Thursday, April 30, 2009

CONTENTMENT (pt 1)
...learning to live in the sufficiency of Christ

An exposition of Phil. 4:1-9.
Phil. 4:1 ¶ Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
Phil. 4:2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.
Phil. 4:3 Indeed, true comrade, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Phil. 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
Phil. 4:5 Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
Phil. 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Phil. 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Phil. 4:8 ¶ Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.
Phil. 4:9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you. (NASB)


1. Stand firm in the Lord (v.1)

Phil. 4:1 THEREFORE, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.

Defection can catch us all off guard especially when panic sets in. Paul is communicating his great love for these believers in Philippi to keep on for the Lord. He was longing to see them whom he calls "my joy and crown." He affectionately addresses them in light of Christ’s return and being citizens of heaven (3:20-21); even in light of those who had apostatized and were enemies of the cross "whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things" (3:19); the Apostle lovingly admonishes them to “stand firm in the Lord.”

This is what the Reformers refer to as the “perseverance of the saints.” Because we have been preserved in Christ, we may with confidence persevere for Christ. In Phil. 1:27, Paul states this same truth,
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”
This striving and endurance was evidenced by a “manner of life… worthy of the gospel of Christ” and “for the faith of the gospel.” If all Christians are under the influence of the gospel, then there would be fruit that would distinguish us from others. How we dress, what we say, our values, the temperment of our homes, and places of employ, etc. - we illustrate to an unregenerate world that we are "new creatures" in the pedestrian things of living. Paul brings this home by practically pointing to an area of difficulty for us all - genuine Christian unity, service, and fellowship. He says, the manner of life lived worthy of the gospel will manifest itself "in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side" with other believers.

This is active citizenship in the City of God. It is the energy of the Christian faith producing faithful individuals keeping on (as D. M. Lloyd Jones would say) for the sake of the gospel. It is very important that Christians should frame their lives by what the Puritans would call, "the rules of the gospel." And, to this end, we should study them, and know what they are.

Notice his admonishment is concluded with the same affection he begins this verse – “my beloved.” This is the heart of a true pastor; a genuine Christian—saying without fail the necessary admonition, but tempered with great charity of heart. Paul is writing this epistle from prison. He is in the midst of suffering for Christ Jesus as an “ambassador in chains.” Even his reputation and authority as an Apostle was being maligned in Philippi (1 Thess. 2:1-3). But he was not preoccupied with his own physical suffering or the destruction of his reputation, but only for their firm continual standing in the Lord.

Oh for men of God like that today to shepherd our churches and keep watch over our souls (Heb. 13:7, 17).

2. Live in harmony (v.2)
4:2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.

Euodia means “prosperous journey” and Syntyche means “pleasant acquaintance.” These two women had names to promote unity and victory in the faith, but instead, they were in conflict. So much so that the Apostle uses strong language “I urge you…” also translated, "I plead with" or "beseech you." He is literally begging them in this strong word of encouragement to settle their differences and live in “the same mind” with one another.

Little is known about these women. But surely they must have had some position of visible authority or service within the church (possibly as deaconesses) that because of their dispute could do considerable damage within the church. Paul reminds them of the true foundation of Christian union - “harmony in the Lord.” Contentment in Christian fellowship should not be tainted by envy, jealously, undo friction, contentiousness or strife; and firmly rooted "in the Lord.” Servanthood governed by humility, in considering others more esteemed than oursleves, is the antidote for that which could disrupt genuine Christian fellowship and cause reproach in the body of Christ.

3. Keep eternity in view (v.3)
4:3 Indeed, true comrade, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Paul uses one of my favorite terms in all of Scripture – “faithful yokefellow” (Geneva, KJV); here stated as "true companion." The Greek suggests one whom Paul had great trust, affection and common bond in the ministry. It has been translated also as companion and partner as well. When Dr. MacArthur's study bible was first released, he signed my copy "to a true yokefellow..." It brought tears to my eyes for I knew how undeserving I was and from where he was quoting. Yokefellow (yoked-together) is a rich term for it denotes an intimate partnership “in the cause of the gospel.” Can you think of "yokefellows" in your life; in your service to the Lord? I have been blessed with some great brothers to serve with in the ministry. I can honestly say, there is no greater depth of friendship I have ever known save with those whom I have labored with for the cause of Christ.

Paul doesn’t identify who this person is and to speculate would be foolish. But we do know this, he placed great confidence in this individual to “help these women” who also shared his struggle in the cause of the gospel. He entreated upon this one to help reconcile them in Christ--to mend the breach and cease the clashing. We are not immune from conflict even in the ministry are we? Sometimes great discord can come upon those mighty and mature in the faith such as with Paul and Barnabas (read Acts 15:37-39). Barnabas had invested heavily with the Apostle Paul in his early years in Christ defending him before the other apostles (Acts 9:27). But they parted company over the cowardice of John Mark and this dispute between them was so sharp and profound it could have ripped the church in two. Barnabas now had the daunting task of discipling John Mark. He must have done well, for at the end of Paul's life, he told Timothy "...pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service" (2 Tim. 4:11b).

Paul (now resembling Barnabas) is urging reconciliation between Euodia and Syntyche because of eternity - “whose names are in the book of life.” This is good and practical wisdom. When we see other believers as those with whom we will spend eternity, then we will work to settle whatever differences there may be, though it may be painful and take some time. Grace in the end will prevail beloved, for “behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

4. Rejoice Always in Christ (v.4)
4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

The Greek word for rejoice (chairete) was a familiar greeting in the early church. It carried the meaning of “the confidence God is in control.” That is the source of all our joy and rejoicing--God Himself. Suffering people especially need to know and be reminded that God is sovereign even over their trials. So when they greeted one another by saying “chairete”, they were reminded that the source of their rejoicing was not their sufferings, persecutions, trials—their environment--but the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. As the old saying goes, "our Christian life is not determined by environment, but by relationship."

This verse explodes with praise to the Lord in all things. “Rejoice in the Lord!” The well is deep for the adoration we have in Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and the promise of eternal in Him. He is our joy, our salvation, our life, our peace and our hope. We are complete in Him; He is all sufficient, all we need, lacking nothing.

And as if it were not enough, Paul invites them again to do so by saying, “again I will say, rejoice.” This is not a suggestion for happy living. It is the call for constant joy in the Lord. “For me to live is Christ…” - there is our joy. “And to die, gain” - there is our blessed hope. When Christ is our joy in our living; He will be our hope in our dying.

Oh beloved may we find our joy and rejoicing not in the transitory things of this world, but in the Lord. He is our contentment… amen?
"O Christian, never be proud of things that are so transient, injurious, and uncertain as the riches of this evil world! But set your heart on the true and durable riches of grace in Christ Jesus." -ISAAC AMBROSE

 this has been an encore presentation

7 comments:

Des said...

"Oh beloved may we find our joy and rejoicing not in the transitory things of this world, but in the Lord. He is our contentment… amen?"

AMEN!

donsands said...

"with one spirit, with one mind striving side by side" with other believers.

Very encouraging. I need to hear this truth more and more.
It's so difficult to serve the Lord with others who are contentious and even resent things that are happening in the church.

To have the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is what I long for.

littlegal_66 said...

AMEN.

Thanks a million for this. Looking forward to Part 2.

(And I hope it comes sooner than part 2 on the contentment topic over on my blogspot.....I wrote Part 1 way back in June & regrettably, I haven't been able to proceed with the second and third parts as yet. But there is such a need for this topic to be continually addressed in the blogosphere, so thank you again).

gigantor1231 said...

I am all for unity of the body of Christ, I can think of no sweeter times spent on this earth than those times of fellowship I have had with my brothers and sisters in Christ, times spent talking about the word of Christ no matter what the topic.
Not to quench things here, I do have a question that I think needs to be asked with regards to this word unity, oneness of spirit.
Should we be willing to sacrifice the truth in order to have unity. I do not speak of non essential truth being sacrificed for the sake of unity but the sacrifice of the central beliefs of our faith. Should we be willing to sacrifice the virgin birth for unity, how about the preeminence and the innerancy of the word of God. Should things like these be sacrificed for the sake of unity? I have heard things said like; "doctrine is not so important that we should focus on it at the expense of unity. So, do we trade essential truths of the word for unity?

4given said...

The hymn by Elizabeth Prentiss includes the words:

Once earthly joys I craved, sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek; give what is best:
This all my prayer shall be,
More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Let sorrow do its work, send grief or pain;
Sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain,
When they can sing with me,
More love, O Christ to Thee,
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Then shall my latest breath whisper Thy praise;
This be the parting cry my heart shall raise,
This still its prayer shall be,
More love, O Christ to Thee,
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!


What is best is sometimes immensely painful... but truly brings us more attentively to God's school where we learn more deeply of His abounding and sufficient grace, where we are drawn ever closer to Him as we depend on His strength alone.

Surrendering to the perfect will of our Father is where true freedom lies. It is that restful contentment no matter the affliction; that confidence in His sufficency as we earnestly, out of love and a longing to honor Him, strive to live by the rules of the Gospel.

That is often sadly misdefined as legalistic... it is only legalistic if we try to thrust God's standards for our lives on unbelievers or do these things outwardly on our own efforts and not for His glory... or if we have a licentious attitude about sin as we mock the cross and miss the mark on what defines true freedom.

cyd said...

Dear gigantor1231:

We live in a strange time, don't we? Everyone claims to be a Christian, and therefore true believers are bombarded with demands of compromise for the sake of "unity" with everyone.

Ephesians 4:1 - 16 talks about true unity; especially vs.13. Unity is possible only when built on the foundation of solid doctrine, which the Holy Spirit teaches us. (1Cor. 2:10 – 16).

Bottom line:
No. We do not deny the Word for the sake of anyone or anything.
John 1:1-14; Jn 17:17; Col.3:16; 2 Tim.2:15, 24, 25

One more thought...

I love what John MacArthur says
regarding the Virgin Birth:

"The importance of the Virgin Birth cannot be overstated. A right view of the Incarnation hinges on the truth that Jesus was virgin-born. Both Luke and Matthew expressly state that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived. (Mt.1:23 - Matthew uses the unambiguous Greek term for "virgin").
The Holy Spirit wrought the conception through supernatural means (Lk 1:35; Mt 1:18).
The nature of Christ's conception testifies of both His deity and sinlessness."

We serve an Awesome God Whose Word is perfect. Therefore we stand firm!


Cindy

PS: I truly appreciate your solid expository teaching here, Steve!

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