Monday, January 31, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ He Finishes What He Starts: Phil 1.6 (Part I)

When we started our study of this book, we noted that it is filled with thanksgiving and joy, it starts with thanksgiving and with joy. In fact, if you allow your eyes to look at verses 3-5, verse 6 is a continuation of this one sentence, this one thought, this one prayer of joyful thanksgiving that Paul has opened the book with.

Through the past weeks, we said that the Apostle Paul tells us that every time he remembers the Philippians his heart is flooded with thankfulness because of them—because of their love and care for him, what God is doing in them, their partnership with him in the gospel. He says that he is joyful in his prayer for them (“…always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,” he says in verse 4), and he is focused on their partnership in the gospel.

The first thing that he identifies as a cause of his thankfulness and joy is their fellowship, participation, and partnership with him in the spread of the gospel. It’s not simply that they, too, with him, embrace Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel, though they do. It is not just that they, like him, are marked by an overwhelming experience of God’s sovereign grace in their first embrace of the gospel, or just that they shared an experience of God’s sovereign grace in their own conversions; it is that they shared a common burden for and delight to serve God in the spread of the gospel.

This gives Paul great joy of heart to know that these Philippians, though they were poor, were very generous to the point of being lavish in their giving to Paul for the spread of the gospel. Often as Paul was serving somewhere else and having to serve bi-vocationally (that is, he was having to make tents in order to provide the necessities of life). Occasionally a gift would arrive from the Philippians, who wanted to give to Paul even though they themselves were poor relative to some other congregations, because they were so burdened for the same thing that Paul was burdened for—to see men and women and boys and girls coming to saving faith in Christ. So they would give out of their poverty generously so that Paul could concentrate on ministry, and it delighted his heart when he would receive these gifts from the Philippians because he knew the sacrifice and heart that was behind those gifts, that they had the same burden that he had to see the church built up, people saved, and people growing in Jesus Christ.

Verse 5 is telling you the first specific reason why Paul was so thankful and joyful in his prayers, and verse 6 is telling you the second reason. The first reason he gives is because of this common participation in, this fellowship in the gospel and in the spread of the gospel. But the second reason is all about God, and it’s the big picture.

Paul even in his short ministry for Jesus Christ had already seen some pretty hard things, but he tells you that his joy and his confidence come from the fact that God is at work in His people’s salvation from beginning to end. And therefore, no matter what the ups and downs of the moment are in ministry, Paul can rest assured because God is involved in the work of salvation from beginning to end.

Paul, in this passage, is joyful, thankful, and confident because salvation is God’s work. He tells you that point blank: It’s because God is at work in our conversion, in our justification, in our sanctification, in our glorification.

That means God is at work in the very first nanosecond of your belief in Jesus Christ; at work in changing your heart to believe on Jesus Christ, just as He was for your salvation from before the foundation of the world. God is at work in declaring you to be right with Him in accepting you in the righteousness of His Son, in pardoning and forgiving you of your sins. God is at work in your growing up to maturity in grace. Salvation is not something that starts with you and then continues with the work of God, nor does it start with God and then He says ‘OK, the rest is up to you.’ Salvation from beginning to end, from start to finish, is the work of the sovereign grace of God: He is at work building you up in Christ, and He is at work one day to present you faultless before His throne with exceeding joy and great glory, in Jesus Christ, with all the saints. Conversion, justification, sanctification, glorification.

Paul is celebrating that fact in this passage. Paul is saying, ‘One of the reasons, Philippians, that I’m so thankful, so joyful in my prayers for you is that I know Who is at work in you. This is not just about you, how you have responded, about what you are doing now. It’s about what God is up to in you, what He’s done in your conversion, in your justification, in your maturing and sanctification and growing up, and what He will do on the Last Day. God is at work.’

That is the foundation of a believer’s confidence: God is at work in the totality of our salvation; that His work is the work of saving, of changing His people; of the building up of His church—and the gates of hell will not prevail against it or Him. It is precisely that for which Paul is giving thanks in this passage. In verse 5, he gives thanks because the Philippians are partners with him, they’re in fellowship with him, participating with him supporting his work of the spread of the gospel. But here Paul is rejoicing and thankful because he knows that God is at work in their salvation, and yours.

In the coming days, we will look at six things that we learn from God being at work in our Salvation.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ I Thank God for You: Phil. 1.3-5 (Part III)

Over the past week, we have been looking at three things in the beginning of the main body of the letter. We looked at the first thing, Paul’s thankful heart, he has a heart that is filled with joy despite his circumstances. Last week, we looked at second, Paul’s joyful prayer.

We introduced the third thing on Tuesday, Paul’s gospel-focus. We said that despite having such a different background from the Philippians, Paul had a joyful fellowship with them because of their shared experience of God’s grace. From the standpoint of natural affinity, Paul had nothing in common with the Philippians. They couldn’t have even eaten at the same table with one another! They were Gentiles; he was a Jew. They were worshiping a polytheistic pantheon of Roman and Greek gods, and he was worshiping the God of Israel in a synagogue! They had, naturally, nothing in common, but they had this: the gospel. They had this: grace. They had this: the Lord Jesus Christ. And Paul is saying, ‘It gives me joy to think of the fellowship in the gospel that we share together.’

It’s a fellowship of faith. They believed on the same Lord Jesus Christ, same Bible, the same gospel message, and it knit them together over against the world around them. He was a Jewish believer; they were Gentile believers, but they believed in the same common Lord, the same gospel, the same Book, over and against their non-believing Jewish and their non-believing Gentile contemporaries. Whatever affinities they may have had with them, they were close to one another because of that common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

They had in common a love for one another. Paul will say to the Corinthians that these Macedonian believers were poorer than the Corinthians, but do you know who Paul uses as an example for Christian giving? The Macedonians. He says, ‘Out of their own need, out of their own lack, out of their own poverty, they generously gave to me for the work of the gospel.’ So that Paul will point to the Corinthians, who have more, and say, ‘You need to give like those Philippians who have less.’ And over and over throughout Paul’s ministry, he’s receiving support – tangible support and encouragement – from the Philippian Christians.

And he senses a fellowship, they are giving even in their lack because they’re so committed to the same thing that Paul is committed to: the glory of Jesus Christ and the spread of the gospel.They have a fellowship and mutual participation in the gospel. They both want the same thing. Paul wants to see every knee bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ as Lord, and these Philippians want to see the earth as full of the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ as the waters cover the sea, and so they are ready to give even when they don’t have it to give, so that Paul can share the gospel. And so when Paul thinks about them, he thinks about that fellowship that they have in the gospel, and in the spread of the gospel.

Well, here’s what I want to say: It ought to be one of the aims of all Christians to cultivate that kind of a deliberately gospel fellowship. If our fellowship is primarily based on the fact of common affinities—we grew up in the same state or in the same town, we went to the same schools, we have a common set of friends, we’re in a particular line of work—if those things are the fundamental things that unite us, then the edges of a congregation will be walls, and anybody that cannot join in those natural affinities will not be a part of that body. But if our union, if our communion, if our fellowship, is in those things which are related to the gospel, then the edges of our fellowship will be porous, and even people who are not like us—they’re not from our socio-economic class, they’re not from our racial background, they’re not from our hometown, they’re not a part of the same set of friends and business colleagues that we normally work with, but they do trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, they will very easily become a part of the gospel fellowship because the thing that fundamentally unites us is not those natural affinities, but the gospel affinities.

Should we not be aiming as Christians to cultivate a fellowship that is deliberately centered on Christ, on grace, and on the gospel? And if we do so, will that not lead us to more and more looking like the amazing diversity that is the body of Christ?

And here the Apostle Paul shows us a thankful heart, and a joyful prayer, and a gospel focus. And in so doing, he calls us to a life attitude and a heart for thankful prayer. He calls us to joy and rejoicing in one another, and being the kind of people that make it easy for our brothers and sisters to rejoice in us. And he calls us to cultivate a deliberately gospel-oriented fellowship.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ I Thank God for You: Phil. 1.3-5 (Part II)

Yesterday, we began looking at the main body of the letter, and three things in those first few verses of the body. We looked at the first thing last week, Paul’s thankful heart, a heart that is filled with joy despite Paul’s circumstances. This week, we’ll look at second, Paul’s joyful prayer and introduce the third, Paul’s gospel focus in light of the community of believers at Philippi. Next week, we’ll finish looking at that section.

II. Paul’s joyful prayer.
It was easy for Paul to think about the Philippians and to thank God for them. He had a special connection with them. And he goes on to say in verse 4, “…always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all.” Paul characterizes his prayers for them as joyful; that the work of prayer that he engaged in on their behalf was sheer delight to him. It was a joy to pray for the Philippians!

There are a couple of things that we learn out of that. First, we ought to be thankful and joyful in our prayers for others. Second, and this especially, do we make it easy for others to be thankful and joyful in their prayers for us, in the way that it was easy for Paul to be thankful and joyful in his prayers for the Philippians?

That ought to be an aspiration for all of us, that we would be the kind of people who would be so encouraging, so gospel-focused, so grace-filled, so mutually supportive that our brothers and sisters find it joyful and delightful to engage in prayer for us with thanksgiving.

III. Paul’s gospel focus.
We see Paul’s gospel focus in verse 5. Paul begins in verse 5 to list two specific things which cause him to give thanksgiving for the Philippians. (the second thing is in verse 6.), “…Always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all (verse 5), in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.”

Paul is saying it’s especially the fellowship, the shared life which he enjoyed with the Philippians, the participation [or the mutual cooperation and involvement] that he and the Philippians had in the work of the gospel that made Paul joyful when he thought of them.

In Acts 16 we see the kind of people who were in the Philippian congregation and the kind of context in which God saved them. First of all, the vision—and I’ve always thought it interesting that God gives Paul this vision of a man calling him over to Macedonia, and when he shows up in Philippi, who are there at the riverside? All women! That was the core group for the church in Philippi!

There’s Lydia, the accomplished business woman, but as pagan as the day is long. And Luke especially wants to emphasize that the Lord opened her heart to believe, the sovereign grace of God breaking through into this very accomplished and competent (but pagan and lost) business woman and saving her, drawing her to Jesus Christ so that she rests and trusts alone in Him for salvation.

There’s also the slave girl with a spirit of divination. And she’s bugging Paul, and at one point he finally says to the demon, “Get out of her!” and goes on. I wonder if she’s in this congregation.

And the Philippian jailer. After Paul has been badly treated and has been jailed and is waiting for the local officials, there’s this extraordinary event, and Paul has every opportunity to walk away from the jail free; and the Philippian jailer is getting ready to kill himself, and suddenly Paul is sharing the gospel with him, and suddenly the jailer and his family are coming, and they’re part of this congregation.

In each of these stories, in each of these particular cases, notice how the sovereign power of God is emphasized. Paul seems to be saying to the Philippians, ‘You guys get me. You understand when I tell you that I was a Christian-hating Pharisee bent on wiping Christianity off of the face of the earth, on the way to Damascus, and Jesus met me and saved me, but you understand that, because the sovereign grace of God was displayed in your conversions in the same way.’

Isn’t it a beautiful thing? Here’s the Apostle Paul, the Hebrew of Hebrews, educated as best as a Pharisee could have been educated, a Jew of Jews, saying, ‘you Macedonian pagan Gentile Philippians-now-Christians, you understand me. We have a fellowship in the gospel. You understand the sovereign grace of God because it happened in your lives.’

Have you ever been in a room and there are people there who because of certain, sometimes traumatic, shared experiences, and they just understand one another, and they know how to talk to one another? They can understand one another sometimes without even saying a word. You may be in a room, with godly women who have lost children at very young ages. By God’s grace they’ve been brought through that trial, but they understand things about one another and what they’ve experienced and what they’ve lost that you have no clue about. And we could go on and on. Oftentimes those experiences create a bond of fellowship, where there’s a mutual understanding, where sometimes you don’t even have to say things, you just understand them.

And Paul is saying, ‘Philippians: it’s like that with me and you. We have a fellowship in the gospel.’ And the beautiful thing about that is this is Paul the Jew saying this to Gentile Philippians! They are, from a human and natural standpoint, nothing like him! But they have a fellowship in the gospel of grace because they all have experienced the grace of the gospel.

And this is so important for us to understand, because this fellowship that the Apostle Paul has with the Philippians is not based on having natural background affinity, Paul is talking about a gospel fellowship, and we will look more at that next week, the gospel fellowship.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ I Thank God for You: Phil. 1.3-5

Last week we looked at the salutation, just the opening words of greeting, and one member of the congregation that I serve wrote to me and said, “You know, you could have parked on the very first word of this letter –Paul. And you could have taken a whole sermon just to think about the glory of what it is. That this is Paul… not Saul, writing to this congregation.”

The greetings that Paul gives in verses 1 and 2 are rich. We looked at the senders, Paul and Timothy, who describe themselves as bond-slaves of Christ Jesus. Paul may have been imprisoned by Caesar, but Caesar was not his Lord. Jesus was his Lord, and Paul was only there because the Lord Jesus wanted him there.

We looked at the recipients, the Philippians themselves, including Paul’s greetings to those who were leaders in the congregation – the elders and the deacons who were there to lead and to serve that congregation. And we looked at the content of the greeting itself, the beautiful benediction contained in it, in which Paul pronounces grace and peace, calling attention to the sovereign mercy of God that saves them from their sins and the total well-being that flows from the sovereign mercy of God in the lives of all those who rest and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation as He is offered in the gospel.

That leads us right into the body of the letter. Over the next few days we will consider three things in verses 3-5. In verse 3, notice Paul’s thankful heart; Paul’s thankful heart has something to teach us. Then, later this week, in verse 4, at Paul’s joyful prayer, because again, Paul’s joyful prayer has something to teach us. And then in verse 5, at Paul’s gospel focus, because here he’s going to tell you what it is that he has in view especially that makes him so thankful and joyful when he thinks about the Philippians. We’re going to look at Paul’s thankful heart in verse 3, his joyful prayer in verse 4, and his gospel focus in verse 5.

It’s not surprising that when you move into the body of this letter you immediately are confronted with thanksgiving and joy. It’s really not surprising, Paul is filled with joy throughout this letter, that the first note that is sounded in the body of this letter is joy and thanksgiving. In particular, Paul telling the Philippians of the great thanksgiving that he has in his heart to God for them, at the joy that he experiences even when he’s praying for them, and specifically at the sheer delight that floods his heart when he thinks about their unity, their fellowship, their cooperation, their participation with him in the gospel.

First, look at verse 3, where we see Paul’s thankful heart. Paul is saying that when he recalls the love of the Philippians, when he recalls the support of the Philippians, when he remembers the Philippians, it leads him to thanksgiving to God. Paul had a special relationship with this congregation. He seems to be on the same wavelength with this congregation, and so his fellowship with them is especially sweet; and so when he thinks about them, it leads him immediately to thanksgiving to God. For Paul, blessings received from God lead to thanksgiving to God.

Is that the way it is for you? Do God’s blessings to you, especially gospel blessings, lead you immediately and instinctively to thanksgiving to God? Or are we a thankless people?

The Apostle Paul is modeling for us an attitude of thanksgiving and an act of thanksgiving. Every blessing that comes to him he does not take for granted. Is our practice in prayer to spend much time in thanksgiving? If it is not, what does that say about us? Well, it may say that we have not adequately spent time reflecting on the greatness of God’s blessings to us, and thus we’re not thankful for them; or, it may say – worse – that we are not thankful people, but that we are entitled people.

I met someone was working in an orphanage in Africa, and much to her delight when she got there, there were some hymnals that had been donated to them. And these poverty-stricken children who had (in terms of worldly goods) nothing, were excited about these hymnals like you had told them that they were going on holiday. These African children with nothing, were delighted in order to sing out of these hymnals that had been donated to them. And she simply commented on the fact that how glorious it was to be able to be with and minister to children who were so thankful for this relatively small gift, when in the United States she so often has ministered to children who have so much, but they are not thankful for it. They feel entitled to it. They are even bored by the many gifts and blessings which have been given to them.

Sometimes that’s our attitude. We are complacent. We feel entitled to the gifts that God has given to us, and consequently we are not thankful people and we are not giving thanks to God. And here the Apostle Paul is spurred on by the work of God’s grace in the Philippians to do what? Immediately turn around and give praise to God.

What was happening in the Philippians’ lives is not ultimately due to Paul’s strategies or even to Paul’s efforts, but due to the grace of God, and so God is deserving of the praise for it, and Paul turns immediately around and gives thanks to God. Is that the way it is for us? Are we thankful in our prayers and in our heart attitude? Or do we feel entitled, we ungrateful for the greatness of God’s gospel mercies to us? Paul’s thankful heart, I think, urges us on to be thankful in prayer and in our life attitude.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Gleanings from Philippians: Greetings From Paul (Pt. 2) ~ Phil. 1.1-2

We looked Tuesday at two reasons why the Church needs this particular book in these particular times, the first is Paul’s example to us of a Christian in trying circumstances, but who still is radiating with the joy of Christ. The second is Paul’s example of a Christian on whom the world has lost its grip. This week we’ll look at two of the other reasons the church needs this book today and then explore the first two verses.

The third reason we need this book is its commending to us a sovereign Savior’s holy humility displayed in an unparalleled humiliation. Christ comes from heaven’s high throne, dwells with us in low estate, and goes down the steps of humiliation and dereliction on the cross, and to burial and to the tomb. He does that not only as the means of our redemption, but also as an example for our walking. You want to go the way of glory? It’s the way of the cross. In Philippians, we see Paul urging us on in the fight for joy, and calling us to grow in humility so that we are joyful in our humility and we’re humble in our joy, and we're longing to know Christ.

And forth, Philippians tells us that believers, under the crushing load of life in the darkest moments of experience, even in the valley of the shadow of death, can comprehend an incomprehensible peace. Wherever it is that you are right now, be steadfast and immovable in this peace! Say in your trial, “What can you do to me? I have a joy that can’t be taken away and a peace that you can’t even understand! What are you going to do to me?” This book is about a fight for joy, growing in humility, knowing Jesus Christ and Him crucified, a peace that only He can give.

I just want to say three more things about this letter.

This is a letter full of love and joy and truth. You see Paul’s heart of love to this congregation. Philippi is predominantly Gentile, and Paul loves this congregation, and you can tell it from the way he writes to them.

It’s a letter full of joy. Bengel, one of the great German critical scholars on this book got at least this right about Philippians: he says you can sum up the letter of Philippians in two Latin words: gaudeo, gaudete, I rejoice, so you rejoice, too! You can sum the whole letter up that way.

Here’s Paul. He’s tired, he’s beaten up, he’s old, he’s in prison, yet twenty times he uses words like joy and rejoice and peace and content and thanksgiving. Do you ever think you can’t rejoice where you are today? May I respectfully—only on the authority of God—beg to differ. Paul could rejoice where he was; you can rejoice where you are.

Third, this is a letter of truth: truth about God…theology. It’s truth about God, about the Lover of your soul, about the One who made you, and gave His Son for you!

It’s absolutely stunning, it’s one of the great paradoxes that in this, one of Paul’s simplest letters, he gives the profoundest exposition of the humiliation and exaltation, the meaning and the accomplishment and the purposes of the death of Christ that he ever gave! This is his final word on the substance of the meaning of the death of Christ. The greatest theologians in the history of the church for 2000 years have meditated on this work and opened up its truth, and we still haven’t seen the bottom of it!

Let’s look at three things in this passage: the senders; the recipients; and, the greeting.

The senders are Paul and Timothy, and they call themselves: permanent servants, bond-slaves, douloi of the Messiah, who is Jesus. Does that little description—servants of the Messiah, who is Jesus—does that not tell us a boatload?

The highest title a believer can hold is “servant of Jesus Christ.” Have you been a servant of sin? Have you been a servant of self? To be liberated, to be able to serve the Savior, there’s no greater honor than to bear that title: I’m a servant of Jesus Christ. Paul says, ‘that’s who I want you to be thinking about. I’m not important; He must increase; I must decrease.’ The very acknowledgment that he is a servant of Jesus Christ is a reminder that though he may look like a prisoner of Caesar, he’s not! He’s the servant of the Messiah, and if he’s in prison, that’s where the Messiah wants him. And if the Messiah doesn’t want him there, even Caesar can’t hold him there! He’ll be wherever the Messiah wants him to be, and Caesar has nothing to say about it!

You understand that that kind of thinking is dangerous. It can change your life. You start thinking about your life that way, things are going to change.

Secondly, notice the recipients: “To all the saints in Christ Jesus, who are in Philippi….” Paul is not writing to the super-spiritual ones who do Bible studies four times a week, or the extraordinarily holy people within the congregation, but to the whole congregation. What’s the point? If you believe in Christ, God has called you to Himself to be set apart to Him, to be holy to Him, to be His uniquely treasured people, His saints, His holy ones. That’s what He saved you for! For relationship with Him, fellowship with Him, communion with Him! That’s what you’re for. If you’re enjoying something else more than Him, then you have not yet understood what He made you for. He made you for delight in Him! He did not make you so that anything else could delight you like Him.
And the greeting, “Grace” ...God’s unmerited, undeserved favor even despite your sin, through Jesus Christ; and, “and peace”…total well-being which flows from the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ for you.


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.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ A Series Introduction

Gleanings in Philippians: Solid Joys and Lasting Treasure
A Series Introduction

We are about to begin a new expository series on the blog, now in Philippians called Fighting for Joy, Growing in Humility, Knowing Christ and the Peace that Passes Understanding. This letter is filled with grand themes like the sovereignty of God (1:6), the humility and humiliation of Christ (2:5-8), the Lordship and exaltation of Christ (2:9-11), the believer’s union with Christ (3:9a,10-11), justification by faith alone (3:9), the communion of the saints (2:1-4), the sufficiency of Christ (3:8).

For a small letter (about two and half pages long, single-spaced in 12pt type), it is filled with incredibly important and memorable sentences and passages, that we’ll look at tomorrow.

Yes, now seems to be a time when we need Philippians as a church. Why? Because: (1) Philippians shows us a vibrant Christian, in difficult circumstances, radiating a contagious joy. So it beckons us to the fight for joy. (2) Philippians commends a sovereign Savior’s holy humility, displayed in unparalleled humiliation, not only as the means of our redemption but as the example of our living. So it calls us to grow in humility. (3) Philippians displays a saint on whom the world has lost its grip. He is ablaze with thoughts of Christ and 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!” He’s singing “fading is the worldling’s pleasure, all his boasted pomp and show, solid joys and lasting treasure none but Zion’s children know.” For him, Christ is all, above all, best of all. Everything else is lost on him. So this letter calls us to long to know Christ. (4) Philippians tells us that believers under the crushing load of life, in the darkest moments of experience, even in the valley of the shadow of death, can comprehend and incomprehensible peace. Oh, I want that for you, dearest friends. And so Philippians invites us to know the peaces that passing knowing.

For all those reasons and a hundred more, it’s time for Philippians at First Presbyterian Church. So won’t you join me with enthusiasm and delight as we journey together through this great letter?!

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan


Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday, January 10

FPCJ office is on a two hour delay this morning. If you are part of a ministry/scheduled activity for this morning, you may want to check with your leader to see if there are changes.


Sunday, January 09, 2011

Correction - January 9, 2011 UPDATE

Due to changing weather conditions, and the advice of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, all services are now cancelled for Sunday, January 9, 2011.


January 9, 2011 Announcement

Services will be held as usual Sunday morning, January 9, 2011. All afternoon and evening scheduled activities and services are cancelled.

If you are part of any ministry or activity scheduled for Monday, January 10, please call the church office in the morning to find out about any further cancellations.


Monday, January 03, 2011

A New Series

Dear Readers,

I hope that all the blessings of the Incarnation of Christ are yours as we look back on the close of a year and the beginning of this year 2011.

We have concluded the series “Gleanings from the Pastor’s Perspective” for the FPCJ Blog. I pray that it has been edifying to you and that you have enjoyed reading the posts each week.

In this New Year, it is our plan to continue publishing regularly on the Blog. We will run an expository series on Philippians entitled “Fighting for Joy, Growing in Humility, Knowing Christ and Peace that Passes Understanding.”

As we study through Philippians, we will see how the Apostle Paul encourages his beloved congregation amidst his own imprisonment and their struggles with poverty, persecution, and false teaching. Throughout the letter, Paul faithfully encourages and calls the Philippians – and you and me – to joy because as Christians, as God’s children, we have “solid joys and last treasure that none by Zion’s children know.”

I pray that this series next year will both increase the joy of our salvation and aid you in your growth in grace.

Please continue to check back here regularly and feel free to leave your comments.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan