“Rejoice In The Lord” (Philippians 3:1 sermon)

John Newton, the former slave ship captain who later became a Christian, is best-known for writing the hymn, “Amazing Grace.” But he was also a pastor for about 20 years after his conversion, and he had an extensive counseling ministry through letter writing to people all over England. To one particular couple who was dealing with a difficult situation, Newton wrote: “If the heart be set right, submissive to the will of God, devoted to please him, and depending upon his faithful word, we may be happy in a prison; and otherwise we must be unhappy in a palace.” (John Newton to Mr. & Mrs. Coffin, Letters of John Newton, Josiah Bull, ed., p. 394)

Newton was right: if you’re walking with the Lord, you can be happy in a prison; if you aren’t walking with God, you can be UNhappy even in a palace!    Today we are returning to our study of the book of Philippians, and we come to one of the most well-known commands in this book, Chapter 3:1, where it says:  “Finally, brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble for me, and it is a safeguard for you.”

“Rejoice in the Lord.” This command is repeated in Philippians; and it is considered by many to be the theme of the book. Let’s look at what it does and does not mean to “rejoice in the Lord”, and how we can have that joy in every situation we face: 

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“Brother, Worker, Soldier” (Philippians 2:19-30 message)

Those of you who are on social media know that often a person will put on their home page a brief description of themselves, often with just a series of words, saying something like, “Christian, mother of 3, blogger”, or  “Husband, father of two, director of multi-billion dollar corporation” — or whatever brief description they want to give of themselves with a few words.

We see something similar to that occasionally in scripture, especially in the letters of Paul, where he will refer to a person, and give just a little, 2,3,4 word description of who they are — often from a spiritual perspective.  One of my favorite examples of these is here at the end of Philippians 2, where Paul refers to a couple of his ministry partners, Timothy and Epaphroditus. Most of us are familiar with Timothy — but fewer would say they know much about Epaphroditus — but what Paul says about him here is very important, and should cause us to evaluate our own spiritual commitment to the Lord.

First of all, just very quickly, let’s look at what Paul writes about Timothy. Timothy is a living example of the kind of selfless attitude that Paul was writing about earlier in Philippians 2. He says in :19 that he hopes to send Timothy shortly, and then he says in :20 “For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare, (:21) for they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.”

What a statement!  Remember what he had written in Philippians 2:4; he had said “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” We talked about the importance of being able to lay aside our own self-centeredness and selfishness, if we are going to keep unity and power in the church. Paul said Timothy didn’t just “study that in his Sunday School lesson;” he really lived it out. He really did put other people ahead of himself, and that’s why he could trust him to send him as his representative to the Philippians.  

Many of us know something about Timothy through our studies over the years, bur far fewer of us know of the second man Paul refers to here, Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus is one of the great Bible names! You can’t get your graduate degree in New Testament studies unless you can both pronounce AND spell “Epaphroditus”!  But in all seriousness, Epaphroditus is one of the best men in the New Testament that most of us probably don’t know anything about! But what Paul tells us about him here challenges us, and causes us to measure of our own spiritual commitment.

Let’s look at the series of words Paul uses to describe Epaphroditus:  

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“God’s Providence in America” (Sunday, July 4, 2021)

For the last several years, I have made a personal “tradition” of reading David McCullough’s book, 1776 on the 4th of July. (Hey, you choose your holiday fun and I’ll choose mine!)  The book is a marvelous retelling of that pivotal year 1776 in the story of America. But as I read this book, a repeated theme that impressed me was the number of “miracles” that contributed to the birth of the United States — or to be more accurate, maybe not “miracles” as such, but what theologians would call works of “The Providence of God” — a number of circumstances, which, had these “circumstances” gone the other way in one or more of these cases, our country may have never come to pass. 

So what is this “Providence of God”? I want us first of all to look at the Biblical concept of the Providence of God, and then see how it was evident in God’s raising up our our country — and some ways we should apply our knowledge of God’s Providence today.

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“The Drink Offering” (Philippians 2:16-18 sermon)

Early in his presidency, George Washington was stricken with a serious illness, from which he was slow to recover.  Historian Ron Chernow writes: “Washington conceded that his job might have contributed to his ailment and might even kill him, but he was resigned to the sacrifice. Washington said, “The want of regular exercise, with the cares of office, will, I have no doubt, hasten my departure for that country from whence no traveler returns.” Nevertheless, his official duties, he maintained, would remain “the primary consideration in every transaction of my life, be the consequences what they may.” (Ron Chernow, Washington: A Life, p. 588)  

This was, of course, just one of the MANY ways in which George Washington sacrificed himself for the good of others, and his new country.  

Sacrifice is at the heart of the Christian message, and rightly so. Jesus sacrificed Himself for our sins, that we might be saved. That’s what the Christian message IS.  

But there is another aspect to this idea of sacrifice; one that we don’t often emphasize as much, and that is that WE are to imitate the sacrificeJesus made, and sacrifice OURselves for the sake of others. That is what our passage for today is all about. Paul tells the Philippians that he is being poured out as a “drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith.” He tells them that HE is making personal sacrifices for THEIR spiritual life and growth — and we today should follow his example and do the same thing.  So let’s look for a few moments at the idea of “The Drink Offering” — imitating Jesus by sacrificing ourselves for others.  

“… holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. 18 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.”

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Lifeway “Explore the Bible” Teachers’ Overview of Job 28:12-28 for Sunday, June 27, 2021, “Wisdom Gained”

(These overviews are for Sunday School teachers and Bible Study leaders of the Lifeway “Explore the Bible” literature. They may also be watched in video form by searching YouTube for “Shawn Thomas Explore the Bible.”)

For an introduction to this week’s lesson, you could ask your class: “What is some of the WORST advice you have ever been given?” (I bet you might get some interesting answers to THAT!)

(One of the worst pieces of advice I THOUGHT I had been given, was to de-hydrate myself before a 5k race. I about died!  That was NOT wise!)  We have to be careful where we get our wisdom and guidance.  

Then you can emphasize the importance of wisdom, and getting wisdom from the RIGHT SOURCE, which is what Sunday’s lesson is all about from Job 28.  

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“Lights In The World” (Philippians 2:14-16 sermon)

It’s almost hard to remember last February’s winter storm now, in the heat of the summer — but I may need to remind SOME of you that you DID say you would never gripe about the Texas heat again, after that big winter freeze! Just holding you accountable!

But one of the things Cheryl remembers about that February storm is when the electricity went out, and there was NO light in the house. She got up for just a minute, and tried to feel her way around without any light, and she said it was SO dark, it was disorienting; she said you couldn’t see a thing. It was creepy. It was absolute, total darkness. Thankfully we had some emergency lights, and when we turned those lights on, what a difference it made! 

And what a picture of our world today. Our world is dark with sin. But God sent us His light in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said “I am the light of the world.” But then He turned to His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 and said, “YOU are the light of the world.” With HIS light, shining in and through us, we are to be lights in the world, making a difference in our dark world.  That’s what we see in our passage for today, where Paul wrote about “this crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life.”  He said you (Christian person, Christian church) are like “lights.” This world is dark and crooked and perverse, but you are to be different. You are to be “Lights In The World.”

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“The Hand Inside The Glove” (Philippians 2:12-15 sermon)

This is a nice golf glove. But it is very limited. It really can’t do much by itself, can it?  It can’t swing a club. Really, it can’t do anything, can it?!

But this glove belongs to somebody. It belongs to Jack Franklin. (Come on up Jack, and put this glove on!) When Jack puts his hand in this glove, it can do all kinds of things on the golf course. I’ve seen him hit some great shots. In fact: “How many holes-in-one have you hit, Jack?”  (TWO!)  

See, this glove can do some amazing things, with the hand inside the glove!

And that’s a great picture of how it is with us and God. Without God inside of us, you and I are just like the “empty glove.” Jesus said in John 15, “without Me, you can do NOTHING”! We’re like the glove without the hand in it; powerless; ineffective. But when we give our life to Jesus as our Lord & Savior, He sends His Holy Spirit inside of us, Who totally revolutionizes our lives. So now, WITH Him inside of us, we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens us” — like Philippians 4:13 says. 

So I want us to look for a few minutes this morning from Philippians 2:12-15 about “The Hand Inside the Glove” — God working in us, giving us the desire and the power to do His will.  

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“The Condescension & The Glory” (Philippians 2:6-11 sermon)

There are some things that human words and media, just do not have the ability to fully convey. For example, our secretary Dana just visited Niagara Falls with her husband. She said so it was just so incredible. I’ve never been, but I assume that like the Grand Canyon it’s indescribable — several of us were talking at church the other day about visiting the Grand Canyon, and one of the things we talked about is how you just can’t “capture” it — you just stand there in total amazement and awe, and you pick up your camera and try to get a shot of it — but no picture you can take even comes close to the reality of what you are seeing. You can can’t capture the full glory of that live experience in any photograph.

That is somewhat the way I feel as we come to our passage for today from Philippians 2. This may be the most powerful and glorious set of scriptures in all the Bible, as it describes who Jesus is, and what He did for us. But human words are not adequate to expound it; certainly mine aren’t. I think of the old hymn that speaks of “this poor lisping, stammering tongue” — and that’s the way you feel when you try to convey the unconveyable. But we’ve got to at least try to get a better understanding about what Jesus did for us. So let’s look at this classic passage for a few minutes, which describes the Condescension of Jesus, and the Glory it brought Him — which is our model as we follow Him. 

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“Our Imitation of Christ” (Philippians 2:5 sermon)

Birch Bayh was a Senator from Indiana back in the 1960’s. He and his wife  Marvella ended up serving in Washington for some years, but they were admittedly “babes at sea” when they first arrived from Indiana. They were nervous about all the protocol, especially at important Washington political dinners. Marvella said that Lady Bird Johnson told her: “Just keep an eye on your hostess, and follow her lead.” And so she got along very well, just imitating the leader at all these functions.  

But one day her husband Birch came home from a luncheon with the President and some other top dignitaries, and said he was totally confused. He said “You told me to watch the leader, right?” She said, ’That’s right.”  He said, well, “I was seated between the Chief of Protocol and the President of the United States.” When we came to the first course, one of them picked up his fork, and the other one picked up his spoon!”  Who was he supposed to imitate?  (Katharine Graham’s Washington, pp. 92-93) (Of course, the President was LBJ, so he ‘d have probably been better off “protocol-wise” following the other guy!!) 

But it matters who you imitate — which is what our verse for today is about.  My original plan for today was to preach on Philippians 2:5-11 today, on the glory and humiliation of Christ. But as I began to study Monday, I couldn’t get past verse 5:

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.”

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“An Essential For The Church” (Philippians 2:1-4 sermon)

During the American War for Independence, General George Washington was irked by what some of the drummers in the army were doing. Each drummer would just drum in his own way, (and sometimes “out of the blue” just to show off their own ability) and it was sending out mixed signals to the army.  So Washington sent this order out: “The use of drums are as signals to the army — and if every drummer is allowed to beat at his pleasure, the intention is entirely destroy[e]d, as it will be impossible to distinguish whether they are beating for their own pleasure or for a signal to the troops.’” (Chernow, Washington, p. 293)

Washington was telling those drummers: Listen, if we are going to be a successful army, you can’t just drum whatever or whenever you want to; We have to sacrifice our own preferences and send out unified signals if we are going to stand firm together as an army, and win this war.

Before our Grand Opening last week, we finished Chapter 1 of the Book of Philippians, where Paul told us as a church, that we need to STAND FIRM against the contrary “currents” of our society and the spiritual enemy who wants to undermine us.  Now he follows this up in Chapter 2 with a specific challenge on what it takes for us to actually DO that.  We need to realize that whether or not we obey what Paul shows us in these 4 verses today WILL BE A KEY as TO WHETHER WE WILL SUCCED OR FAIL ON OUR MISSION AS A CHURCH IN THIS NEW LOCATION. So we need to look carefully at what he tells us here:  

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,

Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

(Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus …)”

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