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Sermon - October 25, 2015

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                                           Sermon #1233

October 25, 2015                                                                                            Philippians 4.1-9

Dr. Ed Pettus

 

“Joy in the Lord”

 

This week, Wednesday, October 28, marks the 3rd year that we have been a part of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  One of the blessings of being in the EPC is the lack of disagreement among people in the denomination.  The denomination has a core of beliefs upon which we can agree and that unity has helped the denomination grow, particularly in the recent years as many PCUSA churches have left due to the multiple disagreements within that denomination.  Well, I just want to bring the 3 year anniversary to your attention for Wednesday and perhaps you could lift a prayer of thanksgiving for our particular church and for the denomination as well.  Pray also for the PCUSA. 

 

We know that the church has not been free of disagreements even from the very beginning.  In fact, it is likely that disagreement was one of the reasons the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians.  His plea in 4:2 for Euodia and Syntyche is that they can come to agree in the Lord.  These were women who had worked side by side with Paul and he speaks highly of them.  It is within this context, seeking agreement and to stand firm in the Lord, that Paul gives us the exhortations of verses 4-9 and I want to address those in five points. 

 

  1. Rejoice – Joy in the Lord

 

(4:4) Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

 

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! ~The Message

 

Delight yourselves in God, yes, find your joy in him at all times. ~J.B. Phillips

 

The J.B. Phillips version is one of my favorites – find your joy in God at all times.

 

Rejoice.  Celebrate.  Delight.  Revel.  Find your joy.  We might first associate this line as the people of God worshiping together.  There is something about worship that brings people together in one mind and spirit.  I don't know how many testimonies I've heard about a person going to Korea or Nicaragua and worshiping with the people there and saying, "I didn't understand a single word that was said or spoken, but I knew that we were worshiping the same God.  They were rejoicing!"  I used to always read this verse with the thought of rejoicing in worship whether that is corporate worship or individual worship. 

But I truly love the interpretation that Philips and Peterson give, presenting this command as a way of life by delighting in God or reveling in God.  It reminds me of the word used By Dallas Willard when he talks about being enthralled with God.    Rejoicing always is not about always being happy or always carrying a smile, but it is something that runs deeper in our soul, a joy and delight that is the undercurrent of life.  Even when something terrible happens in life we can find our joy in the Lord because that joy comes from God and dwells deep in the heart. 

I once traced all the uses of the word “delight” in the Bible and I wanted to just share a few of those uses.

            Psalm 1 speaks of the blessed man who delights in the law of the Lord day and night.

            Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

            Psalm 40:8 I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.

            Psalm 119:24 Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.  Psalm 119 is filled with such delight.

            Isaiah 58:2 Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.

            Many more uses of delight are about how the Lord delights in us! 

            I think that Paul intends for us to delight in the Lord and to delight in His word as a way we can rejoice always. 

 

2.  Bearing the Fruit of Reasonableness/Gentleness

 

(4:5) Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.

Other versions us the word “gentle”.  Be gentle.  The Greek term can go either way into English, but gentleness and reasonableness are quite compatible.  Most gentle people are very reasonable and most reasonable people are gentle.  The term means “what is right or fitting”.  What fits a situation?  What is reasonable to do or to say?  And the reason for being this way is because Christ is near.  Because we know that Christ is with us and we know that Christ will come again, we have reason to be gentle and reasonable.  We know the end of the story.  We know how things are going to work out.  We have a truth that not all people know or believe.  So we can “sit back” and rest in the promise, at least in our attitudes or mindset.  Be gentle and reasonable, doing what is right or fitting – because Christ is near. 

We are not always this way.  We insist on our own way or we try to force something on another person or we treat others in ways we would never want to be treated.  Have you ever considered the question that is sometimes asked, how would you want to be remembered?  Gentle and reasonable would not be a bad answer!  Paul encourages us to build a reputation of one who is gentle and reasonable.  Ever run into a person who is unreasonable?  There is nothing you can do with them!  May it never be said of any of us that we were unreasonable.  J

 

3.  Turning Anxiety Into Prayer

 

(4:6) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Pray.  Pray. Pray.  We say it all the time and we should!  Prayer is a vital discipline to the health of any believer and to any church.  Now, I know how anxiety can get the best of us.  I have had my fair share of anxious nights when sleep eluded me and the morning was deeply troubling because of the concerns on my heart.  There is so much to this life that can bring us to anxiety and I’m sure we have also had the experience of taking that anxiety to God in prayer.  That is all that I think Paul urges for us here.  When we are anxious, own up to that anxiety and take it to the Lord in prayer.  Open the heart to pray and make requests and do all of it with a heart of gratitude.  So many times I am thankful for the blessings of this life with family and friends and material well being, but at the same time those are the people and things that bring the anxiety.  We worry about someone’s health or safety.  We are troubled with financial issues or something associated with the good things God has placed in our life.  Own the anxious moments but take them to God.   

 

4.  Putting our Thoughts Together

 

(4:8) Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable‑‑if anything is excellent or praiseworthy‑‑think about such things.

 Think.  How many times do we say something and wish afterward that we had thought about what we wanted to say before we spoke?  Paul calls us to think about good things, to train our minds to consider the positive aspects of life, to look for truth, to think on things that are worthy of praise.  How would such an attitude change our struggles?  Fill the mind with good things and good things will pour out of our lives. 

 

Colossians 3:1-4  If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

 

Set your minds on the things above, heavenly things, things that are lovely and admirable and praiseworthy. 

 

Let me tell you more about what Dallas Willard says about this topic.  How do we help people love what is lovely?  His simple answer is to “place their minds on the lovely thing concerned” (323, TDC).  Place our minds on God and the things of God.  This takes discipline and intentionality and often times, a change of will.  Repentance is in one way changing how we think.  Think about his love, think about his wisdom, think about his character, think about his word, think about his beauty, think on these things, as Paul says it.  We think on these things because we are seeking to have them take root in our thoughts, that we might bear the fruit of righteousness.  We are seeking to establish in our person the love and delight for God that can only lead to joy and rejoicing. 

Thomas Aquinas said love is born of an earnest consideration of the object loved.  Love follows knowledge (TDC, Willard, 323).  If love follows knowledge then to think on these things is to grow to love these things, to love the things of God. 

 

5.  The Peace of God and the God of Peace

 

I want to talk lastly about the two phrases Paul uses in verses 7 and 9, the peace of God and the God of peace.  First of all, isn’t it just a wonderful way to frame this section?  The peace of God will guard your hearts and minds and the God of peace will be with you.  My first imagination is peace standing guard at my heart and mind!  What is being guarded?  Well, I like to think that peace is keeping the bad thoughts out and the good thoughts in.  God is at work helping us to discipline ourselves to think on these things that are praiseworthy. 

It seems to me that when we delight in the Lord, when we develop a reputation of reasonableness, when we pray, and when we think on Godly things, we cannot help but have the peace of God pervading every fiber of our being.  There is no greater peace that God’s peace. 

 

 Rejoice. 

 Be reasonable.

 Pray.

 Think.

 

Let’s listen to J.B. Phillips and his paraphrase of this passage to conclude our time in the word this morning.

 

4-5 Delight yourselves in God, yes, find your joy in him at all times. Have a reputation for gentleness, and never forget the nearness of your Lord.

6-7 Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.

8-9 Here is a last piece of advice. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on the things which are holy and right and pure and beautiful and good. Model your conduct on what you have learned from me, on what I have told you and shown you, and you will find the God of peace will be with you.  ~J.B. Phillips

 

Amen.