Philippians 4:1-23 Sermon Notes

By November 14, 2021Sermon Notes

Tragically, 9 were killed and many others injured in a crowd crush incident at a Houston concert last week.

The worst crowd crush incident in history killed 10,000 in Jerusalem, not long after Paul wrote his letter to Philippians.

The worst in the 21st century was when 2400 killed in Saudi Arabia in 2015.

People who study these events say that extreme danger occurs at densities of 6 or 7 people per square meter.

At that point people are unable to move as individuals and shockwaves can travel through the crowd that now behaves, involuntarily, like a fluid.

If a single person falls, or other people reach down to help…waves of bodies fall into the now open space.

You can’t, in those circumstances…choose stand firm…you are pushed about by external forces.

In Philippians chapter 4 Paul is going to give some instruction on how to stand firm…how to live with proactive control of our lives.

The folks at Philipi were being pushed by governmental, theological, cultural forces…and all kinds of threats and challenges.

They could, never the less, stand firm…as can we.

4 Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!

“that is how” you should stand firm is not the best translation…it implies what he has already said versus what he is about to say.

It should be as in some translations “in this manner” or “thus stand firm”…because he is about to tell them how they can stand firm in the Lord.

So, what follows will be clear guidance on standing firm.

And standing firm does not mean be a hard head…but rather to not be a helpless victim of external and internal threats and circumstances…pushing us around and or down.

To stand firm is to live like the God we trust is actually real and involved in our lives.

But before we move on to this important strategic guidance…don’t miss the value shaping power in that first line.

Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown

Brothers includes men and women in the church…like when I walk up to a mixed group I might say “Hey guys!”

Listen to it again:

“You whom I love and long for”

“Okay, so what…he is just being nice”

No, he really wants to see them again, he loves them…they are dear to him…he means this.

Paul is no theological machine…kicking out bible books…but largely unconcerned with actual humans.

He is writing letters to people he cares deeply for…and longs to see again…his heart for people is deep.

Then…he addresses them as …“My joy and crown”

My Joy: Indicates what his heart is wrapped around.

-For Paul: his heart for the Lord is synonymous with his heart for people.

Crown: Indicates what he most values, what he counts as his key life accomplishment, triumph.

-It’s these People…their spiritual thriving…their good is his crown of accomplishment.

This is Phil 2:3…putting the success of others first…impacting his heart…his core values.

*The costly investment of his life in people is his joy and accomplishment.

Everyone I have ever known whose life is full and meaningful…lives in a way where they are giving their lives away for others…not just hoarding their lives to themselves…this is our design…it is unalterable.

Want to live with purpose, joy…live for the good of others…make their success you crowning accomplishment.

Let’s move on to how to stand firm:

2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche (syn ta kee) to agree with each other in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Okay, how is this helpful as a point of strategy?

I mean how does some random comments to some women with strange names in the first century instruct us on “standing firm”?

It is, a very personal and practical remark in his letter…but it is not remotely random.

What principle do you see embedded here.

Specifically, what principle related to instruction on standing firm?

Clues:

  1. It is important enough for Paul to mention this situation in his short letter…we have to ask why?

-why did the author include this here?

  1. When he pleads with these ladies to “agree” it is more literally that they “be of the same mind”…

It doesn’t mean they have to think the same about everything but rather something else entirely.

So how has he used this concept of “same mind” already in this letter.

Go back to chapter 2

“Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”

He is making practical application of chapter two, the mind of Christ… to a current situation between two ladies in the church.

They were not getting along…and the solution…is to “get the mind of Christ” into their minds.

These two ladies need to operate in relationship to one another with the “mind of Christ”…which means…don’t fight to win your own way…put each other’s interests first.

You don’t have to think the same way about everything to grow close, get along…you do need to think your thoughts with the “mind of Christ.”

*This past week several long-time friends…were reunited in friendship in my home.

-Disagreements over some issues…were over powered by the mind of Christ operational

in my dear friends minds.

-I sat a meal…and saw the gospel doing what it alone can do.

“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, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”

Think your thoughts, have your opinions and passions…but approach one another with the mind of Christ…a kind of thinking…that took him all the way to the cross…a mind full of humility and sacrifice.

So, the first clue to “standing firm”…stand together by having the mind of Christ.

We will not stand firm for long…all by ourselves.

And we will not stand together for long…without the mind of Christ.

So, let’s build our strategy for standing firm starting here…

  1. Stand together, by having the mind of Christ (put each other first)

Let’s move on:

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

Okay, we have another strategic input there…one we recognize from last week…we don’t need to elaborate…if you missed last week it would be helpful to go back and listen to it.

  1. Stand together, by having the mind of Christ
  2. Rejoice in the Lord.

-Continually approach threats by continually “re-joying” your mind.

Next verse…

5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

“Gentleness” is okay as a translation but doesn’t capture this idea really well.

The ESV translates it “reasonableness.”

Also, okay…but still not fully clear

It can be “gracious” “fair minded”

It is gentle and reasonable, all that…but it takes more than a single word to capture this idea

Let’s try to get to the bottom of it by way of some common thinking fallacies:

  1. Labeling/ad hominiem: Instead of “he made a mistake” it is “he is an idiot” or “evil
  1. Straw man: Not fairly representing an opposing side’s position to make your own view look stronger.
  2. Emotional reasoning: I “feel” this way so this is true or I am right

There are a ton more…but a lot of the common, and very destructive thinking fallacies that cause our lives untold problems are addressed in this phrase…

“Let your reasonableness be known to all.”

This is about clear thinking…rather emotional reasoning.

Be a person who is confident enough…in God, in what God has revealed…that you can deal with the facts of reality as they are.

Be passionate about God and people…but not about being right, or misusing facts and words to try and win the argument… every time.

Believe the truth…not just what you feel right now.

It is passion for truth…minus all the smoke and smell of “unreasonable” emotions.

*You can see, everyday…stories of people who ruin their own lives, who fall from the faith, who destroy relationships…because they fail to be “gentle”

That is: ruled by truth and God’s Spirit…rather than dominated by their own emotions and passions.

Active not reactive…

So…what we have so far is:

  1. Stand together: have mind of Christ
  2. Re-joy your mind in the Lord
  3. Be a reasonable person…by being fully confident in the Lord…reason from truth not just current passions.

Let’s move on..

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

We have a DON’T and a DO

The DON’T:  Don’t be anxious about anything.

-Okay, that’s not really helpful… “I’m feeling really anxious, what can I do about it?

-“Stop it!

But that is not what he says…this is a command, the word is an imperative “don’t be anxious about anything” but with a corresponding DO…

In “everything” DO this…do what?

By Prayer…means the general things we talk with God about… “I’m worried, I’m sad, what is going on here…” converstation.

And Petitions…is about “help!” or “please” it is very direct requests.

With Thanksgiving,

With thanksgiving: remember God’s goodness and mercy…so we won’t become ungrateful, consumed with our immediate problems…forgetful of what God has done in the past.

In this attitude of honest talking, passionate asking, and deep gratitude…take your requests to God.

And when we live in this conversational, concerning sharing, thankful relationship with God…then

7 The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So there is a DON’T and a DO…and a THEN.

The peace of God will guard your hearts and minds.

This “peace” could mean, and probably does to some degree…that we will have an increased, unexplainable sense of “well-being” or at least an improved perspective on the things that really concern us.

It can transcend our understanding because it flies in the face of the current circumstances around us.

Many Christians through the centuries have experienced this peace in the face of terrible suffering and even imminent death.

But there is another aspect of this verse that makes it more “objective” than “subjective”

Because, what if we “don’t” feel peace, as a sense of well-being…maybe because we haven’t eaten well, slept well, have chemical imbalances or we are sick, or something terrible has happened?

Have you had times…when you had no sense of well-being…no “peace”?

What does this verse say to us during those times…where is this “peace” we are promised when are praying and yet we “feel” no peace?

Let’s look at it a different way.

“Guard” is a military word…peace that guards us is sentry on our hearts and minds.

The peace of God will guard our hearts and minds.

Remember Philippi was a Roman military garrison.

There were guards/sentries everywhere…guarding Roman interests, keeping insurrection (people disruptive to the peace) at bay.

So, it is not just that we “feel” God’s peace(as this emotional sense of well-being)…we want that and its a joy when it is there.

It is that God’s objective peace, the reality of peace with God sets a sentry, a guard over our hearts and minds.

So, I’ll use my own experience to illustrate…hopefully it will translate to your experience in principle.

I had, when I was in Iraq in 2009…a several month period of time where I felt near continual anxiety.

I lost weight, had little appetite…it was very difficult.

At the same time, I knew that God had brought me there, I knew that God was at work in and around me, and most importantly…

I knew that I belonged to him, he had saved me…I was, in fact, at peace with God…he was not going to abandon me.

So, in spite of the absence of feelings of peace and no lasting real sense of emotional well-being.

The FACT of peace with God through Jesus Christ acted like a sentry over my heart (my will) and my mind (my thoughts).

That sentry, that reality of settled relationship/peace with God…was the gate guard for my mind and emotions.

This peace was not my own thoughts and emotions…it was the sentry that held those things to account.

I had some thoughts…but they were not all true…the sentry of peace with God checked them.

I felt things…but they were not always aligned with what is real…the sentry of God’s peace checked them…called them to account.

Similar to the passage where Paul wrote that we are take thoughts captive to Christ.

When I had thoughts of despair, discouragement… the reality of peace with God, the fact of my peace with him…was the sentry that said “halt, who goes there?”

These thoughts and feelings that were disruptive to my mind and heart…God’s peace took them captive to truth.

As it turned it…it was the most miserable and the most powerful time of my life…I rarely “felt” God’s presence…but never before or since….had I seen God at work like that time.

This is that peace that passes understanding…not mere feelings of peace…as much as I wanted them…but living in the actual, factual peace of God in spite of my lack of feelings of well-being.

Read the Psalms with this template in mind…they despaired of what they felt…but they proclaimed what is in fact real.

I may feel like God has abandoned me…I  must proclaim the truth that God, my God has not and will not forsake me.

Okay, let’s update our “stand firm” strategy with this point:

  1. Stand together: have the mind of Christ
  2. Re-joy your mind in the Lord: continually
  3. Be a reasonable person…be confident in the Lord…not ruled by passions but by truth
  4. Pray and live resolutely in the reality of your peace with God

On we go…verse 8

8 Finally, brothers, 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.

Here, we have our final, strategic “stand firm” input.

Sounds like a lot of inputs here…but it can be summarized:

Choose carefully what you let happen in your mind…implied in this…BECAUSE YOU CAN.

You must…but you also can.

Many grew up churches being told exactly what to watch or listen to: movies and music that were okay and those were not.

This is important in principle because these things, what we watch, listen to…very powerfully shape our minds…which shape our lives.

The problem was that the approach was often very much “outside/in” or a sort of “don’t be shaped by that” rather than an “inside/out” “do be shaped by this”.

So, you could avoid certain movies and songs…but still remain very far from Christ.

Because there is a purpose for what we do and don’t do…we want to shaped into Christlikness.

The Taliban has strong rules about movies and music…but they are certainly not more like Christ because of what they are against.

The right approach to thinking about our thinking…

Is who do I want to become and will this help me get there?

So…should I watch this, listen to this, read this, continue to think about this…how will it shape me?

“Who do I want to become…will this help me?”

Paul said, “All things are lawful but not beneficial…helpful.”

So, think about it… “Who do you want to become?”

Then ask, with that larger, more powerful, more important question in mind… “will this help me become that?”

Decide who you want to be…then decide, in ongoing fashion…what thoughts you will allow to remain in your mind…and shape your life.

It will impact what you allow in…movies, music, etc…but because of a positive vision of who you want to be…not just a list of things you are against.

So, we have five strategic inputs for standing firm…

  1. Stand together: have the mind of Christ
  2. Re-joy your mind in the Lord: continually
  3. Be a reasonable person…be confident in the Lord…not ruled by passions but by truth
  4. Pray and live resolutely in the reality of your peace with God
  5. Choose what you allow to shape your thoughts

And then once again, Paul encourages them to use him as a sort of rifle scope to align on the larger target.

9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

A rifle scope allows you to hit a far off target BECAUSE it is close to your eye and focuses your eye on the distance.

Paul isn’t saying he is the “target”…Christ is…he is saying “I’ll be a scope to help you get a fix on Christ.”

Let’s look quickly at a few more well-known verses and see how they specifically speak to the impact of this strategy put into practice in Paul’s life…but first the context for the more well known verses.

10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.

The church in Philippi sent some gifts to Paul for use in his ministry…he was grateful for this, for many reasons, not the least of which that it was good for them to give.

From this practical, sort of “normal” event…the giving of an offering…he gives a principled application of what it means to “stand firm”…what it looks like in actual practice.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Thanks for the gift, awesome…but don’t hear me saying I was in need…I wasn’t.

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…this is what “stand firm” looks like.

Whether in “need or in plenty”…is an abbreviated definition of the full gamut of life experiences.

Health, food, friends, sleep, safety, comfort…or none of that…he has learned the secret of contentment.

“Secret” as in “I’ve learned the secret” was a technical term used by some of what were called “mystery religions” in his time.

Mystery religions believed that if you knew some special, gee whiz secret…word, action, handshake, idea…you would gain entrance into the spiritual secret sauce that is needed to live well.

Paul hijacks the word for the gospel… “I have the mysterious secret…I can do everything that needs to be, in whatever circumstances it needs to be done…through him (Christ) who strengthens me.

Really it is no secret…it’s Christ in me…he has learned to be content where Christ has him…because Christ “has him”

I haven’t learned that yet.  Not like that…not yet.

*Last week one of our youth, a HS freshman, asked me “When you are around chaplains of different faiths do you ever doubt yours?”

I said…“It’s okay if you doubt, and it is okay if you ask questions…that is a great one.  But no, I don’t doubt my faith anymore.”

“I have learned to love friends of other faiths…but I don’t doubt mine anymore…I have seen too much…experienced too much…the gospel is true.  Keep asking, keep growing, keep learning.”

My point in that is to say this…If I could talk to Paul, if he lived in Wichita in the 21st not the 1st century.

I would ask him “Do you ever feel discontent…is this a statement of life direction or vision…or is it a declaration of a place you actually have reached in your heart and mind cause I haven’t?”

“I know you said you haven’t been made perfect, in regards to sin…but have you reached this point of real contentment…really?”

I don’t know what he would answer but I suspect, based on how he has written this that would be his answer.

“Terry, it’s okay that you are often discontent, it’s where you are…but I am not anymore.  I’ve experienced too much.  Seen too much. I am content in all things, truly…because of Christ in me.”

Then he would likely say

“Be sure to be discontent with your discontentment…keep growing, keep learning what it means to stand firm in your faith…be a person who is increasingly content in all things…because you can if you will.”

APPLICATION:

Let’s finish up with another look at our “stand firm” strategy:

  1. Stand together: have the mind of Christ
  2. Re-joy your mind in the Lord: continually
  3. Be a reasonable person…be confident in the Lord…not ruled by passions but by truth
  4. Pray and live resolutely in the reality of your peace with God
  5. Choose what you allow to shape your thoughts

Those five strategic inputs have something in common…do you notice it?

They are all functions of the mind.

My wife and I have had many great conversations over the years about what it means to be a “thinker” and a “feeler”

I am more likely to start with thinking and her with feeling…and we have learned that each starting point has its place in different circumstances.

We have learned to appreciate each other because we both know that every thinker feels, and every feeler thinks…the lines are not always that distinct.

But when the Bible talks about the place of the mind…it is not using contemporary categories of personality like thinkers versus feelers.

The Bible assumes the fact that every human lives from their “heart”…which is the thinking, choosing, feeling, deciding part of us…the command post.

The command post…maybe we would call it the will, but it’s more than that…operates based on “intel” or information…ideas…ideas shape passions, desire.

If the information, the intel is wrong…the command post will make bad decisions and battles and even wars are lost.

So, we are to make sure that what we allow to shape our thinking is in line with the truth of God.

Once again…it is beliefs (what is true), values (what matters most), behavior (how we live our lives).

We can and we must continually decide what ideas, thoughts, data…we will allow to remain in our minds and shape our hearts and lives.

By all means be a passionate, relational feeler…my wife is and I’m often grateful for that (I should always be, but I’m not there yet either)

But for everyone…to stand firm we must carefully and consistently…watch what we let shape our minds.

  1. Stand together: have the mind of Christ

-It is not about me, they don’t exist to make me happy, I am happy when I serve…put this in your mind.

  1. Re-joy your mind in the Lord: continually

-I can and I must rejoice in the Lord…gratitude must shape me…do this with your mind.

  1. Be a reasonable person…be confident in the Lord…not ruled by passions but by truth

-I must not fully trust my emotions, I must not try to win, I must not live out of my insecurity…I must be ruled by what it true.

  1. Pray and live resolutely in the reality of your peace with God through Christ.

-If I am a Christian then the peace of God is the objective truth of God in my life…I must believe that truth regardless of what I feel.

  1. Choose what you allow to shape your thoughts

-I will go after the kinds of mind/heart/life shaping thoughts that are excellent and praiseworthy.

Because I can…because it is line with who I want to be.

“Terry…You are turning this all into a thinking/intellectual exercise…I want to feel, to have passion, to have deep relationship with God.”

Okay…but are those not statements of truth, facts…is that not an idea of you want?

If we do not carefully choose to let truth abide in our minds…shaping our thoughts…then our hearts will become malformed…real, life-giving passion will be absent.

People, who begin to think wrong thoughts about marriage and relationship and happiness…chase “passion” detached from reality and end up with nothing.

No passion, no joy, no relationship.

Truth is essential for everything good.

What do you want?  Who do you want to be?

I want to be increasingly content…spiritually resilient…truth directed passionate.

I want to stand firm.

We understand, because God has shown us…what it means to move that way.

So let’s move that way…standing firm is the result of movement.

Movement in our minds, hearts, choices towards the reality of God.

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