01 March 2011

True Joy is Found in Devotion to the Gospel

Phil 2:17-30

Sometimes things can be a really overwhelming! So overwhelming you begin to think about quitting the very thing that is causing you so much pain and agony. Even people can cause you to feel overwhelmed by expecting so much from you at times! Let me explain.........You’re a person working on the farm and you’ve worked really hard and the boss comes out at the end of the busy season and says “you did such really good; we are up 60% over last year’s totals. So I think we should try and strive for 65% next season.” You say to yourself that’s doable, I can work towards that goal without changing too much of my work habits, or rearrange my personal life! Then the year comes to an end and the boss comes out again and says “awesome, we did it again, so let’s say we should strive for a 90% increase for the next year!” Your heart begins to race.....you feel light headed and overwhelmed, then worry and doubt sets in! Because you know what this means! Less time for you, family and friends, it means changes to my holidays and vacations......It means a lot more work and a lot less time for play and sleep! So what do you do? You say “what do they expect from me, I can’t do this...I will never reach that goal for this farm!” It can be really overwhelming! The same thing can happen in the Christian life. You find salvation and you think everything is great......you begin reading the bible, you get plugged into a church family, and you get involved in areas that you can help out in! You say to yourself “I can do that no problem; I can make (or squeeze that somewhere) in my life” But as you read the word of God and grow in understanding something happens to that excitement you first started out with at salvation!You begin to realize that God wants you to be conformed to the image of His Son on a daily basis! You begin reading and you see His love, His holiness, His sovereignty and all His other perfection and you begin to say “That’s impossible for me to achieve in my life.” Why? Because that means I have to spent more of my time in the word.....in prayer.....sacrifice and service for the Gospel! It means less time for fun and my pleasures, less time for my laziness and comforts of life. We say “I can’t do that, so I will be content in what I’m capable of doing so that it doesn’t disrupt my life to much” That’s the wrong answer! It’s true none of us are capable of being exactly like Christ........and much of our sanctification process will consist in realizing in how much unlike we really are to Him. But we are to strive....to be devoted to Him none the less with our lives and character. James Boice said “the bible teaches that although God’s standards are high, and thus seems impossible, God provides supernatural resources to them. God helps the Christian to put the highest of these principles into practice.” The central theme of this book is how to find joy in the midst of a broken and fallen world. But this chapter is about the joy found in the Christian life....the walk we all must travel

• Is the Christian life demanding? Yes
• Is the Christian life going to be hard at times? Yes
• Is the Christian life worth all this? Yes

We can find great encouragement here in this portion of Paul’s letter........because Paul tells us that yes it’s hard but with it’s not impossible. Why do I say that? We see three men who demonstrated that a devotion to Jesus Christ that it is possible to achieve that likeness. Remember what Jesus said ......."With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matt 19:26. So you ask yourself! What will it takes to have a life devoted to Christ and His Gospel?


When Paul said this......all cultures or nationalities would understand what he meant. The Jews knew what this drink offer represented going back to the Moses’ writings. Num 28:6-8 “It is a regular burnt offering which was ordained at Mount Sinai for a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD. And its drink offering shall be one-fourth of a hin for each lamb; in a holy place you shall pour out the drink to the LORD as an offering. The other lamb you shall offer in the evening; as the morning grain offering and its drink offering, you shall offer it as an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD.” The Greeks and Romans Christians that came out of their pagan culture would understand what a drink offering was as well. The Greeks and the Romans performed such rituals as an offering! They would first kill a valuable animal then burn it on the altar. Following the sacrifice the ancient worshippers would in additional offering called “libation” meaning “drink offering”. They would take a cup of wine and pour it on the already burning sacrifice, and the libation would immediately disappear into a puff of steam. Even though Paul might be poured out! Whether by life or death on a pagan alter in Rome ......they were not to worry about his death, because their faith was more important to the church in Philippi. Paul was placing his own achievements, even his possible martyrdom at a very low point on the scale of Christian service. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Rom 12:1. Paul turns from himself to two faithful servants of the Gospel that were devoted to Christ and the blessed Gospel (v19-30). We see Timothy the devoted preacher to the church of God, and Epaphroditus the devoted layperson to the body of Christ. What will it takes to have a life devoted to Christ and His Gospel?


Timothy was a man of kindred spirit........this phrase that Paul says literally means “equalled souled or one souled which refers to like mindedness. The true goal of a disciple of Jesus Christ is reproduction. Jesus said “it is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master” Matt 10:25. Paul and Timothy had a great relationship form the time of Timothy’s conversion to be responsible for the family God. Paul trusted in Timothy because they had the same passions and concerns for the church. This goes back to what Paul has already said in his letter (1:27)


This is a strong expression of feeling for something or someone.......it’s being burdened to the point that you must do something about it. A true shepherd and lay person are always concerned for the church because he knows what lurks outside your doors.You might be thinking to yourself! I don’ have that same kind of burden and I don’t know why? Answer: It’s because you’re still a baby and God can’t trust you with burden.......you can’t trust a child with jewels they are to precious...they will break. Again! If a person doesn’t have a burden for the church or for the people outside these doors then they are not really listening to what Paul wrote in the previous portion of his letter. (2:1-5)


This is where the world see’s if you’re really different! Are you truly a Christian? 2Cor 13:5 “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” This speaks of someone who has proven his or her character, because you’re lining yourself up to what Scripture says not your neighbour or your friend. Timothy was tested many times in his service for the Lord going back to Acts 17 as he went to the churches on Paul’s behalf. Timothy and Epaphroditus had that heart to serve to the point of exhaustion even to the point of death (v30) and this should apply to you and me as well without excuses. Again going back to what Paul said (v14) Our character and our actions should line up according to God word says, not according to the flesh (not according to selfish me)!! What believers are to be is BLAMELESS and INNOCENT children of God, who are above REPROACH. This means we live out our lives in such a way that the world or our community has no room to speak ill of your present behaviour. Why? Because we are children of the living God who is sanctifying us daily by His good pleasure! (v13). We are to be a light, an influence to a godless generation, by fulfilling the Great Commission, a life that is pursuing obedience and godliness.


This is someone who is submissive to the Lord and His message of hope. It’s that life that giving God the glory in every situation whether good or bad. It’s that life that eats and breaths the gospel because they know the power it has to change a sinners life. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Rom 1:16. So let me ask you! Are you ashamed of the gospel or afraid of what might happen if you express your love for it? We are to be dedicated to Him above all else....whether it is family....church...career or pleasure!
We are to proclaim Christ crucified and Christ resurrected, until the day we depart this world. That’s why Paul had confidence in Timothy and Epaphroditus because of their love for the Gospel and the power it brings. John MacArthur says in his commentary “from the time the apostle chose him to serve alongside him, Timothy surrendered any personal plans he may have had for his life. He began a non-stop adventure that would bring him great fruitfulness and spiritual satisfaction, but that would also involve suffering and sacrifice.”


It’s that idea of standing on the front lines side by side. Working together as a team, striving to keep the church together as we reach for the goal of unity and joy for furtherance of the Gospel to the surrounding area. That light in a dark and sinful world., it’s that soldier that won’t retreat when times get tough or awkward. It’s not going AWOL on your church family because of selfish reasons or laziness. Solomon wrote "The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” Prov 20:4. Lazy Christian’s reap nothing for the Kingdom of God. Paul said “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” 2 Tim 2:3-4. Charles Spurgeon said "My brethren, let me say, be like Christ at all times. Imitate him in "public." Most of us live in some sort of public capacity—many of us are called to work before our fellow-men every day. We are watched; our words are caught; our lives are examined—taken to pieces. The eagle-eyed world observes everything we do, and sharp critics are upon us. Let us live the life of Christ in public. Let us take care that we exhibit our Master and not ourselves—so that we can say, "It is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me."


“Esteem” means: “to honor according to their value; to regard highly or favourably; regarding someone with respect or admiration.” Paul says “Esteem those who live for others and their well being, acknowledge there service and sacrifice” This is a life that is concerned for the souls around them despite what they are going through in their own personal life. (v27). Acknowledge their hard work and sacrifices they make for the church and for others. Sometimes it can be a simple word of encouragement. Maybe a little note of thanks for their dedication. Praying for the strength and protection of those who serve diligently in the church and the community.

• Esteem those who fears the Lord
• Esteem those who are partakers of the Gospel
• Esteem those who adorns the doctrine of God
• Esteem those who serve heartily unto the Lord
• Esteem those who will receive the crown of life! As James said “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

The Christian life is difficult at times but by the example of these men we can find encouragement and comfort in our storms or dry seasons of life, or when things seem overwhelming. Remember, we serve an amazing God who will always help us when things seem overwhelming and when we feel like throwing in the towel (or giving up). We serve a God who has defeated the grave and Hell. We are His workmanship, His elect children who are saved for His good pleasure........He is our refuge each and every day. As John Piper puts it "God is not an employer looking for employees. He is an Eagle looking for people who will take refuge under his wings. He is looking for people who will leave father and mother and homeland or anything else that may hold them back from a life of love under the wings of Jesus." THE QUESTION YOU NEED TO ASK YOURSELF IS.........Do I really want to change and live a life of devotion?

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