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, December 6, 2015
Being Made Blameless for the Day of Christ - December 6, 2015 - Second Sunday in Advent - Text: Philippians 1:2-11
Have you ever wondered where the Pastor gets his opening statement of grace? We copy Paul. Here our text begins with Paul’s usual beginning, “2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 2). My prayer, as your pastor, is the prayer of Paul on you the reader and hearer of these words, that God would pour out His grace and peace on you as you hear these words which the Lord through Paul has to give. And that you are given the gifts the Lord has to give through the Words he pours out on you.
As is his usual custom, Paul begins by giving thanks and by telling why he is giving such thanks. We pick up at verse three, “3I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (v. 3-6). Paul gives thanks because of the good work God began in the Philippians. Notice it is not some innate good work the Philippians are doing, rather it is the fact that it all begins with God. God began their good work. God works their good works in and through them so that they are indeed good works.
Paul gives thanks because of their partnership with him, and this is a partnership which is both financially and in prayers. The Philippians gave their first fruits, their tithes and their offerings to the Lord which went to support the mission work of Paul, the spreading of the Gospel to all parts of the world. The Philippians also offered prayers for Paul, certainly prayers for safe travel as well as prayers for protection from adversity and prayers for faithfulness and fruitfulness in sharing the Gospel with others.
And Paul gives thanks because of their show of faith, love and fellowship. It was not difficult to see that the Philippians were a caring group of Christians as they let their lights shine. They lived lives as Christians giving themselves first to the Lord. They lived lives as Christians encouraging and building each other up as brothers and sisters in Christ. They lived lives as Christians supporting Paul, praying for him, encouraging him and the like. Certainly one could see that God was having His way with the Philippians.
Why is Paul so thankful? Paul explains why he loves God’s people so. We pick up at verse seven, “7It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (v. 7-8). Paul is thankful and loves God’s people because of their prayers and encouragement, especially during his times of trial and imprisonment. Just as being a Christian today is not necessarily an easy life to live, so it was even more difficult in Paul’s day. Paul was put on trial, beaten, stoned almost to the point of death and even imprisoned for his faith and for his missionary zeal. Paul gives thanks and loves the Philippians because of their prayers on his behalf during his times of struggle, and especially during his times of imprisonment.
Paul is thankful and loves God’s people because their lives show forth the faith he proclaims. Here again, one’s Christian faith is not something that is simply one part or one compartment of one’s life. One’s Christian faith, if it is true faith, shines through in all aspects of life. The Philippians exemplified what it meant to be a Christian and for that Paul gave thanks for them and expressed his love for them.
Paul’s love, then, is an imitation of Jesus agape love. Paul’s love was not a conditional love that depended on what the Philippians were doing, rather his love grew deeper because of their response of faith.
Finally, Paul offers a prayer for the Philippians. We pick up at verse nine, “9And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (v. 9-11). Paul’s prayer is that the Philippians will continue in faith and love. Paul knows that the world is a difficult place to live. He knows that temptation and sin abound. He knows that our human nature is such that we easily succumb to temptation and sin and so he offers prayers to the Lord to give the Philippians more faith and love to help them fight against temptation and sin.
Paul prays that the Philippians will continue to grow in faith, knowledge and discernment. What better advantage, what better way to fight temptation and sin than to be strengthened in faith, in knowledge and in discernment. Just as we are daily bombarded with mixed messages in the world of today, so too were the Philippians of Paul’s day. It is no easy task to discern right from wrong, to understand and know what evil lay behind every door. Certainly growing in one’s faith, knowledge and discernment will give an advantage in fighting temptation and sin.
And Paul prays that the Philippians will remain faithful until death when they will be given the crown of life. Although life might seem long as we live it each day, the fact of the matter is life is very short. The greatest gift we can be given is to remain faithful until death.
What Does This Mean? As you may have noticed, Paul’s letter to the Philippians is not one in which he deals with too much sinfulness, rather this letter is more one of encouragement. As such, as we continue this season of Advent, as we continue to prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of the Christ-child, God in flesh, so we are encouraged in our own Christian faith and life. Yes, we do live in a world of temptation and sin. There is the constant temptation to be like those around us, after all, it sure looks like they are having a lot of fun, living in the world, indulging in the debauchery of the world, why should we not have so much fun, after all, we can ask for forgiveness later. Yet, Jesus did not give His life so that we might have a license to sin. Jesus gave His life so that we might have forgiveness and so that we might be encouraged not to sin.
As we read and hear Paul’s words this morning my pray is that we are hearing them as being writing about us and to us here at St. Matthew. I give thanks to the Lord as Paul does, for your faith, knowledge, and discernment, given to you by God. Living in this world is not easy, as temptation and sin abound, even daily attacking and enticing us. And yet, as the Lord works through His means of grace, He works to strengthen and keep us in faith so that we do live lives of faith, so that we do grow in our faith and so that we are able, at least to some degree to discern right from wrong and at least some of the time live lives that are well pleasing in His sight. And so, I do thank God for your presence in divine service and in Bible class and for your faith, for your growing in faith in knowledge and in discernment.
I thank you as Paul does for your prayers and for showing your faith as confirmation of the Gospel proclaimed. As I pray for each one of you so I continue to ask for your prayers for me as well and I thank you for those prayers. Being a pastor does not negate being tempted, as a matter of fact, as a pastor the devil certainly will attack all the more with the idea, as we have seen in the news, if he gets the pastor that should discredit God and His Word. So, I do continue to ask and thank you for your prayers on my behalf. I would also continue to encourage you in showing your faith as confirmation of the Gospel that you have heard. As we learn in the third commandment, simply going to church, hearing and believe the Word proclaimed is not the fulfillment of this commandment. Rather, going to church, listening, believing and doing, showing forth our faith, is the fulfillment of this commandment and so I continue to encourage you as such.
And finally, I pray as Paul does that you may remain faithful. This world is not an easy world to live in, at least, not as a Christian. We are constantly tempted to question God and His Word, “Did God really say . . .?” Or, “Did God really mean . . . ?” We are constantly tempted to deny our own faith. We are constantly enticed and lured by the pleasures and ways of this world, fame, fortune and power. Often it seems there are more enemies than friends in this world. Yet, we have God’s promise that He is with us always, even to the very end of the age. We have God’s gifts of faith, forgiveness and life which He pours out on us abundantly, day in and day out. As we approach our celebration of the birth of Christ, we are reminded that this is the promise God made back in the Garden of Eden and as He fulfilled this promise, as we celebrate as such, so we know that He keeps and fulfills all His promises. He will keep us faithful. He will watch over us and defend us. Thanks be to God.
When I begin writing a sermon, I like to capture the central thought of the text into one sentence. This morning that sentence, that central thought is this: God gives faith, strengthens faith and brings faith to completion in heaven and while living in this world, God gives fellowship with other believers and a response of faith to do the good works He has prepared in advance for us to do. May the Lord who has “began a good work in you . . . bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” For Jesus’ sake and to Him be the glory. Amen.