Partners in the gospel
mental picture of God, emotional tone? Some – disapproving, finger wagging. But one of the nastiest things they w=could think to say of Jesus was, party animal, friend of sinners, glutton and drunkard? I suspect Jesus would have been a very positive person to be around
yet one thing deeply against, and in this reflects the heart of God – God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”. It was against the proud, those whose estimation of themselves was inflated, either in relation to others or God, that Jesus was as stoney faced as possible
this morning, start Phil – a book all about the divine excellence of humility – right at the heart of it lies a poem around which the whole letter circles
5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This is to be our mind – our mindset – the divine j-curve – no where higher; no where lower, and the glorious therefore of exaltation. And why – because of (not though) his mindset. This is how it is for God, this is how it is to be for us.
thing is, humility comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes – and what we have here is the humility of association, the humility of fellowship. Crabb story of boy in church; elder stands up, epitomy of stern respectability, gets to boy, and gently lowers himself and sits next to him
Paul is in prison – very bad deal in those days; Phil was the Vaucluse of the ancient world – named after father of alex great, recently rebuilt, only city with Roman citizenship, which meant serious social advantage. They knew it and loved it. And they are associated with, in active fellowship with this deeply suspect individual. In fact, have just sent him provisions, the very gritty fellowship of cold hard cash:
Phil. 4:10 I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. … 15 You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone. 16 For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs more than once. … I am fully satisfied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.
and so this smelly, despised criminal, and these upright priviliged citizens are partners together, in the fellowship of the gospel, v. 1:
Phil. 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.
sharing here is the word for fellowship, koinonia. But notice that their partnership is not merely social, not the commonality of background or ethnic origin or skin colour, or even mutual interest, it’s the fellowship of the gospel, God’s great cause, his program for the salvation of the world, v. 6
6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
did you hear the shape of Christian fellowship – hold me in your heart. Not hold me at a distance; not have some kindly thoughts about me; not be polite and smile thinly but basically you mind your business and I mind mine; no Christian fellowship is a matter of the heart.
this is how they are partners in the gospel with him – the fellowship of cold hard cash and holding him in their hearts; and likewise he with them, v. 8:
8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
this time it’s not heart but the bowels – he longs for them with the compassion – lit. the bowels, of Christ Jesus. And for him, stuck in prison, that means he does the very best thing for them that he can – he prays, for the work of the gospel in their lives.
notice the texture of the prayer
Fundamentally about love – that their love would overflow more and more. You never retire from growing a a Christian – the more and more dynamic.
But second, it’s knowledgeable love – not naieve love, or foolish love, or sentimental love – depth of insight, really understanding the person and the truth about them, and the very best thing for them.
And this is so that – they can determine what is best – only if have this kind of knowledgeable love can you determine the best thing to do
And this has so that as well – so that at the end, Jesus says to you, well done, good and faithful servant, you are not some shabby failure of a disciple, but one that is pure and blameless, who has exhibited a whole hearted devotion to Christ
How – having produced a harvest of righteousness – beautiful vision of life, the Christian life. Full of sowing good into people and situations – good words, encouraging words, good deeds, overflowing with generosity and thoughtfulness. Whether you like it or not, you are sowing, the question is only what kind of harvest will it reap – and the apostle says, in having a love that overflows in knowledge, enabling you to determine what is best, you will produce the harvest of righteousness.
it’s interesting – I presume some of them were sick, some had health issues and family problems, and work challenges; and I presume he prayed for them as well. But this is the prayer at the top of his priorities – not for the details of their lives, not for their comfort, but for the essence of their lives.
we too are partners in the gospel – bound together by Christ. Will you share in the humility of this fellowship – sure you have more impressive things to do than give yourself to the cause of the gospel in and through this church, and this group of people. Will have the mind of Christ
Holding others in your heart, not holding them at a distance
Praying for them along these lines, that we would each be those whose production of harvest is rich and plentiful, for the glory and praise of God.
• let’s pray