This past year has surprisingly been one of quite a bit of reflection for me. This is surprising because I am not really one that lives in the past or thinks about it a lot – I usually am pressing forward to the future – what’s next – where are we going now – I also don’t like to contemplate a lot – being quiet and processing a lot actually kind of exhausts me – as a matter of fact I tend to dose off when I do it
I guess you could chalk it up to 2020 being what is was and entering a new year where you tend to set goals - or the fact that I turned 50 in October – or just the struggles that daily life brings
Or the fact that 3 weeks ago my dad passed away
And when someone that significant leaves this world it gives you pause – it makes you think about really everything
You look at that person’s life and the way they lived and the what their priorities were and how they treated people and the legacy they left you – the legacy they left the world
What they are remembered for
And my dad left quite the legacy
All of this had caused me to stop – to pause – and ponder
I’ve thought a lot about who I am and what I do and how I approach life and people and how do others see me and how will others remember me – what is my life about – am I living out my destiny – my calling
Am I sold out to the gospel of Jesus – does my life reflect that – am I on a mission to see people reconciled to Jesus and to see a world redeemed and renewed in His name
I guess really, I’m asking – who am I? And what will my legacy be?
And I can’t think of a better part of scripture to help me with this – I can’t think of a better spiritual mentor to guide me in this than the book of Philippians and the apostle Paul
I have loved starting 2021 by digging into the Bible together – as a community – looking at what the book of Philippians has to say to us about living the life Jesus calls us to and how that life will lead to future joy and hope – and how we as a church – together in this new year - can move into a broken world – a very broken world – with a renewed sense of calling and passion.
This series is part of our BYOB series where we look at the 3 worlds of the scripture – the worlds
Behind the text
Of the text
In front of the text
And I hope you have taken advantage of the additional opportunities that have been offered – joining our BYOB fb page, Barry’s fb live sessions, the webinar, the reading assignments and the podcast where they always go deeper into the topic from the weekend
Lots extra great stuff.
And today I get to close this series by bringing this whole book together and finishing up with Philippians chapter 4.
You can go ahead and turn there – we’ll kind of look at several sections in that chapter – but for now let’s talk a little bit about what was happening in the world behind this text.
World behind the text
Many of us that have been a part of the church for a while have heard of the apostle Paul or Saul – he had 2 names that are interchangeable – many know his story – after Jesus’ death and resurrection Saul was one of those that persecuted Christians – not only did he not acknowledge Jesus as the savior and the messiah and the king – he persecuted those that did – well one day on a road from Jerusalem to Damascus on a mission to arrest Jesus’ followers Jesus appeared to Saul in a bright light – this blinds him for 3 days until God sends Ananias to restore Paul’s vision and from that moment on Paul acknowledges Jesus as Lord and king and makes it his life’s work to tell everyone else about Him – half of the book of acts his dedicated to Paul’s life and work – and 14 of the 27 books in the NT are traditionally attributed to Paul – now there is some dispute by scholars as to whether he was the author of all 14 but let’s just say this Paul was a big deal – his ministry reached far and wide and the establishment of the church in the greater sense has much to do with Paul – I love that what we read about in the Bible about Paul has a direct connection to who we are today – we Grace Church can be linked back to Paul and the work that we read about him doing in the NT.
Interesting tidbit about Paul’s name – as I said earlier he had 2 names - interchangeable – it was common for Jewish people at this time to have two names – a Hebrew name and then a name in Greek/Latin – his Hebrew name was Saul and because he was a roman citizen his Latin name was Paul – he used Paul in his letters because that was his Roman name and that would have been the language and the style his readers would have been used to and Paul would have wanted to put people at ease and be relatable – it’s an indication he met people right where they were and he wanted to be able to relate to them – just like Jesus
The church in Phillipi is the first Jesus community Paul starts in eastern Europe – roman colony -retired soldiers – patriotic nationalism – very resistant to Jesus being the true king of the world – and those that continued to follow Jesus in Philippi faced resistance and persecution – but they were a committed group of Christ followers
Sent letter from one of his many imprisonments – and they sent Paul money – so he sends this letter back to them
World of the text
The letter is not one idea from beginning to end but several ideas centered on the poem in chapter 2:6-11
Retells the story of Jesus
New Living Translation
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God,[a]
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
he took the humble position of a slave[c]
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,[d]
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
This is the Jesus – the story that Paul is giving his life to
And the rest of the book is essentially essays that take key words from that poem in chapter 2 – and go on to explain/describe how living as a Christian is living out the story of Jesus
Throughout Philippians Paul is saying your own story – or our own story – should be a living expression of Jesus story
To the world we should be the hands and feet of Jesus – and Paul is telling us why and how
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
He even gives examples of people living for Christ in chapter 2
Timothy and Epaphroditus
Then his own story in chapter 3 about giving up his old life and following Jesus – citizen of heaven now – recounts who he used to be – but that is all garbage – worthless compared to gaining Christ and becoming one with him
And the section we are looking at today – is the close – the last chapter – where Paul turns it toward the Philippians – challenge to live the example he has set for them and more importantly that Jesus has set for them
He is asking them to be good citizens –
Good citizens of Phillipi
And more importantly
Good citizens of the Kingdom of God
Good citizens of Phillipi and of the kingdom of God
First in Philippians 4:2
He is imploring 2 prominent female leaders to deal with their dispute – he names them which means he knows them well and is close with them – he has done ministry with them – he does not want that ministry derailed by a petty dispute – make it right - be unified – show humility and reconcile – he is so concerned with this he sends – in verse 3
And I ask you, my true partner,[a] to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News.
A true partner – someone he trusts to help – unity in the church – a community of Christians is important
Good citizens live in unity.
Something that should make us think long about the divisive world we live in today
In verse 4 Paul says:
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
This set of ideas is distinctly Christian Good citizens of heaven are full of joy not temporary joy but joy that comes from a deep relationship with the Lord – they are considerate in all they do – or they show gentleness – toward each other and toward the world – even those that might be making life miserable – just like Jesus did:
23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted,
nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.
1 Peter 2:23
And that line in verse 5
Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
It could be a follow up to the line before – be considerate because the Lord is coming soon or leading into the next line – don’t be anxious because the Lord is coming soon – the Lord is near – either way it is a reminder that even in their suffering at the hands of those who proclaim Caesar as lord – the true Lord is near – is coming – they can call on him – verse 6
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.
Don’t worry – pray – and God will give you peace.
You don’t have to worry because you have utter dependence on God, and you can give thanks because of your trust in God. Paul could not imagine a Christian life that was not steeped in Thanksgiving.
Good citizens are full of joy.
Good citizens are considerate/gentle.
Good citizens are characterized by peace.
Good citizens don’t worry but pray.
Then verse 8 begins a list of virtues that would have been familiar to his readers – these are virtues that can be found in many secular lists of Greek virtues. They are generally-understood-by-all-people list of things worthy of thinking about – Paul is melding his two worlds here – the first list of Christian virtues followed by a common list of Greek virtues – again with this second list meeting people where they are – and putting this common list of virtues in the context of Jesus life changes their value and importance for his followers
8And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Good citizens fix their thoughts on what is good and honorable.
Then Paul writes – verse 9
9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Paul is saying I’m a good citizen
Follow me as I follow Jesus.
10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ,[a] who gives me strength.
Paul is saying a true heartfelt thank you for their gift but then in verse 11 and 12 he is saying but even without the gift I have learned to live with whatever I had – stating he has lived in all situations – good and bad – nothing and everything – empty and plenty – before verse 13 his readers might have thought he was talking about self-sufficiency but verse 13 turns it to Christ sufficiency
This speaks to the absolutely Christ-centeredness of Paul’s life – he is a man in Christ, so he takes what Christ brings
If it means plenty – he is a man in Christ and that alone
If it means want – he is still a man in Christ and accepts the hardships – almost as a gift – he sees his own suffering as a participation in the story of Jesus
A follower of Jesus knows that all of life is a gift – you can see beauty and grace in all circumstances
Hardship has been his greatest teachers – he has learned the secret of contentment in all circumstances simply dependence on the one who strengthens him
Good citizens put their full trust and dependence in Jesus.
Good citizens find contentment in all circumstances.
This book is a unique window into Paul’s heart and mind:
He saw his life as a reenactment of Jesus’ story
His awareness of Jesus’ love and presence gave him hope and humility
He was a good citizen of the kingdom of God – the kingdom of God
Are you a good citizen?
As I said earlier my dad passed away at the beginning of this year.
Yes 2021 did not start out the way I expected. He got COVID at the end of November – we thought he beat it, but it ended up taking him from us in the end. He lived to almost 90 and as I said earlier, I’ve spent quite a bit of time reflecting on my dad and his life. And because I knew I was on to preach on Philippians this weekend I’ve also been thinking about Paul and his life quite a bit. And I gotta tell you there are quite a few similarities between the two men. Now I’m not going to say my dad was at the same level as the Apostle Paul but there is a lot they had in common. Like Paul – my dad had a come to Jesus conversion moment. So Jesus didn’t appear to my dad in a blast of light and he wasn’t blinded but after he married my mom – he felt compelled to go forward during an altar call at a church my mom was making him attend – and he would say in that moment his whole life changed. He felt the presence of the Holy Spirit enter his life and that was that – from that point on my dad was sold out to Jesus and wanted everyone he knew to understand the power and peace and promise of a personal relationship with Christ – just like Paul. (I don’t remember ever walking into his room to say good night and he wasn’t reading his bible and digging into the scriptures) And just like Paul – the church was important to my dad – he was the founding member of 2 churches and served as a deacon and an elder many times and finally as a greeter – and I gotta say I hope in this way Paul was like my dad – and I want to believe he was – my dad put everyone at ease – made them feel seen and known – with a smile or a joke or a lot of jokes – pretty bad jokes – my dad made people feel just a little bit better – even when he was coming at them with a drill as they sat in his dental chair – I’d like to think Paul made people feel like my dad did. Like Paul – my dad truly found Jesus a little later in his life so once he fully understood the redemption and reconciliation and restoration that comes from a relationship with Jesus he wanted the entire world to know and made it his mission to share that good news with all he encountered. In his dental practice, thru prison ministry, to every friend he ever had in his life – high school and beyond, to his family, his coworkers – my dad was committed to healing the broken places in this world – with separation from God being the one that became his life’s mission. He wanted everyone in sphere to experience fully what God had to offer. Just like Paul. And at the end my dad was in his own type of prison the last few months – especially in the hospital – like Paul
And like Paul – my dad was a good citizen.
So, as I’ve read Philippians and the words Paul had to say – I feel like the words Paul has for all of us could have easily been the words my dad had for me.
Here are some of the ways they would have reminded us to be good citizens:
1. Don’t forget where your true allegiance lies
Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Philippians 1:27
2. God will never give up on you.
And I am certain that God, who began a good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6
3. Put others first – self-sacrificing love
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3
4. There is nothing more important than our relationship with Jesus
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Philippians 3:8
5. Jesus is always enough – no matter the circumstances
I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13
6. We have a calling to spread the gospel and heal brokenness in the name of Jesus.
For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For me, living means living for Christ…
7. We have a promised future of redemption
…and dying is even better. Philippians 1:20-21
My dad knows that now. Now my dad is a good citizen in the kingdom of heaven.
This is what you should shape your entire lives around – this is what your lives should strive to be – as I look at the example of Paul and personally of my dad this is what I see in them – men that truly understood the beauty and brilliance of what Jesus did for us and men that gave their lives to sharing that beauty and calling others to it.
Knowing Jesus is deeply personal and transformative, and they want others to know that too
They want me to know it – you to know it – all of us to know it
If you claim Jesus – if you say you love him and trust him and you’ve surrendered to him – live like it – act like it – love like it – Paul doesn’t mince words he lays it out there –
Be a good citizen.
And if you have never surrendered – why not? Don’t you want the beautiful, transformative life this book calls you to? You can become a citizen of the kingdom of heaven – and that is a far greater call than being a citizen of this world
This citizenship is in a kingdom where the king is one of humility and kindness and mercy and forgiveness and faithfulness and love
A king that is for you and with you
2021 can be a year of rebirth and redemption and reconciliation and restoration for all of us.
A year of hope and joy for everyone
A citizen of the only true King and a citizen of the only kingdom that matters.