A Pastor’s Heart (Pt 2) - Philippians 1:6-8

Philippians 1:6-8

Introduction

I invite you to take your Bibles. Turn with me to the book of Philippians, Philippians chapter 1. And I want to continue with what we began last time together, looking at this opening expression of love by the apostle Paul for the church at Philippi, and this opening expression of what he is praying for them, what he feels for them. Certainly, this greatly endeared his heart to them as they had endeared themselves to the apostle Paul. I want to begin by reading this opening section, beginning in verse 3. I want to read through verse 11. I trust you have your Bible and it is open, and that you will follow along, that you have a pen in your hand, you will underline key words, that you will be ready to jot down an outline, and take some notes. You will receive so much more out of this message as you are engaged, and as you are interactive with the word of God, and the message that will come from the Scripture this day.
    
Philippians chapter 1, beginning in verse 3, Paul writes: 

3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

As Paul writes these words, he pours out his heart in the depths of the affections within him for the Philippians. The relationship they enjoy is a unique one, because it is the deep love that exists between a founding pastor and the church he helped to establish. There is this lasting bond that exists between a shepherd and his previous flock. Paul came to Philippi, as you recall, on his second missionary journey. The year was 49 A.D. It was the very first time that the gospel came to the continent of Europe, and the very first time that a church would be planted on European soil. Paul is not alone. He has with him Silas and Timothy. And as they came to Philippi, Paul did what Paul always did. Paul preached the gospel. And God honored the preaching of the gospel, and souls were immediately saved from day one. And a church was supernaturally, spontaneously, sovereignly birthed. And in the process, a riot broke out in Philippi. Riots were always breaking out whenever Paul preached the gospel. And he was arrested, and he was drug before the magistrates. And he was thrown into the Philippian jail. But that couldn’t even slow Paul down. And in the middle of the night, he is singing praises to God. You recall how God sent an earthquake. And Paul preached the gospel to the Philippi jailer, and won him to Christ, and then went home with him and the entire household was converted to faith in Jesus Christ. And very soon the officials there in Philippi begged Paul to leave. I mean, he is turning the world upside down. He is a dangerous man as he preaches the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We are not certain how long Paul was there in Philippi. It was a very short time. But God did something in that abbreviated period of time that was so real and so deep that their hearts were literally fused together. Their souls, the Philippians and Paul, their souls were welded together like two pieces of metal just brought together that cannot be broken. In the future as Paul will continue his second missionary journey, and then there will be a third missionary journey, and then Paul will be arrested and be taken to Rome to stand trial, there would be a period of time of over 10 years, from 49 A.D. to 61 A.D., there would be over a decade, but nothing would diminish in their relationship. In fact, the Philippians felt so connected to Paul, that he will say at the end of this letter that “you have sent more than one gift to me.” They continue to support him as he had need in his life. Because as Paul preached the gospel, it was as if they were with Paul wherever he went preaching the gospel. And they wanted to be a part of what God was doing in his life.

As Paul is now in prison in Rome, they have taken up another offering and given it to Epaphroditus and sent him to Rome with it. And as Paul receives this gift, Paul reciprocates by writing the book of Philippians, and having it sent back to the church at Philippi. In reality, the book of Philippians has been called a “thank-you letter,” a “thank-you note,” if you will. Paul, one of the few men to be so disciplined to write a thank-you letter. And this is what we have in Philippians.

And so, I want us to pick up our study of this. But suffice to say, what Paul feels for the Philippians, I feel for you. And I thank God for the relationship that He has allowed me to enjoy for over 11 years, and to be able to be a pastor to you and to bring the word of God to you. And I can only pray that God will allow me to have a long-lasting relationship of affection and love with you on into the future.

I. A Thankful Heart (Phil. 1:3) - REVIEW

Let us begin to look now beginning in verse 3. Verses 3 through 11 is what we call “the literary unit.” It is the paragraph. It is the unit of thought. And last time we looked at the first three verses. Just to simply remind you. I do not want to re-preach it. But, what Paul expresses to the Philippians, and what he feels for the Philippians, first: A Thankful Heart in verse 3. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” He cannot get them out of his mind wherever he goes. Though he be separated by hundreds of miles, and beyond a different part of God’s terrain, nevertheless, he is continually remembering them and rehearsing in his mind how receptive they were to the word of God, and how it was that they were converted and saved. And it causes his heart to just burst forth with thanksgiving to God. This was not a job for Paul. This was a calling for Paul. He was all in, and he lived the ministry. And as people like the Philippians were responsive, they were etched in his mind and deposited in his soul. So, he has this thankful heart. And no doubt, he can recall in his mind the specifics of that for which he gives thanks.


II. A Joyful Spirit (Phil. 1:4) - REVIEW

And then, second, in verse 4, A Joyful Spirit. “Always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all.” Paul continues to be an intercessor for them, and to stand in the gap and to mention them before God in prayer, and to beseech heaven on their behalf. And as he does so, they are not a burden. They are a blessing to him. And he is filled with joy and gladness and happiness. He no doubt prays with a smile on his face as he remembers the Philippians.


III. A Gospel Focus (Phil. 1:5) - REVIEW

And then third, in verse 5, we noted A Gospel Focus. “In view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.” He remembered when the gospel first came to them, how God opened Lydia’s heart, and she was converted, and how it spread like wildfire from there, and how they had fellowship in the gospel. There is a depth about their relationship that it is a participation in the gospel. There is no greater fellowship than that which is in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And in fact, there is no true fellowship outside of the gospel of Jesus Christ.


IV. A Certain Hope (Phil. 1:6)

And so, we come now to verse 6 today. We want to continue to walk our way through this. I want you to note number four in verse 6, A Certain Hope. Paul had a positive certain hope for the Philippians regarding their future with the Lord. And Paul was convinced that they were genuinely converted to Christ, and that God would preserve them, and all the way to the end and one day they would stand together around the throne of God and be reunited as shepherd and flock. But notice what he says in verse 6, “For I am confident of this very thing.” And this word “confident” means, “to be strongly persuaded.” Paul was deeply fixed in his confidence about what God was doing in the life of the Philippians. And he said that, “He who began a good work in you.” We need to pause just for a moment and just give some careful thought to these words that, “He began a good work in you.”

First of all, who is the “He?” That “He” refers to God the Father. The antecedent would be in verse 3, “I thank my God.” And now in verse 6, “He who began a good work.” It is God the Father who was the One who began this work. And would you please note, it was not God and the Philippians, as if this is a joint effort in salvation. It is God and God alone who began this work. It is what we refer to as “monergistic regeneration.” You have heard me use that term before. The word “monergism” means there is only one active agent that is at work. “Synergism” means that there are two active agents. And most of the Christian world would hold to a synergistic understanding of the new birth, but not Paul, and not the Scripture, for we see here it was God, and we could add, “and God alone who began a good work in you.”

This work refers to the new birth. It refers to that time in Acts 16, verse 14, when Paul on the Sabbath went to the riverside and there were some God-fearing women who had gathered together, who did not know God. But there was a stirring in their heart to worship God. And Paul went, and he preached the word of God to them. And the text says, “God opened their hearts.” And the word of God found entrance, and they were wonderfully regenerated by the Spirit of God, and they were birthed into the kingdom of God. Paul calls that here “a good work.” “He who began a good work.” It is more than a good work. It is the best work. There is no better work that God ever performs than the miracle of the new birth whereby He calls and He regenerates lost souls who are spiritually dead in trespasses and sin, and makes them alive in Jesus Christ. This is the work that God began in them.

And notice he says, “in you,” that “He began a good work in you.” It was an inside job that God performed in the depths of their souls, down deep in their inner person. We would say in their heart or in their spirit. It was not a superficial work that lay on the outside, or the perimeter of their life. God got through to them. And God did this good work in them just like He has in you. The preacher, it has been well said, can only bring the word of God to the ear. God must take it from the ear to the heart. God must bring it all the way home and do what only God can do. And whoever it was that brought the gospel to you, he could only bring it to your ears and no further. But as you reflect back upon your conversion, it was God who brought it from your ear all the way to the depths of your soul and began this new work within you. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. The old things have passed away; and behold, new things have come.”

But not only had God begun this work, Paul was confident that God would “perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Notice the next words, “will perfect it.” The word “will” underscores the certainty of this, that God will certainly perfect this work that He began. The word “it” obviously refers to this good work of salvation. This word “perfect” is a very important word. It is a very intensive word. It means, “to bring to full and final completion.” It is the same verb that is used when Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” to bring all the way to completion the work of redemption upon Calvary’s cross. That is the very word that is used here, although it is a more intense word here, because there is a prefix put at the beginning of the verb as Paul is communicating in very demonstrative and intense language that God will bring this work all the way to completion. 

God is not like man. We start projects we never finish. Correct? How many diets here? How many workout programs here? How many classes have we signed up for, and we never finished? We have good intentions on the front end, and after a week, after two weeks, we just fall by the wayside. I have never seen so many smiles on people’s faces as I am preaching. That is so much like us. We start things, and we do not finish them. Occasionally we do, but that is not like God. God finishes what He starts. God is not interrupted. And God does not give up. And God does not allow His projects to go unfinished. And the God “who began this work in them,” Paul speaks with confidence to encourage them that, “I know that God is going to perfect this work in you,” he says, “until the day of Christ Jesus.”
    
The day of Christ Jesus is the end of the age, the day that Jesus comes back. That is going to be His day. Right now it is the devil’s day. Right now the god of this age and the prince of this world under the purview of the sovereignty of God in heaven is nevertheless reigning in terror here upon the earth. I mean just look at the newspaper. Just look at cable news. Just look at television anywhere. A blind man could see that this is a sinful and dark generation. And Satan “prowls about as a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places.” This is the devil’s day, my friend, and there are beams of light that come shining into the dark as the gospel is preached and as churches are planted. But we are islands of truth surrounded by oceans of darkness. This is the devil’s day. But Christ’s day is coming. That is why it is referred to as the day of Christ Jesus. It is when He will take over. It is when “the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever.” And Paul makes much emphasis upon this coming day. Martin Luther said, “I have only two days on my calendar, today and that day,” that coming day of Christ Jesus.

And I want to draw to your attention how Paul makes this emphasis, even this tiny little epistle of a mere four chapters. Look later in verse 10 in this very same opening expression of his love for the Philippians. In verse 10, he is praying for them that their love will abound more and more. He says in verse 10, “in order for you to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.” He has always got that future horizon in his sight, when “the clouds will open, and the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout and the trumpet of God and the voice of the Archangel and the dead in Christ will rise first. And we, who are alive and remain, shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.” It is as if Paul has one eye on today and one eye on that day, and he will not let go of it.

In chapter 2, and verse 16, he makes mention again of this day of the Lord. Paul drew great strength from this truth. And in chapter 2, and in verse 16, Paul writes: 

16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

Paul understood that no ministry can be measured until that last day. Paul says I am longing for that last day that I will see because of the progress in your life that I have not run in vain. What hope Paul drew from that last day. And while you are there in Philippians 2, it will be on that day in verse 10 that “every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Paul always had this eternal perspective of this coming day in which Christ will begin His administration.

Come to chapter 3, and verse 20 and 21. We see it yet again, Paul continually keeping his eye on that final day. And so, he says, Philippians 3:20, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” There is a real sense in which we have a dual citizenship, one on the earth and one in heaven. He says, “our citizenship is in heaven.” That is the ultimate citizenship, to be one who has been brought into the kingdom of God. 

20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

On the day of Christ Jesus there will be a great resurrection. And those believers who have already died, and perhaps that will be true of us, our bodies will be raised from the dead. They were sown corruptible. They will be raised incorruptible. They were sown as perishing bodies; they will be raised as imperishable bodies. And we will be transformed in that moment, body, soul, and spirit into the very likeness of Christ. And he says, “He will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory,” referring to Christ’s glorified body. Sometimes people ask, “What will our bodies be like in heaven?” And there are so many questions that remain unanswered. But we do know this. Our body will be like His glorified body. That is basically all we need to know. That is good enough for me, that my glorified body will be brought into conformity with the body of His glory. You cannot have it any better than that. And so, as I have tried to show you here, even in the book of Philippians, Paul has this day of Christ Jesus ever on his mind.

So, come back of Philippians 1, and verse 6. So, he says here in verse 6 of this certain hope, and what a wonderful thing it is for us to have a certain hope for each other, that we know that all believers will be in glory. Let me read you one last time. Verse 6:

6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

That is one of the greatest verses in all the Bible. It is just hard to walk away from that verse. James Montgomery Boice, the great expositor of the last century, writes of this verse, and it is really worth me quoting him:

“Philippians 1:6 is one of the three greatest verses in the Bible that teach the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, the doctrine that no one whom God has brought to a saving     knowledge of Jesus Christ will ever be lost.”
    
The other two verses, if you want to know what those are, these are the top three on the short list, Boice says, the other two verses are John 10:27 and 28:

27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

That is just a slam-dunk text. It is a closed case. I have said before, anyone who thinks you can fall from grace and lose your salvation is reading their Bible upside down, backwards, in a dark room, with blinders over their eyes. It is just impossible to come to any other position. I have said before, we are not just dogmatic, we are bull-dogmatic about this.

The other text that Boice mentions is Romans 8, verses 38 and 39, which is that text where Paul says:

38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things     present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing (and that just covers anything and everything), will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What confidence we should have that our soul is glory bound, and that none of us who are true believers today in Christ will ever fail to reach the eternal state of final glorification.
    
And so Paul says this to the Philippians to bolster their faith and to encourage them. And I trust it will have the same effect upon your life today. In fact, you can even look death square in the eye and know it will be but the eye of the needle through which you pass into the very presence of God, that Christ has already removed the sting from death, and that our greatest enemy, death, has no hold on us. In fact, it is represented in the Bible for Christians as being “asleep.” It will be painless, as far as the spiritual passing from this state to the next state. Paul had such confidence of this that he said in Philippians 1, verse 21, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He goes on to say that he would prefer to depart and be with the Lord, which is far better. That is how certain his hope is. Charles Spurgeon said, “He who takes care of our times will take care of our eternity, and He will lose not a one of His sheep.”


V. An Affectionate Love (Phil. 1:7-8)

There is one more heading that I want you to see, at least one more, in verses 7 and 8 in Philippians 1. Not only a thankful heart, and a joyful spirit, a gospel focus, a certain hope, but I want you to see now in verses 7 and 8, An Affectionate Love. Paul could not be any more affectionate in his writing towards the Philippians than what he has to say here. He says in verse 7, “For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all.” The word “right” there meaning, “it is only proper. It is only appropriate.” In other words, “It would be inappropriate if I did not feel like this for you.” Paul is saying, “I have every reason under heaven for my heart to be so strong towards you. It is only right for me to feel this way about you. Paul has very deep feelings for them. We think of Paul as a towering theologian and a towering intellect. And he was that. But he was also a man of great feeling and great emotion and great love.

This word for “feel,” “It is only right for me to feel this way about you.” I do want you to know that the word encompasses more than just feelings, but it refers to thinking. It refers to a mental disposition or an attitude. And that is important for us to understand, that it is more than just a fickle feeling that he has. But it is really attached in his mind. And he is saying, “I am preoccupied with you in my thoughts.” So therefore, “my feelings are absorbed toward you,” his whole being, in other words, his mind, his affections, or his heart. No doubt, Paul was moved to tears as he thought of the individual believers in the church at Philippi. He says, “It is only right for me to feel this way about you all.”

The word “all” is very important. It is used, I think, four times in these few verses and speaks of how openhearted, how large-hearted, Paul was to all the believers in Philippi. He says, “because I have you in my heart.” What a precious thing for Paul to say. When he says, “I have you in my heart,” he is saying, “I hold you in my heart. I have a grip on you in my heart, and I carry you with me wherever I go. You are a permanent resident in my heart,” Paul is saying.

The word “heart” here refers to the center and source of the whole inner life. It really includes thinking and feeling and choosing. It represents the entirety of one’s inner being. It refers to the mainspring of one’s inner life from which one’s whole life is pouring out of one’s heart or soul. He says, “I have you in my heart,” and he gives a further explanation. He says, “since both in my imprisonment,” and that refers to his present imprisonment in Rome. And he will make mention of that multiple times in this opening chapter. In verse 13, you will note, “so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ.” In verse 14, he mentions it again, “because of my imprisonment.” And then again in verse 17, “thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.” Four times here in these few verses Paul reminds them of his present condition, that he is in this Roman imprisonment. And he says, “and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.” Paul understands that in his imprisonment he is there to be a witness for Christ, to bear testimony for Christ, and to give a defense of the faith. Paul is always one who is ready to give an account for the hope that lies within him.

He then goes on to say at the end of verse 7, “You all are partakers of grace with me.” There could be no closer partnership that Paul could share with another group of people than to be partakers of grace with him. This means they are spiritual partners in the ministry. It is like a joint business project, that they all have made an investment together of their lives in the gospel. And they are joint partners together in the grace of God. This word “partakers” is the very same word that was used earlier in verse 5 for “participation,” participation in the gospel, koinonia, and it is the very same word that is used elsewhere in the New Testament for “fellowship.” He is saying that we have the fellowship of grace as we are sharers together in this joint enterprise in the gospel. We have put our shoulder to the same plow together, and we are involved and engaged in the same work together. That is what he is saying.

And in this fellowship, in this partnership, that he speaks of at the end of verse 7, Paul’s investment is the preaching of the gospel. Paul’s investment is the teaching of the word of God. And Paul has made many deposits into this business account. And for the Philippians, their investment is prayer. Their investment is the repeated financial gifts that they have given to Paul so that he can continue preaching. And commentators also tell us that this joint partnership together includes suffering for the gospel as well. And he will go on to say in verse 29 of this first chapter, “For to you has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” And that, too, is a part of fellowship in the gospel, not just that we believe the same thing, but that we pay a price to believe the same thing; that we all hold these common convictions together, and that we all to different degrees, pay a price for what it is that we believe together.

I believe that that is very true of this church. We hold common convictions together in the word of God, I think very uniquely. But we also have paid a price for what it is that we believe in the gospel. And some of you have lost jobs because of what you believe. Some of you, I know, have lost friends because of the convictions that you hold. And some of you have even become estranged from members of your own household because of what you believe. And it is a part of what binds our hearts together and our souls together because we have all had to pay something to believe what we believe, and come together in this church and bond together to worship God and to serve Him. This is not an easy church to be a part of. In one sense it is very easy, but in another sense, in the best sense, there has been a price to pay. But that forges and welds our hearts together.

And that is exactly what Paul is saying here at the end of verse 7. “You all are partakers of grace with me.” We have been out on the field together, and we have been bloodied, and we have been bruised together. And we have exhausted ourselves in the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ together. We have been teammates together. We have been in the same huddle, and we have been running towards the same end zone together. No wonder Paul feels so closely connected to them. And no wonder they feel so closely connected to Paul for he has been the quarterback in the huddle who has been calling the plays, and who has led them to the line of scrimmage, and who has taken the greatest hits. They are partners of grace. What a special thing it is for us to be partners of grace.

In verse 8, Paul continues to extend this thought. He says, “For God is my witness.” When he says that, we know that what he is about to say, what will follow, is of such extreme importance that he calls upon God to bear witness that what he has to say is true. It is as if he wants God to say, “Amen” from heaven as he will now write these next words, “God is my witness.” Paul would never flippantly bring God into this. He says, “How I long for you.” This word “long” speaks of strong feelings. This is not just a mind game for Paul. This is not just an ivory tower of theological discussion for Paul. His heart is so in this with them. He says, “I long for you. I long to see you. I long to be with you. I long for us to be restored, for me to preach the word to you again, and to see you so receptive.”

He says, “I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” This word “affection” is the strongest word that Paul could use. Literally, this word “affection” refers to one’s “intestines,” one’s “bowels.” It is a metaphorical way of saying, “in the depth of my being,” “in the very deepest parts.” It is a way of saying metaphorically, “I love you from the bottom of my heart. My internal organs are like a fountain from which is flowing these longings for you.” He says, “with the affection of Christ Jesus.” “The affection of Christ Jesus” means two things. One, it is all being energized by Christ. It is flowing from Christ. He is the supernatural source of these affections. This is far deeper than mere human friendship level. This is wired beneath the surface at a level that only Christ Jesus could supernaturally empower and energize these affections that I have for you. Paul is saying that there is no explanation for what I feel for you apart from Christ Jesus, and we understand that. Galatians 5:22, “The fruit of the Spirit is love,” that all true Christian love supernatural, unconditional, sacrificial, selfless, full of tender mercies, and strong emotions, can only be produced and generated by God, by Christ Jesus.

The other thing that this means, “with the affection of Christ Jesus,” it can also have the idea of “being patterned after Christ Jesus.” Later, in chapter 2 (Philippians 2:5) he will say:

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant.

Do you see that, “a bond-servant?” Look at chapter 1, verse 1. Paul says the very same thing of himself. “Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus.” Paul has loved the Philippians just like Christ has loved the Philippians, in the sense of humbling himself before them to serve their best interests and to minister to them and to selflessly give himself as only a bond-servant knows to do. That is the other idea here with “the affection of Christ Jesus.”

What a remarkable thing this is that Paul says. And it is something that we uniquely feel together here in this church. Some of you come from families where you are the only believer, or you and your daughter are the only believer. Some of you come from homes where your spouse is not a believer, and there is a love that you have for your spouse and for your family members, absolutely. But there is a supernatural depth that occurs within the circle of Christian fellowship that far exceeds biological connections, and even marital connections. There is a deeper level of fellowship in Christ Jesus by which we have the affection of Christ Jesus for one another. And that is what Paul is saying to the Philippians. And no doubt, as he preached the gospel, there were no Christians in Philippi before he arrived. And whoever was converted and came into the church, they left behind unsaved family members and unsaved work associates. And as they came together to establish this church, there was a supernatural depth. It does not diminish the other, in fact, it enhances their other relationships in their families because they now have the supernatural love of God within them. But the fact is, what Paul is expressing here is, I think, what we have come to experience one with another; to have one another in our hearts, and to have the affection of Christ Jesus, and to “feel,” as he says, for one another.

What a wonderful thing it is to be in a church like this with genuine Christians. For the most part, nobody shows up here for social prestige. Nobody shows up here to show off their car in the parking lot. Nobody shows up here to make business contacts. The only reason people come here is because of a common commitment to the lordship of Jesus Christ, and to sit under an hour-long sermon again and again and again (and that would be a short one!), and to hear Scripture reading of 45 verses from Psalm 105, and then to sing old hymns written by dead men. You have to be committed to the Lord Jesus Christ to come to a church like this. We do not have a bowling alley. We do not have an executive membership to join this church. There is no over-the-top benefit to be here, apart from being connected in Christ with other believers, and to share in common the Lord Jesus Christ and the word of God. 

And we come from such a diversity of backgrounds. It is just remarkable. We come from a diversity of geographical backgrounds. I mean, we are not a neighborhood church. I mean, we are truly a regional church. People come from Mississippi. They come from the other side of the bay. They come from far up north of Mobile. They come all the way from down south. And many of you have made a quite a commitment just to be here today. That is because you recognize in this church something of what Paul says here about his relationship to the Philippians, that there is a depth of participation in the gospel. If there is not a participation in the gospel in this church, we are not doing it. Everything that we do in this church is tied down to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, we really have no business doing it. That is why I love this church, and that is why I love you.

I think we will stop right here, and we will pick it up next Lord’s Day, because in verses 9 through 11, Paul says what it is that he prays for the Philippians. And you are going to want to be here, because this really becomes the target that each one of us must hit for our own spiritual lives. What Paul prayed for the Philippians is exactly how we must be living on a day in, day out basis, and how we must be praying for one another as well.

As I bring this to conclusion, you know I cannot let you go without telling you one more time what the gospel is. Some of you here today have heard me say this so many times you could finish my sentences for me. Others of you here today, this is your first time to be at Christ Fellowship. Others of you have heard me say this many times, but there have been scales over your eyes, and your ears have been plugged by the concerns of the world. And my prayer is that today for the first time you would actually hear this. You remember Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Not everyone who has ears, hears. And not everyone who has eyes, sees, referring to spiritual truth. The gospel of Jesus Christ is found in the person and work of Christ Himself. The good news is what the word “gospel” means. It is the good news that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” 

God gave His Son. He sent Him. He commissioned Him to come to this world. He was born of a virgin. He had to be born of a virgin, because if He had been born like us, of a human father and a human mother, he would have had a sin nature just like you and I have inherited, and He would have come into this world speaking lies. He had to be sired by the Holy Spirit. God the Father had to be his Father who caused the virgin birth. He was without sin. And so therefore, for over thirty plus years, He lived a sinless and perfect life. And He had to do that because He had to live under the Law. And He had to live in perfect obedience to the Law of God. You and I are all lawbreakers and “the wages of sin is death.” He had to keep the Law for us, so that His perfect righteousness would be deposited into our account when we believe upon Him.

And more than that, at the end of His life, His perfect obedience qualified Him to die in the place of those who are guilty and hell bound. He was raised up upon that cross. As He suffered and bled and died upon that cross, there was far more going on than just His physical abuse. God the Father was taking all of our sins and transferring them to His Son. And Jesus bore our sins in His body upon the cross. He became sin for us. And as He became sin for us, He became accursed for us. And the wrath of God was poured out upon Jesus Christ, the very wrath that is being poured out upon sinners in hell this very moment. And upon that cross, Jesus suffered our eternal punishment for us. And He shed His blood. And that blood has power to wash away sin, and to make a covering over our sin. He was taken down from the cross. He was buried in a borrowed tomb. And you need to know that on the third day, He was raised from the dead. And that resurrection, it was God’s validation that His death upon the cross was a perfect death for our sins. He ascended to heaven. He is seated at the right hand of God the Father.

And the Bible says, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” There is nothing you can do to be good enough to receive His salvation. There is nothing, no matter what your family background, no matter what your social standing, no matter what your IQ, whatever your gender. It is, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” To call upon the name of the Lord is to exercise saving faith in Jesus Christ. It is to repent of your sins, to be sorry, to be broken over your sin, because you have offended a holy God. We all have offended a holy God, and there must be a breaking within our own heart. No one just trips into the Kingdom of Heaven. We all come weeping and mourning over our sins. And we must commit our life to Jesus Christ. A halfhearted commitment is no commitment to Jesus Christ. You must give Him all that you all are. You must surrender your life to Jesus Christ.

These are the very simple terms of the gospel. But you must actually call upon His name. You must, as a choice of your will, give yourself to this Savior. “He has come to seek and to save that which is lost.” He has come not for the righteous, but for the unrighteous. He is the friend of sinners. And if you will come to Him as a sinner and confess your sin, tell Him how you have ruined your life with sin, it is for just such sinners that He came into this world. He will receive you. He will forgive you. He will give you a new life. He will give you a new home in heaven. He will place you in His spiritual family. You will become a citizen in His kingdom. And He will clothe you with His perfect righteousness. And He will put His Holy Spirit inside of you. He will reconcile you to God. And the enmity and the warfare with God will be over. And you will become a friend of God, and have full acceptance with God in heaven. And when you die, you will go immediately into the very presence of God forever.

Now, if you do not believe this, I just have to tell you this, you are going to burn in hell forever. And you deserve to burn in hell forever, because you are such a rebel. And you are so lawless. And you have trampled underfoot the precious blood of Jesus Christ. And you have insulted the Spirit of grace. If you do not receive Christ after hearing this, hell cannot be hot enough for you, as you have trifled with God’s holy Son. This is not an invitation to go to lunch. This is an invitation to come to Christ. And it cost Christ His own life’s blood for your salvation. So, if you have never believed upon Christ, I pray this moment God in heaven would give you eyes to see, and ears to hear that which you have never seen and heard before, and before this service is over, in your own heart you would call out to Him and say, “God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” 

Dr. Steven J. Lawson

Dr. Steven J. Lawson is President and founder of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to equip biblical expositors to bring about a new reformation in the church. Dr. Lawson hosts The Institute for Expository Preaching in cities around the world. Dr. Lawson is also a Teaching Fellow for Ligonier Ministries, where he serves on its board. Moreover, he is Professor of Preaching and oversees the Doctor of Ministry program at The Master’s Seminary, where he also serves on its board. Dr. Lawson is also Professor in Residence for Truth Remains, a work designed to promote and proclaim God’s written Word. Further, Dr. Lawson serves as the Executive Editor for Expositor Magazine published by OnePassion Ministries.