Pentecost 4 – June 17, 2018

“I Want to Know Christ… and Rejoice!” – Book of Philippians

Pentecost 4 – June 17, 2018

Introduction: Paul’s letters
Continue Paul’s letters to churches.
Romans – deep theological treatise – sin and grace, law and gospel
Corinthians – Paul addresses problems – divisions, adultery, food offered to idols, Lord’s Supper
Galatians – Paul addresses Judaizers who are requiring adherence to laws & circumcision
Ephesians – the theoretical, theological Gospel story, then lived out practically in the church and
Philippians – different:
Philippi – Northern Greece (Macedonia); Roman colony known for patriotic nationalism; named
after King Philip – father of Alexander the Great; citizens of Rome; first European city Paul
visited (vision… come)
Philippians – different: mostly a good news, thank-you letter and missionary report to his
partners in ministry (think of LBT letter from Kuhns) (cf. 2 Cor. 8 generosity of Macedonian
churches), encouragement, letter of joy (no OT quotations); Paul wrote from prison
Lots and lots of memorable sayings (later…), but “That I may know Him and the power of His
resurrection” – nestled nicely in the middle of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Let’s find out
1. Chapter 1 – Paul’s pastoral heart
Pastors have fond memories of congregations they have served: St. Walburg parish (vicarage,
really exposed to ministry – no local supervisor); Unity (first parish, cut my pastoral teeth there,
still keep in contact with some); Immanuel (began to mature as a pastor, first experience of team
ministry, outreach heart); Foothills (good leaders, vision for new mission, continued team
ministry, more personal and pastoral development – PLI); Hope (school experiences, more team
ministry, more than any other church… shine like stars in a crooked and twisted generation).
Paul – fond memories of Philippians. First Christian group in Greece. Story in Acts 16 – Lydia
(purple dealer convert) & slave girl trouble, but jailer (“What must I do to be saved?”). From
there to Thessalonica, Berea and then Athens and Corinth.
The Philippians (more than any other city church) are Paul’s partners in the Gospel, and he is
thankful for them. (vv. 3 – 5)

“All of you share in God’s grace with me.” (v. 7) We’re brothers and sisters in Christ. Common
faith, common mission, common hope. (Ephesians – one body, spirit, Lord, faith, baptism, God,
There were some varying motivations for those preaching Christ, but Paul was just happy that
Christ was being preached. That’s his pastoral heart.
People asking God / me: “Why am I still here? I’m ready to die. I know where I’m going. I’m
tired of all this.” Have you ever had such a conversation? Probably. It’s hard to answer. Good
company – Elijah, Jonah, Paul.
v. 21 – to live is Christ, to die is gain… desire to be with Christ (great for Paul), but content with
earthly mission (for the sake of the Philippians (and others)). Ultimately, both life (and death) are
about Christ. Similar to Romans 14:7,8 – “None of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies
to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether
we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” To me, there is a great deal of comfort in such a truth.
2. Chapter 2 – The Christ hymn
As Paul moves into his next thought, in chapter 2, he encourages the believers to be humble, to
be concerned about others, and to be united in love, spirit, and purpose. Then, in arguably the
most notable passage in the entire letter, he points to the attitude and the example of Jesus. (It is
the most notable, recognizable because it is our Epistle reading every year on Palm Sunday, and
once more in October every third year.)
Have the mind and the attitude of Jesus, be like Christ. Then he fleshed out the servant nature of
Jesus. Let’s read it together… (vv. 5 – 11)
Pertinent points –
He was in nature God, but didn’t insist on forcibly retaining those divine privileges and status.
He was in nature God, but, for a time, He laid aside His divine glory. He humbled Himself, He
emptied Himself, He made Himself nothing.
He was in nature God, but He took on the nature of a servant. (cf. Washing disciples’ feet.)
He was in nature God, but He took on human likeness and appearance.
He was in nature God (and the essence of life), but he became obedient to death (on a cross –
torture, gruesome, as a criminal). It was that sacrifice of Himself, that death, that won our
forgiveness and our salvation. This is the heart of the Gospel – that Jesus died in your place, so
that you would be blameless, and pure, children of God, without fault. Stay tuned… this story is
not finished.
Finally, once Jesus had died, God reversed Jesus’ status once again – exalting Him back to
heaven, to His divine place and His divine status, giving Him the greatest name, expecting
allegiance of every knee, expecting praise from every tongue.
That’s the attitude, the mind that God wants us to have – humility, servanthood, willing to empty
ourselves for others. The way Paul says it a few verses later is that we shine like stars / lights in a
dark world, a crooked and perverse world. A light is always most noticeable in darkness. A
streetlight shining at noon on a sunny summer day is hardly noticeable. But when that same light

shines in the dead of winter’s night, then it illumines the street for someone to walk. Paul says
that in the midst of society’s evil, we hold out the word of life – Jesus – so that others may see
the path to hope!
3. Chapter 3 – I want to know Christ
Now, we come to chapter 3 where Paul says, “I want to know Christ.” But before he says that, he
describes the accomplishments of his former life.
[Let’s ask the puppets to pick up this part of the sermon. October 5, 2014 Puppet Show.]
[OMIT: These are earthly accomplishments, and especially religious achievements. He says that
his prior status would give him ample reason for confidence and even boasting: “circumcised on
the the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in
regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on
the law, faultless.” He was a big shot among the Jews. He was a terror to the Christians. But once
he met Christ in his vision on the road to Damascus, his tune changed. Now Paul could boast (?)
that his prior boastings were loss, useless, a disadvantage. Paul realized that confidence in his
heritage and works actually interfered with his knowing God. He even called those achievements
(Box of Greek) . Do any confirmation students remember what that means? Refuse =
dung. (I won’t use any stronger words.)]
Paul had lots to brag about! But all those things were insignificant because… “I want to know
Christ! And the power of His resurrection… and to attain the resurrection from the dead.” I don’t
look back, but press on, ahead, forward, future so that I may be called heavenward. Remember I
said before that the heart of the Gospel is that Jesus died in your place, but that wasn’t the end of
the story? This is the end of the story. The resurrection is the end of the story, and even it isn’t
the full end of the story. The story isn’t finished with Jesus’ death… the power of Jesus’
resurrection is what Paul really wants to connect with – LIFE!! His own resurrection from the
Most people focus on earthly things. Some even have their own list of churchy things to brag
about – baptized on the 8 th day, of the tribe of Luther, every Sunday worshiper, sang in the
church choir, and on and on. But like Paul, those things are just . What’s most
important is to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. As believers, our true citizenship
is in heaven!
4. Chapter 4 – My pride and joy
This brings us to chapter 4 and the sequel of Paul’s pastoral heart. As he thinks about those
Christians in Philippi, he calls them his [Box of Greek]  and . (That’s the name
of two of our kids – Kara and Stephan.) Those words are translated as ‘joy’ and ‘crown,’ but a
reasonable and accurately translated idiom would be “my pride and joy.” That’s where Paul’s
heart is – this is his favourite congregation. He loves them, he misses them, he prays for them, he
remembers them with deep emotion.

Then he calls on them to “Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again, Rejoice!” And he gives
them reason to rejoice. The Lord is near, and He provides for our every need. Paul actually
points to his own discipleship as example:
I have learned to be content in every situation of life – vv. 12,13,19. That’s something we could
learn from Paul, from God. We are often discontent with our lot in life – sickness, poverty (even
when we have so much more than the rest of the world), job dissatisfaction, relationship
struggles. Paul was God’s person in any and every circumstance, because God gave him
strength. God calls us to be content. God calls us to things that are true, noble, right, pure. God
calls us to know Christ, and His resurrection and to rejoice… in the Lord… always. Paul ends
with these words: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”
Oh, and the memorable sayings in Philippians – on a bookmark for you – to memorize!!

Jewels in Philippians: (bookmark handout)

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
“To me to live is Christ and to die is gain!… I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better
by far.” (1:21,23)
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the
form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking
the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he
humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has
highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name
of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue
confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (The Christ-Hymn in 2:5-11)
“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing
Christ Jesus my Lord… I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection… to attain to the
resurrection from the dead.” (3:8,10,11)
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ
Jesus.” (3:14)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (4:4)
“The peace of God that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ
Jesus.” (4:7)
“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.” (4:8)
“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (4:13)
“My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (4:19)

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