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Today, I’d like to continue to talk about the church. Ps. Lao is currently teaching about the church. The church is more than just a gathering of Christians. It is not a human organization. It is not here to meet the needs of its members only. God established the church, and Jesus Christ is the leader of the church. He leads us by His Holy Spirit, which is in every believer. His ultimate goal is that we are a glorious church that fully reflects His holiness, power, and love to a perishing world. We are His body; the visible hands, feet, and mouth of God to this world. I encourage you to carefully consider this teaching about the church and to join with us in giving your life to building Jesus’ church. As Ps. Lao has said, if you love Jesus, you will love His body. God intends to use His glorious church to fulfill His purposes. My topic today is not about the church, but just one aspect of how we should individually act in order to become a glorious church. When I was a younger believer, Dwayne was telling me that Christians needed to be bold and forceful in order to build the kingdom of God. I didn’t believe it, but it is there in the Bible. Matthew 11:12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. What I take from this verse is that people who advance the kingdom of God are deliberate, not easily dissuaded, and whole-hearted in their effort. We need to have resolve. Resolve is when you’ve thought out your options, made a decision, and are applying your energies and resources to make that thing happen. To me, this verse in Matthew 11 describes Christians who not only have the vision to see the kingdom of God advancing, but they reach out and lay hold of that vision. In a sense, God needs us to be soldiers in His army. We are fighting a battle, but not against people. We are fighting a spiritual battle. The battleground is people’s hearts, including our own. We need to capture hearts for Jesus, so that He is King there. Wherever He is King, there is His kingdom. I’d like to go through Philippians 2:19-30 with you all today to see what it means to be a solider of Jesus Christ. Philippi was a Roman colony in Macedonia that was named after Philip, Alexander the Great’s father. Paul first traveled to Macedonia and Philippi in response to a vision from the Holy Spirit. When Paul and his companions arrived, they found no synagogue, but an informal gathering of God-fearing women, among them Lydia, a merchant woman who had her entire household baptized. From the rest of the account in Acts 16, we know that the jailer and his household were also baptized. Because the church in Philippi was founded with mostly Gentile believers, they never had trouble with Jewish legalism like other churches. They also were the only church to consistently support Paul’s ministry with gifts. In his letter to them, Paul obviously shows much affection.
Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians late in his ministry, during his house arrest in Rome. I want to focus on Philippians 2:19-30. In these verses, Paul describes dedicated Christians who served alongside him as good soldiers of Christ. By studying these verses, we can learn what it means to be a soldier of Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:19-30 19I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. 21For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon. 25But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, 30because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me. 1. Genuine love and deep loyalty We can learn so much from the good example of Timothy and Epaphroditus. Let’s first look at Paul’s description of Timothy. He says Timothy is valuable to him because of his genuine interest in the welfare of the Philippians. Timothy is following Paul by caring deeply about the people they connected to in the Body of Christ. And Paul, in turn, is following Jesus, who sacrificed Himself to redeem the church. There is no condition to this love and concern. It is not based on social background, wealth, or education. Instead, it is based on the love, tenderness, and comfort we have received from Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit. Therefore, the first characteristic of a good soldier of Jesus is genuine love for His people. We can discern this love by looking at whose interests people have at heart. Sadly, Paul says in Philippians 3 that many people who call themselves Christians live in such a way that they harm the interests of Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:18-19 18For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. When we put our own selfish interests ahead of others, we make our own desires —our stomach, as Paul says—our god instead of Jesus. This teaching is hard for all of us, but it’s especially difficult for married people because they need to think about the needs of their family. That’s a huge reason why young people in the church should make sure to marry a committed Christian. It’s hard enough when two believers are married together … Paul warned singles in the Corinthian church that they needed to consider the impact marriage might have on their service to God.
1 Corinthians 7:32-35 32I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. Philippians 2:22-24 22But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon. Verses 22 through 24 show another characteristic of a good soldier of Jesus Christ —deep loyalty to God’s appointed leader. Paul says Timothy has proven himself through years of faithful service. Paul could trust Timothy to represent him faithfully and accurately. For everyone that has some type of leadership position in the church, you need to remember that you are representatives of the pastor when you are discharging your duties. Whether you are visiting new believers, hosting dinners, teaching Sunday school, or even giving spiritual advice, remember that we are soldiers fulfilling a commission. If I am not sure what Ps. Lao thinks about something, then I am always careful to say that such-and-such is my own opinion and viewpoint. If I disagree with Ps. Lao about something, then I will not go around trying to subvert his authority by playing politics. We cannot afford to have discord amongst the leadership in this church. If you cannot support the vision of the person God has placed over you, then please wait until God raises you up to become the leader before you start acting as such. This next verse is a little out of context, but I think it illustrates the way I think about this. When Jesus was going to a Roman centurion’s house to heal his servant, the centurion explained why Jesus could simply command the healing without going there in person. Matthew 8:9 9For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." I’m sorry to be such a hard-nose about this, but I believe that a glorious church must have unity under a leader appointed by God, and that the people in the church need to “allow themselves to be persuaded” by this authority, as Hebrews 13:17 says. We are not your parents, so we can’t spank you. And we are not your boss, so we can’t fire you. So it’s up to you to submit yourself to the authorities in the church. If you think things should be such-and-such a way, then you need to remember Timothy and ask yourself, “What would Timothy do?”
2. Resolve Let’s read the verses about Epaphroditus: Philippians 25-30 25But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, 30because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me. The Philippians had sent one of their own people, Epaphroditus, to bring a gift to Paul and help him. Paul calls him his brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier. This brother had almost died in carrying out his charge, and so Paul commends him for putting his life on the line for the work of Christ. I don’t think that it’s over the top to say that many of us in this room have given up our lives for the work of Christ. I am honestly humbled and amazed at the work of the Holy Spirit in all of you. The glory of God is shining through you when you submit to His leading. But I want to reinforce that no sacrifice is too great for this cause and this goal. This is a culture and understanding that we need to reinforce in this church—that God’s work is the highest goal for which we can struggle. Everyone has this most honorable calling and those that give their lives day-by-day in heeding that call are worthy people. Our sacrifice does not need to be overseas missionary work or becoming a pastor, but I can give you many other examples: – faithfully serving the poor and needy in our community – spending our time with our youth to make sure they are growing up in the right way – driving over 50 miles to church one-way, sometimes several times a week – helping out families in the church – ensuring that everyone in the church has Bibles available to them – planning and organizing activities for people in your caregroup What I’m saying, brothers and sisters, is that good soldiers of Jesus need resolve to win their battles. Resolve is a deliberate decision after all the options have been considered. That’s what Epaphroditus had. Don’t let anything distract or discourage you from what God has called you to do, but carry on. I tell you that God looks at your resolve, not your strength. And He will strengthen those with resolve. [Read Shakespeare’s St. Crispen’s Day speech] Conclusion Allow me to read to you one more scripture: 1 Chronicles 12:6-18, 22
6 Other Benjamites and some men from Judah also came to David in his stronghold. 17 David went out to meet them and said to them, "If you have come to me in peace, to help me, I am ready to have you unite with me. But if you have come to betray me to my enemies when my hands are free from violence, may the God of our fathers see it and judge you." 18 Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, chief of the Thirty, and he said: "We are yours, O David! We are with you, O son of Jesse! Success, success to you, and success to those who help you, for your God will help you." So David received them and made them leaders of his raiding bands. … 22 Day after day men came to help David, until he had a great army, like the army of God. Amasai’s words came from the Spirit of God. God wants his people to be in unity behind a godly leader, fired with resolve to see that person succeed. When we do this, our church will be like the army of God.
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