26 August 2010

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (4:9, Part 1)

We’ve seen these last few weeks the pattern that should guide us in choosing those things we use to fill our time. And today we’re going to look at a verse that shows us the result of following this template. When your kids ask you “Why do I have to eat my broccoli?” We don’t—or, shouldn’t say—“Because I said so!” Children need to know why you are making them eat something they don’t want to eat. And the same is true for new Christians. When we tell them “You should really listen to this fellow” or we warn them to avoid this other one over here, what question are they going to come back with? “Why?” What makes this fellow so good? “Well, because I said so” doesn’t really cut it. We should be able to tell them, “This gentleman preaches the truth, and we need to know the truth in order to glorify God.” And in fact, today we will see that Paul gives his own life as an example of what happens when you eat your spiritual broccoli, so to speak. So, we’re gonna read verses 8-9, but verse 9 will be our topic today.

Philippians 4:8-98 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

In these two verses, Paul is showing us what to do with our minds and our bodies. We should let our minds dwell on things that are true, honest, etc. Then we should be living out our lives the way that Paul did in his own life. Now, this does not mean that we are all going to die as a martyr. We’re not all going to go from one town to another, and being beaten and stoned for preaching the gospel. And when we find people whose lives show a pattern of following Christ, it doesn’t mean our life is going to be exactly the same as their life. I was listening to another message from Pastor Phil, how each of us is in what you may call and obstacle race. But my race isn't the same as Steven’s race or Nikki’s race or Tony’s race or anybody else’s race. Our race may not be exactly the same as someone else’s, but we may actually face some of the same obstacles—those obstacles may be a little higher or a little lower for some people. And when we do face those obstacles, it helps to talk to people who have faced them before us. What was the obstacle? How did they make it over that obstacle? And what do they look like now?

Verse 9. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me. First, let's break down The things which you learned and received and heard in me. He’s talking about the gospel that he brought to Philippi. If we remember nothing else, the one thing we should always remember is the gospel—that God sent His Son to die for our sins, that He rose again, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He is coming back one day, and all who confess that He is Lord will be resurrected as Jesus was. It doesn’t matter what you forget—you may even forget your own name. But we should never forget the gospel. If someone from the Men In Black walked up to you with their little neurolizer, and they could zap out any part of your memory, and you could choose whether to keep everything you know about how to do your job—or you could retain all you know about the gospel, which would you choose? He's telling us that should we forget anything else, we must always remember the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The things which you…saw in me. He told the church at Corinth 1st Corinthians 11:1Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Suppose we asked 100 Christians this question: “Out of all the people mentioned in the Bible, which person’s life would you use as a model for your own?” How many of those people do you think would choose the life of the apostle Paul? Think about it: Not long after he met the risen Christ, he took Barnabas and went into the cities of Lystra and Derbe, Iconium. And when Paul and Silas preached the gospel at Philippi in Acts 16, they really didn’t seem to start out on the right foot, looking at it from a human perspective. They found Lydia and a few women by the river and led them to Christ. Then they had that little dust-up with the owners of a slave girl who brought their masters much profit by fortune-telling when he cast that evil spirit out of her. Acts 16:22-24Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. Guess what? The jailer that received the charge and put them in the inner prison—he’s one of the people reading this letter. Do you think he saw Paul and Silas display a little bit of faith in God while they were shut up in that prison?

Now, we’re not all going to be thrown into the inner part of a Roman dungeon, sitting in mud and…um…you know. Paul is telling these Philippians—and perhaps this jailer in particular—to remember the things that Paul went through in Philippi and also in Lycaonia and Thessalonica. Because as we will see next week, these Philippian believers were probably going through some of the same persecutions Paul went through. In some other places, Paul spelled out all the things he put his body through to make the gospel known. 2nd Corinthians 4:8-12We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. And what does he call all of those things he put his body through? 2nd Corinthians 4:17For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

Let’s look at some of these things that Paul calls “light afflictions.” 2nd Corinthians 11:23-28Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—and that wasn’t the worst of it—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. You could beat that man’s body into the ground—but don’t you dare mess with the gospel, or the Church of our Lord Jesus. So he’s telling us to do the things that he has done, to have the same passion for the gospel—that it is more important than even our lives.

Timothy knew that. 2nd Timothy 3:10-11But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra. Romans 8:18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Yeah, you may have been through the cocaine and the crack and the booze and the prostitution and whatever else. But if you are in Christ, how much of that does God remember? Big fat ZERO. The things you do in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, how much does He remember? EVERYTHING. Matthew 10:42“And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” Adam Clarke said of these words of Christ:
“It is the name of Jesus that sanctifies every thing, and renders services, in themselves comparatively contemptible, of high worth in the sight of God.”
So you gave someone a cold cup of water. Well, that cup of water may have kept them alive so they could hear the gospel. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me…

Then he gives us one simple command. What is that command? DO. That verb “do” is in the imperative mood. In Greek, that means it is a command. Other than the phrase “the God of peace,” this little word is probably the 2nd most important word in this whole verse. Why? Because if you DO these things, then what? The God of peace will be with you. If you DO these things—these things that God commands us to do—will He give us what we need to do it? There’s an old saying that “If God leads you to it…He’ll lead you through it.” Someone may ask, “Well, what does He want me to do?” I can't give that person a specific answer, except to say, “Whatever it is He’s calling you to do—DO.”

I got to thinking about this little word. So many times we focus on the big, theological words. Things like Justification and Sanctification and Regeneration and Imputation. But there are three words—three little verbs—that Jesus uses as commands for all of us. In one word, what is the first and greatest commandment? “Love.” What were Jesus’ last two commands He gave before He went to the Father? Matthew 28:19-20“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” We can sum The Great Commission in two little words: “GO” and “DO.” Two of the three greatest commandments are little 2-letter words.

And here, Paul focuses on the “DO.” Do these things—what things? The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me—Do these things and the God of peace will be with you. Now, we’re gonna look at the phrase “God of peace” later. Like, seven days from now later. Sorry. What was the goal, the aim of Paul’s life? Philippians 1:20Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. What kind of people should we Christians seek out as a pattern? Philippians 3:17Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. If we follow in the footsteps of people who are walking the path that Jesus laid out for us, then we will be following in the footsteps of Christ. And if we are following in the footsteps of Christ, will we be doing those things that glorify God?

Many times the NT refers to our life in Christ as a walk. Never a sprint, never a leap—but a “walk.” One step at a time. Almost 50 times in the NT we are warned about how we should walk. John 8:12Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 12:35-36Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” Romans 6:4Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 8:1There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 1st John 1:7But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

If we are walking according to His word and His command and His leading—if we do those things that are pleasing to God and that glorify Him, He will be with us in doing those things. Now, what’s the opposite of all that? Well, if we are doing things that are in clear violation of His Law, and if we are doing things that are sinful, and all of a sudden we find ourselves in a pickle because we have lied or stolen or done something similar—will the God of peace be with us? No. In fact, could it be possible that He may even strive against us? Galatians 6:7-8Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. If we try to accomplish some task or gain some earthly reward by lying and cheating—there will be consequences. Can you think of a more helpless feeling than to know that you have done something that has the potential of causing great harm to us or to people we love, knowing that God may be sitting on His throne saying, “Nope. You got yourself into this mess because of your own sinfulness.”

Proverbs 21:16-18A man who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the assembly of the dead. He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich. The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous, and the unfaithful for the upright. Now, it may turn out that the only consequence is that you get that feeling of dread and hopelessness, and you realize just how badly you screwed up and you determine not to let it happen again. That’s why he says in Galatians 6:9And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Now, as far as doing good—have you ever had a boss tell you to do something that you had never done before, just tell you, “Well, just do the best you can?” There you are, standing in front of this huge machine with knobs and buttons and dials, none of them are labeled, and you're standing there thinking, “uhhhhhh…OK.” God doesn’t do that. If God led you to do something you could not do without His help and His guidance and His strength—would that give you much peace? But what does Paul say here? Do these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 2nd Timothy 1:7For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. There may be dangers involved. It may not be an easy task to perform. But, Proverbs 21:21-23He who follows righteousness and mercy finds life, righteousness, and honor. A wise man scales the city of the mighty, and brings down the trusted stronghold. Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles. 2nd Corinthians 10:3-5For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.

All these native tribes that use masks and dances and fire to scare away “evil spirits.” They don’t know what they're fighting. Those spirits—and they are spirits, Jesus called them “unclean spirits”—they're not scared by masks and strange dancing. What are those unclean spirits really scared of? The name of Jesus Christ! When a Christian stands on the word of God, and the certainty that what God has promised us He is faithful to deliver, and that whether by life or by death, Christ will be magnified in our body—that turns the plans of Satan upside down.

Pastor Phil read this in that same message I mentioned earlier. It’s from a letter from a missionary to New Guinea—
“You can always measure the weight of your blow by the one you get back. When you are on your back with fever and at your last ounce of strength, when some of your converts backslide, when you learn that your most promising inquirers are only fooling, when your mail gets held up, and some don’t bother to answer your letters, is that the time to put on mourning? No, sir. That’s the time to pull out the stops and shout Hallelujah! The old fellow is getting it in the neck and hitting back. Heaven is leaning over the battlements and watching. ‘Will he stick with it?’ And as they see who is with us, as they see the unlimited reserves, the boundless resources, as they see the impossibility of failure, how disgusted and sad they must be when we run away. Glory to God! We are not going to run away. We are going to stand!”
That is the encouragement the apostle Paul is giving us here—The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Jesus Christ is Lord.
Amen.

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