Philippians 4:2-9 Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: These are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube channel.

Gentle and Lowly

Philippians 4:2-9 (571)

Intro:

-It’s hard to believe 9/11 was 20 years ago. I still remember the clothes I was wearing that day! I saw a couple FB posts yesterday that talked about wishing we could go back to how unifying September 12, 2001 was.

-The reality is, we’re in a VERY different cultural moment than we were in 2001. (not just in the clothes people are wearing!) We, as Christians, need to take some to evaluate where we’re putting our stock, because there’s some things that we need to be ALL IN on, and others that we need to let go of completely.

-Listening to a podcast on Monday that struck me like a load of bricks: we as Christians are called to be gentle.  

READ/PRAY

-Theme of the letter in 1:25-26 “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,”

-Today, we would call this a “missionary letter,” Paul helped plant the church, they sent him to continue planting churches, he writes to inform them how he’s doing, how he’s still praying for them, and remind them of the truth of the gospel and the implications of that Good News.

-Quick primer if you haven’t been here, the gospel is what compels everything we do. In 1 Cor. 15 Paul calls the gospel that which is of “first importance,” but the gospel also compels us to live in certain ways. The gospel is the means by which we are saved, and the means by which we are sanctified (DEFINE)

-If you’ve here and you’ve never heard the gospel before, 4 words: God, man, Christ, response.

2 Cor. 5:14 says it this way “the love of Christ controls/compels us.” The gospel, as demonstrated in Christ’s love, compels us to live in some specific ways that are contrary to our human/sinful nature.

2 Cor. 5 is also one of Pastor Bruce’s favorite passages to talk about growing like Christ – it goes on to talk about the need for reconciliation. 

-One of the implications of that reconciliation to God is it compels us to reconciliation with each other, which is exactly what Paul talks about in the first 2 verses of this section.

  1. Reconciliation (2-3)

-One quick note before we dig in:

-First, these letters were read in the corporate gathering of the church! And Paul had the audacity to call out 2 people by name! How would you feel if in the middle of the church service, I get up and start talking about a conflict you’re having with someone else?

-First thing to note is how little information Paul gives us. Apparently this conflict was a big enough deal that everyone knew what he was talking about.

-Can’t be doctrinal (look at the end of vs. 3)

-Notice how gently Paul asks: doesn’t shame them (apart from having their names read in the whole church), doesn’t call down his apostolic authority, doesn’t demean them “entreats” them. Think of Proverbs 15:1 “a gentle answer turns away wrath.” We’ll look at that a little more in the next section.

-Paul doesn’t even give much help, just “agree in the Lord.” Isn’t that overly simplistic? But sometimes, just an urge to “agree in the Lord” isn’t enough.

-Look at vs. 3

-When, in the midst of conflict, it can be nearly impossible to push through it on your own. That’s where bringing a 3rd party in can help both sides start to see/hear the other sides’ perspective. 

-It often seems that, in conflict/disagreements, we neglect the Bible’s command: be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry (James 1:19). 

-This is also a time where we need to remember Jesus’ commands in Matt. 18 – if you’re brother/sister in Christ has sinned against you, GO TO THEM! Then, if after going to them, bring someone else along, then if that doesn’t work, bring 1 or 2 other people along, then if that doesn’t work, go to the leadership of the church, but it BEGINS with 1 on 1, not quitting, not giving up, not gossiping or getting other people involved. GO TO THEM.

-This is true in churches too. There are legitimate reasons to leave a church, I’ve heard some doozie! But most of the time it’s because we’re not being obedient to the biblical command to “live at peace with everyone.” (Rom. 12:18)

-A couple other notes about this: 

-Reconciliation is not just “get over it” and pretend as if nothing happened. It’s talking, sharing your hurts and difficulties and doing your best to understand where the other person is coming from. It’s not jumping to conclusions based on what you heard! A pastor friend who works for a peace making ministry said we need to “listen to understand.” 

-Reconciliation is not done at the expense of the truth. There are legitimate times to divide from people who are preaching/living in ways that run contrary to the gospel. But notice the orientation of this agreeing: IN THE LORD. So important to have a theological triage. CS Lewis had a great analogy about this in Mere Christianity: orthodox Christianity brings you into a Great Hall which has various side rooms for the differing denominations/theological traditions, fun places to go sit in for a bit, have a chat, then come back to the feast in the great hall! When we come back to the Lord as the foundation for everything else, all these other issues seem trivial. He who has been forgiven much forgives much. 

-Lastly, the verb Paul uses here “agree” appears back in Philippians 2:5. Paul is pointing Euodia and Syntyche to “agree” about the mind of Christ.

-Because of that we are to:

-Not look at ourselves as having a high station

-Empty/humble ourselves

-We don’t get exaltation without humiliation

-Carson, “Personal differences should never become an occasion for advancing your party, for stroking bruised egos, for resorting to cheap triumphalism, for trimming the gospel by appealing to pragmatics. Focus on what unites you: the gospel, the gospel, the gospel.” (129)

-When we have reconciliation, it is going to look like us living/operating in some specific ways:

  • The Heart of Christ (4-7)

-This section is a list of characteristics that should be true in the life of every believer.

  1. Rejoice

-Because of the reconciliation that is found in Christ, we can rejoice, when? ALWAYS. So important that he says it twice! Again, doesn’t that feel kind of naïve? 

-Feels like he’s asking us to be Pollyana, running around acting as if everything is always 100%, no issues, no problems, I’m just happy all the time. Like the Pharrell Williams song “Because I’m happy: Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.” No matter what I’ll be happy and clappy with a smile 24/7. You almost want to say that’s cute Paul, but have you seen my life?
-But Paul doesn’t just say “rejoice” and then leave us to figure it out – our rejoicing has an orientation: IN THE LORD. Church, you and I are blood bought precious saints in the sight of the Lord. God brought us from death to life, God has seated us in the heavenlies with Him! If you can’t hear those truths and rejoice somethings wrong!

-D.A. Carson Basics for Believers: “If we fail to respond with joy and gratitude when we are reminded of these things, it is either because we have not properly grasped the depth of the abyss of our own sinful natures and of the curse from which we have been freed by Jesus or because we have not adequately surveyed the splendor of the heights to which we have been raised.” (130)

-When Paul came to Philippi to plant the church, do you remember what happened? He and Silas are jailed, chained to the wall, and they SING! That’s someone who is filled with joy! 

-That’s where Paul can say “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” When he’s thrown in prison he sings and then leads the jailer to the Lord! How frustrating was Paul to the works of Satan? How frustrating to Satan is your joy?

  • Gentleness

-I have no clue why, but this verse had never stuck out to me before! This is where I love reading the Bible over and over again, it will always meet you where you’re at and then work to conform/change you to become more like Christ.

-This word translated “reasonableness” is somewhat difficult to translate, includes things such as: non-insistence, yielding, kind, courteous, tolerant, clemency. This difficulty can be seen in the way the various translations state this phrase.

-One quick note: we NEVER tolerate/are gently with sin! What we are to tolerate is people who are “working out their salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12) John Owen: “be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”

-What are you known for? Your position at work? The car you drive? Your kids? What are people’s first description when they hear your name? In Acts 4:36, there’s a guy named Joseph, who was so encouraging, he was given the nickname Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.” What we as Christians, and as a whole church are meant to be known as is: gentle. When you are wronged, respond with gentleness. When you are frustrated, respond with gentleness. When you are angry, respond with gentleness. When you are happy (or joyful), respond with gentleness. 

-Do you think when the world looks at the church their first thought is gentleness? Google search: “what is the most judgmental religion.” 

-I’ll confess, the world seems to be getting crazier and crazier. Saw a post this week that said “do you like post-apocalyptic movies? Well you’re in one now!” Talked to someone this week who said they felt like it the world was coming to an end, and how should we as Christians respond? With gentleness. 

-I’m not saying don’t have convictions, but keep them in their proper order. Politics is dominating so many conversations today, and I’ll be honest, it feels like both the Right and the Left are going crazy! There are people in this room that vote differently than me, every election cycle I pray their candidate loses! But those are issues for outside of here, here inside the church we need to leave the crazy at the door, and come in here to be reminded to be gentle toward each other. The gospel means I need to move toward, not away from, someone who disagrees with me. That’s what Jesus did! Have you ever looked at Jesus’ list of disciples? This astonishes me! In the same group of 12 he had: Simon the zealot, and Matthew the tax collector. The zealots viewed it as their job to kill anyone who was colluding with the enemy, AKA a tax collector! Now I don’t think most people on either side of the political aisle today have gone THAT far! But when the love of Christ compels us, political ideologies fall away compared the beauty of the gospel! Have those conversations and LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND with GENTLENESS.

-Screwtape Letters, #7: “I had not forgotten my promise to consider whether we should make the patient an extreme patriot or an extreme pacifist. All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged. Not always, of course, but at this period. Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and then it is our business to soothe them yet faster asleep. Other ages, of which the present is one, are unbalanced and prone to faction, and it is our business to inflame them. Any small coterie, bound together by some interest which other men dislike or ignore, tends to develop inside itself a hothouse mutual admiration, and towards the outer world, a great deal of pride and hatred which is entertained without shame because the “Cause” is its sponsor and it is thought to be impersonal. Even when the little group exists originally for the Enemy’s own purposes, this remains true. We want the Church to be small not only that fewer men may know the Enemy but also that those who do may acquire the uneasy intensity and the defensive self-righteousness of a secret society or a clique. The Church herself is, of course, heavily defended and we have never yet quite succeeded in giving her all  the characteristics of a faction; but subordinate factions within her have often produced admirable results, from the parties of Paul and of Apollos at Corinth down to the High and Low parties in the Church of England.”

-Extremism to anything other than Christ is a lie from the pit of hell that we need to repent of in order to pursue Jesus’ heart towards us: gently and lowly.

-I LOVE theology, a love a good theological debate/discussion, I have at times made my theology my god, and it makes a bad god: let’s go back to God, how He’s revealed Himself in His Word, and live in the community he’s called us to. We do not fight against flesh and blood.

-1 person I was listening to about this idea this week said “The news feed of heaven is very different from the news feed of earth.” What makes the headlines of heaven? When someone moves from death into life, when you grow in gentleness.

-What would it look like for us to take this command seriously and work to grow in gentleness in every one of our responses? Paul actually tells us how we can do that!

-It begins by this throwaway comment: the Lord is at hand. God is near! That’s why we let our gentleness be seen by everyone, it’s not our gentleness, it’s God’s gentleness being demonstrated THROUGH us. “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20)

  • Do not be anxious

-Do you ever get anxious about what’s going on around us? I was at a conference Indianapolis in April when most Twin City suburbs were put under a curfew. I couldn’t head home to make sure my family was safe, I was anxious! Goodness, just scrolling through FB or a news feed is enough these days to make me anxious! Once again, it feels like Paul is being unreasonable. Have you seen the world? Is this even possible?

  • Pray to God

-This is how we’re not anxious, when we start to worry/fret/become despondent, we bring it all to God.

-I’ve shared this before, but your knee jerk reaction as a Christian is supposed to be to pray! This is especially true when you start to feel anxious. 

-It’s not just suck it up, it’s not pull yourself up by your bootstraps, it’s not squelch your emotions, it’s casting them on the Lord, because He cares for you. Martin Luther: “pray and let God worry.”

-This means of dealing with anxiety leads us to:

  • Eternal peace

-I’ve often heard this verse used without the context to tell people to just chill out. You’ll have the peace of God, so you don’t need to worry! But the only way we get to this peace is by crying out to God, because He cares for us! 

-This peace comes only by living out and believing the truths from the rest of this section. We rejoice all the time, we always respond in gentleness, when we start to feel anxious/worried we cry out to God, then we will be peace filled people.

-I want you to notice 1 thing about this list: compare it to the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Joy, peace, gentleness, kindness between Euodia and Syntyche 

-These fruit are not meant to be understood in isolation from each other. Fruit is singular: we are supposed to demonstrate each one of these characteristics. None are optional!

-The last thing about this peace is that it’s what guards our hearts and minds. Even the way we think is meant to be gentle.

  • Dwell on This (8-9)

-Look at this laundry list: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellence, worthy of praise. Are those the things you are thinking about/dwelling on daily?

-Let’s flip it, do you instead dwell on things that are untrue, dishonoring, unjust, impure, unlovely, not commendable, wallowing in mediocrity, worthy of criticism.

-When you have nothing else to do/focus on, where does your mind go?

-God loves you so much, he even cares about your thought life. I think of Col. 3:16 “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” There is nothing better than dwelling on the Word of Christ! I gave the overseers some new homework this week: Bible memorization, next month we’re going to be reciting Phil. 4:4-7 to each other. Ask us how we’re doing with it! Join us in soaking/meditating/dwelling on these words!

-That’s actually what Paul says in vs. 9. You have people in leadership here to set an example for you. What you have learned from us, received from us, and then heard and seen, practice them. Get busy rejoicing, being gently, praying, and dwelling on the things of Christ.

-This is the kind of church I want to be a part of! Because we are commanded to be gentle, one person described the church as shock absorbers. As new people/unbelievers come in here who are stirred up/agitated about the state of our world, can you be gentle enough to absorb them into our midst and help them grow in gentleness? This is what Christ calls us to as a church! Putting on the mind of Christ, and responding with gentleness and lowliness. Today is September 12, but it’s 2021, not 2001, and the only way for us to see the same sense of comradery that we want to see again is by growing in gentleness. This is what Christ died for us to do: to demonstrate Him to everyone around us. Let’s roll towards that goal in all of our lives!

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