Sunday, December 04, 2005

How Then Shall We Give?

[Much of this message is based on a sermon published in Nelson's Annual Preacher's Sourcebook (2005), December 4, 2005.]

Intro: We ended last weeks message with the reminder that “thankgiving” is not something we do once a year, but is something that must be practiced year round.

  1. Christmas is full of traditions and concepts that we tend to remember only at Christmas time, but really must become a part of our lifestyle, become a part of our way of life.

  2. Thanksgiving is certainly one of those.

  3. Today we focus on another – that of giving.

  4. Now, I know what you are thinking. You are thinking “money”. Interestingly, the Bible spend far less time speaking about money, and far more time on stewardship.

  5. The Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines stewardship as being “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care”i

  6. Stewardship is not just money, it is also natural resourses, it is our things, it is our families, and it is our money.

  7. Stewardship is not about giving, stewardship is not about how much we give; rather, its concern is how do we give.

  8. In today's passage we will look at five principles about our giving.

Read II Corinthians 8:1-12


Tran. The Corinthian church had come a long ways.

  1. In I Corinthians we see a church that is fractured. It has divided itself into factions depending on who had led them to Jesus – rather than following Jesus, they followed the men God had appointed as leaders.

  2. We see a church that has forgotten how to love

  3. We see a church that celebrates sin in its midst.

  4. Now Paul sees a church that is growing, church worthy of following new truth.

  1. Give Gratefully (v. 1)

      1. There are two ways in which can given

        1. First, we can give because we have to. There are those who give because they have to. They are compelled to. It is as if they have no choice.

        2. And then there are those who give because they want to. Nobody or nothing forces them to give.

(Ill.) At another point, John had written, “We love because He first loved us.”, Paul is almost suggesting that, “We give, because he first gave to us.”

      1. Sadly, there are those who give to get God's favor. They work with the theory, the more I give, the more God will love me.

      2. But there is a major flaw in that theory – it is based in a theology of works. It is based on the thought that I can be good enough for God. Yet, it is because I cannot be good enough, that Christ came.

      3. We can't earn God's grace – not by what we do, not by what we give. We can only accept it as a gift.

      4. And our giving is a response to our appreciation of what God has given to us

  1. Give Sacrificially (v. 2)

    1. Paul is using the Macedonian church as a model for the Corinthian church – and for us

    2. These Christians had experienced a “sever trial”. We don't know what that trial is – but Paul did.

    3. That was only a part of the story. They also experience “extreme poverty.”

    4. Though we do not know their exact circumstances, it did not hinder their giving. In fact they gave generously. They gave sacrificially.

(Ill.) There was a young boy who worked long hours in a factory in Naples, Italy. He yearned to be a singer. When ten years old, he took his first lesson in voice. “You can’t sing. You haven’t any voice at all. Your voice sounds like the wind in the shutters,” said his teacher.

The boy’s mother, however, had visions of greatness for her son. She believed that he had a talent to sing. She was very poor. Putting her arms around him, she encouragingly said, “My boy, I am going to make every sacrifice to pay for your voice lessons.”

Her confidence in him and constant encouragement paid off! That boy became one of the world’s greatest singers—Enrico Caruso!ii

  1. Give Eagerly (v. 3, 4)
    1. Neither Caruso's mother or the Macedonians had much to give, but it was not the amount that mattered. It was the attitude.

    2. God is not looking for equal gifts – he is looking for equal sacrifice.Give Eagerly (v. 3, 4)

    1. when I go to a conference, there is always a knee jerk reaction when I am told an offering is going to be taken.

    2. But that does not seem to be the reaction of the Macedonians.

(Ill.) Macedonia was an area ancient Greece – located south of Phillippi and north of Corinth. Geographically, it represented the bulk of the peninsula that represents modern Greece. They had heard about the needs of the church in Jerusalem – and they responded.

    1. They had heard about the needs of the church in Jerusalem – and they responded.

    2. In fact they more than responded – they had to plead for the privilege to be able to help the Jerusalem church. They were eager to help.

(Appl.) It sounds so strange. Have you ever heard of some group or even some person plead that an offering be taken? But they were eager to be involved in the lives of others.

  1. Give Spiritually (v. 5)

    1. More important than their giving financially to the Lord was their willingness to give themselves.

(Ill.) In Romans 12:1-2, Paul wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

    1. More than money, more than things, more than your time. God wants you. And if he has you, then he will have the right amount of the rest.

    2. When we belong to God, when we really belong to God, we will not have a problem giving all that we have for we will understand that God owns it all anyhow.

  1. Let Your Giving Be Motivated By Love (v. 7-9)

    1. Finally, Paul suggests, our giving must be motivated by love.

    2. I suppose our reaction here would be that modern teen sloggan - duh

(Appl.) I mean here is the church that received Paul's greatest teaching on love. If it has been awhile since you have read I Corinthians 13, then take time to do so this week.

    1. The church had grown to love Paul. It was that love that Paul appealed to.

    2. But it was also the love that they had for Jesus Christ.

    3. It was not to be some syrupy, emotional love – but a love that came out of their relationship to Jesus Christ.

Conclusion: Let me conclude by noting that when Christ came and give the greatest gift -

  1. It was rooted in his recognition of God's grace

  2. It was sacrificial

  3. It was willingly given

  4. It was a spiritual undertaking

  5. It was motivated by love

As we share communion this morning – we celebrate that great gift that Jesus made so many years ago. Can our giving be any less?

iMerriam-Webster, I. (1996, c1993). Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary. Includes index. (10th ed.). Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.: Merriam-Webster.

iiTan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : [a treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers]. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Always Thankful

Intro.: There was once a good king in Spain called Alfonso XII. Now it came to the ears of this king that the pages at his court forgot to ask God’s blessing on their daily meals, and he determined to rebuke them. He invited them to a banquet which they all attended. The table was spread with every kind of good food, and the boys ate with evident relish; but not one of them remembered to ask God’s blessing on the food. During the feast a beggar entered, dirty and ill-clad. He seated himself at the royal table and ate and drank to his heart’s content. At first the pages were amazed, and they expected that the king would order him away. But Alfonso said never a word. When the beggar had finished he rose and left without a word of thanks. Then the boys could keep silence no longer, “What a despicably mean fellow!” they cried. But the king silenced them, and in clear, calm tones he said, “Boys, bolder and more audacious than this beggar have you all been. Every day you sit down to a table supplied by the bounty of your Heavenly Father, yet you ask not His blessing nor express to Him your gratitude.i

Read: Philippians 4:12-23


Trans: Today we stand at the crossroads.

  1. Last week was Thanksgiving.

  2. This is the final sermon from Philippians

  3. And it is the first Sunday of Advent.

  4. In the next few minutes we will bring those three milestones together as we explore thankfulness.

T.S. Philippians 4:12-23 illustrates the need for believers to be thankful for what God has given to us and for what God has done for us.

  1. Be thankful for what God has given

(Ill.) I think my oldest memory of Christmas is the gifts. Now, some fifty years later, I know that Christmas is not primarily about giving – but giving is a part of our tradition. Amazingly, having said that, Christmas is about giving – not our giving, but God's giving.

    1. This includes the things he has given

      1. Paul has learned to be grateful for all that God provides. The financial support offered by the Philippian church is a wonderful demonstration of God's grace.

(Ill.) Things have been a part of Christmas giving from the very beginning. Gerald Ward tells a wonderful story about the three wise men who followed the star to Bethlehem. It seems that one of them was a young man, and in his youthful idealism he looked for a King. He carried gold, a fitting gift for royalty. Another was middle-aged, and to satisfy the deep questions that disturbed his maturing mind, he longed to find God. His gift was frankincense with which to worship God whom he hoped to find. The third was aged, with many a sin-stained year behind him; he longed to discover a Saviour. Feeling that his Saviour must be a sufferer, he took with him a gift of healing myrrh.ii

      1. Sometime we try to minimize the giving, becomes it becomes too big part of our lives. But we don't ever want to forget that giving was also a part of the very earliest Christmas.

    1. This includes the people he has given

      1. Paul is very much aware that God's gifts are not only “things

      2. God's gifts also includes the people that he puts in our paths

      3. Most of the things that God allows to come our way, come by way of people. Epaphroditus is the example in today's passage – but it was the people

      4. Certainly he is aware of Epaphroditus' role in bringing the Philippian church

      5. As we saw last week, though he disappointed in the current relationship of Euodia and Syntyche, he is thankful for their contribution to his ministry

(Ill.) As I look around here this morning, I find myself much like Paul. - thankful for the contribution you have made to my ministry. As I look around, I remember the way you have been involved in my life. I look at each of you and remember conversations, I remember moments of the last 3-1/2 years. I am grateful for all that you have contributed to Sandra's and my life over that time.

(Appl.) As you move through this holiday season, don't forget to be thankful for all that God has given you. Whether it be the things that are yours or the people that God has allowed to be part of your life. God has allowed these things and these people to shape your life. You are who you are because God has been at work in your lives – and, this holiday season, we need to be grateful for those things and people God has used.

  1. Be thankful for what God has done

(Ill.) The word “Christmas” is derived from two words – Christ and mass. Originally the mass, before it came to refer the practice of receiving the Lord's supper, was the final movement in a worship service. Christmas is first of all a time for worship of the one sent for us.

(Ill.) Sometime ago, while pastoring my first church in La Farge, WI, shortly before the lunch hour the local National Public Radio station had a program that read current novels. One Fall they read a novel that has ended up being a classic novel for young adults – Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time. This famous author wrote, “When we celebrate Christmas we are celebrating that amazing time when the Word that shouted all the galaxies into being, limited all power, and for love of us came to us in the powerless body of a human baby.”iii

    1. In the NT, God began in work with Christmas, and it continued when we find Jesus Christ on the cross.

    2. But even then it was not done. Look at his prayer in verse 19 - “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”iv

    3. God is still at work accomplishing all that he wants done. In our lives individually, in the church, and in the world.

(Appl.) Take time this week to look around you. What has God done for you? What is God doing in your life now? Take time to thank God this holiday season for his work in your life.

Conclusion: Let me conclude with one more comment.

  1. I hope that thankfulness was part of your experience this thanksgiving.

  2. I trust that thankfulness will be a part of the remainder of your holiday season.

  3. But a thankful attitude is not unique to Thanksgiving or Christmas.

  4. My real prayer is that we each can develop an attitude of thankfulness that continues into the new year and does not stop.

  5. May we learn to always be thankful for what God given to us – whether they be things or people. And may we learn to be always thankful what what God is doing in our lives.


iAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

iiTan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : [a treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers]. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

iiiMadeline L’Engle in Water, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (Page 199). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.

ivThe Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Php 4:19). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What Is My Job?

Intro.: Two documents define our jobs.

  1. First, there are a group of documents called company policies. These are responsibilities of every every employee in the organization.

  2. They may also give some of the rights that we have as employees

  3. The policies may also list the details of benefits provided by our employer – insurance, retirement, vacation plans, etc

  4. But there normally another document that will define our job – the “job description”

  5. The job description provides the details of our employer expects of us. It distinguishes our job from those of most the other people around us.

  6. There is a similar set of rules for our spiritual life – there are some expectations that God has for all Christians. These are those characteristics and behaviors that come as a result of knowing Christ

  7. But there are also expectations that God places on each us – it might be related to our calling, it might be related to our relationships to others.

  8. This can be illustrated by examining the next section of Paul's letter to the Philippians.

Read: Philippians 4:2-9


  1. Expectations of every believer

    1. Paul ends the section by giving instructions to the entire Philippian church.

    2. I count six commands in these eight verses:

      1. Rejoice (two times in verse 4)

      2. Let your gentleness be evident to all

      3. Do not be anxious about anything

      4. In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God

      5. Whatever is true, right, pure, lovely, admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

      6. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice

    3. I don't know about you, but I could spend a lifetime building these six principles into my life.

(Ill.) Paul understood a lesson that an Anglican bishop some years ago. Written on the outside of his tomb is a quote from the end of his life: “When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it, too, seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.

And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.”

    1. It does starts with us – but there is a promise connected with these commands. And that promise is repeated twice – look at verses 7: And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

    2. And look at the end of verse 9 - “and the God of peace will be with you.”

(Appl.) When we start taking God seriously, when we start listening and applying what he asks of us, then our relationship with God takes a fresh turn. Let me illustrate it this way:

Two painters were asked to paint a picture illustrating peace. The first painted a beautiful evening scene in the foreground of which was a lake, its surface absolutely calm and unruffled. Trees surrounded it, meadows stretched away to the distant cattle gently browsing; a little cottage, the setting sun—all spoke of perfect rest. The second painter drew a wild, stormy scene. Heavy black clouds hung overhead; in the center of the picture an immense waterfall poured forth huge volumes of water covered with foam. One could almost hear its unceasing roar, yet perhaps the first thing to strike the eye was a small bird, perched in a cleft of a huge rock, absolutely sheltered from all danger, pouring forth its sweet notes of joy. It is the second painter who could describe the peace that passeth all understanding. This is the peace that can be ours when we

  1. Expectations of the individual believer

    1. The commands found in verses 4 through 9 are intended for the every member of the church. But earlier in this passage is a command that was not intended for the entire church, but for two women who could not get along.

    2. Euodia and Syntyche had worked side by side with Paul in sharing the gospel. He knew what they had to contribute.

    3. Now, as they find themselves at odds, Paul calls them “to agree with each other in the Lord.” It is a phrase he used earlier in Philippians when he wrote “... make my joy complete by being like minded ... let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”

    4. But Paul realized that he would need help. He calls on his friend Syzygus to get involved to bring these women together.

(Ill.) Now if you look at the NIV you do not see the name of Syzygus – you see it in a footnote. The term “loyal yokefellow”, found in the NIV, can also be a proper name – the name Syzygus. And though the NIV translators thought otherwise, there is very strong evidence that Paul's instructions were given to a church leader named Syzygus.

    1. Paul is very much aware of the need to for the church to work together to accomplish its task. Paul recognized that he had been given a special task to accomplish that day outside of Damascus.

(Appl.) But he also realized that he could not do it alone. He was aware that the Holy Spirit was a required if he was going to accomplish his task. But he also realized that he needed men and women to join him if the vision God has given to Paul is going to be accomplished. And so, there are specific tasks that we each are given. We, like Clement, are “fellow workers”. We each are called to work along side Paul – even now 2000 years later.

Conclusion: As believers we have responsibilities.

  1. Some of those responsibilities are shared by all believers.

  2. Some of those responsibilities are unique to you (or me) alone.

  3. But as we serve God together, the work of the church will get done.


Sunday, November 13, 2005


Intro.: In just a couple of weeks we will be celebrating Thanksgiving.

  1. My wife will cook a wonderful turkey stuffed with rice dressing.

  2. We will probably also have mashed potatoes, carrot salad, hot rolls, and for desert, pumpkin pie

  3. But it is the turkey that I want to focus on this morning – because that is where I get involved.

  4. I will probably get up a couple of hours after Sandra. She will have the Turkey in the oven.

  5. The first thing I will do is ask how is it going? It will be a couple of hours yet, she'll say.

  6. And then every half hour I will ask, “How's it coming?”

  7. When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, I am a kid at heart.

  8. I want the turkey to be done. I like the white meat best – but, of course I can't get my white meat until the whole turkey is done.

  9. During the morning, I may even sneak a peak at the pop-up or the thermometer. Maybe I can rush it if I look more often – naw, it doesn't work that way.

  10. The turkey will be done when the turkey is done.

  11. Paul thought the same thing about his Christian life

Read: Philippians 3:12-21


Trans: We left Paul last week saying, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

  1. Paul knows his goal

  2. Paul is facing the right direction

  3. And Paul continues moving forward

T.S. Philippians 3:12-21 provides two key concepts

  1. Concept I: We Are Not Yet Done Philippians 3:12

    1. There are times that I want to argue with the people I find in scripture. This is one of them.

    2. I mean, here is Paul – the one man we look to as a model of living the Christian life is all about. And he writes to the Philippian church that “he has not yet made it.” Here is Paul, nearing the end of his life. Sitting in house arrest, chained to a Roman guard. He has been a Christian for nearly 30 years. And now he says he has not reached his goal.

    3. It gets worse – he does not just say it, he says it three times: v12 Not that I have already obtained all this v12 or have already been made perfect ... v13 I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it

    4. If Paul, having been a believer for thirty years has not made it, what chance do I have of making it?

(Ill.) It is as if Paul had gone 5 miles on his journey and I have gone 1 mile. The problem is that the goal is a million miles away.

(Ill.) Paul used a number of pictures to describe the Christian life: Military – “Put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6) Agriculture - “For whatever a man sows he will also reap” Galatians 6 Architecture - “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (I Cor 3) and here he uses pictures an athletic event - a race.

    1. Look at the words he uses - “I press on”, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead”, “I press on

(Ill.) I read that last weeks New York Marathon had the closest finish ever. 26 miles in 2 hours and 9 minutes. It appears that winner took Paul's advice. When the young man from Latvia was a 100 meters, about the length of a football field, away from the finish line he was in second place. I suppose he could have looked back on the last 25 miles and lamented the fact that he wasn't in the lead. But he didn't. He pressed on, forgot what was behind and passed the leader just moments – less than a third of a second - before reaching the finish line.i

(Appl.) I don't know what kind of race you are on. But I do know this – if we spend our time looking back, we are less likely to move forward. Knowing we, like Paul, have not yet reached the finish line, we are called to “press on”

  1. Concept II: We Can Finish the Race

    1. Paul has a unique way of using his vocabulary. In verse 12 – he has not yet been made perfect. In verse 15 he says “All of us who are mature ..” Its the same word. Perfect and mature – they are represented by the same Greek word. Paul recognized that he was not perfect, but that he was being perfected.

(Ill.) Mark Twain once said, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”

    1. But that is what Paul sets himself up as – an example.

    2. There are examples we are not to follow – Paul calls them enemies of the cross. - they know where they going-destruction - their god is their stomach - they take pride in the very things that should be their shame - their mind is on earthly things Life for them is backwards. The very things they should confess, they wave like a flag. They find it easier to feed their wants, than to serve God. And they are not to be our example.

    3. If Paul is to be our example, then it makes sense that we know something about him.

(Ill.) One day St. Francis of Assisi said to one of the young monks at the Portiuncula, “Let us go down to the town and preach!” The novice, delighted at being singled out to be the companion of Francis, obeyed with alacrity. They passed through the principal streets, turned down many of the byways and alleys, made their way into the suburbs, and at great length returned by a circuitous route to the monastery gate. As they approached it, the younger man reminded Francis of his original intention.

“You have forgotten, Father, that we went to the town to preach!”

“My son,” Francis replied, “we have preached. We were preaching while we were walking. We have been seen by many; our behavior has been closely watched; it was thus that we preached our morning sermon. It is of no use, my son, to walk anywhere to preach unless we preach everywhere as we walk.”

    1. Of course we already know something – we know that he is finished with his race, we know that he presses on. But there is more.

    2. Paul recognizes that though he is a Roman citizen, after all, that is why he was sent to Rome, his heavenly citizenship is far more important. And the King is coming -

    3. And when he does – the transformation will be complete.

      We eagerly await a Savior – the Lord Jesus Christ – who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

    4. Paul has come full circle – we are not complete, we are not perfect, we are not finished. But, like Paul we are to press on, waiting for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. And then we will be done. The transformation will be complete.

Conclusion: I know this about your spiritual life.

  1. It is not yet done.
  2. The race is not completed
  3. And you are called to “press on”
  4. And if we do, then God will transform us - step by step - until that day when we meet him face to face and the job is completed.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Finding Our Place

Intro.:    One of those pieces of trivia that many Christians carry around with them is knowing the shortest verse in the Bible.
  1. Most people will tell you that the shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35 - “Jesus wept”
  2. But that is only half true.  It is only true in an English translation.
  3. If we read Greek, then would find a verse that is shorter by one word.  
  4. The Greek in John 11:35 has three words.
  5. The Greek for I Thessalonians 5:16 is only two words long.
  6. And what does I Thessalonians 5:16 say - “Rejoice always.”
  7. And that takes us to Philippians 3:1-11
Read:  Philippians 3:1-11
Trans:  You have heard me say, perhaps too often, that as people we are broken.

1.  That might raise the question – what does an unbroken person look like.
2.  G K Chesterton, writing in the early 1900's addressed that issue when he wrote -

that most humans rejoice over the insignificant and despair over the essential. However, that isn’t the last word, Chesterton averred. “Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude … praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul.”  Why does joy go deeper in humanity than pain? Because joy is at the heart of our relationship with God and was the basis of Adam’s initial walk with God. One day that joy will be restored as the basis of our redeemed walk. So often now joy lies manacled by the equivalent, or excessive, sorrows of life. And while we can hear joy shouting its existence, even while imprisoned, it will one day break free and embrace all the saved in its delight. Pain is a viscious interloper that will one day vanish. In the new world, free from restriction, joy will once again prevail, rippling like waters through stony heights.

  1. Rejoicing in the Lord    Philippians 3:1
  1. We all will start some where.
  2. Paul starts with “Rejoicing”
  3. He knows – whether one has learned to rejoice or not – a heart that is capable of rejoicing is ready to face life's difficulties.
(Ill.)  I suspect most of us have read the Pollyanna stories or seen one of the three movies based on the book.  Pollyanna was a fictional girl whose father, a missionary, had died.  She was sent to be raised by a rather obnoxious aunt.  Her arrival in Vermont to meet her aunt is a good illustration of the “Glad Game” that became an important part of the Pollyanna stories.  When she first arrived at the railway station, she was met by a servant that she thought was her aunt.  “I am so glad that you came to meet me, Aunt  Polly.”  When Pollyanna found out that it was not her aunt, she turned and said, “I am so glad that Aunt Poly did not come to meet me – I have now made a friend of you and I can still meet my Aunt Poly.”  Today we think of Pollyanna as being an air head who never understood what life was really about.  

Eleanor Porter, the author of these books, would want to argue with you.  The daughter of a pastor, her father was given to times of depression that seemed to take over his life.  For many years he felt discouragement as he sought to serve the Lord – and, as you can imagine, it took its tole on the little girl, Eleanor.

That was until he discovered “his rejoicing texts” as he called them.  It was those verses that began “rejoice” or “be glad in the Lord” or “Shout for joy.”  Eleanor tells the story that one occasion when he was particularly depressed, he took the time to count the verses that he had collected.  There were eight hundred verses.  Her father said that if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, He must really want us to do it.  And he developed the “Glad Game” for himself.  He taught it to Eleanor, who through the Pollyanna books, taught it to us.

Pollyanna's cheerfulness wasn't an escape from the reality of life, but the simple faith of a child learned from her father, who, like us, was learning to trust God and rejoice in all life's ups and downs.i
  1. Paul writes, “Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.”  Maybe we too need to listen to what he has to say.
  1. Watching out for the kill-joys
  1. I don't know what happened between verse one and verse two.  It sounds as if Paul is about to end his letter – but before he does he puts down his pen for a time.  Before he is able to finish, Paul hears some disturbing news.  
  2. Strangers have apparently arrived in Philippi suggesting that those who had placed their faith in Christ must now follow the OT law.  It was not enough to accept the grace of God – you must also place yourself under the rules and regulations that are found in the OT.
  3. And Paul responds by using strong words – he calls those who would divert the minds, hearts, and souls of the church from following Christ alone, “Dogs.”  
(Ill.)  At the very least it was term to used to refer to the Gentiles who had no real faith in God.  The Greek word is a reference to the wild dogs that roamed the city streets scavenging for any garbage that they could get their mouths around.  Rather than being holy people, there was nothing clean about the dogs that roamed the city.  
  1. “Mutilators of the flesh” refers specifically to the OT practice of circumcision.  The OT laws were no longer required – permitted to the extent someone wanted to follow them, but not required.  
(Ill.)  A counselor at church camp told of his experience with a nine-year-old boy who started to cry when they turned out the cabin lights the first night. “Was he afraid of the dark?” the counselor asked. “No,” the boy replied; “he just didn’t want to be attacked by the ‘killer rabbits.’“  Some older kids at home had told him that there were “killer rabbits” who would come out at night and attack the campers. Jesus was constantly reassuring the disciples with the words, “Fear not.” Their fears betrayed their lack of faith. When one traces these words and their usage throughout the Bible, it seems that one of man’s constant needs is to be reassured of the presence and comfort of God almighty. Christians can draw on this presence to find comfort and destroy their fears. Watch out for “killer rabbits!” They can destroy your peace of mind at camp and throughout life.ii
  1. What Paul is really saying is this – that we must watch for those things that might distract us from following the one to whom we gave our life.  Whether it be people, ideas, or things – there are distractions to our walk with God.  Paul warns us, “Watch out for the kill-joys of faith.”
  1. Finding the balance
  1. There was no room to boast in the Law.  Paul knew that better than anybody.
  2. He was a Jew that had spent his time obeying the law  - look at what he writes ”... circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.”
  3. If anybody had reason to boast – it was Paul.  
  4. But, now, as a believer, Paul looks to that same past and call it “rubbish”.  His past had no value when placed in the hands of Jesus Christ.   
(Ill.)  Perhaps understood the explorer in a story I once heard.  A very boastful explorer was boring his dinner guests with accounts of a South African trip he had made. “And just as I looked inside my tent when I retired,” he boomed, “I saw a ferocious ape.”  

“What do you suppose I did?”  

A weary voice replied, “Took the mirror down?”
  1. We cannot boast in what we have accomplished.  May we have Paul's attitude in Philippians 3:8-11.
    Read Philippians 3:8-11

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The People God Uses

Intro: I recently stumbled across a 234-page book that no one has been able to read.

  1. The Voynich Manuscript has a history going back to the early 1600's. Its exact origin is unknown.

  2. As a book, it is written in a strange alphabet – otherwise unknown.

  3. The alphabet looks like somebody was writing in a mirror. The images that appear on its pages are colorful and well-drawn.

  4. Men, both wiser and smarter than me, have attempted to decipher its contents. But to no avail.

  5. No one knows what this book says or what it means.

  6. Today it sits, just as unreadable as ever, in the rare book room of Yale University.

  7. One might say, “It is a well-known, unknown.”

  8. Today we want to look at two men who supported Paul during his imprisonment in Rome.

Read Philippians 2:19-30




  1. Timothy – A man everyone knew

      1. There are some names that everyone seems to know – many of you know Max Lacado or Patsy Clairmont.

      2. To the early church, Timothy, along with Paul, was that kind of man.

      3. Paul had first met Timothy in Lystra – a city on the Turkish subcontintent.

      4. But either in the book of Acts or in his letters, Paul lets us know that Timothy had ministries in Thessalonica, Corinth, Ephesus, Jerusalem, and, now, Rome.

      5. But having been many places does not make one a strong believer – that is external

      6. What makes one a strong believe is what happens on the inside!

      7. But Timothy also was changed on the inside.

      8. Timothy had a concern for the people of his world.

(Ill.) There is a story – apparently true, that the Prime Minister of Grenada, his name was Eric Gairy, was so concerned about the possibility of flying saucers, that he petitioned the UN to set up a “UN Agency on UFO's”. A few years later Prime Minister Gairy was heard lamenting, “Regrettably, not much concrete action by that body has flowed from my recommendation.” Sometimes a person's concern can be misplaced – but Paul sensed that Timothy's interest was genuine.i

(Ill.) William Carey, who is called the “Father of Modern Missions,” served the Lord in India for many years. He gradually became very concerned about the attitude of his son, Felix. The young man had promised to become a missionary, but he reneged on his vows when he was appointed ambassador to Burma by the Queen of England. Carey wrote to his friend, asking prayer for his son with these words: Pray for Felix. He has degenerated into an ambassador of the British government when he should be serving the King of Kings.ii

      1. Timothy's heart was not on where he had been, but on what God had accomplished through his life.

(Appl.) Where do you place your value – is your value based on the externals or on what God is doing in your life. As long as we look at the externals, we may even miss those things that God is doing. Timothy was less concerned with the places he had served, but with how he had served. So must we.

  1. Epaphroditus – A man nobody knew

    1. As well-known as Timothy was, Epaphroditus was not.

(Ill.) Matthew Henry was a relatively unknown Methodist preacher. He eventually wrote a famous Bible Commentary. But as a poor and unknown young man he wished to marry a girl whose father was wealthy and who did not approve of the marriage. The father argued that, although he was a good scholar and an excellent preacher, “they did not even know where he came from.” The daughter had a ready answer. “But father,” she said, “we know where he is going, and I want to go with him.” The father acquiesced.iii

    1. Epaphroditus was also an unknown. Philippians is the only book – where his name is mentioned twice

(Ill.) Epaphroditus, whose name means “comely” or “charming”, was a Philippian Christian. Philippians 4 makes it clear that he had originally brought a gift for Paul and that it was received with gratefulness. Since then, Epaphroditus had been working along side of Paul – Paul call him “my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier.”

The Philippian church had heard that Epaphroditus was ill. In fact he was close to death, but he had experienced God's mercy and survived. So Paul will let him to return to Philippi with the letter we are looking at.

    1. Epaphroditus had every right to sit back and do nothing.

        1. he had done the job of delivering the Philippian gift, that was all that was expected of him

        2. he had been ill and really did not feel like working

        3. he was going to return to Philippi – so why bother

        4. he had already risked his life – he wasn't going to do it again

    2. But Epaphroditus didn't stop when it would be easy to. And because he did not, Paul showed him the utmost respect by calling him his brother, his fellow worker, and fellow soldier. Yep, Epaphroditus had every reason to not get involved, but he chose to involve himself in the Roman church until God would allow him to return home.

    3. It is just this kind of faithfulness that God expects of us. And when we have done that, we need to trust God to take our work and use it for his good purposes.

Conclusion: Some people are more like Timothy – known by everyone. Some are more like Epaphroditud – known only by those whose life he touched.

  1. It really does not matter which we are

  2. God can use us

  3. We are called to be faithful to Him

  4. And when we have done that, then we have done all that we have been asked.

iTan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : [a treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers]. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

iiMorgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (Page 90). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

iiiAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Effecting Lives

Intro: I do not like today's passage.

  1. Complaining is such a major part of my life.

  2. I mean, if my computer is not working, someone will find out about it.

  3. Or, earlier this week, I went up to our computer classroom and discovered that the teacher's station was not working.

  4. I call ITS – and they can do nothing because Mike does not come in for another ½ hour.

  5. It would be like coming to church hoping for a good sermon and the pastor does not show up.

  6. Except for me this is bad news and I want to complain.

  7. And then I turn to this weeks passage and I am deflated.

Read Philippians 2:14-18


Tran. In Philippians 2:14-18, Paul provides us the motivations for changing our attitudes.

  1. The passage starts by telling us to do everything without “complaining or arguing.”

  2. He ends by telling his listeners “so you tool should be glad and rejoice.”

  3. The contrast was so obvious, I almost yelled out my excitement as I told Sandra what I had discovered.

T.S. As we look at Philippians 2:14-18, we will see that Paul presents to motivators for our taking time to change our attitudes.

  1. Effect on our own lives

      1. Three terms describe what Paul suggest will happen to those who this change from complainer to rejoicing.

        1. Blameless -

        2. Pure -

        3. Faultless -

      2. These three words are very close in meaning, but they make clear that this change takes place on two levels.

      3. I call these two levels the doing of sin and the want to of sin.

      4. The one is what people see – the other is what is going on in your heart.

(Ill.) Dr. Kenneth Kantzer was my theology prof in seminary. He told us that often when the the Bible used the plural “sins', it was referring to the doing of sin. A wonderful example of this is found in I John 1:9 - “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Similarly, when scripture used the singular “sin”, it is referring the “want to” that we all seem to fight against - that park of brokenness that has infected all of mankind. Romans 5:12 reads “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men.” Sin, the disease that is part of all of our lives, began with Adam. But it is part of all of our lives.

(Ill.) John Maynard was a student in an old-time country schoolhouse. Most of the year he had drifted carelessly along, but in midwinter some kind words from his teacher encouraged him to take a new start, and he became a distinctly different boy and made up for his earlier faults. At the closing examination he performed well, to the great joy of his father and mother, who were present. But the copy-books used through the year were all laid on a table for the visitors to look at; and John remembered that his copy-book, fair enough in its latter pages, had been a dreary mass of blots and bad work before. He watched his mother looking over those books, and his heart was sick. But she seemed, to his surprise, quite pleased with what she saw, and called his father to look with her; and afterward John found that his kind teacher had thoughtfully torn out all those bad, blotted leaves, and made his copy-book begin where he started to do better. To all who would forsake sin God offers a new chance and promise to blot out all old sin and make the record begin with the new start.i

      1. What started with one man, God wants to take and make us, to use the words of Philippians 2:

        1. Blameless

        2. Pure

        3. Faultless

  1. Effect on the lives of others

    1. Moving from one who complains and argues to one who is glad and rejoices will change us in many ways.

    2. It will also effect those around us.

    3. Paul uses himself as an example. As the Philippians live out the Christian life, he will have a reason to rejoice.

    4. But Paul is not alone – he is but one member of the church. He serves to illustrate that the church is a body – when one part celebrates, we will all celebrate. When one succeeds in the Christian life – whether big or small – we all need to celebrate.

    5. The church is one audience – but there is another. Listen to what Paul says in verse 15 again, “so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation.” The world is watching us.

    6. Those who live around you, those who work around you, those whose paths you cross will see God at work in your life. You will, as Paul continues, “... shine like stars in the universe.

(Ill.) I am reminded of that little ditty that many of us sang in Sunday School:

This little light of mine,
I'm goin'a let it shine,
this little light of mine,
I'm goin'a let it shine;
this little light of mine,
I'm goin'a let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

(Appl.) As I live out my Christian life, I do not want you, as my brothers and sisters in Christ, I do not the world, to see a perfect person. That person does not exist.

What I do want is for those around me, whether believers or not, to see a person that is changing. I want the church and the world to see a man who is becoming more like Christ each day, each week, each month, each year. Sometimes the changes are small, sometimes the changes may be in bigger steps.

But if we are people who are changing, then we will be an encouragement to the church and be shining like stars in the universe. And that is what God asks for.

iAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Salvation Exercise

Intro: There are a couple of books that I keep near me whenever I work at the computer.

  1. One of those books is a Bible – or two or three.

  2. The other book is a dictionary.

  3. You know, we in the church use a lot of words that have special meaning to those of us that have placed our lives in God's hands.

  4. But for those outside of the church, those same words may seem confusing and be misunderstood.

  5. Today we will look at one of those words - “Salvation”

  6. For example, the dictionary that I keep on my desk defines “salvation” as the “preservation or deliverance from difficulty or evil”.

  7. Even that sounds wordy – but it misses the point. No mention of Christ, no mention of its long term (including eternal) consequences.

  8. Let's look at what Paul has to say:

Read Philippians 2:12-13


Tran. I was amazed to learn that only one word is used for “salvation” in the NT.

  1. Contrast to the word love – three words found in the NT are translated as “love”

  2. Or four words for “sin”

  3. That one word is used for deliverance from physical pain, from danger, or from sin.

T.S. In the next few minutes we want to ask four questions about Philippians 2:13-14: 

  1. What is it talking about?
  2. Who is Paul talking to?
  3. Why – are we to work our salvation
  4. How are we to work our salvation
  1. WHAT – Work out Your Salvationi

      1. I learned a long time ago, I cannot look at you and tell whether you are a Christian.

      2. Your eyes don't change color, no new clothing, there is no extra halo around your head

      3. Salvation is that point where God takes us as broken people and begins to rebuild us.

(Ill.) Augustine says Salvation is God's way of making us real people.ii

      1. Salvation is a work of God, something that we never could do for ourselves.

      2. But once God has begun to work in our lives, there is the beginning of something that we will participate in for the remainder of our lives.

(Appl.) It is almost as if salvation is a verb. Salvation is not just a state in which we find ourselves, it is also that which keeps us alive as Christians. It is that part of our lives that will look for ways to become more like the person God wants us to be. It is that part of our life that is able to say “yes” to God.

  1. Who – Work out Your Salvation

    1. Salvation is intensely personal

    2. Sometimes it would be much easier for each of us to take responsibility for someone else.

(Ill.) Let me illustrate it this way. Sandra – would you come here for a minute. I know exactly what God wants of you. I know that he wants you to wear blue, I know that he wants you to eat lots of vegitables, I know that he wants you to go swimming two or three times a week. 

Now, I suppose, I could call each of you up here and tell you exactly what God wants; but if I did, I would be in trouble. I would be making a number of mistakes.

First, I would be ignoring the fact that God is working in my life. If I am focusing my attention on you, then I am missing God's work in my life. The command to work out our own salvation, implies that God is working in our lives.

Second, the command to “work out your own salvation” implies that the Christian life is not some mystical, magical way of improving our lives. It implies that it will take energy, it will take effort. And if we are focusing my attention of someone else, we are avoiding that which God wants me to do.

Finally, there is the implication that I will make use of all the means that God provides in order to work out my salvation. Scripture, music, the church, the sacraments, I will use every tool available to draw closer to God and to understand what he demands of me. And if we become so involved in another's life that we miss what God has for us, we will have missed the most valuable gift God has for us.

  1. Why – For God is at work
  1. Do you see the logic here - “Work out your own salvation ... for God is at work.

  2. We get so use to making touch decisions for ourself that we often do not see God at work. We become spiritually blind.

(Ill.) How men may live in the presence of the noblest inspirations and yet be blind to them is pathetically illustrated in the present condition of the Last Supper, by Da Vinci, the greatest and noblest triumph in the whole realm of art. Of the many acts of vandalism which have been perpetrated in the realm of art none stands out so gross as that through which this immortal work has suffered. Painted on the end wall of the Maria delle Grazie, in Milan, the holy monks were able to gaze upon it as they sat at their table. But so much did they value it, or esteem its spiritual power, that, finding the passage into their dining-hall too distant from the kitchen, they actually made a way through the wall upon which the picture was painted, cutting out as they did so the feet of the Savior! Surely that blindness of soul which makes men dead to spiritual realities was never more astoundingly illustrated. For here were men whose duties were spiritual, and who had consecrated their lives to spiritual things, so blind in soul that they carelessly sacrificed the most spiritual work of art ever produced to the cravings of appetite.iii

(Appl.) Keep your eyes open – watch for God at Work in your lives. When I drive down the highway and see a sign that says, “Men At Work” I immediately become attune to my surroundings and begin to look for men at work. Maybe today needs to be a sign post for each of us. Let it serve as a reminder that God is at work and we can be watching for indications of His presence in our lives.

IV. How – With Fear and Trembling

    1. I used to really fear the term, “the fear of God.” But I have learned something. God does love me, God does not want me to fear Him.

    2. What he does want is for me to honor and show respect for Him with all that I am and all that I have.

(Ill.) If Christ has our love, he has our all; and Christ never has what he deserves from us, till he has our love. True love withholds nothing from Christ, when it is sincerely set upon him. If we actually love him, he will have our time, and he will have our service, and he will have the use of all our resources, and gifts, and graces; indeed, then he shall have our possessions, freedom, and our very lives, whenever he calls for them. In the same way, when God loves any of us, he will withhold nothing from us that is good for us. He does not hold back his own only begotten Son, Rom. 8:32. When Christ loves us, he gives us everything we need– his merits to justify us, his Spirit to sanctify us, his grace to adorn us, and his glory to crown us. Therefore, when any of us love Christ sincerely, we lay everything down at his feet, and give up all to be at his command and service.iv

(Appl.) Let me conclude this service by asking you to take time to give all that you have to Jesus. Don't hold anything back. He gave all he had for you – can you do any less for Him?

iThis basic outline of this sermon is based on material found in The Pulpit Commentary: Philippians. 2004 (H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.) (Page 73). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

iiWater, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (Page 901). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.

iiiAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

ivWater, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (Page 644). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.