On Sunday, June 27, we began a new sermon series on Paul’s prison letter to the Philippians. Paul is imprisoned in Rome. There, he writes to the members of the church in Philippi about things like joy, humility, sacrifice, unity and the daily walk of the Christ-follower whose citizenship is in heaven. “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Paul says. “I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4-5, NIV).
A guiding principle through our study in Philippians finds its core foundation in Christ based upon the following assertion:
This morning we are talking about Contentment based upon Philippians 4:10-23. Hard wired into every human being is DIS-contentment. In the garden, Adam and Eve enjoyed evening walks with God along with every pleasure He provided. In fact, they joined with all of creation , pointing back to God as the source of life and wonder, bounty and pleasure.
Blessed with the ability to choose to be content, however, Adam and Eve become discontented, wanting to “be like God’ (Genesis 3:5). So, they ate the forbidden fruit. Now the joy we were intended to find in God, declaring His glory with all of creation, gets diverted to lesser idols. These idols promise contentment, but, in the end, always leave us wanting more.
Our true contentment only finds its complete satisfaction in our Creator through His Son, Jesus Christ. And it is only then that we truly glorify God with our lives, no matter what we face in life (Psalms 63:3).
In Philippians 4:2-9, Paul addresses two women in the congregation in Philippi who are missing the point of Paul’s example. It is all about knowing Christ. It is not about the distractions.
PAUL AND CHRIST
In Philippians 3:1-4:1, the apostle Paul presents himself as an example of what it means to truly ‘know Christ.’ Our shepherd, Dean Wolf, will be leading us in our study. Nothing in this world comes close to the precious value of knowing Christ, even to the point of suffering and death.
Paul now turns to two examples of Christ-following that are fresh on his mind and heart: Timothy and Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:19-30 (NIV). Working from Paul’s references to Timothy‘s life in Acts and his letters, we read between the lines to construct the person. In the end, the lives of these two examples reflect our own personal development in following Christ, knowing Him and living out His life in the world and among each other.
At the core of Philippians 1:27-2:18 (NIV) is Paul’s discussion about Christ’s example and his encouragement for us to adopt His mindset in verses 1-11. Bookending this central premise is Paul’s admonition to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” in Philippians 1:27-30 as we deal with the world around us. On the other end, he stresses that we must “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” as we deal with each other in Philippians 2:12-18.
In Philippians 1:12-26, Paul talks about his own imprisonment, concluding that his desire is for God to be glorified in both his life and his death (Philippians 1:20). For Paul, living means that his life is all about Christ. Dying means finally falling into Jesus’ arms (Philippians 1:21). Convinced that he must remain for a little longer, Paul looks forward to watching their “joy in the faith” continue to grow (Philippians 1:25-26). Indeed, this joy of which he speaks is centered upon knowing Christ and seeing Him blossom in the lives of those whose faith is in Him.
The “Gospel” or “Good News” of Jesus Christ is the foundation of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Our Shepherd, Dean Wolf, shares his reflections on how Paul weaves this into every aspect of his life. Dean also shares a simple graphic that helps us communicate this to others based upon Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV).
Early in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, on the heel of his usual greeting, Paul prays for them (Philippians 1:1-11, NASB95). When someone says or writes, “I’m praying for you that….” we should pay special attention. For, included in that prayer will most likely be the purpose of the communication: “that your love may abound still more and more,” Paul says. This is “the fruit of righteousness” that he will mention at the end of the prayer. As we consider this fruit of righteousness, we are reminded that Paul identifies its source in God, conveyed through Christ on the basis of our faith in Him (Philippians 3:8-11). This righteousness is all about relationship.
There can be no doubt that Christ Jesus is at the center of Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. Occupying center stage is the hymn that, I suspect, many were familiar with at the time in Philippians 2:6-11 (CEV). Here is the gospel message in a nutshell. For a survey of the book of Philippians, I heartily recommend The Bible Project’s outline of the book.
Our study begins with a review of Acts 16 and Paul and Silas’s visit to Philippi. Our shepherd, Dean Wolf, highlights the significant passages of Paul’s letter to the Philippians from his prison cell in Rome. Paul had every right to be discouraged. Yet, he focuses upon the opportunity to find joy even in the midst of struggle and hardship.