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What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.

 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.

Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. – Philippians 1:18-26

Let’s pick it up where we left off! That’s the joy of going through a letter of scripture right? We are feeding off what we went over last week. We are challenged along a similar line heading toward the same goal. As Paul states in his other letter, we are seeking, unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).

We aim to be united as a church under one banner. That banner is Jesus Christ tortured and crucified to death only to be raised to new life. This all happened to give you joy. Like a soldier goes out to war to provide you and I with peace, the God of the universe battled on our behalf and triumphed over sin and death to give us the reward of eternal life with Him.

That is the greatest treasure! Knowing and being with the God who loves you, who cherishes you, who defended you to the point of His own death. How tangible this is to you in your life is displayed through your daily life.

Put yourself in the place of the church in the time of Paul. Put yourself in the place of the church in Nepal, parts of India, places throughout Africa. Place yourself in your daily routine. There is something that happens when you speak about Jesus the anointed one.

More people believe when more people hear of Jesus.

Think about that moment when you prayed for someone to come to know and be with Christ, and then you shared Christ with them only for them to believe! It took you taking a step for them to see Christ.  The hope and joy of God you have far exceeds anything else in your life thus far and will be through the next million years and for eternity after that. The simple fact is that we speak about Jesus!

I recently was in a conversation about evangelism. They stated that is defined by its intentionality. The discussion was about how to encourage our churches to step out and evangelize. What I found most intriguing was what was missing, the simple question do we speak about God outside of evangelism.

The Philippians heard about Jesus through Paul, first as he was simply going to pray and a conversation led to him to talk about Jesus. He was brutally and unlawfully imprisoned, but the jailor came to Christ because while chained he sang to the Lord and spent time focusing on Jesus. When a miracle would set him free, his continued trust in the Lord through the chains instead set the jailor about to kill himself free for eternity.

To be fair as I prayed over this message and went over it, this text initially started with do you share Jesus. That is not what this text says. It says to proclaim Him. To speak regularly of Him, to without ceasing put him at the center of your life and speech.

Speaking about God is always about Him yet we often are distracted both by the situation and interactions we are having. My wife, Kate, was at a women’s conference this weekend. She shared a simple perspective that is so important. God is love, but love is not God. Love is patient, love is kind, just because love or are loving does not mean your love is inherently God.

Often our interactions, our actions, our programs, our knowledge, our you name it cloud the focal point, Jesus. Our worship of Him is what enables all of those things, but when we lose sight of Him we lose the strength that enables us to act in accord with the kingdom that we are heading to! What enables us to say this in all circumstances:

The Gospel Produces Rejoicing!

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.

 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 

This is the perspective of someone focused on Christ. Someone focused on the Lord not their circumstances, not even the people around them, away from them, attacking them, will cease his desire to speak about the Lord. Look “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed” It is not like Paul is foolish enough to not realize that circumstances affect us.

It is not a magical potion, no rather it is a hope. It is a cerebral understanding that produces proper responses. They are emotional actions that are reliant on something greater than ourselves, the Holy Spirit, Jesus the Christ living and active in us. We are never alone, yet so often we go through out our day thinking that God is just with us. No, God is more than with you He dwells in your resides with His transformative power.

It is a rampant discussion to say that some churches are dead. If you are the Body of Christ you can never die let alone be dead. To say that there is a dead or dying church is to say they have not faith, the love, nor the Spirit of God granting access to eternal life and are determined and destined for hell.

If you have life eternal because you know God, then you are alive. Your life is vibrant because the God who spoke life into existence speaks through you and is your life. So, display this life, display this love, display this God who I am assuming has transformed you. Who has granted you hope, peace, the fruits of the spirit, and access to the armor of God to battle and endure all of life with triumph.

Paul’s hope, nor should ours be, is not in his simplistic deliverance from prison. Why do you think when the prison doors in Philippi flung open he did not seek freedom. Paul was already free. Paul has and had Jesus the living God, and in him is life and a joy through that life that eclipses all of our situations and circumstances!

We already see this in our world.

The children suffering through terrible sicknesses, are given hope and joy not always from a cure, often times it is something fun. They get to pretend for a day. They get to meet someone they look up to, be super hero, do something they always wanted to. Those seeing death coming, come up with bucket lists, they find stuff to do have experience or people to be with before the inevitable happens.

Think of that horrific moment in your life. Now think about what changed your mood. It probably wasn’t something as momentous as the tragedy. Jesus is more than any and all of this. He far outweighs and out shines all of creation, so let us see Him that way. Let us speak about Him to others with such certainty!

It is in this great transformative sight, Jesus the God the universe is more than life itself. This produces in us rejoicing. It changes the simplest and most exhausting of circumstances into the grandest opportunities to worship. Yes, God is fantastic when we see the beautiful sunset. God is also amazing when someone slams the door in your face. That same amazing God of the landscapes is still fantastic when your future horizon is on fire and only ashes of your burnt hopes remain.

True or not?

Is your God only great when your life’s circumstances are great? Because, the God of the universe, Jesus Christ, is what make your life great or not.

Being With Christ is the Greatest Joy!

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.

Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

Did you see that? The eternity that Paul dreams of is to be with Jesus! He hopes to share that with everyone. I can’t get past that tangent. Eternity is about being with this awesome King of kings who washes His servants’ feet while maintaining the universe.

This is probably one of the most morbidly joyous verses in scripture. Death is never meant to be a joyous moment. Yet, for Paul both death and life produce joy only from one thing, Jesus. Either are focused on Jesus. To live in suffering can give others more hope and boldness in Christ, while dying might give Paul the greatest moment of glory and realization of his hope.

The great desire to be with Christ is set aside so that others can have more joy in Christ. That is the greatest joy, to be with Christ. But, is it mine. I wish I could say I never am distracted. I want the newest tool, the newest this or that. I get hung up on wanting more of the creation and lost sight of wanting more of the creator.

Yet, what does this look like. Does this mean more rigorous studies? Does this mean more times praying? Does this mean more songs of worship? No, this joy for the sake of the Lord is found in labors. It is found in spending myself for the church. Spending who you are for others to see Jesus is the great call to remain.

Question, if Jesus came right now would you wish you had time to do one more thing?

You probably thought of something, and then decided you needed to do something more caring like give your family one last hug.

Maybe.

But, maybe your thought was, I wish I would have had time to forgive insert name. You are about to go before the throne of grace and go before the God who said, forgive and you will be forgiven. The God who told the parable of the man forgiven a great debt that then threw a man who owned him dollars into prison and was unforgiving of debt.

Maybe your thought was of that person who you wanted to speak more boldly about the love and grace you have in Jesus but would hesitate for insert excuse. Knowing now that judgement will come, and you will kneel the thrown of grace with joy in Jesus knowing that they may now wallow in death and torturous judgement.

Or maybe you are like me. You think, but I have so much life left to live, I’m just getting started. And, Jesus says, “What do you think eternity with me is going to be like? It’s just getting started”

Hopefully we can be like Paul and say, to live is to labor for the sake of Christ. And, we are just getting started pointing others to Christ!

You Being With Christ is Worth My Joy!

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

Being with Christ is Paul’s greatest joy and ultimate goal and he is willing to not only give that up, but to also endure more suffering here, so that the Philippians, so that someone else, can have more joy in the knowledge and life giving Spirit of Christ. If this is true how much must we give of ourselves so that others can boast of and abound in the purpose fulfilling promised king Jesus!

This is not an evangelistic sermon. No, this joy is for the believers, the saints in Christ at Philippi. Paul’s aim is to speak more fervently, more emphatically, simply more about who Jesus is so that they could have more joy.

It’s that moment when you realize that how we interact with one another is what spurs each other to more joy. When we stop looking at each other with frustrations and start simply saying let’s worship the God who is worth so much more together!

It’s about the cost vs revenue. We all have this in our lives. As farmers or business  you have to look at the cost of the new, used, or fixable equipment and decide whether the investment in the fun new toy is worth it. For me as a photographer, for fun even, I’m tempted and always looking to make my pictures better. Just this past week I was eyeing a new lens and debating whether or not to get it.

Why would you or I spend more money, when what we have is functionally doing the job, even sort of. It is because the reward looks fantastic. The same goes for our faith and Paul’s. Paul has already given them the hope of Christ. Paul has already been imprisoned and beaten for sharing the Gospel with them and is now in prison again. Paul has done the good, Paul has already made the sacrifice.

But, Paul sees a greater reward. More people coming to believe in Christ. Paul sees more people gaining what he has in Christ. Paul sees the reward of rejoicing and worshiping with more people in Christ. Paul sees that he can help those who know Christ be more confident in what they have if he sacrifices a little more.

 

So think of this,

Is your worship of Jesus effecting those around you?

Really, does your love of Jesus both display how your life’s joy is in Christ and that those around you are worth more than you?

It would be redeeming if our every conversation, especially the water cooler conversations about the weather and sports were revolved around the greatness of God! Let’s get real, maybe a little to raw, our youth have started to gather at lunch to pray at school, some are engaged in Sunday School, Sunday Service, Youth group, Tuesday Bible Study, FCA, and their own quiet time.

This is all great, but how have we set the example for our youth. Do we do more than pray for our food at lunch? Do we even stop to pray for our food? We mature knowledgeable believers when did we last gather others to pray for our community daily. Not once, not twice, not to simply be spiritual, but to declare that Jesus is in control, and to petition that others would see His greatness. With hope that the believers especially would join in asking God to transform their community.

We as a church are here to spur one another on to love and good works in order to speak of Jesus more. What we speak about hear on Sundays is meant to be proclaimed from the windows of your cars and houses, spread on the streets as you walk or run. While you are in your various harvesting machines meditating on the greatness of God, I know you are also preparing your heart and mind to speak all the more boldly to the next person you meet about Christ!

As familiar as this must be getting I hope it is being driven home. The mark of a mature believer is not knowledge it is actions of love. The greatest act of love ever displayed is Jesus, God humbly in human flesh, laying down everything including His life to display and give grace to His image bearers. We then show our love for God and others by laying aside everything that incumbers us from giving grace to others in our lives and sharing the loving grace of God with others.

This is more than inviting others to a revival meeting, a church service, a church outreach event, it means being the beacon of joy and hope in Christ every day. It means boldly at any and all cost to ourselves sharing Jesus no matter what repercussions may happen. Sharing because the reward is worth the cost, it is worth any cost. It always comes back to Jesus, the reward for others was worth the cross and the tomb being used for three days.

Joyfully, not reluctantly, pursue others for the sake of the cross. Pursue both those who do not have faith and especially aiming to encourage and bolster the faith of those that do!

So, I ask again.

Is your worship of Jesus effecting those around you?

Really, does your love of Jesus both display how your life’s joy is in Christ and that those around you are worth more than you?

           Questions to Consider

-         What reward do you have from believing in Christ? (1 Peter 5:4; Romans 5:1)

-         How often does the reward of Christ effect your daily life? (Colossians 3:1-4 & 17)

-         What would dilute or negate your reward? (Matthew 6:1-18)

-         Why would you share the reward of God in you the hope of eternity with others? (1 Thessalonians 2:19)

-         What example did the messenger of the Gospel Paul leave us for sharing the Gospel? (2 Corinthians 6:1-10)

-         How can you share the Gospel intentionally in your area of influence this week?

-         What example are you showing your family and friends for sharing the Gospel? (1 Timothy 4:10-16)