Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Progress, Joy, Confidence: Philippians 1:25-26

We’ve been in this section of Philippians for several days now, studying Paul’s life verse and life goal and seeing the reason he wants to live rather than die and be with Christ: because it is better for the Philippians.

In verses 25-26, Paul is giving us a declaration of his philosophy of ministry. If he’s not going to go and be with Jesus, what is it that he wants to stay here and do amongst Christians and amongst congregations? It’s three things: Progress; Joy; and, Confidence – that’s what he wants to produce in local churches if he’s going to stay here. It’s an ambition that is going to cost Paul dearly.

In II Corinthians 11:24-27 Paul tells us what he’d endured in order for this ambition to be realized. He’s not going to die and go to be with Jesus, instead this is what is going to happen to the Paul:
  • Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes….
  • Three times I was beaten with rods,
  • once I was stoned,
  • three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.
  • I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;
  • I have been in labor and hardship through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
He does all of this because of the ambition of verses 25-26.

I. Progress.
Paul says, I’m willing to stay and go through all of this because I want to see you grow as believers. I want to see you knowing more of the truth. I want to see you loving more of the truth of the Scripture. I want congregations that are obsessed with these kinds of things. They’re growing, progressing in their Christian life because the gospel has taken root in them. And I’m willing to endure so that churches will progress in the Christian faith.

Does our appetite for, our interest in, our enthusiasm about growth in grace match that kind of commitment to us from Paul?

II. Joy.
Secondly, Paul says to us, ‘I’m willing not to go to be with Jesus; I’m willing to stay here and be beaten and abused and persecuted for your joy in the faith. I want you to get so much joy because you have trusted in Christ, because you have realized the supreme value of Christ.

This joy isn’t generic joy. It’s joy in Christ, gospel joy. It’s joy that required God to come in the flesh into this world. It required the Son of God to die on the cross and be dead and buried, and to be raised again from the dead for you. It requires the Holy Spirit to renew your heart so that you are born again in order to experience this joy. And Paul says, ‘It is worth it to me, Philippians, not to go to be with Jesus, but to stay here to work for your joy.’

Real joy, gospel joy is dangerous joy. Paul is saying, ‘I want you to be so happy in Jesus that you’re ready to die for Him. I want you to be so happy in Jesus that nothing else in this life measures up to Him.’ This is a radical, dangerous joy that Paul is talking about.

This is utterly different is from what we see going on in the world around us today. The practitioners of Wahhabi Islam are saying, ‘God is so great that I will die for him blowing up infidels.’ This is radically different from what Christianity is calling us to. You’re not a martyr when you blow other people up for God; you’re a martyr when you’re persecuted to death by other people because you want them to have joy, because you love them with a love that God has loved you with in Christ, and you long for their blessing and joy. It is utterly different than what is happening in Wahhabi Islam around the world, and it’s far more powerful and far more radical.

III. Confidence.
A third thing: Paul says that he wants to work for their confident joy in him in Jesus Christ.

Paul is saying, ‘I want you to get joy from me in my coming again. I want to come again to you and give you joy that God is sovereignly in control of me in my life, in your life, in the progress of the gospel; and I want you to see that your fears were ill-founded, and that the Lord of heaven is still ruling all things by His Word and Spirit, and I want to be a blessing to you.’
And: He wants Jesus to get the glory for his coming again to the Philippians. The point is not their confidence in Paul; the point is their confidence in God for bringing Paul to them again.

And so he wants a church that’s growing in grace, growing as believers, that knows real joy – the joy which is in the faith, the joy of the faith, that only comes from Jesus Christ; and he wants them to glorify Christ even in their joy in him. And he’s willing to stay and work for these things.

These things are not added extras to the Christian life. These things are essential: growing in grace; coming to value Christ so much that everything else that is enjoyed is enjoyed in Him, but nothing else is enjoyed as much as Him, and nothing else that is enjoyed is enjoyed apart from Him. And our battle is that we have so much that it’s easy to just think totally apart from Christ, totally apart from His incarnation, from his crucifixion and from the new birth, ‘Life is good! Life is sweet!’ Paul is saying ‘I’ve come to realize that life is not good, life is not sweet, apart from Christ.’

This happened to the Philippian Christians, look at II Corinthians 8 and 9. Paul says that God’s grace came to the Christians in Macedonia so that in the midst of their poverty, generosity overflowed so that the Macedonians are giving Paul money so that he can go share the gospel to the filthy-rich Corinthians. It’s glorious, isn’t it?

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