Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gleanings from Philippians: Phil 1.1-2

We are beginning a new series, this time going through the glorious book of Philippians together on the blog. This week, we’ll begin by look at some of the themes of Philippians and consider two reasons why the Church needs this book and Thursday, we’ll explore the first two verses and consider two additional reasons this book is vital for the Church.

Have you ever paused to think how many great themes Paul covers just in this little letter of Philippians? There’s the sovereignty of God (he can’t get six verses into the letter without mentioning the sovereignty of God); there’s the humility and the humiliation of Jesus Christ in the great Christ hymn, recorded in 2:9-11. There’s Paul’s meditation on the precious privilege of the believer’s union with Jesus Christ in verse 9, just the first words of that verse he talks about everything else being lost but it doesn’t matter because of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ.

He talks about justification by faith alone. That’s what the end of verse 9 is about, surely. What is chapter two, verses 1-4, but an exhortation to and a meditation on what the communion of saints ought to be like, what it ought to be like to live with one another, to minister with and to one another as the people of God in a local congregation of saints?

And then of course Philippians 3:8 gives us that glorious meditation on the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Christ is all. All in one little letter! Have you ever paused to think how many of the Apostle Paul’s memorable sentences come from this little letter—sentences that even those of us who aren’t great at memorization have had emblazoned on our hearts as they’ve been read to us over the years, and we reach for them in our darkest hours.

This is the book where the Apostle Paul says,

“He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”


“To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”


“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”


“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”


“I count all things to be loss, in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
“I press on toward the goal, for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

This is the letter where we find the phrase, “Our citizenship is in heaven.”

This is the letter where Paul exhorts you and me,

“Be anxious for nothing; do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

This is the letter where Paul says,

“The peace of God which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence or anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am.”
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

“My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
This little letter is chock full of glory.

In addition to the beautiful phrases from Paul in this book, there are four particular reasons why I think we need Philippians today.

First, Philippians shows us a vibrant Christian in difficult circumstances, radiating a contagious joy. I know some of the circumstances that many in our community are going through. I don’t know them like they know them, but I know enough to know that I couldn’t bear it if I knew them like they know them. And I thought, “This is a book which we need now.”

And where is Paul writing? He’s in jail, trapped! If ever there was a place for that man to be depressed, it would be where he couldn’t get out and tell somebody about Jesus Christ. And yet the whole letter radiates with joy. What is going on here? This man understood the secret of joy in every circumstance, and so I want to tell you this letter beckons us to join with him in the fight for joy.

Second, Philippians displays to us a saint on whom the world has lost its grip. The world no longer has anything to offer Paul. It didn’t have anything that he wanted. His old righteousness, old pedigrees, old traditions each had nothing to offer Paul. He had found something better. He is ablaze with thoughts of Christ. He is ablaze with delight in Christ. He’s singing

“Let goods and kindred go; this mortal life also.
The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still.
His kingdom is forever!”

“Fading is the worldling’s pleasure, all his boasted pomp and show…” but
“Solid joys and lasting treasures, none but Zion’s children know.”

For him, Christ is all. He’s above all, He’s best of all, and everything else is lost because of that. And, we surely need to understand that!
We’ve been given so much by God that we are tempted to delight in the gifts rather than, or more than, the Giver. We need, like Paul, to take true joy so that we will accept no substitutes.
You understand that the Christian life is a fight for joy. It is not the rejection of joy: it is the rejection of cheap joy. The Apostle Paul has tasted of the everlasting bottomless fountain of delight in Jesus Christ, and the world is lost on him! Boy! Do we need that! And this letter is calling us to long to know Christ.

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