Sermon on Philippians 1:3-11
Text: I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.
We live in a very hedonistic society. This means that our society is so greatly interested in pleasing itself. It looks for ways to make itself feel better. It looks for new ways to have some fun in this life. You can see that in the advertisements that flood our televisions, radios, and computers. You can’t be satisfied with the bare minimum. You need all the bells and whistles, if you really want to enjoy the product. With this idea running through everything, it has led to a very short-sighted view of life. Enjoy today. This should come as no shock. After all, the motto “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die” has been around for two thousand years. It is so easy to get caught up in this thinking of only living for today. This morning, we are encouraged to take a long-range view of life. We are to LIVE FOR THE DAY OF JESUS CHRIST. How can we do that, especially when we do not know when it will come? As we study this portion of God’s Word, we see that we live for the day of Jesus Christ 1. With Confidence, 2. With Prayer, and 3. With Love.
When we read about the events that will precede the day of Jesus Christ, that is, the Last Day, it can be a bit disconcerting, to say the least. Jesus tells us that the end of the world will be preceded by many of the things that we see going on in the world today. He speaks of wars and rumors of wars. He speaks of earthquakes and famines. However, just before Jesus returns, he tells us that the sun and moon will be darkened. He says that stars will fall from the sky. As terrifying as those images are, there is another thing that might threaten to unnerve us even more. We know that, on the Last Day, Jesus will come to judge all people. Everyone is going to have to stand before Jesus. When we think of our lives, that might frighten us. After all, no one knows better than we do how many ways we have broken God’s law. We know all those unkind words, those hurtful acts, those hateful thoughts. God is very clear in his Word that those who sin deserve to spend their eternity apart from him in hell. Those words could well strike terror in our hearts.
However, we know that we can wait for the day of Jesus Christ with confidence. Confidence in what? Confidence in our own good lives? No, because we know that if we are going to stand before Jesus based on our lives, we will certainly be lost. However, we can wait for the Last Day with confidence. Paul speaks about this confidence in verse 6, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Paul speaks of confidence because (God) “began a good work in you.” The good work that God began in you and me was the fact that we have been saved. God began this good work before the world was created. From eternity, he chose you to be his own. He wanted you to be with him for all eternity. He saw that it was impossible for us to do this on our own because of our sins. So, he sent his Son into the world to be our Savior. Jesus made the impossible possible by his holy life, by suffering and dying on the cross to pay the debt of our sin, and by rising from the dead. God began this good work in us individually the day that we were brought to faith. For some of us, that was the day that we were baptized. For others, it may have come later in life. On that day, God made you his child. He began the good work in you and saved you from the punishment we deserved because of our sins.
Paul continues, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” (Verse 6) God is not going to leave the job half-done. Since he chose you from eternity, since he sent his Son to save you, since he brought you to faith, he will carry out the task of bringing you home to himself in heaven. He will finish the job. Because of this, we can be confident as we wait for the day of Jesus Christ. We do not have to worry that God is going to change the rules. We don’t have to worry that God is going to look at us, and say, “Oops, that was a mistake. I never meant for that person to be in heaven with me.” We do not even have to worry that all our sins will be brought up on the Last Day. Jesus paid for every single one of them. The Father accepted this payment on our behalf. Because God began this good work in us, namely our salvation, we know that he will carry it on to completion. We are saved. As a result, we live for the day of Jesus Christ with confidence.
Paul mentions an activity that we are to be about as we wait for the day of the Lord. He says in verses 3-5, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Prayer is an activity that God both invites and commands us to do. We are to come to him with all that is in our minds and on our hearts. We come to him to provide what we need for this life. We pray that he would continue to strengthen our faith. We want to make prayer our first response, not our last resort. We are to spend our time praying, as we wait for the day of the Lord.
However, did you note who was to be the object of our prayers? Paul is not praying for himself, but for the Philippians. Every time he thought about them, he prayed for them. How often do we pray for our fellow believers? If something is going on in their lives that is difficult, if they are facing surgery, for example, we probably remember to pray for them. What about the rest of the time? Do we pray for them, then? This is part of the wonderful relationship that God has called us into when we are brought to faith. We are brought into a family that cares about each other. We want to pray for our fellow believers, whether in our congregation or around the world.
More than that, Paul didn’t just pray to God on behalf of the Philippians. He said, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.” (Verses 3&4) Paul was thankful to God for each and every one of them. This is a good reminder for us, as well. It is so easy to find things to criticize about our fellow believers. We live so closely with them that we see all their faults and shortcomings. As if that weren’t enough, the devil and our sinful nature join together in making great mountains of evil out of the faults of others so that they appear so much worse than, say, our own. All of this is the devil’s way of robbing us of the joy we might have in seeing the good things that God can do in the lives of his people. Rather than just praying for the fellow members of our congregation and church body, may God help us to thank him for every one of them. When we thank God for them, rather than criticizing or condemning them, we will enjoy the blest fellowship that God has called us to. We thank God that this person is also a redeemed child of God. This will make our entire spiritual lives more positive and more joyful as we go from day to day. What a wonderful thing to say to someone that you prayed for them today and, more than that, you thanked God for them. We live for the day of Jesus Christ as we pray, especially as we pray for one another.
In verses 9-11, Paul tells the Philippians what he is especially praying for. He says, “This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.” Paul prays that their love might increase. When we hear this, we might think of the ways that we, as Christians, show love to God by loving those around us. That is definitely part of this, because Paul talks about the “fruit of righteousness” and that this is “to the glory and praise of God.” This type of love is a one-way love of choice and commitment, whereby we choose to love those who may not return our love. This love does not look for a “pay back.” It is rooted in and born out of the love that God showed a world of rebellious sinners. Showing this type of love is something that we, as Christians, strive to exhibit in our lives.
However, there is something different about the type of love that Paul is talking about here. He prays that their “Love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best.” (Verse 10) How can love grow in knowledge and depth of insight? As we go through our lives, we want to show love to God and to those around us. However, there will be times when we wonder what is the loving thing to do? Am I being loving to God if I do this? Am I being loving to those around me when I do that? Our quest to be loving will drive us to God’s Word for the answers. From the Word, we are guided by the Holy Spirit to a proper evaluation and understanding. In this way, our Christian knowledge and insights grows. We grow in our ability to see all things with the mind of Christ. Then, we can be truly loving to those around us, even if it might be saying something that they may not want to hear. Our love for God and for others may lead us to take stands that are not necessarily popular. This is not done to be mean to them or feel superior to them. Because we love them, we want to tell them the truth. This love will increase and grow as we are in God’s Word. We live in love for God and for those around us as we wait for the day of the Jesus Christ.
Every day we are one day closer to the day of Jesus Christ. We do not know when it will come, but we know that it will. God does not want us to be standing around, looking into the sky, waiting for that day. God wants us to be busy. He does not give us busy work, something to occupy our time. He gives us things to do. We live for him, thanking him for all that he has done for us. We live for him, as we tell others what God has done for them. In the meanwhile, we wait for the day of Jesus Christ with confidence, because we know that he has come to be our Savior and heaven is waiting for us. He gives us opportunities to serve others. One of the best ways that we can serve one another is to pray for one another. In our prayers, we also thank God that he has chosen these others to be our brothers and sisters. He gives us the opportunity to reflect the love that he has shown to us, by loving those around us. We do not know when the day of Jesus Christ will be. However, we do not live in fear of that day. Rather, we look forward to that day when we will be with him forever. May God help us to always keep that day first and foremost in our minds. We await that day with confidence, prayer, and with love. Amen.
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