Sermon text:Bruce finished his series on Philippians today, concluding by summarizing the entire book and reviewing the main points covered in his sermons over the past months. (Where I took notes on his sermons, I will linke to them.) He reminded us that Philippians was one of Paul's prison epistles, written while under house arrest in Rome, and that it is one of Paul's most personal letters, and certainly his most affectionate. Most of all, the letter is deeply saturated with the person and work of Jesus Christ: out of the 104 verses in the book, 51 of them mention our Lord.
The book of Philippians, all 104 verses.
Bruce's outline roughly followed the contours of the book's chapters. For each chapter, he proposed a theme and a life response.
Chapter 1—An Essential Perspective: Difficulty is common in the spiritual life. We must keep centered on our lives with Christ (v. 6). Bruce brought up the example of climbing a telephone pole for repairs: it's easy, as long as one leans back into the belt instead of trying to climb with one's own arms. Likewise, we can only succeed when we lean into Christ. Here, Paul introduces the theme that carries the rest of the book. As Bruce put it, "Keep the main thing the main thing," and the main thing is the gospel (see vv. 5, 7, 12, 16, and 27).
Chapter 2—An Essential Mindset: Humility in serving is integral to the spiritual life. We must live distinctively as children of God. This chapter is a lengthy call to selflessness. We are given a perfect picture: Christ has modeled the right attitude for us (compare Mark 10:45). Just as importantly, the selflessness and humility we are called to are not things we muster up ourselves but something God accomplishes in us. Paul then supplies two more examples: Timothy (vv. 19-24) and Epaphroditus (vv. 25-30). "Selfishness," Bruce said, "will sap the life of an individual. Selfishness will sap the life of a church."
Chapter 3—An Essential Dependence: Reliance on the flesh submarines the spiritual life. We must press on to daily dependence on Christ. Relying on the flesh for our relationship with God will lead us to total failure. All our good works are simply "rubbish"—the Greek word σκυβάλον, which Bruce translated as "stinky crap." We cannot coast, but must press on and focus forward, regularly asking, "Have I settled?" and "Do I live in the past?" We should remember that our citizenship is heaven, not here on earth. The only permanent things in this world are people and the word of God. Thus, we should daily ask, "How can I advance the gospel?" remembering that our strength is in Christ alone.
Chapter 4—Essential Living: Maintaining right choices is vital to the spiritual life. We must choose wisely. Here, Bruce reminded us of the five ways in which Philippians calls us to choose wisely:
- Defuse disharmony (vv. 2-3): We must rejoice in the Lord (v. 4), relying on gospel truth. When we do, everything else diminishes in importance by contrast with the hugeness of the gospel.
- Choose prayer over anxiety (vv.4-7): Bruce commented, "Remember that God is large and in charge." The rhyme neatly sums up a great deal of truth. We must also hold fast to his promised peace.
- Choose to focus wisely (vv. 8-9): A worldly focus on evil and scandal runs smack up against Paul's instruction to set our minds on good things. Paul offers up here a "menu for our minds."
- Choose contentment daily (vv. 10-13): Though we are tempted to think, "If only ___, then..." we should instead depend on Christ. The reality of our relationship with Christ is our ultimate strength. "He will give you the grace for the place," Bruce commented.
- Choose to invest in the kingdom of God (vv. 14-19): We are blessed by giving now, and we will be blessed more in heaven when we receive our reward.
Finally, Paul gives a simple but powerful benediction, one that I intend to memorize and use to bless and encourage others:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.