09 September 2010

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (4:9-4:10)

Before we start this week I want to read you a quote. A fellow once asked the question: “If Jesus had been less divisive, would he have died?” And the answer is “No.” I was trying to remember a quote I had read one time, and I found it this week. Leonard Ravenhill said this:
“If Christ had preached the same watered-down message as many pastors today, they never would have crucified Him.”
In other words, if He had preached the same sappy, syrupy, candy-coated “God created you to be a CHAMpion and have material wealth” message as they do on TBN and Joel Osteen, they would have left Him alone. But because He came and told these pious, religious men who thought that they held the keys to who gets into Heaven and who doesn’t—kinda like the Roman Catholic system today—that they were indeed just as sinful as the sinners and tax collectors, their little seat of power was threatened and they eventually sided with a pagan empire and declared “We have no king but Caesar”—and for their loyalty, that same government destroyed Jerusalem and burned it to the ground about 35 years later.

We left off last week talking about how God initiated the peace process with man. Man had no inclination to make peace with God. Man thinks he’s OK just the way he is, and that he actually has no need to make peace with God. Or they paint God as some kind of tyrannical dictator, and they dismiss the fact that He is a just God and that sin must be punished. Romans 1:21-22Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man. Man knows that there is a God. They may not know Him as “God” but they know He’s there. And in order to carry out their sinful lives without feeling guilty, they say, “I don’t like the image of God that the Bible gives us—I'm gonna make my own god, and he’ll let me do whatever I want.” In his “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” John Calvin says:
“Those whose tendencies are [opposed by] the justice of God, knowing that his [courtroom] has been erected for the punishment of [sin], earnestly wish that that [courtroom] were overthrown. Under the influence of this feeling they are actually [at war] against God, justice being one of his essential attributes…to avoid the appearance of condemning a majesty by which all are overawed, they [create] some religious observance, never ceasing to defile themselves with every kind of vice, and add crime to crime, until they have broken the holy law of the Lord in every one of its requirements, and set his whole righteousness at nought.”
In our sinful, spiritually dead state we live in until are born again, we are opposed by the Law of God—and we are condemned by that Law. All those 613 commandments in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy—that Law does not exist to show us how righteous we are. On the contrary!! That Law exists to show us that there is no way in the world we could ever be righteous. Galatians 3:21-22If there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. We are opposed to the justice of God. We are condemned by the justice of God. We are at war with the justice of God.

BUT!! Because we could not keep that Law, God sent someone who could. And who did! That of course was our Lord Jesus Christ. Galatians 3:24-25Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. That word tutor—we really don’t have a word like it today. The Greek word refers to a servant whose job was to make sure little Johnny made it to school, and sat in class and listened, and then walk Johnny home and make sure he did his homework. That’s what Paul means when he calls the Law a ‘tutor.’ It was meant to lead us silly humans by the hand and to show us the one who would come to be our righteousness. And once we see how sinful we are, and we see how glorious God is, and we put our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation—we are no longer under that Law.

In fact, we actually learn to love that Law of God. Psalm 119:163 [NASB]I hate and despise falsehood, but I love Your law. We human beings have a problem: we are born with a spirit that does not love the Law of God or any other kind of laws for that matter. Our own, natural, human, fleshly minds will not convict us of our sins. We can't know we’re doing anything wrong unless God shows us. The way God shows us is by the Holy Spirit. John 16:7-8, 13“It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment…when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” And when the Holy Spirit witnesses to us, and convicts us of our sinfulness, then that same Holy Spirit will cause us to love the Law of God. Psalm 119:165 [NASB]Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble. The God of peace will be with you.

Last week I gave you a quote from Tertullian. Here's another one, showing us why God is the "God of Peace." Here he talks about the difference between the Romans’ “gods”, and the righteous and just God of Peace that we know and serve:

“No, we don't worship your fake gods. We don't worship men, and you admit that your gods were all just that once. So how did they become gods? What did they do, that made them divine? They certainly didn't make the world, or anything that is in it. Nor do the whoring, raping, murderous crew you describe as gods deserve anything more than imprisonment in the underworld, since that is where you would assign any man who behaved like that. If [these ‘gods’] don't deserve that, why do you condemn in your courts men who do the same sorts of things? And does the status of each god really depend on a vote of the senate?...You allow temples to act as brothels, and priests as [pimps]. Even the temple-robbers are always of your faith! So what do we worship instead? We worship Truth. Get hold of this first, and then learn our whole system.”
So, moving on to verse 10. But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care… The Philippian church had been one of Paul’s most faithful supporters. Whenever he sent word that he had a need, the Philippians were usually one of the first to send it. And he was not above bragging about these people when he wrote to other churches. For example, he bragged about their giving when he wrote his second letter to the church at Corinth. 2nd Corinthians 11:7-9Did I commit sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you. Now, time out—by saying that he “robbed other churches” Paul is not saying that he snuck in late at night and stole the collection box. What he means is that in order to minister to the people at Corinth, he had to accept help from the churches in another region—Macedonia, the region where Philippi was located. And whenever Paul had a need, the people of Philippi were more than glad to help.

But it appears from Paul’s language that their giving had kinda tapered off. Not that they didn’t care about him, because he says, though surely you did care. Think about a couple that has been married for 30 years, and they get to a point where they just kinda go through the motions, and the romance isn't quite what it used to be. And so they take a second honeymoon, or go on a vacation to some favorite place. It’s not that they don’t love each other, but they want to get back to that first mushy, squishy, ooey-gooey love. The love was still there, but it was just kinda—eh. If we were to translate this literally, we would say, I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that at once you have caused your thinking of me to bloom afresh—that, upon which, you were thinking. They had not stopped thinking of, and being concerned about, Paul’s welfare. But that care had not moved them to action. Until one day, someone got the bright idea, “Hey—that’s the guy that preached the gospel to us. He needs our help! Let’s do something!”

Though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. If I'm stuck in Brazil with no money, no credit cards. And I’d like to get back home. What’s the quickest way for me to get money? I'm gonna call someone I know, and say, “Hey, I'm stuck in Brazil with no money, no credit cards. And I’d like to get back home. Can you wire me some money?” And they go to their local Western Union office, and they give the cashier $1000. The cashier calls the Western Union office in Sao Paolo, Brazil, saying, “Give Senor $1000.” The cashier in Sao Paolo, Brazil opens her cash drawer and hands me $1000. Did they have Western Union in the year 62 AD? No. From all I've read, this was the situation Paul is talking about here.

The Philippians wanted to help him; they had gotten together and said, “Look, we haven’t sent Paul any help in a while. We need to send him some—but how?” That should always be our attitude. Always ready to help. The key word there is “ready.” Is life always predictable? Is it easier to be motivated to help if we are ready—or if we suddenly get a call? It’s not easy, but we should always have it purposed in our hearts that “If a need comes up, and I can help—I will.” We can't always help when it’s needed. We can't always give the kind of help someone needs. But there’s always something we can do. Galatians 6:9-10Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

James 2:14-17 [NASB]What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. Now, we need to notice something in verse 14. What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can—what are the next two words? Can that faith save him? This is where the Roman Catholic misses the meaning.

Catholics like to use this passage in order to say that we are saved by works—that we must continually earn our salvation. No, no, no, no, no. What James is saying is this: the “faith” that only believes facts, and does not stir the person to actions that help his brother—is that kind of faith going to save him? No. To demonstrate his point, he shows us that even Satan has “faith in facts.” James 2:19 [NASB]You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. You believe God exists? Great. Good for you. Even Satan believes that—what good does it do him? And Satan even has a greater fear of God than many people who call themselves “Christian.” Can the kind of faith that says, “I love God—but I ain't gonna give up anything to help anybody” save a person? Obviously, the answer that James expects is “NO.” And I think this may even be part of the implication Christ was making when He said, Matthew 16:25-26“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

In other words, “I really want to hold on to the things I have. I mean, I know my brother is cold and naked and in want of food—tell ya what. I'll pray for ya!” Are the things we own worth our soul? Luke 12:21“One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” If someone had tickets at the 50-yard line for the Florida game, how hard would it be for that person to sell those tickets and give that money to a brother that was getting foreclosed? What did the rich young ruler lack? Mark 10:21“One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” Sorry, no can do there, Rabbi. How much good did the goods owned by the rich man do in Luke 16:25“But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.’”

There’s a difference between not wanting to do good things, and not being able to do good things. And I think that is what Paul is getting at here. He’s not saying that the Philippians didn’t want to help. Notice, he says, at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care. They never stopped caring, but maybe they weren’t making the extra effort. Now, however, they have gotten back on track, and that desire to help has caught fire again. Unfortunately, they couldn’t call their local Macedonian Union office and wire 500 drachmas to Paul in Rome. They wanted to help, but they lacked opportunity.

I would love to be able to drive through here with a tractor-trailer and give out bags of new clothes to every family that opens their door. But I can't. If I could, I’d like to think that I would. But here’s where we’re gonna finish up. Did the Philippians send Paul money so he could be comfortable? Did Paul care about being “comfortable?” But he needed to stay alive for one reason—what was that? To preach the gospel. And we’ll see next week, he says right after this Philippians 4:11Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. Content. Not “comfortable.” Not “overflowing with material abundance.” Content. That state of mind that says, “I've got food. I'm preaching the gospel. God is glorified in my body. I'm good.”

Jesus Christ is Lord.
Amen.

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