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Sunday, January 30, 2011

What Happened To Me

Sermon Series: The Joy of Partnering In Ministry
(A Study of the Letter of Philippians)
What Happened To Me
Philippians 1:12-19

Have you ever asked yourself this question during times of difficulties, trials, tribulations, and challenges: What’s happening to me? It is true that challenging circumstances often times throw and defeat the believer. John McArthur says “one of the surest measures of a Christian’s spiritual maturity is what it takes to rob him or her of their Spirit of joy. Paul’s maturity is evident in the present text as he makes it clear that difficult, unpleasant, painful, and even life threatening circumstances did not rob Paul of joy but rather caused his joy to increase”.

Life has a way of throwing circumstances our way to breaks down to our knee caps. From one situation to the next it appears that attack is greater than the first. As matter of fact, R.A Williams of McCoy Memorial Baptist here in Los Angeles explains Psalms 3 like this when David says “O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, God will never rescue Him!” Pastor Williams illustrates the text in this fashion: “Trials, tribulations, and enemies are like roaches, they wreck the house at night but scatter when the lights turn on.”

By the time Paul writes the letter to the Philippians, he had experienced serious hardships of every sort. Paul was chased out cities, shipwrecked, placed in jail, his ministry motives were attacked, his integrity had been questioned, and when he wrote this epistle, he was a prisoner in Rome chained night and day to a Roman soldier. No privacy when he slept, ate, wrote, prayed, preached, taught, or visited his friends. Paul was watched 24 hours a day with the possibility of receiving the death penalty. But no matter what he was facing he didn’t allow it to detour him from his desire purpose in life. Paul’s desire should likewise be our desire in life. I believe his desire in life summarizes verse 12-19:

Honor God and promote the gospel no matter what circumstances of life may come your way!

How we handle/respond to life’s difficulties will determine if we’re honoring God and promoting the gospel or dishonoring God and suppressing the gospel.

Well, it is my sincere goal and desire to see the church of Jesus Christ to honor God and promote the gospel. How do we honor God and promote the gospel? Verses 12-19 teach us how the circumstances of life can be used by God for the furtherance of the gospel. Three (3) lessons we can learn from Paul:

I. Let Your Witness Speak For Itself – v. 12-14

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Paul faced a dark circumstance. He was a prisoner in Rome. The dark circumstances stared Paul right in the face. No circumstance could ever be any more severe no matter what they were. Paul was waiting to appear before the Supreme court of Rome. He had done nothing that should cause his arrest and imprisonment. Yet there he was, and he was having to wait to arrival of his Jewish prosecutors with their trumped up and malicious charges. He was imprisoned for over two years, and as is the case with all prisoners, the days wore on ever so slowly, hour by hour and day after day. Whatever the pressures hung over Paul’s head, his tribulations were intense and protracted. But notice something about Paul….

He didn’t grumble and complain
He didn’t questions God and wonder why
He didn’t whine and murmur
He didn’t fall to pieces
He didn’t curse God nor give up his faith

What we must understand is that just because you’re in the will of God doesn’t mean that you are exempt from suffering, pain, and unpleasant situations. Paul is riding down the street of being in the will of God and yet still finds himself in a situation that is unworthy of his desired purpose of honoring God and promoting the gospel.

Where Paul is positioned now is not uncommon to a witnessing attitude he’s had from the start of his ministry. It was common to express, as he did in Acts 28:20 where he says “I am bound with this chain” and in Ephesians 6:20 he calls himself an “an ambassador in bonds”.

His circumstances or the things pertaining/relating to me have turned out for the furtherance of the gospel. Paul did not ignore his imprisonment and he didn’t allow his imprisonment to get him down. While in prison Paul still held the proper perspective of sharing the gospel. He took advantage of his unpleasant situation to share Christ with those around him. What an example!

His witness spoke to the unsaved – v. 13 – Whom did Paul what the gospel? His first contact of sharing the gospel was with the Praetoria Guard, the elite of the Roman army. These soldiers were the Imperial Guard of Rome, men who had been hand picked to protect the emperor and to carry out the major armed functions of the state. There were sixteen thousand of them, most of whom were stationed in Rome at any given time. These soldiers guarded and were chained to the wrist of Paul day and night for two years. Here’s what I like about Paul’s position, those guards got an ear full of the gospel from Paul for two years. Winning people to Christ is no easy task it takes time. Paul’s example teaches us to view every situation in which we find ourselves as an opportunity for spreading the gospel. With this in mind, the Christian can, see a hospital bead as a pulpit and the hospital as a mission field. We cannot save anybody that’s the work God but we can leave a favourable impression of our Christianity on those who don’t know God.

His witness encouraged believers to share the gospel – v. 14 - Not only did Paul’s witness affect the unsaved but it also encouraged other believers to be fearless in their sharing of the gospel. As they saw how God protected him and blessed his ministry despite persecution and imprisonment, their courage was renewed and intensified. What we must understand as believers is that how we respond to life’s situations has a tremendous impact on other believers as well. What they see within us can encourage or discourage them. That’s why we must be careful of what we post on facebook, Twitter, Android and any other social network. Those who no me know I love Michael Jackson, The Jackson 5, Franky Beverly featuring Maze. Those of you who know me know I like to dance. But those who don’t know me will think I’m hypocrite which then can affect my ability to encourage others to share their faith fearlessly. The unknown writer of Hebrews says “Layside every weight and the sin that does so easily beset (Hebrews 12:2). The instruction is that we should give up those things that weigh us down but also that we should not become a weight for somebody else.

Let your witness speak for itsel!

II. Let Your Faithfulness Speak For Itself – v. 15-18

Like the Lord during His earthly ministry, Paul too had many detractors. But one of the most discouraging experiences in life is to experience the envy and jealously of fellow preachers, co-laborers, and pulpiteers. It’s a sad scene (and I love my preaching partners) to see how much jealously and envy is in the pulpit. There are some preachers who won’t listen to another preacher. And those who do stay listen criticize the message rather than trying to hear a word from the Lord.

Upon attending the prayer bowl this year, I found myself critiquing the messages. One message I was very critical of it. What I think is one the most easiest text preach this guy ripped it in pieces (not in a good way). As I was leaving with a pastor friend, we started to reflect over the messages we heard for the day and right when I was about to criticize the message, he responds: “man that guy preached his butt off and I was blessed!” At that point I had to repent, because while I was complaining about the interpretation and structure of the message I was quickly disarmed with my friend being encouraged by the message.

It was at that moment that decided to keep my mouth shut and listen to the voice of God during every message.

While this is my commitment it’s not true of so many others. Envy and jealousy is running buckwild through pulpits throughout the country. But Paul teaches us that a mature believer holds no personal jealousy nor desire for credit or prestige.

Verse 15 teach us about the MOTIVE of preaching. Why do we preach? When we preach is it to be seen or do we truly have a sincere desire in furthering the gospel of Jesus Christ through our preaching?

Verse 16 teach us about the MEASURE of our preaching – “defend the gospel”. Defending the gospel is not with violent acts. I believe when Paul says “he was brought to a Roman prison to defend the gospel” had nothing to do with violence. Think about it, he was chained to a guard 24/7. But I believe defending the gospel is that of remaining faithful to preaching gospel. In other words, the best way to defend the gospel is to make the decision to stay faithful to the gospel message. Don’t change it, don’t add to it, just preach it as it is!

Verse 17-18 teach us about the MISSION of our preaching – “Christ is being preached”. Paul is an example for all of us to follow. Paul didn’t get caught in the foolishness of defending the gospel being critical of other preachers. He recognizes their attitude and actions but the final analysis is that Christ is being preached. Do you not know that God take what we may consider the worst message and save somebody. Not because the message was well structured or the preacher had pure motives but because Christ is being preached. Thank God for all those who preach Christ in the pulpit. May the gospel further because of their efforts.

Verse 18b teach us about the MANNER of our preaching – “So I rejoice”. Paul did not rejoice in the impure motives of those preaching. It is Paul’s attitude that while the primary motive of those guys is to preach out of selfishness by exalting themselves at Paul’s expense. He is confident that the sovereign God nevertheless honored their message when Christ is proclaimed and for that he rejoices. We may not agree with peoples motives in the pulpit or in the streets but rejoice that Christ is being preached the less and God will work out the details.

III. Let Your Deliverance Speak for Itself – v. 19

The statement of this paragraph Paul declares, “For I know that as you pray for me and as the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will turn out for my deliverance”.

While in prison Paul still has a faith that looks to a happy ending. Paul is certain that God will save and deliver him from the situation. He is sure of God’s help and deliverance. Why? Two (2) reasons:

· Prayer – What a glorious teaching for a church, prayer works. We that when the people of the church prayer for their leader, God works on his behalf to continue the work of furthering the gospel.

· The Spirit’s Help – We prostitute the Holy Spirit as if He’s some magician that can trick God into dishing out blessings. The Holy Spirit is much more than that. He’s our helper.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I Thank God For You

Sermon Series: The Joy of Partnering In Ministry
(A Study of the Letter of Philippians)
I Thank God For You
Philippians 1:3-11

Paul was a pastor/leader who really loved ministry and was thankful for the church. We see his thankfulness for ministry and the church in just about every letter he writes:

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, (1 Co 1:4).

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayer (Eph 1:16).

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. (Ro 1:8–10).

Giving thanks to the Father which has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light (Col 1:12)

What a lesson for us! If Paul thanked God for believers who were so far away from Him, how much more should we thank god for each other everyday. We can call on each, support each other, pray for one another, bless one another, fellowship with one another, study with one another, and visit one another.

However, I believe the relationship between Paul and the Philippian church was a unique situation. My pastor said best while having breakfast I was shared with the brethren how much I love preaching through the book of Philippians. Pastor’s eyes lit up and he made a statement that is the best way to describe the relationship between this pastor and people. He said: “It’s not often we see a pastor write to a church he really likes! Paul and the church at Philippi like each other!”

As I was driving home from breakfast I started to meditate on my sermon notes and pastor’s statement came back to me, “they really like each other”.

The affection between pastor’s and members are often expressed once a year during the pastor’s anniversary, pastor care service, leadership encouragement service, or some special event. And even then one wonders how genuine are the expressions between both the pastor and members.

But for Paul, he genuinely loves and appreciates the church at Philippi.
Paul could not think of the Philippians without giving thanks to God for their fellowship in the gospel. The word ‘fellowship’ refers to sharing or holding something in common. We have a tendency to use the word very loosely these days. Any gathering of Christians in which there is a feeling of happiness and camaraderie is called ‘fellowship’. We have almost made the word synonymous with good food and a few laughs. But that, of course, makes Christian fellowship no different from what unbelievers often enjoy.
We can be sure that the apostle had something far different—and better!—in mind. It was more than merely enjoying each other’s company. It was partnership.[1]

Paul is so thankful to the church at Philippi for their love and support while he’s prison that he opens this letter with prayer of thanksgiving. And the point of this prayer is this:


The affection Paul shares in this letter is so beautiful that calls of us to learn from it. Three (3) lessons to learn from this letter is this:

A. It is a prayer of AFFIRMATION – v. 3-6

Philip. 1:3-6 (NKJV)
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, [4] always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, [5] for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, [6] being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

- Paul’s affirmation is genuine

Philip. 1:3 (NKJV)
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,

The phrase “My God” reflects Paul’s deep intimacy and communion with the Lord, to whom He belonged and whom He served. His thankfulness for the Philippians was to God, emphasizing both that the Lord is the ultimate source of all joy and that it was the Philippians relationship to Him through Christ that caused Paul to thank God.

Bruce Larson, in his book Wind and Fire, points out some interesting facts about sandhill cranes:
“These large birds, who fly great distances across continents, have three qualities. First, they rotate leadership. No one bird stays out in front all the time.
“Second, they choose leaders who can handle turbulence. And then, all during the time one bird is leading, the rest are honking their affirmation.
“That’s not a bad model for the church. Certainly we need leaders who can handle turbulence and who are aware that leadership ought to be shared.
“But most of all, we need a church where all are honking encouragements.”
—Robert Sweat

These verses screams honkings of encouragement and affirmation from pastor to people. Paul says every time I think of you I thank God. Wow! That is a big difference from much of what we see in our modern day relationships between pastor and people. Oftentimes, when we get in a room filled with other pastors, preachers, and lay leaders there’s more negativity than appreciation. I think it’s true and should be said of many pastors as it is said of many people who are looking for a perfect church. “If you find a perfect church don’t accept the call to pastor it for as soon as you do it will become imperfect”.

Paul’s appreciation for the church at Philippi is a continuing thankfulness. Sitting in a prison chained, bond, and closed in he still thanks God for the people in partnership with him in furthering the gospel.

I’m learning that no matter how numerous the difficulties of ministry work that I can still be thankful of the work being done to further the gospel. I may not be in prison physically but the challenges of financial resources, people resources, space limitations, low weekly attendance, or whatever ministry challenges are presented at any giving time it doesn’t change the thankfulness of being in partnership with God’s people to further the gospel of Jesus Christ.

- Paul’s affirmation is joyous

Philip. 1:4 (NKJV)
always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy,

John McArthur says another indispensable element of joy for believers is interceding before God on behalf of others. Those who are obedient to the Holy Spirit will delight in the privilege of intercessory prayer. Faithful and sincere intercession is much more than an obligation: it is a joy.

- Paul’s affirmation is encouraging

Philip. 1:5-6 (NKJV)
for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, [6] being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

As the apostle gave thanks for the Philippians’ participation in the work of the gospel, he could not help but add a word of thanksgiving for the work of the gospel in them. He was thankful ‘… that he who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ …’

Paul was very good at slipping little nuggets of breathtakingly glorious truth into the mundane portions of his letters. This verse is one of those nuggets. It tells us the following:

• Salvation is God’s work. The Philippians did not begin the work of salvation in themselves only to have God come along and add a little to it. It was entirely his work. God provided the way of salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ, and he even enabled the Philippians to receive that salvation.

• Salvation is a good work. Salvation lifts the sinner from eternal condemnation and ruin and makes that person part of God’s family and a partaker of God’s eternal glory. Who would dare say that this is not a good thing?

• Salvation is a sure work. God does not begin it and then abandon it somewhere along the way. He does not pull his people from the flames of destruction only to allow them to slip back and be consumed. God completes the work of salvation. We know what it is to plan a work and undertake a work only to see it fail. But it is not so with God. We must not picture him looking over the redeemed multitude in eternity and saying: ‘We did fairly well. Eighty per cent of the saved finally made it home.’ God will not have to say such a thing because all his people will make it home. Not one will be missing! The faithful God will faithfully complete his work![2]

B. It is a prayer of AFFECTION – v. 7-8

Philip. 1:7-8 (NKJV)
just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. [8] For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.

Note how closely bound together Paul and the church were.

1. They were partners in heart. Paul loved them as he loved himself; he held them ever so dear to his heart and they constantly filled his thoughts.

2. They were partners in the sufferings of Paul. This means...

· that they were sympathizing with Paul in his imprisonment.
· that they were sending hope to Paul while he was in prison.
· that they had or were themselves suffering because of the gospel just as Paul was.

The point is this: the affection between Paul and the Philippians was so tender that their hearts went out to each other. What one experienced, the other felt, even the sufferings of each other.

What a striking picture of the kind of sympathy needed for those who suffer. We must learn to be partners in suffering. Then and only then can we bear each other’s burdens and truly minister to each other.

“Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body” (Hebrews 13:3).

3. They were partners in the gospel. The Philippians had not given up the gospel, nor had they become silent or complacent in sharing the gospel. They were actively defending and proclaiming the truth of the gospel. The church and its members were busy for Christ—actively bearing witness to the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were taking the great commission of our Lord seriously.

4. They were partners in the grace of God. Paul was expressing the wonderful grace of God—the favor and blessings of God. And the Philippian church was expressing the same grace. God was pouring the richest blessings upon both Paul and the church. Why? What was it that was causing God to so richly bless these two? Their faithfulness: as this passage shows, they were bearing the marks of mature believers.

C. It is a prayer for godly ATTRIBUTES – 9-11

Philip. 1:9-11 (NKJV)
[9] And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, [11] being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

As the apostle began expressing his gratitude for the Philippians, he mentioned remembering them with joy in his prayers (v. 4). He then proceeded to share four requests that he had been offering on their behalf.

That their love would abound (v. 9)

This may seem to us to be a very strange request in the light of what we have already noted, that is, that the Philippian church was already characterized by love. We can be sure that Paul is not now denying what he has already stated. He is rather affirming that love is a grace in which we can always advance. No matter how much we love, we can love more.

He is also praying for them to abound in a certain type of love, that is, love with knowledge and discernment. He will soon find it necessary to warn them about the ever-present danger of false teachers (3:2, 18–19). The Philippians would make themselves easy prey for such teachers if, in the interest of being loving, they were uncritically to accept everything that these teachers were presenting.

We should be keenly aware of this danger. How often the church today has refused to stand against doctrinal error because someone argued that we must be loving! And, of course, love was understood to mean being agreeable and tolerant.

No one believed more firmly in love than Paul, and yet he did not hesitate to rebuke a fellow apostle for compromising the truth (Gal. 2:11–21). Paul did this because he understood that love and truth are not enemies. The most loving thing we can do is stand for the truth in a loving way.

That they would approve the things that are excellent (v. 10)

The word ‘approve’ means to ‘distinguish’. The idea of seeing through to the heart of a matter is involved. Paul is praying that his readers would be able, in the midst of competing issues and concerns, to see what is truly important and deserving of priority, and that they would be able to make wise spiritual decisions.

That they would be sincere and without offence (v. 10)

The word ‘sincere’ translates a word that originally meant ‘pure’ or ‘unmixed’. In ancient times merchants would often patch cracked porcelain with wax. A merchant who wanted his customers to be assured of his integrity would advertise his porcelain as ‘without wax’.
Paul’s desire for the Philippians was that they be ‘without wax’, pure and blameless in their conduct, so they could stand unashamedly before their Lord. Paul constantly lived with that day on which he would stand before Christ in view, and he wanted his readers to do the same. The key to living this day is to remember that great forthcoming day.

That they would be filled with the fruits of righteousness (v. 11)

William Hendriksen writes: ‘Paul prays that in the hearts and lives of the Philippians there may be a rich spiritual harvest, consisting of a multitude of the fairest fruits of heaven; such as, love, joy peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22–23), and the works which result from these dispositions.’
As Paul reflected on the fruits of righteousness, he undoubtedly called to mind the words the Lord Jesus spoke to his disciples on the night before his crucifixion: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).

It is not surprising, therefore, that Paul reminds his readers that the fruits of righteousness ‘are by Jesus Christ.’ And because they are produced by Christ, they are ‘to the glory and praise of God’ because Jesus did all for the glory of God (John 8:29; 15:8; 17:1, 4).

Monday, January 17, 2011

Greetings Ministry Partners

Sermon Series: The Joy of Partnering In Ministry
(A Study of the Letter of Philippians)
Greetings Ministry Partners
Philippians 1:1-2

The love bond between Paul and the Philippian believers may have been stronger than the one he had with any other church. It was in large measure because of the joy that their love brought to him that the theme of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is joy. The depth of their relationship with him encouraged the apostle during his imprisonment and added to his joy. He was concerned about their unity, their faithfulness, and many other important spiritual and practical matters. But his overriding concern was that their sorrow over his afflictions would be tempered by their joy over his faithfulness to the Lord and the great reward that awaited him in heaven. Paul wanted them not to be sad, but to share in the fullest measure his deep, abiding joy in Jesus Christ. It is a noteworthy testimony to the maturity of the Philippian believers that, although Paul warned and encouraged them, he made no mention of any theological or moral problem in the church at Philippi. That also brought the apostle joy.

MacArthur, John: Philippians. Chicago : Moody Press, 2001, S. 11

Paul opens this letter in his typical fashion of writing with a greeting to the church at Philippi. In this greeting he identifies himself and Timothy as servants writing to all the saints and leaders. Paul’s priority of writing is not to warn against any potential danger in the church or coming to the church. He didn’t write because false teachers infiltrated the church at Philippi. There was no immoral wrong taking place in the church. No church fights during business meetings. No firing of a pastor or excommunication of a member. The only problem we see in the church of Philippi is in chapter 4 between two women Euodia and Syntyche. But the argument was short lived because after verse 3 we hear no more about it.

This church and leaders had one thing in common, furthering the gospel. What an amazing church! This church is broke, afflicted, struggling, and worried about their founder/leader who’s in jail. Yet, they kept the priority a priority….furthering the gospel.

In spite of his difficult circumstances as a prisoner in Rome, Paul is rejoicing. The secret of his joy is the single mind; he lives for Christ and the Gospel. Paul rejoiced in spite of his circumstances, because his circumstances strengthened the fellowship of the Gospel (Phil. 1:1–11), promoted the furtherance of the Gospel (Phil. 1:12–26), and guarded the faith of the Gospel (Phil. 1:27–30).

The word fellowship simply means “to have in common.” But true Christian fellowship is really much deeper than sharing coffee and pie, or even enjoying a golf game together. Too often what we think is “fellowship” is really only acquaintanceship or friendship. You cannot have fellowship with someone unless you have something in common; and for Christian fellowship, this means the possessing of eternal life within the heart. Unless a person has trusted Christ as his Saviour, he knows nothing of “the fellowship of the Gospel.” In Philippians 2:1, Paul writes about “the fellowship of the Spirit,” because when a person is born again he receives the gift of the Spirit (Rom. 8:9). There is also “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). When we share what we have with others, this is also fellowship (Phil. 4:15, translated “communicate” in KJV).

So, true Christian fellowship is much more than having a name on a church roll or being present at a meeting. It is possible to be close to people physically and miles away from them spiritually. One of the sources of Christian joy is this fellowship that believers have in Jesus Christ. Paul was in Rome, his friends were miles away in Philippi, but their spiritual fellowship was real and satisfying. When you have the single mind, you will not complain about circumstances because you know that difficult circumstances will result in the strengthening of the fellowship of the Gospel.

Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Eph 6:21). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books

Paul’s greeting to the Philippian church is more than saying: “hello”, “dear madam or dear sir”, “to whom it may concern”. This greeting sets the tone for the letter to the church at Philippi and serves as a model for us to follow:

Keep furthering the gospel as a priority!

The question to ask ourselves is what does it take to insure furthering the gospel is our priority:

I. The Character of Ministry Partnership – v. 1a – Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus…

Paul identifies himself and Timothy as servants of Christ Jesus. Interestingly, I found out something worth mentioning as well.

The Greek name “Paul” meant “little.” There have been several theories about the origin of his name: (1) a nick name describing his physical height, the second century tradition that Paul was short, fat, bald, bowlegged, bushy eyebrowed and had protruding eyes is a possible physical description of Paul. (2) Paul’s personal spiritual evaluation in passages like I Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8; I Tim. 1:15, where he calls himself “the least of the saints”.

“Timothy” means “honored by God” or “honorer of God.” He was converted on Paul’s first missionary journey to Derbe/Lystra (cf. Acts 16:1). Paul invited him to join the missionary team on the second missionary journey. He became Paul’s faithful apostolic representative and trouble-shooter (cf. Acts 16:1–17:14; 18:5–19:22; 20:4; Rom. 16:21; I Cor. 4:17; 16:10; II Cor. 1:1, 19; Phil. 1:1; 2:19; Gal. 1:1; Philm. v. 4; and two books, I Timothy and II Timothy. Paul sent him specifically to Philippi to help the church (cf. Acts 19:22; Phil. 2:19–24).

When looking at Paul and Timothy, I believe we find a working definition for the character of ministry partnership that is God honors those who don’t think much of themselves. This is true because Philippians chapter 2: 3-4 says: Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each one esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others. Therefore,

a. Servanthood is Teamwork for a Joyful Partnership – Paul and Timothy

We do not see ministry teamwork only here in this text but we see ministry teamwork throughout the NT.

For Jesus calls twelve men to join Him in the work of ministry

John the Baptist had his disciples to join him in ministry work

After the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples had themselves and Mary and Martha to do ministry work

In Acts chapter 4, Peter and John were arrested for preaching the word of God

In Acts chapter 6, Peter tells the people to choose 7 men to serve tables so they can spend time prayer and word

In Acts Chapter 12 we see Saul (Paul) and Barnabas appointed to return to Jerusalem to fulfill their ministry.

In Acts chapter 16, Paul and Silas have a prayer meeting in jail, freed, and a security guard saved.

In Philippians 1, Paul and Timothy are writing to the church at Philippi while Epaphroditus brings financial aide to Paul in his time of need.

The point is simple here, we need each other in ministry to be successful ministry partners.

b. Servanthood is Essential to a Joyful Partnership – Mark 13:32-34

"But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven's angels, not even the Son. Only the Father. [33] So keep a sharp lookout, for you don't know the timetable. [34] It's like a man who takes a trip, leaving home and putting his servants in charge, each assigned a task, and commanding the gatekeeper to stand watch. - Mark 13:32-34

Jesus’ final words are the ones we should study very carefully. He tells us to be constantly alert to serve Him while we are waiting, for He may return at any time and yearns to find us ready to greet Him. If we all spent as much time concentrating on how to live for Jesus until He returns as some do drawing attention by-laws, Robert rules of order, choir uniforms, financial graphs/charts, and speculation of future revelation and how it fits together, the church would be a much more loving and serving institution.

The church needs servants and not celebrities. We need workers and not wimps. We need worshippers and not entertainers.

Serve the Lord with gladness!

c. Servanthood is Dedication to a Joyful Partnership – John 12:20-26

There were some Greeks in town who had come up to worship at the Feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: "Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?" Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus. Jesus answered, "Time's up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
"Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and eternal. "If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you'll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment's notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.

Allow me finish this first point the way I started, God honors those who don’t think much of themselves in ministry. John 12 calls us to dedicated service by following Him at all cost. Be ready to serve Him not matter what’s required to insure the work is done. And the final outcome is that God will reward the faithful servant.

II. The Companionship In Ministry Partnership – v. 1b – To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi , with the overseers and deacons

Paul identifies two (2) groups of people, saints and leaders. This is not to say one is more important than the other. This is significant because this church is so obviously focused on ministry that while leadership and membership is evident they shared a common purpose in furthering the gospel that blended together in unity and yet I believe that the responsibilities of the membership was understood at Philippi that it didn’t cause any problems as to who’s doing what in the church. Therefore, we see….

a. A Corporate Call To Ministry Partnership – “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi…”

Saints literally means “holy ones”, those set apart exclusively for God’s service. This is not a reference to a sinless lifestyle, but the believers’ forensic (legal) position in Christ. It is always PLURAL except in 4:21, but even there it is used in a corporate context. To be saved is to be part of a family. Although the term “saints” relates to the believers’ standing in Christ, it is not incidental that the root word is “holy” . Believers are called not only to salvation, but to a progressive sanctification. Believers are predestined to “holiness”, not just heaven; to service, not privilege.

This corporate call to ministry partnership in holy service is not just for the church but also for the leaders as well. It speaks to the fact that as a church we are all called upon to live right for God and serve to Him reverently. That’s the spiritual side of the corporate call. The practical side of the corporate call is I’m responsible for you. In other words, we need to look out for each other spiritually and in service.

b. A Clear Call to Ministry Partnership

The clear call is stated with these words: To all the saints of Jesus Christ who are in Philippi, “with the bishops and deacons”. In all of Paul’s writings, when greeting the church he does not make any reference to any leaders:

Ro 1:7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Co 1:1-3 1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Co 1:1-21 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1:1-2 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

Titus 1:1-4 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;
4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

It is safe to say that church government is evident in the church at Philippi. I don’t have time to run the record of the type of leader that is needed in the church but let’s just suffice it to say that we can all be saints but we all cannot be leaders.

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, [12] for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, [13] till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; - Ephes. 4:11-13 (NKJV)

III. The Covering of Ministry Partnership – v. 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

When a church is strong, it is always full of vision and planning, and it is always working out a strategy to carry forth the gospel.
A strong church launches ministry after ministry and program after program. It is never still and never complacent neither the minds of the people nor the hands of the people. Because of this, there is always the danger of differences of opinion: differences in vision, desires, concern, emphasis, and interest. There are always different ideas as to which ministry or project should be undertaken and supported and a host of other differences.
The point is this: the more strength and activity a church has, the more attention it must give to unity. Because a strong church has more minds and bodies working, and where more people are working more differences are bound to arise. Consequently, the members must give more attention to unity.

The membership maintaining unity in the church is only one aspect of it plus as humans we are frail creatures who fights with our flesh on a daily basis resulting in our inability to maintain unity. However, God as covered us with a covering that cannot be tampered with nor will it dissolve:

1. We have a Precise Covering – Grace and Peace

Paul typically mentions grace and peace in the introduction of his letters. Grace is God’s favour and peace refers to inner serenity. The furtherance of the gospel is possible because we the favour of God on our side. In other words, nothing can stop the gospel from going forward.

Not only do we have the favour of God but the furtherance of the Gospel is protected by the peace of God. What this means is that the peace of God keeps us so the work can keep moving forward.

2. We have a Parental Covering – from God our Father

What a blessing! As a parent watches and cares for their children so God watches and cares for His church.

3. We have a Provisional Covering – The Lord Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ is our provisional covering meaning from this day to eternity the gospel will still work.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Introductory Sermon to Philippians

Sermon Series: The Joy of Partnering In Ministry
(A Study of the Letter of Philippians)
Introductory Sermon

For a short letter of only four chapters and 104 verses, Paul's Letter to the Philippians is amazingly profound. At one level it is a poignant epistle from a jailed apostle to a beloved supporting church. At another level it contains an exhilarating hymn of Christ's humility and exaltation, a glimpse into Paul's intense passion to know Christ, and a discerning reflection on prayer and the peace it brings.

I personally love the letter to the Philippian church because of the joy, fellowship, love, thanksgiving, peace, support, confidence, passion, enthusiasm, zeal, excitement, and unity it shows between the church and it’s leader.

Certainly Paul’s circumstances were anything but joyful! He had been arrested illegally, taken to Rome, and was now awaiting trial. There was division among the Christians there (1:14–17), and some were trying to make matters worse for the apostle. How was he able to have such joy in the midst of uncomfortable circumstances? He had the “single mind”—his concern was not for Paul, but for Christ and the Gospel. Five times in this chapter he mentions the Gospel (vv. 5, 7, 12, 17, 27), and Christ is mentioned seventeen times! Paul looked upon these circumstances as sent by God (v. 13) for the purpose of exalting Christ (v. 20). If Paul had been double-minded, he would have complained because life was so uncomfortable.

Wiersbe, W. W. (1997). Wiersbe's expository outlines on the New Testament (560). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

Paul was not focused on his circumstances. His main concern was the furtherance of the gospel and the Philippian church supported the furtherance of the gospel by supporting Paul while in a Roman jail. What a church!

The partnership between Paul and the church Philippi is an example for all of us to follow. This team is a model for the 21st century church. The love of the leader for the people and the people for the leader produces a love for gospel ministry and is something worth noting. If there isn’t a genuine shared love for one another ministry will not be joyful.

On my job my boss makes a statement at least three times a day when referring to teamwork in the workplace. If something goes wrong he makes this statement. The statement he makes is this: “Get on the same page”. This is his way of promoting teamwork among the employees he supervises.

The letter to the Philippian church makes a statement that is not in the exact words but definitely obvious in it’s writing and we will see it throughout the whole letter. The statement that pours out of this letter is what I want to center everything said about this letter in the coming weeks:

“We Can Do It Better Together”

Coming together as a church with common goals and passion for ministry will ultimately lead to a ministry that desires to see the gospel spread across the community that surrounds us.

So the outline of the book shows what makes for a joyful ministry together.

I. The Success of Ministry Partnership – Ch. 1

Prayer – 1:3-11

Preaching – 1:12-18

Perseverance – 1:19-26

II. The Source of Ministry Partnership – Ch. 2

Unity – 2:1-2

Humility – 2:3-4

Christ Example of Humility – 2:5-11

Sanctification – 2:12-13

Service – 2:14-18

Passion – 2:18-24

Patience – 2:25-30

III. The Sufficiency of Ministry Partnership – Ch. 3

The Work of Christ – 3:1-11

The Purpose of the Christian – 3:12-16

The Perspective of the Christian – 3:17-4:1

IV. The Strength of Ministry Partnership – Ch. 4

Proper handling of conflict – 4:2-3

Maintaining Spiritual Attitudes – 4:4-7

Protect Your Mind – 4:8-9

Generous Support – 4:10-19

Hospitality – 4:21-23

Thursday, January 6, 2011

It's Me

On my train ride to work, I began reading a book entitled “Changing Lives through Preaching and Worship – 30 Strategies for Powerful Communication”. There is no one author for this book but many contributors. Great preachers/pastors/authors such as Gardner Taylor, Warren Wiersbe, Chuck Swindoll, Jack Hayford, Eugene Peterson, and many others.

I read part on Personality – Your Preaching is Unique written by Warren Wiersbe. As I read finished reading I had to pray and ask God to forgive me because at the end of 2010 I was extremely hard on myself in personal/private ministry. However, Warren Wiersbe’s writing has made think as well as repent for attitude and actions as it relates to my pulpit ministry. I want to post a few statements of pastor Wiersbe’s writing that has reshaped my thought process for the assignment I’ve been given.

The Difference a witness makes – page 7

A Christianity Today/Gallup Poll some years ago showed that ministers believe preaching is the number one priority of their ministries, but it’s also the one thing they feel least capable of doing well. What causes this insecure attitude toward preaching?
For one thing, we’ve forgotten what preaching really is. Phillips Brooks said it best: Preaching is the communicating of divine truth through human personality. The divine truth never changes; the human personality constantly changes—and this is what makes the message new and unique. – page 7

God prepares the person who prepares the message. Martin Luther said that prayer, meditation, and temptation made a preacher. Prayer and meditation will give you a sermon, but only temptation—the daily experience of life—can transform that sermon into a message. It’s the difference between the recipe and the meal.

The experiences we preachers go through are not accidents; they are appointments. They do not interrupt our studies; they are an essential part of our studies. Our personalities, our physical equipment, and even our handicaps are all part of the kind of ministry God wants us to have. He wants us to be witnesses as well as heralds.

The myth of “The Great Sermon” – page 9

As an itinerant Bible teacher, I know what it’s like to “hit a place and quit a place,” and I can assure you it is not easy. After thirty years of ministry, which included pastoring three churches, I’ve concluded it is much easier to preach to your own congregation week after week. You get to know them, and they get to know you. You’re not a visiting Christian celebrity, but a part of the family. It is this identification with the people that gives power and relevance to your preaching.
Accepting what we’re not – page 12

I learned very early in my ministry that I was not an evangelist. Although I’ve seen people come to Christ through my ministry, I’ve always felt I was a failure when it came to evangelism.
One of the few benefits of growing older is a better perspective. Now I’m learning that my teaching and writing ministries have enabled others to lead people to Christ, so my labors have not been in vain. But I’ve had my hours of discouragement and the feeling of failure.
God gives us the spiritual gifts he wants us to have; he puts us in the places he wants us to serve; and he gives the blessings he wants us to enjoy.

I am convinced of this, but this conviction is not an excuse for laziness or for barrenness of ministry. Knowing I am God’s man in God’s place of ministry has encouraged me to study harder and do my best work. When the harvests were lean, the assurance that God put me there helped to keep me going. When the battles raged and the storms blew, my secure refuge was “God put me here, and I will stay here until he tells me to go.”

A word from the Scottish preacher George Morrison has buoyed me up in many a storm: “Men who do their best always do more though they be haunted by the sense of failure. Be good and true; be patient; be undaunted. Leave your usefulness for God to estimate. He will see to it that you do not live in vain.”

My prayer: Father, forgive me for believing in my own accomplishments and ambitious expectations to determine Your usefulness for me. You’ve called, prepared, and predetermined my future. So Lord, help me to be disciplined personally to avoid those temptations that seek to destroy Your divine purpose for my life. Lord, help me to be disciplined in my study and prayer time to insure proper interpretation of Your Word to Your people that will foster life change. Lord, allow my worship to be filled with truth and spirit that will spring forth worship in the atmosphere of every worship service. I’m in Your hands do what You will as I remain faithful to You and my assignment. In Jesus name, Amen!