and he says:
“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. 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.”
Here we see that Paul was very confident of the Philippians’ walk with God: where they had been; where they were now, and where they were headed in the future. That confidence was based on several things:
I. Paul’s Prayer
One of the reasons Paul was confident about them is that he was always praying for them. He really was a “prayer warrior” on their behalf. We see several indicators here of his devoted prayer life for the Philippians:
— “I thank my God in ALL my remembrance of you”— “all” implies he does it a lot!
— “ALWAYS offering prayer with joy” (here we see the first mention of the word “joy,” as we said last week, joy is perhaps THE theme of Philippians) but he says he was “always” offering those joyful prayers for them.
— “in my EVERY prayer for you all”
So we see these words: “ALL … ALWAYS .. EVERY …” all of these terms indicate how Paul was just continually praying for the Philippians. He was saying that he prayed for the Philippians and their church at LOT!
If this was all we ever saw of the prayer life of the Apostle Paul, we’d know that he was a committed intercessory pray-er. But as we read the rest of the New Testament we see it was not only for the Philippians that he was praying this way:
— He told the Corinthians “I thank my God always concerning you” (1:4)
— He told the Romans he was “always in my prayer making request” (:10)
— He told the Ephesians “I do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (1:16)
— He told the Colossians he was “praying always for you” (1:3)
— And the Thessalonians “we give thanks to God always for all of you” (1:2)
Paul told all these people, in all these churches, that he was always praying for them! I’ve said several times: Paul was either one of the greatest pray-ers in the history of Christendom, or he was one of the biggest LIARS ever! And I’m pretty sure the latter is NOT the case! Paul was constantly praying, because He KNEW how important prayer was for the spiritual growth and health of the church, and the people in it. So he was committed to be constantly interceding for them in prayer.
See, Paul had to leave this little church at Philippi early, because of the persecution he experienced there. What would happen to them after he left?! It would be like if I had to leave my little avocado tree after I had just planted it; I’d be concerned about what would happen to it — only infinitely more important, because it was people’s SOULS involved here! Many of us might tend to worry about the folks we had left behind; but Paul didn’t worry; instead he committed himself to pray.
A famous verse in Philippians 4:6J says: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God …”. We’ll talk about that some more in the days ahead, but the basic message there is; don’t worry about anything; but PRAY about everything.
Paul modeled that for the Philippians and for us, here. He had to leave that little church at Philippi not long after he planted it, but he didn’t WORRY about them — instead he PRAYED for them. He constantly guarded these people he loved, and their church, in prayer.
Jesus did that same thing. In John 17:12 He said, “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name.” Jesus GUARDED His disciples in prayer. And we should do that too.
I love our police chief here, Aaron Ausmus, who is a fine Christian, and who has regular monthly meetings with those of us who are pastors. I was at the pastor’s luncheon Tuesday, and Chief Ausmus’ focus was on church security. He talked about how, as a police chief, he of is course always on the alert for security issues, keeping his eye out for potential church shooters or whatever. In fact, he said he was in a church last Sunday, and he said he noticed three different people who came into the worship service, whom he identified as “suspicious.” He said he could hardly focus on worship, because he was just always “on the lookout” for what these guys might do. (By the way, let me say I am grateful for the men of our church who serve on our church security team, who keep “on the lookout” for us every week.)
We need to make sure that we are doing that same thing for our loved ones: WATCH over them; “keeping” them like Jesus did His disciples, through our intercessory prayers. Don’t wait until an emergency or crisis comes up in their life; KEEP them from falling into a crisis of faith or morals, or whatever, in the first place, by guarding them in prayer. Many of us would admit today that we are anxious for loved ones in our family, or our friends, or our church — but Paul says “don’t be anxious; PRAY!”
We need to make sure that that is what we are doing:
— Don’t WORRY about our church; (we are taking a big step today with our groundbreaking for the new building; but don’t worry — like Paul did for the Philippians, PRAY for your church!
— Don’t WORRY that a family member might not keep walking with the Lord; like Jesus did His disciples, KEEP them through your fervent prayer!
— Don’t WORRY about your husband or kids; PRAY for them!
— Don’t WORRY about that issue in your life; PRAY for it!
Whatever you are tempted to worry about; let that be your cue: to PRAY for it! Turn your worries (which don’t help anyone) into prayers to God, who CAN do something about it: PRAY for the salvation of those you love; PRAY for their spiritual growth; PRAY that God would hold and keep them. Don’t worry; but constantly PRAY! Thank God that just like Paul, we have this weapon of prayer, to use to protect those we love. We can have confidence in the future as we are faithful to constantly lift our requests up to God on prayer.
II. Their Participation
Paul had a certain level of confidence in the Philippians’ walk with God, because of the PARTICIPATION they had had in the gospel from the first day until now.
The word “participation” here is a Bible word man of us are familiar with: “koinonia.” We often think of “koinonia” as “fellowship,” and the word can be translated “fellowship.” But Paul wasn’t saying here that he was grateful that the Philippians were eating a meal in the fellowship hall! “Koinonia” means to “share together” something in common. It CAN mean to share together in a meal; but it can also mean a lot more than that. And really, the way Paul uses it here is the most important of all: that they were “sharing together” in the gospel. They had a part in, they were sharing in; they were participating in, the gospel of salvation through Christ.
— They began by participating in the gospel message itself. We talked before about how this church at Philippi began:
— Lydia was saved at the riverside
— The jailer was saved at the prison
These were some of the first ones saved, and there were more there who were saved as they heard the gospel message.
What was that message that saved them? Acts 16 shows us. Paul & Silas were in prison, but they were praising God at midnight. A severe earthquake struck, and when the jailer ran in, he saw the prison doors were opened, and he was about to kill himself (because the punishment for letting prisoners escape was death) — but Paul stopped him and said they were all there. And the Bible says the jailer fell down trembling before Paul & Silas and cried out: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they gave that famous answer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” And he DID believe the message, and he was baptized, and he immediately turned around and began to serve them. So the Philippian jailer SHARED in the gospel message, from the very beginning.
The question today is: have YOU shared in the gospel message? Do YOU have a part in it? Have YOU “believed on the Lord Jesus Christ” like he did, that you might be saved? And NOTICE the message here, of just what it takes to share in the gospel: it is NOT “be a good person” and you will be saved. That’s not the gospel.
Karen Rohr has a great book, which she loaned it to Bro. Bob, and Bob loaned it to me, and I read it last week, and it is truly an amazing book. It is called Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Qureshi. Qureshi was a very strong Muslim, who, to make a great story way too short, investigated both Islam and Christianity, and found that Christianity was true. We’ll share some of his story later. But he wrote that while he was still a devoted Muslim, he believed there were angels, one on your right shoulder writing down every good deed, and one on your left shoulder, recording every bad deed. And he believed when you died, Allah would weigh your deeds in the “scales” of judgment, and if your good deeds outweighed your bad, that you would go to Paradise. If they did not, then you would go to hell. That is basic Muslim theology. But honestly, that is what a lot of NON-Muslims in America believe too — even many people in our churches: let your good deeds outweigh your bad, and you will go to heaven. But we need to understand, that is NOT what the Bible teaches.
The Bible says we have ALL sinned; we saw in prayer meeting a week ago where Psalm 14 and Romans 3 tell us “there in NONE GOOD, not even ONE”! NONE of us can get to heaven by our good deeds. If our deeds were really weighed, like Nabeel Qureshi talked about, we would ALL be condemned before God. That is why God sent Jesus: to die on the cross and pay for our sins, so that we could be saved what He did on the cross for us — NOT by our good deeds. Putting your faith in JESUS is how you get a “fellowship, a share, in the gospel:
— Paul did NOT tell that jailer: “be good and you will be saved;
— He did NOT tell him: “go to church” and you will be saved.
— He did NOT say: “get baptized” and you will be saved.
He said: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” and you will be saved.
Make sure that your faith is in what Jesus did for you on the cross; not any good deeds you have done. If you haven’t done it before, make sure today that YOU have fellowship in the gospel, through faith in Christ.
So the jailer in Philippi, and Lydia, and several others, “participated,” had “fellowship” in the gospel by putting their faith in Jesus. But THIS IS IMPORTANT: THEY DIDN’T STOP THERE! Paul said to them: you participated in the gospel from the very first — and you STILL ARE! Once they had taken a share in the gospel, then they CONTINUED to show that their faith was real by continuing to participate in the gospel ministry. They did this in several ways:
— First, they were baptized. They had a “fellowship” in Jesus baptism. Matthew 3 tells us that Jesus was baptized. He didn’t “have” to be baptized, John said. Jesus had no sins to repent of! But Jesus “fellowshipped” with us, by bearing our sins, so He was baptized. And He asks all of those who put their faith in Him, to “fellowship” with HIM through sharing in His baptism. Baptism is really a picture of fellowship with Jesus. It is a sharing in what He did. Just as Jesus died, and was buried, and rose again, so in baptism we go down into the water, and come back up — as a picture of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. So when you are baptized, you are “fellowshipping” with Jesus in all that. And He asks all of His followers to take that step. Acts 16 says the jailer and his family were baptized; others in the Philippian church were baptized; in Matthew 28 Jesus commanded ALL His disciples to be baptized — and if you are going to walk in fellowship with the Lord, YOU need to be baptized too. If you haven’t done that, and need to, come tell me during the invitation today.
— But there are other ways we can “fellowship” in the gospel. Paul says here in :5 that the Philippians “participated” in the gospel with him — he’s talking about sharing together as a part of the ministry. The Philippians were workers together with Him; that’s what those who have shared in the gospel do; they turn around and share in the gospel ministry. There are a lot of ways to “fellowship” and share in the ministries of the gospel:
— you can teach the gospel to adults, children or young people
— you can sing the gospel in the choir to God’s people (and our choir is taking the gospel “on the road” to the Clemens Unit prison again in April; that’s sharing in the fellowship of the gospel!)
— you can serve in different gospel ministries, like the Pregnancy Help Center, the House of Refuge for women, the Port Ministry, and others.
— you can GIVE to support the ministries of the gospel. That is another special theme of Philippians: Paul says the Philippians “fellowshipped” in the gospel by GIVING to support his work. He says a lot about that in Chapter 4. In :14 there he thanks them for “sharing” with him — the word “sharing” there has this same root “koinonia,” or “fellowship.” We can “fellowship” or share in the gospel, by giving, in a number of ways:
— When you give your basic tithe you have a “fellowship” or share in everything our church does, supporting the pastors, and missionaries our church supports, and every ministry our church does.
— When you give to “Acts 1:8” or the other mission offerings, you have a “fellowship” in what those missionaries we are supporting do.
— When you give to our Building Fund, you have a “fellowship”, a share, in putting that new building up (that we are breaking ground on in just a few minutes!) that God is going to use to “reach and teach and care for people” for generations to come!
Are you “fellowshipping” in the work of the gospel through your giving? Do you have a part in our church’s ministries through your tithe, missions giving, and the building fund? In just a few months, when that building stands complete, are you going to be able to say “WE built that” – or are you going to have to say, “THEY built it”? Do you have a “fellowship,” a “part” in what we are doing with that, through your giving, just like the Philippians did with Paul’s ministry? One of the decisions some of us church members may need to make today is to start giving regularly to help with this building, so that you have a “share,” a “fellowship” in it!
Paul was confident in the Philippians because they had a “fellowship;” a part in the gospel, first by personally receiving it; and then by CONTINUING to share in it by helping in the ministry. This is important: by continuing to participate in the Gospel, the Philippians demonstrated that they really had a share in it, in the first place. If they had said “Oh yeah, we believe in Jesus” — but then never followed up by sharing in the ministry from that time forward, you’d doubt whether they ever had a share in the gospel in the first place. And the same thing is true for us: If you don’t continue to fellowship in the Gospel: continuing to fellowship with God’s people in church; continuing to fellowship with His work in prayer and service and giving — then you are showing that you probably never had a share in it, in the first place.
III. God’s Protection
This is a very important point; perhaps THE most important point here: Paul’s ultimate confidence in the Philippians’ future was NOT based solely on their own own efforts. No, Paul says he is confident in the Philippians’ salvation, because “HE who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” He says GOD is the One who began this work in you, and GOD is the One who will finish it. As Paul says in 2:13 “it is GOD who is at work in you.” That GOD is working in us, is our confidence for our ultimate salvation.
I love the picture that Romans 8 gives us of this: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30)
Notice the chain here of God’s working: the ones He foreknew, He predestined; the ones He predestined, He called; the ones He called, He justified; and the ones He justified, He glorified.” Notice that is the SAME ONES ALL ALONG THE WAY: the same ones He foreknew in the beginning, are the same ones who end up being glorified in the end. NONE ARE LOST ALONG THE WAY! THAT is our confidence in salvation: NOT that we are so good that we will never fall away; but that “HE who began a good work in us, will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Our confidence is in the fact that GOD is working in us; GOD is keeping us; GOD is perfecting us; and He has promised to FINISH that work. Our confidence in our ultimate salvation is not in ourselves, but in GOD! Now, that doesn’t mean we sit back and do nothing; no, Philippians 2:12 says we are to “work out (our) salvation with fear and trembling.” But our confidence isn’t in ourselves; it is in GOD who is keeping us.
I remember when our son Michael was a little toddler, our family went to a baseball game in what was then the new ballpark in Arlington Texas. (they are replacing it with a new field this year) But it was new then, and we were excited to be there. We didn’t have a lot of money, so we didn’t get the best seats, and I was a little dismayed as we climbed up to our seats; it got higher and higher and higher, and it seemed really steep to me. It really gave us the feeling that we were very “high up.” And I’ll always remember, I was carrying Michael, who was just a little toddler, on my my hip. And I guess he could feel those heights too, because he had a hold on my shirt with his hands, like a vise-grip! But I remember thinking: it’s good that he is holding on to me as hard as he can — but his safety does not depend on how tightly HE holds on to me, but on how tightly I hold on to HIM!
And that is exactly how it is with us and God. Our confidence in our ultimate salvation is not based on how well we hold on to God; but on how strongly GOD holds on to US! HE is our confidence. And we can have ultimate confidence in Him.
It is just like that song sung by Keith & Kristen Getty that Kyle & Kathy shared earlier:
“When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast;
When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast.
I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path;
For my love is often cold; He must hold me fast.
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast;
For my Saviour loves me so, He will hold me fast.”
Our confidence that we will “finish the race” and ultimately make it to heaven, is NOT based on our good works. It is NOT based on our good deeds outweighing our bad. It is NOT based on how tightly we hold on to God, but on how tightly HE holds on to US! He has given us such great promises about this:
— “I will never leave you nor forsake you”
— “No one shall pluck you out of the Father’s hand.”
— “He is able to keep what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”
Our confidence spiritually is NOT in ourselves. Our confidence is not in our pastors or in our church or even in a brand new building. Our confidence for our salvation, for our spiritual growth, for the future of this church, and our eternal security and our ultimate arrival in heaven, is that “HE will hold us fast.” That “he who began a good work in (us), will perfect it, until the day of Christ Jesus.”