Sunday, August 26, 2018

Exhortation, encouragement, and prayer! - Philippians 4:1-9

Exhortation, encouragement, and prayer! - Philippians 4:1-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 26, 2018

How do others see your faith? How do those who witnessed to you or mentored you find your faith walk? Often time we can get so caught up in how the world sees us that we forget or begin to think it unimportant how fellow believers view us. In fact some try do hard to blend in with the world that their church, Christian fellowship, and their daily devotion to the Lord suffer.

Here in this last chapter of his letter to the Philippian church Paul desired that they know exactly how he saw their faith. And so he end this letter with not just advice on how to be stronger and more devoted believers, he writes to exhort, encourage, and pray for them. In his words we can find spiritual truths that will help us this morning as well. Let’s take a fresh look at what Paul wrote…

READ: Philippians 4:1-9

Lately I have been watching the Little League World Series. I enjoy the sheer joy, sometimes sadness, and frustration that these youngsters openly display as they play a game they love. What is truly inspiring is to listen and watch as their coaches go out to calm them down or sooth their shaken spirits. Like Paul with the Philippian church they urge them to remember the joy they have and to enjoy the moment. Here we find Paul…

I. Exhorting believers to remember why they follow Jesus! (Vv. 1-3)

Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

  1. There are those who think that simply because they know someone who is nice, kind, and or accepting then they are “good people”. I knew a man who was nice, kind and accepted just about anyone but he was a drunkard and spent every penny he made on booze. Just because someone is “nice” doesn’t make them saved. Nor does it mean that God smiles at their little indiscretions. Paul wrote the Philippians that he desired they be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit. So, he writes “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” In a world that hates holiness this is extremely important! Evidently some at Philippi had forgotten whom they followed. “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.” These two women had become so caught up in their problems with each other it had boiled over into the church itself! These two women, Euodia and Syntyche, did not live up to the meanings of their names. “Euodia” means a “prosperous journey.” “Syntyche” means a “pleasant acquaintance.” Instead they were causing dissention and nothing was prosperous or pleasant about their behavior! Evidently Paul had to ask for help in this matter from fellow church members. “Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” These women who had once worked side-by-side with one another and Paul were pulling in opposite directions! “Yokefellow” her could be a proper name which is “Syzygus” and Paul needed his, Clemet’s, and the rest of the church’s help! We find Paul therefore exhorting believers to remember why they follow Jesus!

  EXAMPLE: Interestingly when we went to Wyoming we went on a wagon train ride. The two horses were huge Percherons named Mike and Pay. Each horse knew exactly how to pull the wagon and worked together to do so. They started, stopped, and turned together in perfect unison. I found it also interesting that the teams were almost exclusively made up of all female teams or all male teams. They discovered that these horses worked best, pulled together, and minded well when they were of the same sex and not trying to “impress” or flirt with one another! Christians can lose their focus in life.  We find Paul exhorting believers to remember why they follow Jesus!

Sometimes every one of us can use a good kick in the pants in order for us to remember who we are. But more than that we sometimes need to be reminded of what our attitude should be like if we truly follow Jesus. We can get so down on ourselves or others. Here we discover Paul…

II. Encouraging believers to remember their enjoyment in the Lord! (Vv. 4-7)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  1. Life can throw trials and troubles our way but when the Lord is in our lives these things are put into perspective. Paul with a few short sentences reminds us what our attitude should be in life when he writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Paul wasn’t telling Christians to be happy all the time nor was he saying we should force ourselves to be exuberant. Rejoicing for the believer should be a way of life because it is a state of being in Jesus! When we have the Creator of all things living inside of us through the power of the Holy Spirit we have everything we need. Certainly there are circumstances in which Christians cannot be happy. But they can always rejoice in the Lord and delight in him. Paul continues by telling believers that we should let our “gentleness be evident to all.” Jesus the gentle Lamb of God is the great pacifier first between God and man and also with one another and can take the angriest heart and make it gentle. And for Paul the reason was obvious because “The Lord is near.” Not just that he would return soon but the plain fact he is always near those who love him. He lives in us! Joy and gentleness and the reminder that Jesus is always near had to be a great encouragement for Christians throughout the ages. When we as believers do feel anxious, and we will sooner or later, Paul reminds us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Paul uses four words to describe our communication with the Lord: Prayer meaning speaking with God, petition meaning our requests, thanksgiving meaning our grateful attitude, and requests which is different than petitions because one is supplications and this is asking for what we truly need. If we can do this then “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Paul reminds us of our delight in the Lord by encouraging believers to remember their enjoyment in the Lord!

  EXAMPLE: In Jackson Hole I was reminded how my grandparents endured great hardships to build a life there in the Teton and Jackson area. They lost children to disease, lost a home due to a natural flood, and they could have given up. I learned that they were supposed to be one of the few families chosen by the early Latter Day Saints to open the area up for the heresies of Mormonism. However, my grandmother returned to her Christian roots and she and my mother would clean and set up what is now known as the Church of the Transfiguration in the Teton National Park, an Episcopal church. They were very faithful and returned to what they knew to be true in Jesus. I find it wonderful to discover Paul encouraging believers to remember their enjoyment in the Lord!

Our walk with the Lord should produce certain spiritual and outward characteristics in our life. Why, because our focus in life is to be different than the world’s. The world wants us to have good feelings about one another, to always be kind, and to accept anyone, anytime, for anything they want to do as long as it fits their personal paradigm of what they think the world should be like at that moment. Paul reminds his readers that because of their salvation they have been changed and their focus in life has changed as well. Paul finishes by… 

III. Praying that believers should practice what they preach! (Vv. 8-9)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

  1. Paul ends his teaching by relating, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” Aren’t these the very things all believers should focus on in life? These are the attributes Christians are to display in life! For Paul thinking about such things is the same as doing them. In fact you had to actually do them in order to think about them! Being true because Jesus is the truth, being noble because Jesus was noble in life, being right and pure because we are called to holy living, and going after what is lovely, admirable, and whatever is excellent or praiseworthy in life. There are those who think that acceptance of perversion or being kind is the answer to the world’s problems of racism, hatred, or strife but Jesus wanted his followers to be like him; and these characteristics that Paul lists exemplifies Jesus! Never forget that Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24 NIV)” Paul fully understood what this meant because he first and foremost followed Jesus and therefore could write the Philippians that “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice.” Wow! Could we all say the same thing with our Christian example? Could we dare other believers to exemplify or put into practice what they see in our lives In Jesus? I wonder. However if we were to follow what Paul writes here we can rest assured we are following and practicing what Jesus would do. Finally, Paul ends this section by praying that “the peace of God will be with you”! The peace of God is not just the absence of strife or violence; it is the inner change displayed outwardly in our lives in Jesus! What a wonderful thing to read Paul praying that believers should practice what they preach!

  EXAMPLE: Today we will observe the Lord’s Supper. There is nothing mystical or magical about doing so. It in no way imparts any grace or special dispensation to the adherent. If it did we would do it every week and we would not have to place our complete faith and trust in Jesus. Sinful man cannot atone for their sins, we are not holy nor are we seen as the sacrifice God required. If you do not believe me read Galatians and Hebrews. What it does is to remind us of who we follow and what he did for us. We observe it to honor him who sacrificed himself for our sin condition. Now we are to live like we believe it. We are to live everyday in remembrance of him. I find it encouraging that Paul prayed that believers should practice what they preach!


Conclusion:

Exhorting believers to remember why they follow Jesus! Encouraging believers to remember their enjoyment in the Lord! Praying that believers should practice what they preach!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Running life’s race! - Philippians 3:12-21

Running life’s race! - Philippians 3:12-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 5, 2018

I find it kind of interesting that we start life learning to crawl, jog or run through our younger years, and then end up walking or shuffling to the finish line. The Christian life is not to be this way at all. We are to begin by walking hand-in-hand with the Lord and then run the rest of life’s race to the finish line.

Paul understood what running life’s race was all about because he was doing it himself. His desire was that his brothers and sisters in Jesus would finish the same race well. In life we cannot help it if we become handicapped in some way as we age. Nor can we help how we entered into the world. Bad things happen to good people because sin exists. However how we live for the Lord is determined by us and how we run life’s race for him. Let’s discover what Paul wrote the Philippians concerning running life’s race…

READ: Philippians 3:12-21

There are some folks who have a Mary Poppins attitude,, they think they are “practically perfect in every way”. Others around them would disagree. Christians should never have this kind of an attitude. Paul reminds us that in running life’s race…

I. We are to focus on the goal! (Vv. 12-14)

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

  1. Paul not only knew who he followed and why but Paul was also a realist. He understood the world around him and why people often did what they did in life. But far more importantly Paul understood himself. Even though he knew he had been made holy in the sight of God by his faith in Jesus he understood he was not perfect. He still blew it from time to time and so he writes, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Paul knew there was more to life than ourselves. He now lived his life for the Lord Jesus Christ! His goal was not to try to reach perfection; his goal was to live for Jesus! It was like a race for Paul. You do not complete the race until you cross the finish line and Paul realized he had not yet crossed that line in life! So he reminds his readers, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.” Paul was still in the race! Far too many believers think that their age, their sickness, or their emotional or physical state somehow disqualifies them from continuing to run the race God has laid out for each believer. This simply is not true. In the face of life’s obstacles we still are in the race but we are in the race with Jesus and we are never alone. However, like Paul we need to remember, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” We cannot get caught up in life’s past sin or anything life throws our way because if we do, we stay at the beginning of the race we have entered! We must strain for the prize we have been promised! In running life’s race we are to focus on the goal!

  EXAMPLE: I liked the Disney Pixar movie “Up”. It is about Carl a crotchety old man who promised his late wife a trip to Paradise Falls; a place where a famous explorer found the giant skeleton of an exotic bird. Carl is found to be incapable of keeping his home and so he attaches thousands of helium filled balloons to it planning to float it to Paradise Falls as he promised his late wife. Russell, a young “Wilderness Explorer” who visited Carl in his effort to earn his final merit badge, for assisting the elderly, becomes an accidental stowaway. In their journey they both meet up with a dog named “Dug”. He can’t seem to focus on anything and yet becomes a hero. All the characters, even the eventual villain, are focused on the wrong things in life. Friendship is more important than merit badges, life is not lived in the past, and squirrels should not keep you from focusing on what is important. Paul teaches us that in running life’s race we are to focus on the goal!

I remember when I discovered that maturity does not come with age. Maturity comes when one uses their life’s experiences to become the person God desires them to be. The same is true for wisdom. Age doesn’t make someone wise. Wisdom comes from how one uses the knowledge they have obtained to glorify the Lord. Paul reminds us that in running life’s race…

II. We mature as we follow Jesus’ example! (Vv. 15-17)

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

  1. Paul knew that people can get sidetracked in running the race God has set out for each of us. Things tend to get in the way; family, friends, jobs, and personal interests just to name a few. In our day and age there are far too many distractions. This is why Paul writes the Philippians that he knows they can be distracted, however, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.” In other words you may disagree about your goal in life but if you have placed your faith and trust in Jesus your life is to be lived differently than the rest of the world. Our view of things should be filtered through our lives lived for the Lord! How are we running the race today? Yet Paul understood that there would be those who would disagree just as there are today and so he told them that “if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” We cannot force the world to believe as we believe; nor can we force fellow Christians to do so either, however, we can give them over to the Lord to deal with. We can trust Jesus with people’s lives we cannot seem to get through to. Does this mean we simply give up? NO! But we pray, talk to the Lord, and trust the Lord to handle the situation and to enlighten us on how we should proceed. Far too many believers don’t talk with God they instead talk at God. Paul tells us what our goal should be in this situation: “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” If we have trusted Jesus then we have all we need to proceed in life. We not only have Jesus walking with us but we have fellow Christians as well. We are not to isolate ourselves. Instead we are to “Join with others in following [Paul’s] example”. We are to remember we are “brothers” in Christ “and take note of those who live according to the pattern [Paul] gave you.” In running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example!

  EXAMPLE: I had to smile the other day as I was bagging groceries at WinCo. Another elderly couple was there in the next line and he was bagging groceries as well. Evidently he and his wife had been having a discussion that overflowed to the bagging area. Her remark made me laugh because she sounded like a preadolescent teen when she said, “Oh you think you’re so mature!” He muttered back, “More than you.” Some folks seem to never grow up I guess. Paul teaches us that in running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example!

Far too many Christians have forgotten that eternity exists. They become so caught up in the things of today they forget whom they are to follow. They can begin to live for the moment thinking that this is all there is in life forgetting the fact that this world is not our home. Paul reminds us that in running the race…

III. We are to remember who we are! (Vv. 18-21)

For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, 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.

  1. Paul knew that in running life’s race there are those who would love to distract us in doing so. Misery loves company. Ever wonder why some folks are so bent on destroying your life in the Lord? Paul understood that there were rivals for Jesus’ affection. He writes the Philippians, “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” Sadly this has not changed because there are still those who desire believers fail in their faith. Yet take hope because Paul pegged them for what they truly are “enemies of the cross”! And he understood their outcome in life’s race: “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.” They are headed for an eternity separated from God because they focus on the here and now and what they get out of life. They cannot help themselves because “Their mind is on earthly things.” Do not get enamored with the things of the world because they are passing away, “our citizenship is in heaven”! That is where every believer in Christ is headed! “And we eagerly await a Savior from there, 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.” Jesus will either return or we will head home. Our job is to continue in the race God has laid out for each of us! This world is not our home and we are citizens of heaven! In running life’s race we are to remember who we are!

  EXAMPLE: I hate it when I go to a seminar or meeting and they hand out name tags to slap on your shirt or coat. I know they do it so the speaker or fellow guests can know your name but whatever happened to introducing yourself to another person or the speaker before you ask a question? I always think it is because they think I can’t remember who I am. In fact, being the tease I am I stood up one time during one session and deliberately looked confused until I looked at my name tag before I addressed the speaker. I exclaimed, “Whew! I almost forgot who I was until I remembered my name tag!” It got a chuckle from the crowd, which of course is what I was hoping for. I am so glad that Paul reminds us that in running life’s race we are to remember who we are!

Conclusion:

In running life’s race we are to focus on the goal! In running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example! In running life’s race we are to remember who we are!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.