Title: The Beginnings
Series: Philippians (1/20)
Reference: Acts 16

We are beginning a new series this morning through the New Testament book of Philippians.  So over the next several months at least we will be studying through this book together on Sunday mornings.  This morning, however, we start in Acts, chapter 16, because Acts chapter 16 is actually the beginning of Philippians, and that’s also the title of today’s message:  The Beginnings.   We are going to look at pretty much all of Acts 16.   I am not going to ask you to stand while I read a whole chapter, but I do want to point out a few verses, and so with your Bibles open to Acts, chapter 16, and I am going to ask, if you are physically able, why don’t you stand with me in honor and reference for the reading of God’s Holy Word.  The Word of God says in Acts, chapter 16, beginning with verse 6:

“They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the Word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them;  and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.  A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

Father, would you add your blessings upon the proclamation of your Word.  It’s in Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

You can be seated.   I am really excited about this series.  I have been prepping for this series for quite some time.  I just knew God was going to give me the green light on this book, but I didn’t really know when that was going to happen.

Earlier in the year I thought, man, it’s time for Philippians, and then God  spoke to my heart and moved me to preach that series on worship.   I don’t know if you remember that, but I felt once worship was done, then we would start Philippians and I am going to be ready for this, and it’s going to be a great time together in God’s Word, but as we moved through the worship series God just really pressed down on me and I felt like it was the time we had to do the stewardship series.   So throughout the stewardship series I had just been praying and thinking maybe it was time for Philippians, and God has affirmed that, I believe, and I am really excited to be able to walk through this book together as a family of faith.

Philippians is a great book.  It is a little book, but it is a profound theologically rich book.  This book just oozes with what we call coffee cup verses.  Verses that, down through the years, have just meant so much to Christians that we, well, we put them on coffee cups.  Right?  We put them on shirts, and we throw them up on our walls, and we use them for decorative pieces around our homes.  You will find verses like this all over the Bible, but in Philippians, they are just everywhere.

I want to read some of these to you.  Some of these are your favorite verses.  Certainly most of these are verses you have heard before.  Don’t worry about trying to turn and keep up with me, but just listen to these declarations of faith from the book of Philippians.  In Philippians, chapter 1, you have, chapter 1, verse 6, right.  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.  Or what about this one, Philippians chapter 1, verse 21: For to me, to live is Christ but to die is gain.  That is Philippians, chapter 1.

What about Philippians, chapter 2?  Philippians, chapter 2, verse 3 say: Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important, listen to this, feel the weight of that, regard one another as more important, not regard one another as the same, not regarding one another as equal, as equal brothers and sisters in Christ but, no no, listen, regard one another as more important than yourself.  That is Philippians chapter 2, verse 3.

Also in Philippians, chapter 2, that we have this great picture of Christ, and Paul says in Philippians 2 that although he existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but he emptied himself taking on the form of a bondservant and being made in the likeness of men and he becomes obedient even to the point of deathPhilippians 2 goes on to teach us that because Jesus willingly steps into that role, Jesus has a high exalted position but he says this is not worth holding onto.  For the good of other people he steps down and because of that act of humiliation God exalts him.  Listen to this verse in Philippians, chapter 2, that at the name of Jesus 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.

We come to chapter three and you could just put the whole chapter in here, I mean the whole chapter is great.  Chapter three, verse 8, Paul says more, I count all things to be a loss, the Greek there is dong, right?  Use your imagination; I count all things to be dung, right.  In view of the value of knowing Christ Jesus my LordI count all, and he was like talking about good things, noble things, honorable things, and he said it is nothing, none of it means anything in comparison to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  Then down in the same chapter 3, verse 10, Paul makes that great confession where he says:  Look, my highest aim, my greatest ambition is just to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the suffering of his death.

One of my favorite verses is chapter 3, verse 13, Paul says one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind, reaching forward to what lies ahead I press onward towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

You say, what about chapter 4.  Are there any powerful things in chapter four?  Well, chapter 4, verse 4, reads: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!   Chapter 4, verse 6:  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the very next verse, chapter 4, verse 7:  And the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, will guard your heart, the way you feel and your mind, the way you think, in Christ Jesus.  We can’t forget about chapter 4, verse 13:  I can do all things through Him, through Christ, who strengthens me.  All of these verses, all of these verses are found in one book, the book of Philippians.  And over the next few months together we are going to glean truth from all of these verses and more.  But before we do, I think there is so value in just looking at the beginning.

The beginning of Philippians starts in Acts 16 with this spunky missionary/church planter named Paul.  He had two sidekicks named Silas and Timothy.  If you are taking notes this morning I just want to share with you three observations that will open up the cover for how this church in Philippi gets its start.

Notice number one, the restraint of the Holy Spirit, a restraint of the Holy Spirit.  Verses 6 and 7, speaking of Paul and his companions, they pass through the Phrygian and Galatian region, look at this, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit, prevented by the Holy Spirit, to speak the Word in Asia.

They want to go to Asia, they want to preach the gospel in Asia.  The Holy Spirit forbids them.  And after this they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia.  But look at this, the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.  I have no clue if I am saying that right or not, but don’t miss the point.  Verse 6, they want to go this way, they are forbidden by the Holy Spirit to go that way and preach the gospel.  And they think well maybe we will go this other way, verse 7, and preach the gospel and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.

It sounds crazy, right?   Why permit them to preach the gospel?  Why permit them to go into this other city and try to plant a church and bring people to faith and build up the body of Christ and we don’t know how that happened, we just know what the narrative is telling us.  God didn’t let them.  We don’t know how that, in my mind I am thinking, how did that flesh out?  Was there a closed door?  Was there a lack of finances?  Was there just an uneasy feeling in their gut?  Did somebody get sick and plans have to change because this road was going to be easier to travel on?

We don’t know what that looked like but, of course, we have the completed counsel of God’s Word, so we can step back and we can see God told them “no” here so he could say “yeah” over here.  He told them “no” to these other places because God wanted the gospel in Macedonia, and guess what is the leading city in the region of Macedonia.  What do you think?   Lift your voices on three and tell me – one, two, three – just guess.  What is the leading city in Macedonia?  We are studying Philippians.  Alright, tell me – one, two, three … Philippi.  Right.  Philippi, the leading city in Macedonia.

Isn’t it interesting that this church in Philippi can trace its beginnings all the way back to Paul and a couple of his companions who were sensitive enough to hear the Spirit say not “go”, but “no”.  Sensitive enough to have plans, planning to go this way, they want to go this way, they made all the provisions to go this way, but they hear the Spirit say through whatever circumstances, maybe through outward circumstances, maybe an inward power, maybe an inward feeling, they just sense the Spirit saying don’t go that way.   You want to go there, you planned to go there, you have got all the provisions to go there but I am telling you, don’t go that way.  And so they stopped.

Psalm 37 in verse 23 says, listen to this, Psalm 37, verse 23 says:   The steps of a man are established by the Lord, – do you believe that?  The steps of a man are established by the Lord.  I believe that, I believe God directs our steps.  I believe God puts us on certain paths in life.   I believe God causes our paths to cross with very particular people in life, for very particular reasons that only he knows in his sovereignty.  The steps of a man are established by the Lord.  That is true, but I want to tell you, the stops of a man are also established by the Lord.  We have got – listen to me, beloved – look at me, look at me right here.  We have got to be careful, we have got to be sensitive, not with just the “go” of the Spirit, but to the “no” of the Spirit.   The Spirit is not, it is not always full steam ahead, like guns ablazing going this way with the Spirit.  The Spirit is not just leading us, the Spirit could be stopping us and we have got to be sensitive to that.  We don’t want to just listen for the go, but we want to also listen for the no of the Spirit.   The reality is, just like with Paul and his companions here, sometimes the Spirit may be calling you to back away, calling you to turn the course, maybe to go a different way altogether.  The Spirit leads us and the Spirit can also stop us.  The restraint of the Holy Spirit.

Let me ask you a question.  Is the Holy Spirit restraining you?   Maybe through outward circumstances.  Maybe through some inward impulse.  Has the Holy Spirit closed the door in your face?  Has the Holy Spirit closed a ministry in your life?  Maybe the better question to think about is – is the Spirit trying to change your course?  Is the Spirit trying to change your direction?   You felt this was the right way, you felt this was the way to go, this was what God wanted you to do.  This is the direction I am going, but the Holy Spirit, through whatever circumstances (external, internal), the Spirit speaks and presses on  your heart and says no, that’s not the direction, that’s not the way to go.

So number one, the restraint of the Holy Spirit, God says “no” in verses 6 and 7, but as is so often in our lives when God closes one door, what does he do?  He opens another door.

So number two, the release of the Holy Spirit.  Now look at this, Paul, I just feel like, maybe I should point out that they didn’t get to go until they answered the no.   Right?  They didn’t get to go until they answered the no.  So it was not like they obeyed and they knew everything that God was going to call them to.  That’s not the way it worked.  They just obeyed.   In the day, in the moment, in the direction of the Spirt, they just obeyed, and because they obeyed God revealed more of his will to them, and they were able to go.  The release of the Holy Spirit.

Look at verse 9.  A vision appeared to Paul in the night…  So they said no over here, they are not rushing ahead.  You want to get yourself in real trouble, real fast, run ahead of God.  Right?  Get ahead of God in your life.  So they heard no, they listened to the no, they stopped and they were just waiting on God and a vision appeared to Paul in the night, a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him and was saying come over to Macedonia and help us.  And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia.  What a great example by Paul here.  He listened when the Spirit said no, he listened when the Spirit said go.  Both commands are important, right?  Listen, if he doesn’t obey both commands, Macedonia doesn’t get the gospel.  Philippi doesn’t get the gospel.  We don’t get Philippians.  If he doesn’t obey both commands, the “no” and the “go” work together so that others can be reached in the gospel.  The “no” of verses 6 and 7 is to open up the doorway of the “go” in verses 9 and 10.

I love this image.  I got to tell you, I love this image in the dream.  A Macedonian man standing, look at this, appealing to him, begging him, pleading with him, and he is saying, come over to Macedonia and help us.

Listen, do you see God’s vision for the city?   Do you see the people standing and saying help us?  Can you see that?  Can you see past the external, the appearance of people, the image that we are in Johnson County, we’ve got everything we need, we have need of nothing, can you see past the appearance of the external, and see the people standing and appealing, please help us.   Do you see that the spiritually blind?  Do you see those whose hearts are darkened because they are apart from the knowledge of God, separated from the people of God?  Do you see the struggle of everyday life, everyday people just trying anything, something to matter …   They don’t want to be just another number.  They don’t  want to be another number in a big city, and they run to this, and they run to that, trying to find some kind of satisfaction, some kind of … do we hear the cry for help?

Do you hear those cries?   Can you see those cries when you drive around and you see so many people.   Here is the reality whether our eyes are open to it or not.  All around us, all around you every day, you just think about your life and where you go Monday through Friday everyday.  Here’s the truth.   Everywhere around you people are living far from Christ and people are dying without Christ.   Maybe physically dying, but definitely in the process of dying, and we cannot, we cannot as a church say that we affirm the truth of Scripture and not have a deep desire in our heart to do something to reach people.  God forgive us for being more occupied with our own comfort than your mission to reach others with the good news of the gospel.

The restraint of the Spirit, the release of the Spirit, then look at this, man I love this (this is getting good now).  The results.  Look at this, the results of the Spirit.

When we are sensitive enough to the Spirit to say whoa, hold on, just stop.  We had a plan, we had an agenda, but God’s got another plan and then in time God brings that plan and then they follow that plan, they get on board with what God is doing, one of the results of the Spirit is this church that gets going in Philippi.

Look at how this church gets started. We don’t have all the details, but the narrative will point out three charter members, alright.  Three charter members of the church in Philippi and so who was it.  The first is a business woman named Lydia.  Right, a business woman named Lydia.

Look at verse 13.  So Paul arrived in Philippi, as his testimony he tries to go to the synagogue first, he has a captive audience there, but there is no synagogue there.   In Jewish communities, I think it was like ten men, nine or ten men had to be there to form a synagogue.  If there were not nine or ten Jewish men, then the people would meet down by the river to pray.

Have you ever heard a song about that?   That is a historical setting in that song, go down to the river, that was the meeting place, they would go by the river and they would pray, they would read the Torah, the Law, and talk about all that stuff and so listen to this.  On the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer.  We sat down and began speaking to the women…  The women who had assembled, this was like a ladies Bible study going on.   Verse 14, A woman named Lydia from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabric, a worshiper of God, was listening and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul and when she and her household had been baptized, she urged them to stay… 

The first convert in Philippi.  I love this, this is so good.  The first member of the church in Philippi was a business woman named Lydia.  So verse 14 tells us that she is from the city of Thyatira, but she has a house in Philippi.  Now I don’t know, you don’t have to flip back to your maps but if you just look back at your maps and you think, you find Philippi and you find Thyatira, they are separated by a sea, the Aegean Sea.   Ok, how many people, I don’t know, I am just gonna to go out on a limb here and say…we have business woman here who has a house in both Philippi and Thyatira.   I am going to guess that not just anybody had two houses during this time, so what do we know about her.  We know she is pretty successful in her business.

What else do we know?  Well verse 14 says that she is a seller of purple fabrics.  Purple was the color of royalty.   So now we kind of make the connection here.  We have a business woman who sells royal clothing, we know she owns at least two homes, it just seems like Lydia is doing pretty well for herself.

Verse 14 also tells us that she is a worshipper of God.  That doesn’t mean she is saved, she is going to get saved before the narrative is over, but that was simply a way of saying here’s a Gentile over here who is not buying into the whole paganism thing.  She does not believe in multiple gods.  She believes, and again we don’t know, we don’t have all the information, but for whatever reason she is intrigued in the God of the Jews.  She is curious about this God,and so apparently when she is in Philippi she goes down by the river, she joins this ladies’ Bible study that is going on and in walks Paul!

Can you just imagine this!  Imagine Paul walking into your Bible study.   How awesome would that be.  The ladies are gathering around the river, talking about the Torah, talking about the law, they are praying, they are talking about what they are reading and saying well, I think you  need to do this, try this, go over here and see this doctor (you know how it is in Sunday school).  In steps Paul, and it’s like he hits pause on the DVD and he  connects all the dots for them.  He says now look ladies, God, yes, God does have a law.  You are right, he does have a law.  And like everybody else, you have probably done pretty well on keeping some of those commandments, but like everybody else, there are some of those commandments where you have really dropped the ball.  But here’s the deal, listen.  God doesn’t give the law for this chart, this checklist, for you to attain righteousness.  He doesn’t give the law to remove sin, he gives the law to reveal sin, and that whole thing about atonement, yeah, listen, God sent his son, Jesus, to be the perfect and lasting atonement for all of our sins.

Can you imagine how that went down!  The ladies are gathered there having their Bible study, Paul steps in, he connects the dots, everything begins to click and the Bible says that the Lord opened her heart to respond.  She gets saved, she gets baptized, and her whole house gets baptized.  Pretty good start to the church, right?

The second person could not be any more different.  The second person, I mean if you want to imagine two people having a hard time getting along, here you go.  Lydia is the first person in the church.  Who is the second person in the church.  Who is the second voting person in the church, right?   Well, it is a demon possessed slave girl.  How crazy is that!

Look what happened.  Verse 16.   So Lydia is saved, her household is saved, and look at verse 16.  It happened that as we were going to the place of  prayer, going back for more Bible study, a slave girl having a spirit of divination meets us who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune tellingFollowing after Paul and us, she kept crying out saying:  These men are bondservants of the most high God who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.  She continued doing this for many days.  But Paul was…  This is my verse as a pastor, that it is okay to be greatly annoyed because Paul was.  Right.  Paul was greatly annoyed and turned and said to the spirits:  I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her and it came out at that very moment.

This is like the complete opposite of Lydia.  Lydia is Asian, the slave girl is Greek.  Lydia is a person who is in control, she is her own CEO, she owns her own business, she is very successful.  The slave girl has lived a life controlled by another.  She has been exploited, she has been enslaved.   Lydia, she is seeking after God’s truth.  She is interested in spiritual things.  She is going to the Bible study, she is wanting to learn more about this Jehovah God.  The slave girl knows nothing.  She is not looking for anything.  Although her confession is true, although what she was saying was true, it was being said in a way that was disruptive to the ministry, it was a hindrance to the furtherance of the gospel, and so Paul turns to her, and again, in a completely different way…  Think about how Lydia came to faith?  Lydia comes to faith because Paul sits down and begins to reason with her.  He begins to connect the dots of scripture and Lydia says oh that makes perfect sense and she commits her life to Christ.  The slave girl, she knows nothing, and Paul just turns to her and he said, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her and then in an instant, in a moment of Holy Spirit power this girl’s life is completely changed.

This is the church.  This is the church of Philippi.  Two very different women.  Two very different experiences, two very different stories of how they come to Christ.  Everything is different, but then God brings these two together.

And then look at number three.  You think alright, there is a third person in the church, now we will have somebody to break up the vote.  This guy, this guy is so different.  He is different than Lydia, he is different than the slave girl.  Number three is a jailer and his family.  

Let’s just read this narrative here: Beginning with verse 19: So when the masters saw that their hope of profit was gone they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities, and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates and said these men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews and are proclaiming customs which are not lawful for us to accept or to observe being Romans.  And the crowd rose up together against them and the chief magistrates tore their robes off and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods.  When they had struck them with many blows they threw them into the prison commanding the jailer to guard them securely and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet into stocks.   But about midnight, Paul and Silas, what are they doing.  They are praying and singing hymns of praise to God and the prisoners were listening to them.  And suddenly there came a great earthquake so that the foundations of the prison house was shaken…  Hey, you want to talk about jail house rock, this was jail house rock before the Elvis guy was anywhere on the scene.

Verse 26 says all the doors were opened, everyone’s chains become unfastened, the jailer awoke and he saw the prison door opened and he drew his sword, and was about to kill himself… 

This is a man of duty.  This is a man of honor.  This is a man who is going to do the job and he is going to do it right or he is going to die trying.  And this guy knows when you are put in charge of a prisoner in Rome, if the prisoner escapes, you get his sentence.  This guy knows it is the end for him, s o he pulls his sword and he is about to kill himself, the Bible says, supposing that the prisoners had escaped, but Paul cried out with a loud voice saying do not harm yourself for we are all here.  He calls for a light, he rushed in, trembling with fear, fell down before Paul and Silas and after he brought them out he said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

Paul and Silas have got to be looking at each other saying can you believe this!  They said, verse 31, …believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.  And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house, and he took them that very hour of the night and he washed their wounds and immediately he was baptized and all of his household and he brought them into his house and he sat food before them and he rejoiced greatly having believed in God with his whole household. 

This guy is so different.  His story is so different.  He is a jailer.  What do you think?  Is a jailer is soft around the edges or rough around the edges?  Probably pretty rough.  He’s probably a pretty tough guy.  Probably like an ex-military kind of guy.   He is so very different than Lydia.  He is not a CEO.  He doesn’t walk around in a suit, and he doesn’t want to walk around in a suit.  He doesn’t have a lot of money, and probably doesn’t want a lot of money.  He doesn’t have houses across the sea, and he is fine with that.  He is fine with where he is, he just wants to go to work and do a good job.  He sure doesn’t want to get together and talk about the law of God!  That’s jus who he is.

He is not like Lydia.  Is he like the slave girl?  Not at all!  I mean this guy, listen, this guy, he is under authority, but he’s not going to take orders from just anybody.  He is not that kind of guy either

The slave girl is exploited.  She is a slave.  She is controlled by another, but this guy has a measure of authority.  He has a measure of say about where I am going to go and what I am going to do.  I mean this guy is just really different from anybody we have seen so far.  He is like the blue collar worker who just got out of the military.  He wants to go to work, work hard, and then he just wants to go home and watch the Cincinnati Reds game.

That’s all he wants to do, and yet, I mean God gets this guy.  And how did he get him, how did he come to faith?  Well, it wasn’t through reasoning with the scriptures.  It wasn’t through sitting down with a Bible and connecting some dots.  Also, it wasn’t through one instant change.  It wasn’t through one great display of God’s power and everything changes.  How does he come to faith?  Ultimately, it was through the example of Paul and Silas.  Men he had [beat, beat, beat] beaten with rods.  Men that he had taken down to the inner jail and he had fastened them, he had put them in stocks and those same men, those same men that he mistreated, the same men that he abused, when they had a chance to run away from everything and be free, they stayed.  And that was an example that so shook this man to his core, that he comes running to them and he says what every pastor just like dies to hear: what must I do to be saved?

This is the beginning of the church at Philippi.  And only God can do this.  Only God, I mean think about it, only God … think about this … oh my goodness!  Only God can bring together like a top CEO business woman, in charge, running the business, and a formally demon possessed slave girl, no education, no history, all of her history and religion is the wrong history.  Right?  And then you add to the mix this rough around the edges, tough, duty-bound jailer guy.  Only God brings them together.  There is no way Lydia and the slave girl are going to watch a movie together.  That’s not going to happen.  There is no way the jailer is going to go have coffee with Lydia.  It is just not going to happen unless God does something in their hearts, and that is what he does.  Only God can do this.

God brings these people together, these diverse people, these very different people.  He brings them together, not on the basis of race, occupation, wealth, likes, dislikes, or anything else.  God brings them together on the basis of grace.  At the foot of the cross we are all the same.  We all come to Jesus the same way, and the thing they rally behind is the gospel.  It’s the gospel.  It’s not the race, it is not the wealth, it is not the likes, it’s the gospel.  It’s the good news of what God has done in Jesus Christ to make us free of our sin.

The church at Philippi, from the very beginning, this is what I want you to see, from the very beginning, was a very different and diverse church.  And as you read through Philippians, let’s flip over to Philippians 1 now.  As you go through Philippians you are going to sense two things.  Number one, you are going to sense Paul’s deep affection for these people.  We will see that just within the coming weeks, but throughout the whole letter you are also going to sense that not all is well in Philippi.  Not everyone is getting along in Philippi, and so you see a hint of that in every chapter of the book.

Let me show you this.  Just follow along with me, and so chapter 1, verse 27, you have this command: conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.  That just reeks of childish behavior, doesn’t it.  And the Apostle Paul stands up and he said: conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you, now look at this, that you are standing firm in what in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel.  Do you see for the call for unity there?

You go to chapter to chapter 2, beginning in verse 1: if there is any encouragement in Christ … Is there any encouragement in Christ?  Somebody tell me, lift your voice and tell me, is there encouragement in Christ?  Yes!  Is there any consolation of love?  Are we consoled through the love of Christ?   Tell me.  Yes.  Is there any fellowship of the Spirit Do we have any fellowship with one another because of the same Spirit that indwells all of us?  Come on, tell me.   Yes, of course, any affection, any compassion, if there is any of that in Christ make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

Still in chapter 2, look at verse 14.  Do all things without grumbling or disputing so that you will prove yourself to be blameless and innocent children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse world.  How will the world know that we are the disciples of Christ?  Do all things without grumbling or disputing.  He is talking to the church.  In the church do all things without grumbling or disputing so that we will prove ourselves to be blameless and innocent children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

Come to chapter 3, beware of the dogs.  Beware of the evil workers.  We will get to them.  We will explain who that is, but look, not everybody is on board with God.  You know that, right.  You guys have probably been in church long enough to know not everybody wants to get on the gospel train.  Alright.  Paul says beware.  Beware of the false circumcisions.

You get to chapter four, I love this, chapter 4, verse 2.  I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord and then he says, Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women…

Can you imagine that?  Oh my goodness, can you imagine being in a church and getting a letter from Paul!  Everybody is all giddy, oh, Paul has finally wrote us, yeah, we love Paul, we can’t wait to hear from Paul, what’s Paul going to say, and then he gets through the letter and he is like I urge Euodia and Syntyche to get on the same page for crying out loud.  And then everybody is like, opps!  (laughter)

I mean, this is in a church, this is in a church!   I am just shocked.  That just doesn’t cut it today, does it.  But maybe we need to do something like that.  I wonder if that would help, if I just started calling out names.  All the trouble makers, all the gripper, complainers, criticizers, belly-achers…  I am going to read a list here, and if I call your name, I want you to stand up.  Alright, here we go…   I am not going to do that.  (laughter)  I am not going to do that, but if I did, would your name be on that list?

It is just all throughout the letter, such a diverse and different group, all throughout the letter you hear this call.  You got to work together.  You got to work together for the gospel.  It is the gospel that we have been entrusted to share, equipped to defend, emboldened to speak, and we have got to work together for the gospel.

And likewise, we, Vista Baptist Church, we are a diverse and different group of people.  We come from different backgrounds, we have different experiences, we came to Christ in very different ways, we have different passions, different gifts, different abilities, different calls of God.  But God has called us, and God expects us to work together for the gospel.

Let me tell you what is at stake.  The stakes are high.  It is not the unity of the church.  It is not the testimony of the church.  It is not the witness of the church.  It is not even the church itself.  Those are all a part of it, but the stakes are higher than that.  The stakes are the gospel.  The gospel of Jesus Christ.  How we conduct ourselves within these four walls is a testimony for the gospel.  I don’t think anyone wants to stand before Jesus and make the argument that my preference is greater than your cost.  You want to do that?  Anybody want to do that?  Anybody want to stand before Jesus and say this thing that I like is more important than the thing you died for.  Nobody wants to do that.  Nobody wants to do that, which is why we gladly bend the knee under the Lordship of Jesus Christ because that is what disciples do.  We lay everything down because we realize that nothing, nothing matters like the gospel matters.

Let me pray for us:

Father, deep down in our hearts this is our affirmation.  I don’t doubt that Father, this is our confession, I don’t question that.  Nothing matters like the gospel matters, we know that, we believe that, we stand by that, it is so easy to affirm that, amen that, but Father, the truth is we have a very real tendency to be selfish and stubborn people who only think about what is best for self.  That’s just the truth Father.  That’s just who we are and who we remain unless you by your grace change us.  And I know you are in the process of doing that. 

So Father, forgive us for where we have done that and give us much grace to seek forgiveness for where in our selfishness and sin we have hurt others, and give us much grace to extend forgiveness to those who have hurt us.  Keep us reminded Father that no one has been offended more and yet given more than you.  Help us to follow your example. 

Father this is your church.  More than it belongs to anyone else, this is your church.  This church belongs to you and in your wisdom, just like the church in Philippi, you have brought together a very different and diverse group of men and women.  God, I pray that you will help us to work together, to serve together, to labor together to make a Kingdom difference in this city that we call home.  Father, work in our hearts to this end, for we ask it according to the strong name of Jesus.  Amen.

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