“A Man Who Loves His Church”
Good Morning. This is the second in a series of lessons which use the beautiful letter to those at the congregation in Philippi as a source. I will use the term “church” today in the way Paul uses it in the New Testament. Most of the time when I use the word “church” in the lesson you can substitue “congregation”.
Today we are going to look at how people can love their church. If a person is going to love their church, they are going to face some problems, because churches are not perfect, they are not made up of perfect people.
I found some notices in church bulletins, and I may have used some of these before.
The first one is: Thursday night pot luck supper, prayer and medication to follow.
Remember to pray for the many that are sick of our church in the community.
The reverend Thomson spoke briefly on Sunday night, much to the delight of his audience.
The preacher will preach his farewell message and afterwards the choir will sing, “Break forth with joy.”
Then you can see some great signs that some churches put outside their buildings.
One church’s message said, “Don’t let worry kill you, let the church help”.
Another said, “Evening service topic tonight, what is hell? Come early and listen to our choir practice.”
Finally, my favorite one: “A.M. Sermon, Jesus Walks on Water” P.M. Sermon “Searching for Jesus”.
Church is a good place to go to find mistakes and it is a good place to go to find critics. You will always find people there who are critics because there are problems in church. You will also find people who say, “You know I’m kind of into Jesus. He’s cool, but I’m not into that going to church thing.” Which makes me wonder; how are you going to love Jesus and not love what Jesus loved?
You see, Jesus loves the church. Ephesians 5:25 says, "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" If you love Jesus, it would seem to me you have to love what He loved. When you read about the apostle Paul you will read about all the problems he was constantly having to deal with in churches. Yet, Paul was also in love with the church, especially the church in Philippi. We are going to learn how a man should love his church by reading part of the love letter that Paul wrote to that church.
I. Turn with me in your bibles to Philippians 1:3-11. Just notice how Paul’s affection oozes from this text. Paul writes, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the affection of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. "
A. When we read in the New Testament, we see that every time a person became a believer in Jesus and was baptized, the Lord added him to the church. That person became a “belonger” to their local congregation.
i. Christianity is more than a private transaction with Jesus.
ii. Have you heard this phrase? “Have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ”. I believe you should have a personnel relationship with Jesus Christ, but did you know that phrase is not in the Bible?
iii. Because Biblical Christianity is corporate and any time in the Bible when someone comes into a personnel relationship with Jesus Christ they also have a relationship to other believers in their local church.
B. Have you heard people say, “Hey, you know I have tried church, but it’s full of problems and full of hypocrites.”
C. That is true, and in my lifetime I have uttered similar words to those. You’re never going to find a perfect church because it is full of people like you and me. I once heard it described this way, the church is a little like Noah’s ark, if it wasn’t for the storm on the outside, you couldn’t stand the stink on the inside.
D. Now please don't take what I just quoted wrong. There are very wonderful and loving brothers and sisters in the church, but there are also issues. Paul had to learn how to love some pretty smelly churches, like, for example, the one in Philippi.
II. The church in Philippi had some big problems. Paul writes a lot about joy in this letter, but he never once says that they have any joy. They didn’t have much joy in Philippi because they were a divided church. In chapter 4 Paul writes to two women called Euodia and Syntyche and he is pleading with them to get along with each other. He calls on other people in the church to help those two women come to an understanding.
A. These two women had a disagreement. The church had taken up sides, and it was causing division in the church. These two women were affecting the entire church. Paul could not forget their helpfulness, their love of the truth and their sacrifices on his behalf; but now all that was endangered by an unfortunate disagreement. No wonder Paul attempted to heal it. All through this small letter Paul was making an appeal for unity.
B. In chapter 1 v.27 he says, “I want you to stand firm in one Spirit and contend as one man for the faith of the gospel.”
C. In chapter 2 he says, “Make my joy complete by being like minded having the same love, being one in Spirit and purpose.” Then he says, “Do everything without complaining and arguing.”
D. Have you ever been to a church where the people are always fussing about something? What did it make you want to do? We come to church to worship God, to serve and be served and to have our needs met. If we don’t like something that is going on or if we see a problem, we tend to take the problem to the person down the street and tell them all about it. That’s not how Paul did church.
E. Instead of turning his back on the brethren in Philippi, he turned his heart towards them. Paul constantly praised God for the people that God had brought into his life even though sometimes they brought him grief. Let me ask then, why does God bring some people into our churches, people that are hard to love? Why does He bring difficult people into our fellowship?
F. Let me inject a story here about something that happened to Charles Spurgen, a famous preacher, who preached in London in the 1800s, One day he was walking down the street. Found he needed to get across the street and it was very busy, with carts and carriages and horses going up and down. He had a fear attack, a panic attack, and he just froze where he was standing. He couldn’t move and he was there for some time. Until someone came up beside him and touched him on the elbow. It was a blind man who asked if Spurgen would help him get across the street. Spurgen took the gentleman by the arm and set out across the street until he got to where he needed to go.
G. Let me ask again, why does God bring into our lives difficult people and frustrating people? For one thing, so that we can help them get to where they need to go. For another, because in helping them, God gets us where he wants us to go.
i. In our last trip to Tenessee Nina and I were in Wendsday night Bible class and the topic of teaching was being discussed. The teacher rightly explained that he learned more in prepairing for a class than he ever learned just sitting in a class and that the discussion from those listening brought things to mind he might never have thought of.
ii. I totaly feel the same way. He was a better teacher than I am. You could tell because most of the congregation attended his classes and a great many partisipated in the discussion. I am also blessed by the learning in preparation for the class and in the discussions that arise.
iii. If there was a difficulty in the church Paul would never think of getting up in a huff, walking out and saying, “Alright, I’ll just go to the church down the street”. That’s how we do church. That’s not how they did church in the Bible.
III. There is something we should think about, and it is this, “Struggling Christians need to be loved... not left.” In the Bible times you did not just get up and walk out of church because of a few problems. You were called on to stay there and love those people. Love doesn’t mean that you are blind to their defects, but it means you are going to be committed - in spite of those defects. We have the same calling. We stay there and we love our congregation.
A. How do we do that, we ask? How does a man love his church? Let me give you 3 things that Paul is going to teach us that will help all of us love this church even when it is difficult.
B. The first one is this: Remember your fellowship in the gospel. Paul says, “I thank my God everytime I remember you, in all my prayers for all of you I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now”.
C. The Philippians had just sent Paul a gift of some funds for his support. When they had heard that he was in a prison in Rome, they called a brother named Epaphroditus, gave him some money and said, ”Go to Rome, give this to Paul”. Let's think about what they are doing...
D. Paul is in Rome as a prisoner accused of treason against Rome and they are identifying with him... They are putting their creditability and even their lives on the line by saying, “We want to stand with Paul”. It filled Paul with warmth, and he said as we just read, “You know I got to thinking when this money came, you’ve always been like that, I mean from the first day until now you’ve been my partners in the gospel.”
E. What does being a partner in the gospel mean to us? Does it just mean we believe in the same thing and share in the same convictions? What it means is - we are out there with what God has blessed us with. It means we’re out there with our prayers working side by side doing things for the sake of Jesus Christ. That’s what Paul chose to think about when he remembered the church in Philippi.
IV. Let me ask us another question. What do we remember most about other people? What do we remember most about other congregations we have been to in our past? Do we focus on faults and problems and complaints? Do we focus on what we have done together for the gospel of Jesus? I have to admit I've done both at times. I believe if we were to consider our partnership in the gospel, our attitudes would change over a lot of issues. I know mine has.
A. For example, how many of us still carry baggage from the past from a place that hurt or upset us? Or perhaps dissapointed us? Maybe we excuse our bad attitude or our apathy today because of things that happened years ago in other churches. That bad feeling can linger with us a long time, I know. It can greatly influence our attempts to walk with God and even lead to our being lost.
B. It’s time to get over that. We have people who have differences about worship styles and about one thing or another.
i. Let me give you an example; I know of some ladies that loved to make the unleavened bread for the lords table. Yet there were others who did nothing but complain about it and ask that store bought be used because the home made bread was “undercooked” or “burned on the edges” or “too hard”.
ii. If those differences are we want to focus on, Satan will use that to get under our skin and make us irritated all the time. For the young Christian this is often what they focus on.
C. What then should we focus on? We can focus on the fact we have a partnership in the gospel — and God can do great things through us in this place.
D. What then are we going to think about? Our memories are a choice, if we are going to love this church, we need to choose wisely.
E. Paul tells us that first, “to love your church, remember your partnership in the gospel”.
V. Second, if you are going to love your church, remember to pray for them. When was the last time we let somebody in this church know that we were praying for them?
A. Paul did it, he said in verse 1:4, “In all my prayers for all of you I always pray with joy”. He said in verse 1:9, “This is my prayer that your love may abound more and more in knowledge in depth of insight.” There are three different times Paul said, “I’m loving, I’m praying for ALL of you”
B. In other words he didn’t just pray for Euodia and her friends. He didn’t just pray for Syntyche and her supporters. Paul prays for the whole church. He loved all the people, including those on both sides of the argument. The whole church is who he prayed for.
C. We should notice also, he told them exactly what he was praying for, he said in verse 1:9, “What I’m praying is, that you all grow in love” That’s what they needed, so he was praying for it.
D. Another thing I note here is that before he told them what they needed, he told God what they needed. He told them he was talking to God about it. He told them that he has been praying, talking to God about them, all the time, and he has been asking God to fill them with love in knowledge and in insight. Paul knew that if they had more love they would make wiser choices. They would live pure lives and they would bear fruit to the glory of God.
E. Paul also said in verse 1:4, “You know what, it is my joy to pray for you”. He didn’t say, “It gives me joy to talk about prayer, or it gives me joy to write about prayer”. Paul said, “No, it gives me joy when I pray, when I pray for you I pray with joy.” Paul’s in prison, there is no other way to have an outlet for his affection. He can’t put his arms around them and hug them. He can’t kiss them on the cheek. He can’t shake their hands, but he can pray.
F. Do we pray with joy for this church? Do we pray with joy for people that we are sitting beside? I do believe in the power of positive prayer. Let me tell you why. The first thing is that a person may not want to listen to me. They may not want to hear my advice, and they may not care what I think, but they can’t stop me praying for them. I can pray for them, I can change their life by praying for them and there’s nothing they can do about that.
i. Let me tell you something else that I have learned from praying for other people. I’ve learned that even if it doesn’t change their attitude, it always changes... mine.
ii. A preacher I know told me something that I want to share with you. He told me he had worked beside some people who were really difficult to get along with. They did not see things the way he saw them and from what he told me I'm sure they did not believe the scriptures in the way we do. He took a little bit of abuse along the way, but for some reason he started to pray for those people, because it really upset him and made him angry and he did not want to feel anger.
iii. Do you know what happened? He told me what Jesus said works. Jesus said, “[para] If your enemy persecutes you, pray for them and you will receive a blessing.” (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:28) It works; He learned to not be upset with them anymore and just pray for them. This must have made an outward change in him because over time his relationship with these people changed, and he found them easier and easier to get along with.
G. What we can do for this church, and to help us love this church,-- is to pray for the congregation. Yes, there are some people in the church that are hard to pray for, but don’t tell me we can’t do it. Because we follow the man that was put on a cross and prayed for the people that put him there. We can do it. In fact, it is hard to leave a church when we are down on our knees. You just can’t go very fast, can you?
H. What can we do to love this church? We can remember our fellowship in the gospel and we can pray for the church.
VI. Finally the third thing Paul says. We can remember that God is not through with them. Paul said in verse 1:6, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:" “I am confident of this, he says, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.
A. Paul thanked God not just for what the Philippians were doing, but for what God was doing in the Philippians.
B. Paul believed that the power of God changed lives. Paul knew that the church had some problems, but Paul also knew that they were not alone to solve their problems. God was working in them and God was going to bring them to completion. Paul said, “I’m not going to give up on that church and turn my back on them”.
C. I hope we all feel the same way about this church. I know this much, if we saw this church like God sees us, we would not give up on it either. Paul said, “He, God began a good work in you.”
D. Do you ever think about why you became a Christian? Because God started on you before you ever started for God. God began the work in you. You didn’t start it and God jumped in and helped. No, God started it. Remember how Paul started the church in Philippi by going down to a river and found some woman praying and began preaching to them?
E. Look at Acts 16:14 - "Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul."[NKJ] See what it says? “The Lord opened Lydia’s heart to respond to Paul’s message” Who began the good work? God did. We don’t become a Christian because we do a good work for God; we become a Christian because God started a good work in us. The salvation that God starts in us, He keeps going in us because not only is salvation by grace, but sanctification is by grace.
F. Paul said, “God began a good work in you and God is going to bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God doesn’t start anything that God doesn’t intend to finish. Paul’s confidence was not in the Philippians ability to hang in there. Paul’s confidence was in God being with the Philippians and bringing what He started in their lives to completion.
G. Do you remember when Jesus was on the cross? He said, “It is finished.” In other words everything necessary for our sin problem to be taken care of, Jesus did it on the cross. We don’t add to it. We don’t finish it. Everything that had to be done to do away with our sin, Jesus did on the cross. It is our choice—to accept it or not.
H. We look at people like they are. We see their spots. We see their faults. We see their problems... and we sometimes get angry and disapointed. God doesn’t look at us only like we are; God looks at us like we’re going to be, like we can be. If we would learn to look at people like God does, we would be so much more patient. We would love this church so much more.
I. What does God want us to do with the church here? He wants us to put our arms around those people who have made mistakes. He wants us to put our arms around those people who make us angry, and hang in there with those people because God is not through with them... and He isn’t through with us. There are always 2 sides to a coin. God is not through working on us either because we all still have a ways to go as well.
Let me conclude with this; like it or not God is not going to stop working in us until the job is done. The next time we pray, pray that God will give us all a little more patience with each other, especially if He sends difficult people to us.
If you have not been added to God’s church this morning, you need to come to Christ to accept the salvation He has to offer you. You need to repent of your sins by turning to God, confess Jesus as Lord of your life and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins.
Remember this: The church here isn’t perfect. No church is, but we’re a church who is not going to give up on each other even if things get tough.
Reference Sermon - Mike GloverPrint
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