03 July 2010

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (4:4-4:5)

There are some words in the English language that kinda mean the same thing…but not quite. The example I always use is the word “look.” There are words that mean “to look” but they have different implications. For example, I can look at my watch and see what time it is. I can glance at the door. I can stare at the clock or I can watch for someone coming down the road. They all refer to “looking” but they have slightly different meanings. The same situation exists with the word “happy.” Somebody can be happy. Or they can be cheerful. Or they can be exuberant. Or they can be glad or they can be…you name it. Then there is the possibility that the person can be joyful. Now we don’t often think that there is a difference between joy and happiness. But there is. Let me give you the definitions from the original Webster’s Dictionary, from Noah Webster in 1828.

Joy“The passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; that excitement of pleasurable feelings which is caused by success, good fortune, the gratification of desire or some good possessed, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire.” In other words, it’s the good feeling we get when we either get something, or we know we are going to get something.

Happiness“The pleasurable sensations derived from the gratification of sensual appetites render a person temporarily happy; but he can only be esteemed really and permanently happy, who enjoys peace of mind in the favor of God. To be happy in any degree, we must be free from pain both of body and of mind; to be very happy, we must be in the enjoyment of lively sensations of pleasure, either of body or mind.”

That is the difference. Happiness only exists if everything is going our way, in every way, all the time. Joy, however, exists as long as there is a promise of something good, whether we have it right now or whether we have the promise of it.

So, can there be happiness if there is no joy? No. Because, for one thing, things aren't going our way right now, and there is no indication that they're gonna get any better.

BUT can there be joy in the absence of immediate happiness? Yes. For example, take the life of a Christian. We live in a world of death and decay. More and more, the criminal element seems to be in almost complete control. But do we have a promise of a better home one day? Absolutely! And in that promise is where we find joy.

Before I got saved I had heard OF the song “Beulah Land”—but I had never heard the song. The first time I heard it sung I felt hope. And of course, as we have seen, hope brings joy—even if this present world doesn’t. And if we have that joy, then we will not be dependent upon our own situations and our own circumstances to bring us joy. So, today's text Philippians 4:4-5Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Have you ever heard someone say that they don’t like to repeat themselves? The apostle Paul didn’t always have that problem. There are several instances where he repeats himself. Galatians 1:8-9But even if we…preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. He wasn’t repeating himself just to fill up space. He did it for emphasis and out of a sense of urgency. “Look, you’ve already heard the gospel. Now if anyone comes through bringing some other gospel, they are anathema.” So he does it there as a warning.

But here, Paul repeats himself to let us know that whatever our circumstances we have a hope that outstrips any hope that anybody could have in anything of this world—and in that we rejoice. So, verse 4. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 1st Thessalonians 5:16Rejoice evermore!

Listen to these lyrics from “Beulah Land”:
I’m kinda homesick for a country to which I’ve never been before.

No unkind words will there be spoken and time won’t matter any more.

Beulah land—I’m longing for you and someday on thee I’ll stand
Where my home shall be eternal, Beulah land, sweet Beulah land.

I’m looking out across the river to where my faith shall end in sight.

There’s just a few more days to labor then I’ll take my heavenly flight.

Beulah land—I’m longing for you and someday on thee I’ll stand
Where my home shall be eternal, Beulah land, sweet Beulah land.

A little background on that title. The word “Beulah” is actually Hebrew. Isaiah 62:4“You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for YHVH delights in you.” God made this promise to the Jews, that when He brought them out of Babylon, He would once again delight in the people of Israel, and would once again call the city of Jerusalem His bride. We Christians have a promise in Revelation 21:2And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. New Jerusalem—Heaven—will be a bride, far more glorious than the original.

The writer of those lyrics—was he IN “Beulah Land”—New Jerusalem, the bride of Christ? No. I’m kinda homesick for a country to which I’ve never been before. Did he know he would be there one day? And someday on thee I’ll stand. Hope brings joy. Does it mean that we are always going to be happy? No. But can we always have joy? Yes. Because if we remember the definitions of those two words, we recall that happiness is tied up in our current circumstances, but joy has an eye on the future. And if we know that spending eternity in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ is the source of our joy, then how often will we rejoice in the Lord? Always! And again, I say, rejoice! R.G. Lee“Heaven is the most marvelous place the wisdom of God could conceive and that the power of God could prepare.”

We read that little passage from Galatians where he repeated himself in a negative sense. Now he repeats himself in a positive sense, and lets us know, in no uncertain terms, that our joy is in Christ. That He should be the source of all of our joy. Question: Is there anything about Christ that causes doubt? 2nd Corinthians 1:19-20For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us…was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. Does uncertainty breed joy? You don’t hear many people going around saying, “I have joy because I am confident that I don’t know where I'm going when I die!!!” Doesn’t make sense does it? But if we know that the promises of God in Christ are YES and in Him AMEN, then does that inspire us to joy? 2nd Timothy 1:12I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. We read a few weeks ago, Philippians 3:20-21For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body. I don’t know about you, but I am glad that God isn't going to leave me in this old body. But that I will be transformed to the image of His dear Son.

So, we can have joy because we have hope in what lies ahead. Can we also have joy in the present? YES! Look back at verse 1 of chapter 4. Philippians 4:1Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. Do you see the word “joy”? What was Paul’s joy in the present time? These brethren! If we are saved, then we are “in Christ.” We are “in the Lord.” If we rejoice in the Lord, and we all are in the Lord, then we rejoice in one another, Amen?

Not only are we each other’s crown, which we talked about a couple weeks ago, but we are also one another’s joy! Because we are in the Lord, and we rejoice in what the Lord rejoices in. And the Lord rejoices in you! Zephaniah 3:17“YHVH your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Know what’s so cool about that? In addition to the fact that the eternally righteous and just Lord of all creation rejoices over saving a wretch like me? Romans 12:15Rejoice with those who rejoice. If God rejoices over us, and we rejoice with those who rejoice, then who are we are joining with in rejoicing over each other? We are all rejoicing with GOD!! So much for the notion that God is just sitting on His throne with a lightning bolt, ready to just zap anybody who happens to cross His path when He wakes up on the wrong side of the bed.

You know who I feel sorry for? People that can go to church and all the while they sit there bitter and cold and all they do is just look around at everybody else and get all huffy-puffy if anybody dares to smile while the preacher’s speaking. I feel sorry for those people. Because they are missing out on the joy we are to have in Christ! We’re not called to be sourpusses and grumpy Gusses.

There are 150 Psalms.

Fifty four of them—more than 1/3—use the word ‘rejoice’!! Psalm 20:5We will rejoice in your salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners! Psalm 68:3But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God; yes, let them rejoice exceedingly.

Nineteen Psalms contain the word ‘joy.’ Psalm 16:11You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 43:4Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God.

Sixteen Psalms use the word ‘joyful.’ Psalm 35:9And my soul shall be joyful in YHVH.

Then Psalm 5:11 uses all three words!
Psalm 5:11But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; let those also who love Your name be joyful in You. Question—what kind of noise are we to make before the LORD? Seven times in the Psalms we are told to make a joyful noise unto the LORD.

Then there is that OT Law I keep talking about. The one that shows us how desperately wicked we are. Fourteen times in that Law we are told to “Rejoice before the LORD.” One of those OT feasts was the Feast of Weeks—later known as Pentecost—listen to what the people were commanded to do. Deuteronomy 16:10-11Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to YHVH your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as YHVH your God blesses you. You shall rejoice before YHVH your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where YHVH your God chooses to make His name abide. You shall rejoice before YHVH your God. In other words, wherever the name of YHVH is named—REJOICE!! We consider one another to be our beloved. We long to see one another. And when we come together in the name of our Lord, we rejoice! Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

Philippians 4:5--Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. That word ‘gentleness.’ The KJV says, ‘moderation.’ Either or. Thing is, the word ‘you’ is plural—as, ‘you as a group’; or "y’all" or "y’uns." The word ‘gentle’ is singular. Again, the theme of “Unity.” He’s not saying, “Let your own, singular gentleness be known to all” and “You there, you let your own individual gentleness be known to all” or, “Let your gentlenesses be known to all.” Gentleness—singular! What is the theme that has been running through this letter since the start of the 2nd chapter? Be of……one accord, walk by the same rule, be of the same mind. One and the same; one and the same. And even the gentleness that we are to show the world should be the same as what we show to each other. “Let the world know and see the single-mindedness that unites all of you individuals into being one body that acts in a singular manner.”

I've got my own individual gentleness. My own individual patience. Leaves a little bit to be desired at times. But that’s why we don’t rely on ourselves for the things like oh, I don’t know, love, joy, peace, goodness, gentleness, faith, meekness or self-control. Where do those things come from? The Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The singular gentleness—forbearance, moderation, patience, etc—that we need to have to show the world what it means to be in Christ, comes from God. We see that very clearly in the book of James. Hold your place in Philippians and let’s turn there. We’re gonna come back to Philippians in a moment.

James 1:2-5My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials—so, we can have joy even in the midst of a trial, right? Why? James 1:3-5--Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach—or, upbraideth not (KJV)and it will be given to him. The wisdom James is talking about here is the wisdom to understand how God is working in our lives, and what we are to do with this trial that he is allowing us to go through. And, a little side note, the Greek literally says, let him ask of the giving God or let him ask of the God who provides. One of the titles of God in the Old Testament is YHVH-Jireh--"YHVH provides." This was a title found in the account of Abraham offering Isaac as a sacrifice (see Genesis 22:7-14, Young's Literal Translation). James wrote his epistle To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad (James 1:1). In other words, he was writing to Jewish Christians. They would certainly know what he was talking about when he said let him ask of the God who provides. he was referring, of course, to YHVH-Jireh. "Ask of God who provides and He will give you the wisdom to complete your trial and glorify His name."

Now, you're probably wondering what in the world this has to do with letting our gentleness be known to all. I'm glad you asked. Flip over to James 3:13-15Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. God may put us in the middle of a trial so that we can learn something about ourselves. We may need to learn patience. So God will put us through a trial to build our patience. There’s usually another person involved. And if we act out of our own desires, our own emotions, etc, are we going to show the world the gentleness that the Spirit demands of us? Our first inclination may be to say, “Someone is getting in the way of my good time; I'm going to make them miserable.” But when we ask for the wisdom we need so that patience can have its good and perfect work, we will see that it ain't about us, and that sometimes we need to just forget about our delicate little feelings and put them aside to show the world the patience that we have from the Holy Spirit.

James 3:17The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. The wisdom that is from above that is first…what? PURE. If it’s not pure, can it be any of those other things? That is the wisdom we need to deal with the trials of life. That is the wisdom that gives us the ability to be peaceable, gentle, willing to yield…

Now, flip back to Philippians 4:5. What is it that we are to let the whole world see from us? We are all to show that singular gentleness that should exist within the body of Christ. Because if we do not show that wisdom to others in the body of Christ, how can we show it to the world? And if we go off the rails every time we don’t get our own way, are we abiding by what the Spirit is commanding us here? No. Is the Holy Spirit pretty stable? And if that Spirit is in us, should we be spiritually stable? I like what Dr. MacArthur says about this:
Spiritual stability comes when I have no demands for myself. Then if I get something, fine. If I don't, fine. If I'm treated a certain way, fine. If I'm treated this way, fine. It doesn't really matter to me, I'm not concerned about me…Because Paul's not the issue. I'm not an issue so I can have a forbearing spirit. I can have a gracious big-hearted magnanimous humble charitable spirit. That's stability…Some people live and die in that revolving door of listening to what everybody says about him and taking in personally every single thing that ever happens in their life and filtering it through their little ego process and if it has wounded them in any way, they're in immediate instability, anxiety. You can't be knocked off balance by inequity, injustice, unfair treatment, lies, humiliation if you're not the issue…That's humility...humble graciousness. So, spiritual stability belongs to those who cultivate peace in the fellowship of love, those who maintain joy, and those who do not demand what they might be due but are graciously humble.
One last thing I want to show you. Notice how the apostle words this exhortation. Let it be known. Passive voice. He doesn’t say, “Show it to the world.” He says let it be known. Act the way you're supposed to act, and eventually the world will notice. Do you know Satan can even use our humility against us? I remember one time--I honestly, truly, remember thinking this one time. As soon as the thought popped into my head, I said to myself "Where in the world did that come from?" But I remember thinking this one time--“He thinks he’s humble. Humph! I can be twice as humble as he is!” We can become proud of our humility! That is how deceptive sin can be! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

Jesus Christ is Lord.

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