Monday, April 19, 2010

Philippi - A Prayed For Church

                    Philippi - A Prayed For Church                    
Intro.: If I were to ask you to write a letter to your best high school friend – what would you say?
  1. You would probably start with a greeting much like we looked at last week.

  2. But what then – would you ask a question? Would you tell a little about your own life's experiences since you last saw your friend?

  3. Any number of things – but Paul is not like you or me. He does not start off by asking questions or explaining what happened on the way to Damascus.

  4. Rather, Paul begins with a Prayer.

Read: Philippians 1:3-11


Trans: Philippi is a relatively young town
  1. Named after Philip, the father of Alexander the great

  2. Though a smaller village existed in the distant past, the town that Paul knew really dated from a few years after the newest writing of the Old Testament.

  3. About 50 years before Jesus was born, Marc Antony and Octavian defeated the armies of Brutus and Cassius who had assassinated Julius Caesar (remember the famous line from Shakespeare “Et tu brutus”. A few years later, Octavian (who had adopted the name Caesar Augustus) defeated Marc Antony and moved Antony's army and their families to Philippi. This was the Philippi that Paul visited and wrote his letter.

  4. This was the home of the Philippian church for whom Paul prayed.

T.S. The prayer found in Philippians 1:3-11 demonstrates two important roles that prayer plays in the life of the believer.
  1. The first role that Paul demonstrates is the willingness to spend time in THANKSGIVING.

    1. I tend to just live my life – too often I let life happen around me with no thought about what has happened or why.

    2. But Paul sets a different example – The first thing he does, after writing his initial greeting, is to say Thank You.

      1. Not to the church to whom he is writing, he does not say thank you to his friends; rather, he expresses it to God.

      2. He reminds the church that he is thankful for them. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” I don't know if he does not think the Philippian church will believe him or not, but he repeats it - “always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.

    3. Paul has watched this church, he has seen people put their faith in Christ – Lydia, the woman who sold purple cloth, there was the jailor who just about took his life when he thought Paul and Silas had escaped the jail. And there were others that had placed their faith in Christ, been baptized, and understood what it meant to be transformed into the image of Christ.

(Ill.) A transformed life is difficult to understand. Yet each summer we understand the importance of a transformation. We take an ice cube tray, fill it with water, and put into the freezer – a few hours later, it becomes the very thing that makes a glass of water, ice tea, soda, or, now, even coffee, refreshing. It is still H2O – a chemist will prove to you it is exactly the same thing that we put into that freezer. But that chemist is wrong. Something has changed, something is not the same. When Christ takes a life and transforms it – it has a similar appearance. We know the person looks the same, he or she may smell the same, the eyes have not changed color; yet, when Christ gets a hold of a life, it is not the same.

    1. There are similarities between the transformed ice and the transformed life. First, we can see the transformation. No two ice cubes are exactly alike, no two lives are exactly the same. But we can tell the difference, none the less. We are not cookie cutter Christians – but God transforms each of us in exactly the way he needs us to become more like Him.

    2. There is another similarity between the transformed ice cubes and the transformed life – the ice cubes work together with the liquid to cool off the drink. Oh, one cube may reduce the temperature a bit, but not for long. Or if all I have is the ice cubes, and no tea, it is not very refreshing. It takes a bunch of ice cubes and some fresh brewed tea to make real refreshing ice tea. Paul worked along side the believers in Philippi. They were “partakers” with Paul as they served God and experienced grace.

    3. But there is a difference between the transformed ice and the transformed life. Once the ice freezes, it is done. We cannot transform it any further. But the transformed life is never done. In fact that is part of Paul's prayer, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” You have me say it before, and it is stilll true – God is not finished with us. “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

  1. The second role that Paul demonstrates that we must be willing to bring OUR NEEDS TO GOD.

    1. Paul begins his prayer by noting he thanks God for the presence of the Philippians in his life.

    2. But he immediately turns to praying FOR them.

    3. Of course, Paul wouldn't pray like I would pray. He doesn't pray for health, he doesn't pray for safety. He doesn't pray the church would avoid persecution – I think those would be wonderful things to pray for. Rather, he prays that their LOVE would grow.

(Ill.) John Calvin also understood the connection between prayer and love. He said it this way: To make intercession for men is the most powerful and practical way in which we can express our love for them.i

    1. So as Paul prayed for the Philippians he not only prayed for them, he was saying to them, “I love you.”

    2. I think it amazing that twice in the same letter, Paul makes it clear that he understands that God is not done – we looked at it earlier. As he asks that the Philippians love would “abound more and more” he again is demonstrating that he is expecting the believers to grow beyond their current state.

    3. But Paul is not done – you see, if we learn to love, we will not be the same. As we pray, we will approve what is excellent, we will be pure and blameless, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. And lest you think I am making that up, know that I am just quoting Paul here.

    4. Loving someone else, be it family, friend, neighbor, or co-worker, is not just about them. Loving someone else also changes us.

(Ill.) I don't remember how many of you remember the old balance scale that was popular in science labs in the 40's and 50's. It sort of worked like a teeter-toter that we mentioned a few weeks ago. The user would put the thing to be weighed on one side and place increasingly smaller counter weights on the other till the two were equal. But what happened if you put extra counter weights into the pain – the sample would go up. Love is sort of like that – if I keep on learning to love and put it into practice, this other side keeps going up higher. You see, it is you and I that are sitting on this sample side – and as we love others, we keep going higher and higher – becoming more and more like Jesus.

    1. I hope your prayer for me, as mine is for you, that your love will abound more and more, so that you will become pure and blameless, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.



iJohn Calvin quoted in Water, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (773). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.

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