This week I want to start a new series of messages based on the Book of Philippians. Over the coming weeks I want to look at one chapter a week and work our way through.
The title of my message today is, “Living wholeheartedly for Christ”. It is inspired by the Apostle Paul’s attitude in chapter one.
Introduction to Philippians
Paul’s Letter to the Philippians was written to the first church that Paul established on European soil. Paul established the church on his second missionary journey in 49AD.
It was in the Roman province of Macedonia. It was written while the Apostle Paul was in prison. On Paul’s first visit to Philippi he was thrown in jail (Acts 16). On his second visit he was thrown in jail again.
The main reason for writing the letter was to thank the Philippian Christians for the gift which they had sent to help him in his time of need. He also uses this letter to reassure them, so that they may have courage and confidence in spite of all his troubles and their own as well.
Paul pleads with the church to have the humble attitude of Jesus, rather than to be controlled by selfish ambition and pride. He reminds them that their life in union with Christ is a gift of God’s grace which they have received through faith, not through obedience to the ceremonies of the Jewish Law.
Some of the other themes of this letter are joy, confidence, unity, and perseverance in the Christian faith and life. It also reveals the deep affection Paul had for the church at Philippi.
Philippians 1:1-30 – This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus. I am writing to all of God’s holy people in Philippi who belong to Christ Jesus, including the elders and deacons. 2 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. 3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4 Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, 5 for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. 6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. 7 So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. 8 God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus. 9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation–the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ–for this will bring much glory and praise to God. 12 And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. 13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. 14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear. 15 It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. 16 They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. 17 Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. 18 But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. 19 For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance. 20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So, I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. 25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. 26 And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what He is doing through me. 27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God Himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for Him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.
Today I want to share four main points as a part of my message. They pretty much follow the structure of chapter one.
1. Paul’s thanksgiving and prayer
The first point comes from verses 3-11. This section is titled, “Paul’s thanksgiving and prayer”. In this section, two main things jumped out at me.
a. Paul’s joy with the Philippians
Verses 3 says, “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God”.
The Philippians give Paul special joy because they have been his partners in the Gospel. They have shared with him from the day they first heard about Christ until the day of writing.
Paul has a real love for the Philippians because they believed in the message of salvation and continued steadfastly in it. They took it so seriously that they partnered in his work – in prayer, encouragement and financially.
b. Paul’s prayer for the Philippians
In verse 9 Paul says, “I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding”.
Paul wanted them to continue to grow in their faith and be blessed by God. He prayed they would have full understanding of the things of God, be pure and blameless in their walk with the Lord and be filled with the fruit of salvation.
Paul really loved the Philippians. He was like a spiritual father to them as he planted the church at Philippi on his second missionary journey in 49AD. This is why he experienced so much joy, prayed for them and wanted the best for them.
Not only did he want them to keep growing, but he assured the Philippians that God would continue to work on them. In verse 6 he said, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
Not only did Paul pray for their continued growth, he knew God wanted them to keep growing and would continue to work on them to see it happened.
2. Paul’s joy that Christ is preached
The second main section is Philippians 1:12-19. The title of this section in the NLT is “Paul’s joy that Christ is preached”.
Verses 12-14 read, “And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear”.
Two things really jumped out at me from these verses.
a. Paul is pleased being in prison
The first is that Paul is glad to be in prison. He tells us that the whole palace guard knows he is there for the Gospel. Paul came in contact with people he would not normally be able to share Christ with. As we see from Acts 16 Paul got to share his faith with the jailer and his family. This is where the jailer asked, “What must we do to be saved?” Paul’s response was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, both you and your family”. Paul was saying that if a father in a household believed it would flow through to all the other family members.
b. Paul’s continued boldness encourages others
The second thing is from verse 14. Paul says that, “Most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear”.
Paul’s boldness despite being in prison gave others courage to continue to talk about Jesus. Acts 16 said they prayed and sang hymns while in chains! Most people in prison would be afraid, worried and downcast. Not Paul, he sang hymns and praised the Lord.
Paul’s boldness to preach the message of Christ landed him in prison. However, this did not stop him and everyone knew why he was there. We see the jailer family of the jailer came to Christ. And the other believers were greatly encouraged in their efforts.
Paul’s commitment to preaching the Gospel inspires me nearly 2000 years later.
3. Paul’s life for Christ
The next point comes from Philippians 1:20-26. It is titled, “Paul’s life for Christ”.
Verses 21-24 explains Paul’s heart. They give us a glimpse of his priorities.
“For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So, I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live”.
For Paul, living was all about Christ. Since his conversion on the road to Damascus, he was all consumed with Christ. He desired earnestly to go and be with Christ, but knew staying here would mean he could continue His work in the world.
Paul knew he could help others come to know Christ, he could plant churches, and he could strengthen the churches he had planted. In short, his mission was to know Christ and make Him known.
Over the years I have known people like this. They have been completely sold out for God’s Kingdom. Their life was hidden in Christ and His will was all they wanted. Some are alive still serving, while some have gone to be with their Lord.
I am so inspired by these three verses and the sold-out Kingdom people I have met over the years. It is something that I aspire to myself. I hope and pray that I can wholeheartedly say, “To live is Christ, to die is gain”. How about you?
4. Live at citizens of heaven
The last section is Philippians 1:27-30. It is titled, “Live as citizens of heaven”.
Verse 27 says, “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News”.
As I have shared before, I like this idea of being a citizen of heaven. As Christians we live in this world, but citizenship is of another place – the Kingdom of Heaven. The moment we asked Jesus Christ into our lives our citizenship status changed.
Paul reminds us in today’s passage to conduct ourselves worthy of being a citizen of heaven. We need to live in a way that shows we no longer belong to this world. We are like an Ambassador who serves in a foreign country as a diplomat. They deal with their host country, build relational bridges and represent the interests of their country in that place. But in reality, their devotion and loyalty is to another place.
Not only does the Ambassador have to serve his country in that place, but they need to represent the country well. All they do reflects on their homeland. We are like this as Christians.
So today let us remember our spiritual passports are stamped as citizens of heaven. Let us remember the words of Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father”.
Today we have looked at the first chapter on Philippians 1. We saw four main things.
1. Paul was thankful for the Philippians and he prayed that they would grow in their faith.
2. Paul was thankful that Christ was being preached. Even though he was in prison.
3. Paul lived his life for Christ. To Paul to live is Christ, to die is gain.
4. Paul asked them to live as citizens of heaven. He wanted them to represent Christ well.