Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Life Lessons from Philippians
We?ve just finished our study through Paul?s letter to the Philippians and this little four chapter letter is so full of good lessons for how to stay connected with one another, stay connected with God, and maneuver this life that I thought it would be good to fly back over the book and highlight some of the most important lessons.
If you remember, Paul wrote to a church he founded in Philippi, not with a correction but with an encouragement. Paul himself was in prison in Rome and the Philippians sent him a gift with an emissary: Epaphroditus. Paul wrote back with some encouragements in a letter of friendship after receiving news of two concerns going on in the church: an external pressure from those who wanted them to go under the Mosaic Law and stop sharing the gospel, and internal pressures from the sin nature to stop sharing true fellowship with each other.
I originally titled this series in Philippians ?The Power of Connection? but there is another title I came up with after studying through the book and that is: ?Philippians: Get Over Yourself!? As it turns out, much of what Paul has to say involves identifying that there are two parts to the character of those who know Jesus: One part that acts in pure self-interest to the exclusion or detriment of others; and another part that truly reflect the character of God, agape love.
Agape love is defined this way: other-centered, self-sacrificing affection. The Apostle John said it simply: ?God is love? (1 John 4:16). He uses that word ?agape?. We experience God?s agape love first by the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.
Romans 5:5 ?God?s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.?
God forgives our sins by pouring out the penalty for our sins on His innocent Son, then pouring out on us the innocence of His Son in the form of eternal life. Then that same Holy Spirit begins a process of transforming our character in order that we that begin to reflect that other-centered, self-sacrificing affection to others. The result is many more will also experience the love of God poured out in their hearts.
The two main things that stand in our way are the leftover sin nature in us that says: ?me first, me always, me only? and circumstances and people on the outside that would tell us to stop trusting God?s grace poured out on us.
So what I propose that we do today is look at the book thematically, rather than sequentially. I?ve grouped what I think are the most significant verses and ideas by three themes: Connecting with God, Connecting with Others, and Connecting the gospel to the world?let?s go through them one at a time.
Connecting with God
Phil 3:10 My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death
Is your ultimate goal to know God? If so, realize that it is two-fold: knowing the power of His love through the forgiveness of your wins and the granting of eternal life; and being conformed to His death, which means putting to death the ?deeds of the flesh? and becoming more like Him?in part through suffering here on earth.
Phil 2:12 ?work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.
?Work out? (vs 12) there means ?to make every effort?. The second time, it comes from the root word where we get the English ?energy?. Put energy and effort into this new character that God is birthing in you?realizing that He is the One who both motivates you and enables you to do all the things He has purposed for you.
Phil. 3:7 But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ
Part of that transformation process is leaving the stuff that you relied on beforehand?your own works, your own goodness. Knowing Jesus is so much more valuable and effective that going it on your own.
Phil 3:13 Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God?s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.
So we push off the deeds of the flesh and we press on to the character of Christ. What is that character? Again, it is love:
Phil 1:9-11 And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, 10 so that you can approve the things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
The more we mature in Christ, the more that transformation of character begins to take hold, the more we think like Him and view the world around us like Him. To see His love ?keep growing? affects how we treat others and our connections. We must fight against the flesh and welcome Christ?s agape love in our relationships to others.
Connecting with Others
Phil 3:20 but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.
Two things here: we need to remember that we belong to God?s kingdom now and are His ambassadors in this age. Secondly, we are not there yet in terms of perfection of this character of love, but we have that to look forward to. So we need to give ourselves and others grace and patience.
Phil 4:11 I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content?whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Phil 4:19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
As we serve as ambassadors, God will take us through many valleys and mountaintop experiences. Realizing that God gives us what we need to do His will should get us through and give us contentment (not happiness all the time, but satisfaction with God in us).
This next is a corollary?if we are content we will not have as much of a need to put ourselves over others. This is vitally important as we do our jobs as ambassadors.
These next two verses really go together:
Phil 2:14 Do everything without grumbling and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.
Phil 2:2 ? fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal. 3 Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Often grumbling, arguing, rivalry and conceit all come from our old selves wanting to be better than someone else or because of a lack of contentment. If we are content, focused on God transforming us, and how we can in turn help that transformation take place in others, we are freed up to do the real work of taking God?s love out into the world:
Connecting the gospel to the world
Phil 1:7 I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace
The word ?partner? means: ?to participate?. We need to always keep that in mind?that we together represent Jesus, not just ourselves individually. And sometimes that means to suffer:
Phil 1:29 For it has been given to you on Christ?s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him.
Suffering is a gift. Some might think of it as the ?booby prize? but suffering helps to conform us to God?s image, draw us close to Him, and refocus and rid ourselves of the vestiges of this age. Together we can support one another through anything. And no matter what, we need to understand that God?s purpose for us is not thwarted by any suffering we encounter:
Phil 1:6 I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Isn?t that a comforting verse? So what is the end goal?
Phil. 1:27 Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel.
Phil 4:5 Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
Represent the grace of God and the love of God. Show mercy and patience. This isn?t a time to ?play? church. The return of Jesus is near. Character matters. This is not a drill. Real lives and real eternities are at stake so we need to take this seriously.
So the three exhortations from Philippians are:
Be willing to be used
If we can get over ourselves and cooperate with God?s agape love flowing into us from the Holy Spirit we can see our lives used in truly astounding ways?even through suffering. Look for the small ways then that you can emulate self-sacrificing, other-centered affection in everything you think, say, and do!