April 28, 2020
One of the best things that’s coming out of this pandemic is that it has forced us to slow down and look at our lives. It’s made us think about what’s really important and how we might live differently when this is all over. It’s like God is giving us a reset button for our world. And once this is past us, many of us may want to change how we are living: Most will definitely prioritize more time with our loved ones, we’ll be more appreciative of nurses and doctors, truck drivers and grocery store clerks, and we’ll be more appreciative of our freedoms and life in general.
But what about how we do life together as His people? What would that look like? What would God’s reset for the church look like? I think it might look something like this: That we would become a Gospel-centered, Jesus exalting, all hands on deck kind of Church where everyone experiences real joy, a confident faith, and deep relationships as we work together to help people become friends, family and followers of Jesus. So that’s what we’re going to look at today as we dig into God’s Word by unpacking Philippians 1:3-8. For in this passage Paul describes three experiences that characterize a Gospel centered, Jesus exalting, all hands on deck kind of church. And the first experience that characterizes a Church like this is found in verses 3 through 5:
1. A Gospel Centered Church Will Experience a Joyful Partnership in the Gospel This is the all hands on deck church. This is the church where every person is totally invested in living out and sharing the good news of the gospel. This is the church where every person owns God’s vision for making disciples who make disciples. And the reason I know this is from what Paul says to them. He says, 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, Philippians 1:3-5
There are two words I want to unpack here. The first is the term “partnership.” It’s the Greek word “koinonia,” the word that we get fellowship from. Normally when we think of fellowship, we think of what we share in common with one another. We share the fellowship of the Spirit, we share the same forgiveness, the same heavenly Father, the same hope of eternal life… and that is all true. We share some amazing realities because of what Jesus has done for us and what he has given us in this new life in Him.
But this term is used a bit different here. Here “partnership” carries the idea of participating in something together. In the first century this was used as a business term that communicated your partnership. For example, if John and James bought a boat to start a fishing business, they entered into a “fellowship.” They became partners in catching fish. So in this partnership each one was willing to invest, work hard, make sacrifices and do whatever was necessary to help accomplish their goal of catching fish.
Well, the Philippians were partners in the gospel. They were willing to work hard, make sacrifices and do whatever was necessary to help others hear the good news about Jesus Christ. Each person was totally invested in living out and sharing the good news of the Gospel.
That’s the second word I want to unpack here: the gospel The Philippian Church owned the vision of being a gospel-centered Church. They had fully embraced the good news of Jesus Christ and the new way of life found in Him. They were kingdom people. They lived to exalt Christ in their lives and share the good news with others. That’s what a Gospel-centered person does. They were committed to living out the good news of the kingdom, exalting Jesus in every relationship and then doing whatever it takes to share the good news of Jesus with others.
And part of their owning this vision was to partner with Paul in spreading the good news. From the very first day Paul shared the good news of Jesus with them – the very first believers supported him and gave him a place to stay. In Acts 16 we are told that Lydia, upon opening her heart to the gospel, opened her home to Paul, and from there the Church in Philippi was born. And this Church was all in from the beginning. They supported Paul personally and financially. Paul remembers their generosity saying: “in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only.” Philippians 4:15 And here, 12 years later, they were still supporting him, sending gifts to him while he was under house arrest; and for this Paul couldn’t contain his gratitude, so he writes: I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joybecause of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, Philippians 1:3-5
Paul was thankful for every person in this church. Their long term commitment to him and to living out the gospel brought Paul great joy. Why? Because even though they had some internal struggles to work through, their commitment to the gospel showed that their lives had been impacted by the gospel – their lives had been changed by grace. And because of this Paul was thankful to God for every single person.
This is how joy expresses itself. With thanksgiving to God. This is a mark of a gospel-centered church, the kind of church we are becoming… How do I know this? Well, last week, while I was leading my journey group through our zoom gathering, one man shared how thankful he was for all the other men. Then another man shared the same. And then another. As I heard this outpouring of thanks, it filled me with joy. Because one of the surest signs that grace is alive and growing in a church is when it’s people can’t help but express their thanks. A Gospel-Centered Church Experiences a Joyful Partnership in the Gospel – and that joy is expressed by our thanks to God.
So let me ask you this morning: Are you thankful to God for our church? Are you thankful to God for the people who serve alongside with you? I am thankful for you. I am thankful that the gospel is working in you and through you. I’m thankful that we’re in this together: that you are praying, giving, serving and learning what it means to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. There is no greater joy then to see God’s people working together to spread the gospel. It’s a distinctive trait of a Gospel Centered Church. And it’s a blessing to be a part of.
Well that’s the first characteristic of a Gospel Centered Church: Experiencing a joyful partnership in the gospel. Now here’s the second:
2. A Gospel Centered Church Will Experience a Confident Faith that God is Working in Them We often say that we believe that God is always working around us. But the best kind of churches are also keenly aware that God is always at work in us. And that’s what Paul points out next when he says, 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. Philippians 1:6
What is this “good work” that God begins in us? First, God works in us by His Holy Spirit to awaken us to our sinful condition. His Holy Spirit first makes us aware of how our sin offends our Holy God. He then makes us aware that we have no ability to change our sin or save ourselves. So then He makes us aware of our need: our need for forgiveness, our need for repentance and our need to live a life that honors Him, and ultimately our need for Him – our need for Him to save us, change us and make us like Jesus.
Once He awakens us to our need, He then opens our hearts and minds to believe in Jesus and receive Him as the forgiver of our sins and redeemer of our lives. And at that precise moment of belief, He saves us. And that same moment He does another amazing work in us: He makes us spiritually alive. And we become alive to God, alive to His Word and alive to His working in us and changing us. We become born again. And this new birth is so profound in us, we are left looking at ourselves and asking, “Am I still the same person?” For at that moment He fills us with peace, His presence and an unspeakable joy. The weight of sin is lifted, our hearts are cleansed, and the life of Jesus takes up residence in us. Through Jesus God makes us a new person.
And Paul calls this work of God “a good work.” For His salvation of you flows out of His very goodness to you. So now, when you think about your salvation you can say, “This is God’s work, and this is good work.” And once you realize that God always finishes what He starts – His goodness and faithfulness to you will birth in you an unshakable confidence. Not a confidence in yourself, but a confidence that God is working in you, that God will never give up on you.
Oh sure there will be times you will falter. You will stumble and sin. But once God begins His work in you, He will finish it. And that’s good news. That’s the gospel. We are saved by His grace, we are kept by His grace, and we are changed by His grace. And Gospel Centered Churches are filled with people who have this confidence in God – that God is working in them.
So let me ask you today: Do you have this confidence? Do you have this assurance that God is working in you? Do you have this confidence that God will never give up on you? Listen to one preacher’s take on this truth: “As I reflect on my fifty plus years in Christ it is indeed God who has kept me. It is not my grip on God that has made the difference, but His grip on me. I am not confident in my goodness. I am not confident in my character. I am not confident in my history. I am not confident in my “reverend” persona. I am not confident in my perseverance. But I am confident in God.”
That’s what God wants us to have: a confidence in Him, that He will complete what He started in us. And when we have this kind of confidence – it frees to live out the gospel and share the good news with others. That’s what God wants you to have this morning. An unshakable confidence that He will finish what He started in you. Do you have this confidence? It’s not a confidence in yourself, but a confidence in God. Gospel Centered People Experience a confident faith that God is working in them And finally,
3. A Gospel Centered Church Will Experience Deep Relationships With One Another Paul wraps up his opening remarks with a personal confession of his deep affection for them all by saying, 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. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:7-8 This whole letter so far has been an expression of his affection for them. We’ve heard this today. First, he shares how he thanks God for all of them. Second, he remembers them in his prayers. Third, he tells them how much joy they’ve given him because of their partnership in the gospel. And now he shares how he holds them all in his heart because they share in God’s grace with him. And finally he tells how much he longs for them with the affection of Christ.
If that’s not an experience of a deep relationship, then I don’t know what else is. But here’s the truth: If Jesus lives in you, if Jesus’ life by His Spirit is dwelling in you, His deep and abiding affection for all His brothers and sisters in Christ, causes the same yearning in you that Paul had for the Philippians.
You see, you and I may have a natural affection for our friends and our families. And that’s great. But this affection of Christ is much deeper and much stronger. The word Paul uses here is the strongest word in the Greek language for the feeling of compassion. So if God put the compassion of Jesus Christ in Paul for these believers, you can know that God has put this same compassion in you – a compassion that is meant to be expressed.
That’s why Paul says, “I have you in my heart.” That’s why Paul says, “I long for you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” It’s because the affection of Jesus rules in his heart.
So let me ask you: Does the affection of Jesus rule your heart? If so, if you’re missing your church family today, that’s normal. If you’re longing to gather with your brothers and sisters in Christ, that’s normal. And the reason it’s normal, is that God put the affection of Christ in your heart for one another. In other words, God designed us to experience deep and meaningful relationships with one another as we live out the gospel together.
So hang in there. Keep linking into our Sunday Zoom Gatherings. Pick up the phone and call a brother, send an encouraging note, keep praying and one of these Sundays we will gather again. A Gospel Centered Church Will Experience Deep Relationships With One Another And I believe this is true about us!
So this is my prayer: That God would hit our reset button. That God would transform us into a Gospel-centered, Jesus exalting, all hands on deck kind of Church where everyone experiences true joy, a confident faith, and deep relationships that knit us together as we work to help people become friends, family and followers of Jesus.
May that be our prayer for one another today and every day until we can gather and be the Church once again. Would you pray that with me? Let’s pray