Sermon: Paul’s Three Passions (Philippians 1:1-7)

Paul’s Three Passions

Philip. 1:1-7 (ESV)

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: [2] Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

[3] I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,  [4] always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,  [5] because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  [6] And 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.  [7] It 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.

Paul is passionate about three things in this text.  All three things are directly related to each other.  If we are to live the Christian life to the fullest, we too should have passion when it comes to these three things.  He’s not passionate about his health or comfort.  The miserable setting in which he is now residing is a pit of disease and suffering.  He’s not passionate about his current financial situation because he has given up everything as a missionary.  Paul isn’t passionate about his Jewish credentials; in fact, later on he would call his resume basically a resume of rubbish.  In no achievement or standing or status is Paul passionate.  At the end of the day there were three things that kept Paul going and gave him hope.  As he sat in prison these three things kept his spirits up.  These things were why Paul was there and what he lived for.

In the midst of our Christian lives we must have these three passions or we will find ourselves very discontent no matter what our circumstances. Outward circumstances, as Paul proves to us, will never deliver joy and contentment nor can they bring us to despair if our passion is also on these things.

***1. A Passion for Jesus Christ (1:1-2)

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: [2] Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s hard to miss the fact that Paul’s passion is for his Savior because in two verses Jesus is mentioned three times. Make no mistake, the only reason things were as they were was because of the fact that Paul met Jesus Christ and his life was forever changed.  He knew what he was and he knew what he was now.  Before his conversion he served sin and Satan and now he and Timothy were servants of Christ. Before his conversion all he knew was religion, working hard to earn a standing with God.  He was busy with obeying all the rules and regulations in order to get God to like him.  He was busy out shining everyone else; in religion you must compare yourself to others because you have no other standard.  The best you can hope for is to approach God and say, Look at me, I do all this stuff.  Oh, and God I want to direct your attention to this miserable tax collector.  Can you see how much harder I work than he does? In religion you must draw attention to all your good works in hopes that others will affirm you by your actions.  Paul was a lost religious man. Now he had met Christ and saw the futility in his religion.  He had been given grace and grace far exceeds religion.

Philip. 3:2-11 (ESV)

Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.  [3] For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— [4] though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:  [5] circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;  [6] as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless.  [7] But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  [8] Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  [9] and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— [10] that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  [11] that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

The Apostle Paul met the risen Lord and he went home took out all his Pharisee awards and trophies and walked them to the dumpster. They meant nothing.  He finally understood that if we’re to have a proper relationship with God the Father it must come through God the Son. We must attain a real righteousness which is His not found through working hard at man’s rules.  [9] and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

As humans, we have no real righteousness.  We often fabricate some standard and hold it up and pretend it’s real righteousness but in reality we have none. The bad news is real righteousness is something God requires but not something we are able to produce ourselves.  The Good News is Christ gives His people His righteousness which meets God’s requirements.  This comes as a grace gift from God not as a reward for working hard trying to be religious.

***2. A Passion for Gospel Partners (1:3-5)

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,  [4] always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,  [5] because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

The Apostle Paul was not a heartless theologian but a passionate lover of God’s people.  He cared for them very deeply.  He loved them and even placed himself in danger for them.  His relationship to them caused him to be thankful every time he prayed for them.  As he remembered every smile and tear of joy he was thankful.  He was thankful for the news he had been given that even under difficult times, they remained faithful.  The Philippians made Paul’s prayers prayers of joy every time.

Why was this the case?  Did he just love so much because they really got along well and there was never a dull moment?  No, he loved them because they were his partners in the gospel.

That’s really what the letter to the Philippians is all about; fellowship in the Gospel.  Paul was passionate about Christ and the Gospel and so were those folks in Philippi.  They shared a special relationship that had as its common denominator Christ.

I’m a big Lord of the Rings fan.  They had a strong bond for each other because of their mission.  In Tolkiens story there were hobbits, elves, humans, wizards and others; people from different walks of life fellowshipping because of their mission.  That’s really how the church should be.  We are made up of people from all walks of life in bond together because of our great love for Christ, love for each other, and our mission.

Every time Paul prayed he thought of his friends and he thanked God for them.  One thing I’ve noticed is that Paul never thanked God for stuff but always for people.  He remembered them and longed to be with them.  He remembered how God had changed them through the message of the Gospel of Christ, the same message that they were now zealous about sharing.

He remembered Lydia, the slave girl, and the jailer.  He remembered how God opened hearts and cast out demons and sent earthquakes and Paul rejoiced.

The Gospel is a message of real life.  It’s not some philosophy or grand idea, it’s not positive thinking or positive living.  It is the message of life.  Paul simply wanted to see his friends.  He loved them dearly because they loved the same Savior he loved and that was their connection. Are you connected to other believers?  Do you share your life with fellow Christians?  Do you love your fellow believers?  Do you love those here at Grace?  Loving others in your church is a mark of salvation.  Don’t mistake a positive feeling toward them as love.  Love is action.  How do you show it?

1 John 3:14 (ESV)

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

Those in Philippi were showing spiritual fruit as they loved and cared for Paul. The Holy Spirit living in all was working to draw them together into a special fellowship.  Not Fellowship of the Ring but Fellowship of the GospelWhat God desires is spiritual fruit not religion.

One side note just in passing is that Paul should have been depressed.  With all the time in the world to sit and think, he should have been self-focused, anxious, and depressed.  Why wasn’t he down?  Why wasn’t he anxious and depressed? Basically, he had all the time in the world to sit and think, but he didn’t sit and think about himselfHe prayed and witnessed and was too busy thanking God that at the end of the day he had no time for anxiety and depression.

If you find yourself leaning toward anxiety and depression practice the spiritual fruit of thanksgiving. Thank God for everything.  Thank Him for the people He has placed in your life.  Thank Him for your family, the Gospel of grace, your kids, even thank Him for the situation that may be stressing you out.  When we practice thanksgiving we won’t have time for depression.

Philip. 4:6-7 (ESV)

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  [7] And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

How would you like to have the peace of God guarding you against those self-centered thoughts and attitudes?

He thanked the Lord for his partners in the mission.  The mission of witnessing to others and planting churches was what Paul stayed focused on not himself.

His third passion was…

***3. A Passion for the Message of Grace (1:6-7)

[6] And 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.  [7] It 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.

The Apostle gives credit where credit is due.

Paul saw evidence that their conversion was real. He witnessed firsthand the fruit of the Spirit exhibited in their lives. He had reason to be confident that their Christianity was genuine.

He wasn’t confident because they had done some thing like walk an aisle or pray a prayer or even get baptized.  None of these things are proofs of genuine salvation…lost people can do all these things.  A lost person can recite a prayer that someone helps them with; a lost person can enter a baptistery and be immersed by the preacher.  What lost people cannot do is exhibit a consistent walking in the Spirit. Lost people cannot produce fruit of the Spirit.  This only comes as the Holy Spirit takes up residence within a person. He only indwells those folks whom He saves.

Paul had every reason to be confident in those Philippian believers And I am sure of this.

His confidence was not founded on those who now made up the church.  His confidence wasn’t a confidence in man.  Lydia, and the rest were not vessels in which Paul would place his confidence.  God was the One working.  He alone is worthy of our trust.

In verse six, who was it that began the good work of salvation in Paul’s friends? God did.  Who was it that would complete the good work of salvation? God would.

If we think through this testimony of Paul concerning these believers, two questions may arise.

First, if God was doing all the work why did those believers need to do anything? It sounds as if the best strategy would be to get out of the way and be passive allowing God to do it all.

It’s extremely clear in verses like…

Ephes. 2:4-5 (ESV)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

See also Romans 6:1-11.

God alone does the work of regeneration or bringing the dead sinner to life.

It’s completely a work of God to bring the spiritually dead to spiritual life.  In other words, we have nothing to do with our justification.  God alone makes dead things live. It’s easiest to think of it like this, let’s pretend it’s a math formula.

God’s work brings spiritual life…spiritual life brings a renewed mind…New thinking leads to the Spiritual fruit of good works.

However, assurance of our salvation comes as we are manifesting the fruit of the Spirit. We can have confidence that we are saved, but not because we once did something, but that we are currently exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit.

We don’t stand aside when it comes to our Christian life we must work and work hard to show the fruit of the Spirit which in turn will give us assurance of our salvation.

Paul knew that God would finish what He started because they like Paul started with grace.

Second, if Paul was so confident why did he pray for them all the time in every prayer of his?

Our confidence today comes from the same source…God.  God will finish what He starts in us as well.

Romans 8:28-39 (ESV)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  [29] For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  [30] And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

[31] What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  [32] He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  [33] Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  [34] Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  [35] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  [36] As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

[37] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  [38] For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  [39] nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

They were partakers of grace like Paul was.

Paul prayed all the time for them because he understood that not only has God ordained the end, which in their case was their glorification and bringing God glory, but He also ordained the means which is prayer and diligence in manifesting the fruit of the Spirit.

They shared together the miracle of the Gospel of Grace.

I pray that we are passionate about the same things Paul was passionate about, namely, Jesus Christ, Gospel Partners, and The Message of Grace. I pray these three things get you excited.

Are you passionate about Christ?

How are your affections toward Christ?  Do you adore Him and prize Him above all other things?

How do you show that He is your treasure?

How much time do you spend with Jesus in prayer and in Scripture reading and meditation?

Are you passionate about Gospel Partners?

Do you love your fellow Christians, your Gospel Partners?

How do you show that you love them?

Do you thank God for them in every prayer of yours?

Are you passionate about the Message of Grace?

Do you thank God for your salvation?

Are you busy with developing relationships with lost people in order to witness to them?

Do you rely on Grace even for your Christian growth?

Are you confident in your salvation?

If we can cultivate these three passions our lives and our church will be Christ centered, manifesting a true love for others and deeply thankful to God for His grace in salvation.

May these be three marks of your life and Grace Community Church.

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