Sunday’s Sermon– Philippians 1:9-11

23 Jun

In the Old Testament, the high priest wore special clothing that set him apart as a priest. One part of that garment was a plate that he wore over his chest. This plate contained twelve colored jewels, one for each tribe of Israel. The names of the tribes were engraved there. And the high priest wore this plate right over his heart. As a young child I always loved the pictures in the back of the Bible of the high priest and I especially loved the multi-colored jeweled plate on his chest. The high priest carried the people of God over his heart, but as we heard last week in Pastor Rob’s message, Paul carried the Philippians in his heart. Paul loved his friends in Philippi. They were a special people to him. And when somebody is special in your life, you want to pray for them. You want to pray for God to bless them. If you want to know who you love, think about who you pray for, not just in a “pray over the prayer list, check off a spiritual duty” way, but those whom you labor for in prayer. Most of the time, the people you earnestly pray for are the people you love most.
Now some of us rarely pray. And there the problem may be a lack of love for God or a lack of faith in God. If we think God is mad at us because of our sins, if we think God is distant or uncaring, if we are disappointed over past prayers that haven’t been answered the way we hoped or if we are just burned out in our spirits, we may not come to God. So before we get into the passage today, I just want to say to you, God welcomes you into His presence through Jesus Christ. No matter who you are or what you have done. The Father embraces the Prodigal when he comes home and the Father calls the Elder brother who is always fretting over His performance to both come and experience grace. So what we are looking at this morning will make no impact on us if we don’t open our hearts to prayer. So come back to God this morning. He welcomes you and He is listening. Turn away from running after sin and follow Jesus.
In verse 3 Paul told the church in Philippi that he prayed for them constantly. Now in verse 9 Paul tells them exactly what he is praying for them. Sometimes maybe we need to let our friends and family know we are praying for them. And sometimes it is good even to tell them what we are praying for them. It is good for our loved ones to know we are praying for good for them. It makes a person feel loved to know that someone is bringing them before the throne of grace and asking God to bless them. Some of the best things we can pray for people are passages from the New Testament like this one, or Ephesians 3 or Colossians 1 or many others. Why not get in the habit of praying Scripture for those you love? You might even write them a note including the verses you prayed.
Let Paul’s example of prayer motivate you to be a person of prayer. But don’t try to be some kind of prayer warrior. Don’t worry about saying just the right words. Don’t give up when your spirit is dry. Just come to your mighty and merciful Savior. Relate to God and receive His grace and pray for His grace to be displayed in the lives of those you love.
So I’ve urged you this morning to come to God in prayer with joy, just like Paul in verse 3. I long for this in my own life and I long for it in your lives. Having given this call to prayer, let’s now look at the kinds of things we might pray for ourselves and those we love. Let’s look together at verses 9-11 . . .

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Let’s look first at . . .
The REQUEST: A Growing and Wise Love (1:9).
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,
Paul wants for God’s people in Philippi and God wants for us an abounding love. Just to add emphasis he uses the words “more and more.” The idea here is like that of an overflowing cup. God wants us filled to the brim with love. We are called to live full lives as followers of Jesus. We all too often live lives that are full of activity and empty of spiritual life and power. Our busyness deceives us into thinking our lives are meaningful when in reality true meaning is always and only found in relation to Christ. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying the only meaning in life is found in reading your Bible or going to church. No. True meaning is only found in relation to Christ because everything in the life of the Christian relates to Christ. So breakfast has meaning. My job has meaning. Family time has meaning. Writing an email has meaning. Watching TV has meaning. Praying has meaning. Everything in life for the follower of Jesus is infused with meaning. Therefore, Christians should be the least bored people in the world because every moment of every day is an opportunity to worship. I beg you not to use busyness as an excuse. Do you really want to stand before God and say, “Well, you know Lord, I would have spent more time with You but I was just so busy. You know I had to work long hours and I had my hobbies and there just wasn’t time for You.” Or even worse, and I as a pastor could sadly say this sometimes, “Lord, I would have spent more time with You but I was just so busy in ministry.” “I would have come to worship at church or met one on one with another believer or joined a home group but you know I just had so much going on.” Are you really at the end of your life going to be thankful that you invested so much energy in things that matter so much less than the kingdom of God and the people of God?
An empty Christian is a tragedy. We need to be filled with love. But Paul knows this will not just happen, so he prays for the believers in Philippi. And he prays for their love. He had already experienced this love. This love was not something they lacked. Like our church, the church in Philippi was a loving church. But the church in Philippi, like our church, needed to have their love refined and strengthened.
Paul says, “I pray that your love will keep going.” There is no place with love, for God and for people, where we say, “We’ve arrived.” Love is like a fountain always bubbling up, always overflowing, always being fed by the spring of life in God. It is not like a pool, filled up and standing still until somebody stirs it up.
But love should not only be overflowing and growing in us consistently, it should also be a wise love. Most of us think of love on the emotional level. We have been taught by the movies that love is the spark of attraction, whether it is between two dogs in a Disney cartoon or two movie stars in the summer blockbuster. Love in our culture is all about the heart. But love in the Bible is about the heart and the head. True Christian love must overflow. It must be sincere. It must come from the depths of our souls and it should stir our affections. But real Christian love must also be informed by truth. Paul will warn the Philippians in chapter 3 of the danger of false teachers, people who want to add to the gospel of grace in Christ human works. Sometimes I get the sense that some people believe the church should not oppose doctrinal error or worldly living because to do so would be unloving. To many, love means not ruffling feathers. But this is not a Bible way of looking at things. In the Bible, love and truth kiss each other. The most loving thing we can do is stand for truth in a loving way.
So let me get down to the nitty gritty here. If we are dealing with someone in sexual sin, we must be loving and truthful. “You are walking a destructive path through extramarital sex or pornography or homosexuality or obsessive thoughts about people who are not your spouse. And I know it feels so real and you feel so alive but it is a way that leads to death. With all the love in my heart, turn away from sin and turn to God. He will receive you. Come to Him. Find life in Him.” And we just plead with people and pray for people. We must not condemn and we must not compromise. Just as Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” We must love people enough to share with them the truth of God’s Word with them, always holding out not only the holy standard of God but also the grace of God in Christ that brings restoration and new life. Now this is a fine line, of course, because we all know people who just like to point out everybody else’s faults. And it is possible that even if we act with a loving heart that if we do not compromise the truth we will be looked at as judgmental. You may not have a judgmental bone in your body but if you lovingly deal in truth you will be looked at as judgmental by many in our culture and sometimes even in the church simply because our culture is so unaccustomed to dealing with the truth of God’s Word. Truth and love. Paul consistently links the two. The most loving thing we can do is stand for the truth in a loving way.
Here are a few other places Paul speaks of the same idea, love and truth . . .

1 Thessalonians 3:11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Colossians 1:9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

So we see in verse 9 the Request: a growing and wise love. In verses 10 and 11 we see the Result of the Request . . .

The RESULT: A Holy and Fruitful Life for God’s Glory (1:10-11).
10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
When the Philippians’ love abounds with knowledge and wisdom, they will have the discernment to know truth and see truth and handle truth in a right way, in a loving way. The word “approve” in Greek was used for testing the genuineness of coins or precious metals. Does this coin have any mixture of worthless material in it, or is it a pure metal? This word is instructive because it reminds us that when we are dealing with falsehood it is not usually outright falsehood but is usually mixed with a good deal of truth. So we need the kind of abounding and wise love for God that will enable us to see the truth. Our world can make it hard to see the truth. The world of Philippi was like that: filled with lots of uncertainty and all kinds of competing philosophies. But if your love for God and your love for people is overflowing and growing in wisdom, you will be able to cut through the moral fog of our day to see the truth of God from His Word.
But what is the point of all this? Is it just so we can know a lot and counsel others? No. Growing in love and knowing the truth affects you far more than it affects anyone else. In fact, you ought to speak the truth to yourself far more than you preach it to others. I may have the greatest challenge to do that but you have a challenge there too. Many of us fail in the Christian life because we listen to others but we don’t talk to ourselves. We need to be reminding ourselves of spiritual truth all the time. Go to Romans 8. No condemnation, no separation. Go to 2 Corinthians 3. Transformed from glory to glory. Go to Philippians. Go to the Upper Room in John 13-17. Go to the parables of Luke. Go to the Psalms. Talk to yourself. Don’t let the enemy drive you down. He will come to you and tell you how worthless you are. He will tell you how you can’t live a holy life. He will tell you about how you have no right to tell other people about Jesus because your life is so bad. Take up the words of the great Reformer Martin Luther, “So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!”
If we will give ourselves to growing in love that abounds in wisdom we will not fear the day of the Lord. We will be looking forward to the coming of Jesus. Most people who don’t want the Lord to return are either in love with the world or ashamed of their lives. The antidote to this is a living love relationship with Christ that overflows in wise love for others. People who are growing in love for Jesus long for His coming. A good test for your heart is this question: “How would you feel if Jesus came back today?”
Paul restates the idea he expresses here in verse ten in Philippians 2:14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that 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, 16 holding 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.
None of us are pure in ourselves. But God does purify us over the course of our lives as we walk with Him. Remember verse 6, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Remember our study of Titus, what we read in Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
So we are not perfect but God is changing us. And this is the goal of Paul’s prayer. He prays that we would grow and overflow in wise love so that we can live holy lives. And second, as verse 11 says, we can be . . .

11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
So the life God calls us to as those who are in Christ is one which is holy and one which is fruitful. So our inner life is one of living in relationship with God and avoiding sinful things. And our outer life, the way we live toward others, is a fruitful, righteous life. Why do I say this fruit of righteousness has to do with how we relate to others? For two reasons. First, fruit is the outward result of the inward reality. A healthy tree produces good fruit and an unhealthy tree produces no fruit or poor fruit. So the very word fruit points to the outward results of the inward reality of living in Christ. Jesus speaks of this connection in John 15. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. We don’t produce our own growth. We trust in the power of Christ by living in Him and trusting Him to produce good fruit.
The other reason I believe this fruit is about how we relate to others is what Paul says elsewhere about fruit in the New Testament.
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
All these truths of Galatians, all this fruit, relates to how you deal with other people. So when Paul’s prayer is answered we will be people who are being changed inwardly and are living from that inward change to bring hope and life to others through the way we live. This fruit of righteousness comes through Jesus Christ. It does not come through our own efforts. It does not come through our own righteousness. It does not come through the law. It comes through abiding in Christ. In other words, being in Christ changes our whole lives. And what is the result of this . . . God is glorified. Notice what Paul says in Ephesians 1 . . .

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
The praise of His glory. One author says, “The difference between spiritual fruit and human “religious activity” is that the fruit brings glory to Jesus Christ. Whenever we do anything in our own strength, we have a tendency to boast about it. True spiritual fruit is so beautiful and wonderful that no man can claim credit for it; the glory must go to God alone.”

What will you do with this message today? You could ignore it. You could read it again online and continue to think about it. You could open your heart to the Holy Spirit to move in your life through the truths you’ve heard today. But the main thing I want to encourage you to do with this message today is to pray it. Begin praying Philippians 1:9-11 in your life. Begin praying it for others whom you love. Begin praying that the truth of this verse would permeate our local church and other churches in our town and in our nation. Pray that true life in Christ would be the hallmark of the church around the world. Pray these verses. Go to your Bible and just voice them as a prayer to God.

Right now, just pray these verses for yourself or someone you love . . .

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