Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
God Works in You - September 28, 2014 - Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 21) Text: Philippians 2:1-4, (5-13) 14-18
Again this morning as the past several Sundays, Paul, writing to the Christians at Philippi is writing to us here at St. Matthew Lutheran Church to encourage us in our Christian faith walk with Christ, in our Sanctification. As we continue to be reminded, our justification, that is our being made just and right and holy before God flows from God’s love for us and His living for us, taking our sins and dying for us and His rising for us. So also our sanctification, our living lives of faith flows from God’s first love for us in that we love because He first loves us. Paul outlines both these teachings well as he speaks to us words of encouragement and shows how our lives of faith flow out of what God in Christ has first done for us.
Our text begins with Paul’s words of encouragement, beginning at verse one, “1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others”(v. 1-4). Paul speaks words of encouragement to us in that he encourages us to love one another. Paul’s words, especially in verse four, to “look not only to [your] own interest” reminds me of the old saying that joy is spelled, J - Jesus, O - Others, and Y - Yourself. We find true joy when Jesus is first in our lives, which is in keeping with the first commandment of not having other gods before our One True God. We find joy as we keep Jesus first every day as well as every Sunday being in divine service and Bible class, rather than letting something else take first place as many in our society tend to do. So Paul encourages us to love one another which he knows we can do only as we are first loved by Jesus.
Paul also speaks words of encouragement that is to have a unity of mind and in this instance he is not simply talking about agreeing on some current social issue nor some popular idea, rather he is speaking in particular about having a unity of doctrine or teaching, a unity of beliefs. There are many in our culture who like to celebrate diversity and tolerance, which at first hearing sound reasonable, yet to do so blindly would be detrimental. In response to the desire to celebrate diversity, I have said it before in our circuit and district meetings, diversity is fine, however, the word divide is in diversity. To blindly celebrate diversity in many instances brings more division than anything. If we want unity, we need to be united in what we believe, teach, confess and practice. So Paul encourages a unity of mind.
But Paul is not done. He goes on to talk about our attitude that is that we should have the attitude of Christ. We pick up at verse five, “5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (v. 5-11). In the four Gospels we are continually pointed to the fact that Jesus is truly human and He is truly God. He is shown to be human according to His human birth by the His human mother, Mary and He is shown to be truly God through the signs, wonders and miracles He performed; signs, wonders and miracles only God can perform. So, Christ is God, but as Paul points out He did not fully or always use His divine powers. He did not raise everyone from the dead. He did not heal everyone and so on.
Paul says that Christ took the form of a slave and understand that slave is the actual word, not servant as some translations attempt to tone down the language of the Word of God. Jesus became a slave to the law, all the law, the ceremonial law, the moral law, and the civil law. Jesus slavishly obeyed all the law perfectly. He slavishly did for all of Israel, and for all of us what they and we cannot do, He lived perfectly. He obeyed God’s love to be perfect, perfectly for us in our place because we cannot.
And Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death even death on the cross for our sins. The price for sin is death, eternal spiritual death. Being conceived and born in sin, the judgement on us at our birth is death and yet, Jesus, because of His great love for us, after living perfectly and He could have traded His perfectly life for heaven for Himself, but instead, because of His great love for us, He took our sins upon Himself. He who knew no sin became sin for us and took our sins to the cross in order to pay the price for our sins.
Yet, death and the grave had no power over Him. Instead, Christ rose from the dead defeating sin, death and the devil. Because He defeated sin, death and the devil for us in our place, they have no power over us. Indeed His victory is our victory.
And Christ is exalted above all, as true God. And in the end, as Paul so well says, and as John tells us in his revelation from God, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus as Lord, Yahweh, God. Of course, we know the unbelievers will confess to their judgement and attempt to blame God for their unbelief and every Christian will confess to their eternal salvation.
But Paul in not done. He continues to encourage us in his absence. We pick up at verse twelve, “12Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (v. 12-13). As we were encouraged last week, so we are encouraged today. We are encouraged to be obedient, which we know we can do only with God’s help, but this encouragement from Paul is especially that we are obedient when we are away from the church, in other words, we live lives of faith, not just at church on Sunday mornings, but at home and at work, even at school or wherever we are every day we know that no matter where we are, the Lord is there with us.
Again, our encouragement is to understand that it is “God who works in you. . .” to do good works. We do not do good works in and of ourselves. We do good works as God motivates us, works good works in and through us and as they are done to His glory.
And so, finally in our text Paul encourages us to rejoice. Picking up at verse fourteen, 14Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me” (v. 14-18). Paul encourages us to live lives of faith without grumbling or questioning, a most difficult thing to do especially in a world in which we might believe life is rather unfair, at least or especially for Christians. Certainly we can always look at life and people and see how we have it worse than everyone else, or that everyone else seems to have it better or easier than we have it. How often do we look out and see how someone else has it so much worse than we have it or how our life is so much easier than someone else? Not too often I would suggest. Paul encourages us to be optimistic rather than pessimistic, but not simply for the sake of optimism or pessimism at least from a superficial human perspective. Indeed, as Christians, as brothers and sister of Christ, as children of God, how can we be anything except hopeful, encouraging and rejoicing, after all, our fate is set and secure, heaven is our home.
Paul encourages us to hold fast to the Word of God which is a light to the world. Might I suggest that Paul is here encouraging us as I continually encourage you, to make regular, each and every Sunday, and diligent, all the time, use of the means of grace. It all begins and ends with Jesus. We are conceived and born in sin. Jesus is perfection. We have no love of our own. Jesus loves us. Jesus forgives us. Jesus gives us forgiveness. Jesus gives us faith. Jesus loves us and shines through us so that we might forgive and love others.
Therefore, Paul encourages us to rejoice, no matter what our lot in life. Our time in this world, compared to eternity in heaven, is but a breath. The minor inconveniences we suffer in this world are nothing compared to the glory that will be ours forever in heaven. Certainly, as we look at our lives in this world, indeed as we live day by day, our sixty, seventy, ninety and if God is willing our hundred years of life in this world might seem like a long time while we are in this world living day by day, yet, compared to eternity, forever, which has no beginning and no end, our time in this world truly is nothing and will mean nothing when we get to heaven. No one in heaven will care about what car we drove, what house we lived in, what team won or lost, what career path we took, what school we attended, how smart we were or anything. What will be most important is whether or not we had faith in Jesus, whether or not we rejoiced in His love and forgiveness and shared that love and forgiveness with others.
I am not Paul, nor would I consider myself to be inspired in the same manner as any of the Apostles or writers of Scripture, yet, I would encourage in the manner of Paul’s encouragement, to have the attitude of Christ. First and foremost I would encourage you to live a life pleasing to the Lord by making regular and diligent use of the means of grace, that is by first and foremost being given to by God through the means He has to give to you. Do not refuse and reject His gifts. Do not be complacent in being given His gifts. Make begin given His gifts a first priority of you life, thus keeping the first, second, and third commandments. I would encourage you to be strengthened in the faith and gifts the Lord gives, also by making regular and diligent use of His means of grace. I would then encourage you to live a life to the glory of God as He gives you faith, strengthens you in faith and works His good works in and through you. I would encourage you to encourage one another without grumbling or questioning. And finally, I would also encourage you to rejoice in the Lord always. God loves you so much. He has shown His love for you in Jesus. And He will continue to love you because He is love. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.