Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Little “IF” ...

Intro.: Church camp has been a part of my life for many years.

  1. While in seminary we were part of a Free Methodist church that had a strong camping program in southern Wisconsin.

  2. And more space was needed – so a few weekends were set aside to build two new dorms one for the boys and one for the girls.

  3. Laid out like a three pointed star – dormitories would be set into the three points of the star – in the middle would be space for showers and rest room facilities.

  4. Week one – pouring of concrete floor, with big bolts placed every 12 to 16 inches apart around the edge.

  5. Week two, involved building and installing the outside walls. The bolts were used to hold the walls securely to the floor – which also become the foundation.

  6. The foundation of each point of the star was the same

  7. But as we finished off each dorm, there were differences – in wall color, in the layout of the sleeping arrangements, in the location of the door – it was always on the East side of the building – the side closest to the dining facility.

  8. The church is much like this – every church starts with the same foundation, but we are different on the inside.

  9. Paul recognizes this fact as he continues his letter to the Philippians.

Read: Philippians 2:1-4



  1. Paul begins by pointing to the Foundation

    1. Paul uses five words to which he knows describe the Christian life: encouragement, comfort, fellowship, tenderness, compassion

    2. Some things hit me has I looked these words this week – first, their definitions are often interchangeable. They are synonyms of each other. Depending on what translation you look at, the words are sometimes reversed.

    3. Second, the words suggest that there is a connection between us – they echo the words of Paul to the Corinthians – when one of us hurts, we all hurt; when one of us rejoices, we all rejoice.

(Ill.) This is most evident in the word “fellowship”. In Greek it is a word that was mentioned more often 20 years ago – it is the word “koinonia”. Interestingly, this is also one of three terms used in the NT to describe the sacrament of communion – the others are eucharist and the Lord's Supper. In communion we celebrate the death of resurrection of our Lord – but we also are celebrating the connectedness that we enjoy together. We are connected to the church. Christ gave us instructions to celebrate communion – in participating in communion, we are celebrating the fact that we are members of the body of Christ – an institution that has its roots going back 2000 or more years.

Communion, or “koinonia”, also should remind us that we are connected to the church today. Whether is a community of believers across town, across the state, on the other side of our country, or around the world – we are acknowledging that are a part of the family of God. As I travel, I am aware that I am part of something larger than the Garland church. Whether it was a trip to California for my mother's funeral a number of years ago, or my annual trip to Dayton, OH, and Frankfort, IN, it is exciting to see God at work in amazing ways. The same would be true if I ever had the chance to travel out of this country and visit mission churches in other parts of the world. God is at work changing peoples lives. Taking them from where they are and molding them into what he wants them to become. There is a “koinonia”, there is a communion, there is a fellowship of believers where ever we might find ourselves.

    1. Finally, Paul says, “If these things are present ... “. The “if” is a rhetorical “if”. It is as we might say, “if the sky is blue, ...' There is no question in Paul's mind that these five characteristics are part of the church -

      - there is encouragement in the church
      - there is comfort in the church
      - there is fellowship in the church
      - there is tenderness within the church
      - there is compassion within the church

  1. Paul gives hints toward building the Church

    1. The foundation is present. The five elements that Paul asks for are part of the church.

    2. He begins with the first of three commands found at the end of our passage. “then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” The one thing that Paul wants to see in the church is unity.

    3. One mind, one love, one spirit, one purpose.

(Ill.) A story is told about an incident that occurred at the time of the battle of Gettysburg during the civil war. Massachusetts had sent a delegate to the Army hospital at Getttysburg with provisions to support soldiers from that state. As he entered the hospital he began going from cot to cot looking for soldiers from Massachusetts. Eventually he got worried – so he a bit more demanding, “Is there anybody here from Massachusetts?” After a few moments of silence one soldiers answers the question, “No – Only United States soldiers here!”i

The delegate was drawing a line that was not being recognized by the soldiers. We sometimes do the same thing within the church. But the lines are not along states – they are called denominations – Baptists, Wesleyans, Catholics, Methodists. We don't find those words in the scripture – what we do find is “Christian”. One mind, one love, one spirit, one purpose focused on the person of Jesus Christ.

    1. But there is a second command in our passage – It has to do with how we relate to others - “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

    2. Have you ever had to face a terribly difficult situation alone? You felt like the load was more than you could carry yourself.

    3. Let me suggest two mistakes that are reflected in what I just read:
      * First, we too often feel the need to be strong. We need to be able to carry every problem on our own shoulders. Instead of allowing the church to support us in our difficult times, it is easy to hold it in. Don't share it, don't let others share the load.

      *But there is another mistake we make in the church. And it is this mistake that Paul addresses here – We are called to be concerned with each other. But too often we communicate the message, “Don't tell me your problems. I don't have time to deal with them. I really do not care.” Yet we are called to carry each others burdens. We are called to care. Our message might better be, “Tell me what's going on. I really want to help carry that load. You know, if I can't do it myself, I bet there are those in the church that can help carry it.”

    4. Listen again to the words of Paul: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Conclusion: Much of today's message was about being the body of Christ.

  1. We began be looking at those things Paul knew to be true – encouragement, comfort, kononia or communion, tenderness, and compassion.

  2. But then Paul calls together to support one another, even in the difficult times.

  3. We are about to take communion, during the next few minutes, let us focus our thoughts on the things that make us a community that allows us to celebrate communion together.

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

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