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Sunday, July 05, 2020

“My Joy and Crown” [Matt's Messages]

“My Joy and Crown”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
July 5, 2020 :: Philippians 3:17-4:1

The title of this message is “My Joy and Crown,” and by now in the book of Philippians we should not be surprised that Paul is talking about JOY.

In Philippians, Paul is always talking about joy.

Joy, joy, joy, joy, joy.

Three whole chapters of joy so far!

He always prays with joy.
He rejoices that Christ is preached.
He continues to rejoice no matter what happens to him because to live is Christ and to die is gain.
He asks the Philippians to make his joy complete by putting each other ahead of themselves.
He rejoices with the Philippians because he knows that they are going to obey Jesus whether or not they see Paul ever again.
He told them to receive men like Timothy and Epaphroditus with great joy.
And he told them to rejoice in the Lord because there is no greater thing than knowing Jesus.

Joy, joy, joy, joy, joy.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that Paul is still talking about joy.

“His joy.”

However we may be surprised at what Paul is saying is his joy and his crown.

Or better yet, who is his joy and is his crown.

Who do you think Paul calls his joy?

If you guessed, “Jesus,” I would have too! And we know that Jesus is His greatest joy. He rejoices in the Lord! And he’s going to tell them again: “Rejoice!”

But in chapter 4, verse 1, the Philippian church is Paul’s joy and crown.

“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!”



Do you hear all of the affection in Paul’s words?

How many different words can he use in one verse to indicate how he feels about this church?

“My brothers.”
“Whom I love.”
“Whom I long for.”
“My joy and crown!”
“Dear friends.”

Paul sure loved these folks, didn’t he?

For me, Philippians has been just a perfect book to dwell in during these last four confusing months when our church family has been scattered. Scattered out in our homes and now scattered across soon-to-be three worship times and one Zoom fellowship meeting. We are still separated from one another in significant ways.

Just like Paul was separated from the Philippians. But that didn’t stop him from loving them. He sure loved those folks. They were precious to him. They were his joy and his crown. They brought him true joy and they would somehow be his reward themselves when they all got to glory. They were his crown.

Beloved, that’s how I feel about you. Not all of the time, of course, but in the main. This church family is my joy, and you are my crown.

The Philippians were Paul’s joy and crown, and he wanted the best for them.

He wanted them to (v.1), “stand firm in the Lord.”

And I want that for you, too.

I want every person who is a part of Lanse Free Church to stand firm in the Lord.

And Paul says that he has just got done telling them how to do it. Listen to verse 1 again.

“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!”

How do you do that? He’s just got done telling them in chapter 3.

Two big ideas in this message. Here’s the first one:

#1. FOLLOW GODLY EXAMPLES.

Look with me at chapter 3, verse 17.

“Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.”

That’s a pretty bold thing to say, isn’t it?

“Do it like I do, guys!”
“Follow my example!”

And that could be a very arrogant thing to say, but what was Paul’s example?

What did Paul just get done saying? We saw it last week.

“I have not arrived.”
“I am not there yet.”
“I have not taken hold of it.”
“I have not been made perfect.”

“But...I press on.”

Paul’s example was one of humility and hunger for spiritual growth.

That’s the pattern he’s set.
That’s the example he’s trying to be.

He’s not saying that these guys ought to be like he was back when he was a Pharisee. Following all the rules. Making my own righteousness according to the Law.

No! That’s all rubbish. That’s worth less than worthless.

No, what is the greatest thing is knowing Jesus Christ.

TO KNOW CHRIST! And to know Christ MORE.

Follow that example!

It’s not just Paul’s example that Paul wants them to follow.

Paul has already told them about Timothy and Epaphroditus and how they put others first and took risks and loved people for Jesus’ sake.

Be like them!

Follow godly examples. “Take note of those who live according to the pattern [the godly gospel lifestyle that] we gave you.”

So who is that for you?

Who are you following?
Who are you keying off of?
When you look ahead of you, whose back do you see?

Because everybody is following somebody whether they know it or not.

Who are you following? Who are you trying to be when you grow up?

I have a short list of Christian men that I often say, “I want to be like _______ when I grow up.”

(I often say, “IF I grow up!” But you get the idea.)

Who do you want to be like when you grow up?

Are they godly examples who KNOW CHRIST and want to know Him more?

Because not everybody is like that. Even people who claim to be Christians.

And if we are not careful, we can begin to follow the wrong examples. That’s where Paul goes next in verse 18:

“For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.”

Don’t let those kind of people be your heroes.

It’s easy to fall into that.

Because these folks probably look pretty attractive on the outside.

Again, you don’t have to warn somebody to not eat the old steak with maggots crawling out of it.

You have to warn somebody to eat the steak that looks and smells delicious but has been laced with undetectable poison.

These guys look good. They are probably healthy, wealthy, and successful.

But Paul says that they are bad news.

“They are enemies of the cross of Christ.” They make the Cross seem like nothing by the way that they live.

“Their destiny is destruction.” They’re lost!

“Their god is their stomach.” They are driven by their desires, their lusts, their motives, their passions that are not godly.

“Their glory is in their shame.”  They may claim Christ, but they live shamefully and glory in it. Totally backwards from the way it should be.

And ultimately here’s where they have gone wrong, “Their mind is on earthly things.”

“Their mind is on earthly things.”

They act and behave and talk and really believe that this world is really what is important.

Don’t let those guys be your examples.

Now, I want you to notice Paul’s tears in verse 18.

Don’t miss those tears.

There is a strong lesson here about how to talk about enemies of the Cross of Christ.

Notice that Paul is not full of bravado. There is no arrogance here. There is no judgmentalism. No pride and looking down his nose at these folks.

He calls them out. He calls a spade a spade.

He does not mince words about how bad these folks are and how dangerous they are.

But he says it with tears in his eyes.

Too often when we talk about our enemies, and the church does have enemies, we don’t do it with these tears. We don’t get broken up over their destiny being destruction. We tend to gloat and be giddy that they will get their comeuppance.

And yes, we can rejoice in God’s righteous judgments.

But while they are living and there is still hope for repentance, we should have tears.

Paul doesn’t just long for the Philippians to know Christ. He longs for their enemies to know Christ, too.

At the same time, Paul is very clear that the Philippians should follow his example and not these other guys.

Who are you following? Who do you want to be when you grow up in Christ?

Follow godly examples, my joy and my crown! That’s how you stand firm in the Lord.

Yes, follow me. As I follow Paul, and we both follow Christ, I invite you to follow me. I’m trying to live according to this pattern that he gave us, and I invite you to watch and join in.

I don’t do it perfectly. But Paul didn’t either!

And yet he said, “Follow my example.”

But don’t follow these other guys. Because (v.19), “Their mind is on earthly things.”

That leads us into second big idea for this message. Number two of two.

#2. FOCUS ON HEAVEN COMING TO EARTH.

Last week I asked you one of my “Pastor Matt trick questions.”

“Is it possible to be too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good?”

Did you think about that question this week?

“Is it possible to be too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good?”

The answer to that question is obviously, “It depends!”

It depends on what you mean by “heavenly minded.”

If you mean someone who all they talk about is heaven, all they think about is what heaven will be like, and they never talk or think about any other subject than heaven, then yeah, I can see how that person would be of no earthly good.

I mean Paul has thought about and talked about all kinds of other things than just “heaven” in the book of Philippians so far.

But Paul thought a lot about heaven. And here Paul says that heaven is our true headquarters. Look at verse 20.

“Their mind is on earthly things.” That’s where they focus. They are too earthly minded to be of any heavenly good! V.20

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

That’s the right kind of heavenly minded. Right there.

Where heaven is the focus. Heaven is the center because that’s where God is.

And that’s where Jesus is, and from where Jesus is coming!

That’s the kind of heavenly minded that is of great earthly good.

Because it focuses on heaven coming to earth.

This kind of heavenly-mindedness reminds Christians of how things really truly are.

And how they really truly will be.

When we focus on earthly things, we forget was is ultimately true, and we forget what will ultimately be coming.

I love it that the Lord sovereignly arranged for this to be our passage for this Independence Day weekend. I didn’t plan this, but the Lord did.

Paul says, “Our citizenship is in heaven.”

As Christians in America, we need to keep that in mind. We are, first and foremost, Christians. That’s where our true citizenship lies. That’s our first allegiance. Above all others. We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

Now, Paul was a Roman citizen. And he says that in the book of Acts. He doesn’t pretend that he isn’t a Roman. And we don’t have to pretend that we are not Americans.

We are. And we can be glad for that. Happy for the good things that can mean and owning our part of the bad things that can mean. America is both blessed and broken.

And we are Americans, blessed and broken.

But deeper and more fundamental and more important and all encompassing is our citizenship in heaven–which is blessed but not broken!

In fact, our citizenship in heaven should determine how we view and use our citizenship on earth. Because that citizenship is ultimate.

Don’t let your focus be on earthly things including even your American citizenship.

Think about it this way: We are actually on foreign soil where it counts the most.

“...our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, [and here’s what’s going to happen when heaven comes to earth] by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, [He] will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

Paul has resurrection on the brain!

Remember he wants to know the power of Jesus’ resurrection, “and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

And get a new glorious body like Jesus’ resurrection body!

D.A. Carson likes to say “There is nothing so very wrong with me that a good resurrection won’t fix.”

That’s what’s on the way!

Heaven is coming to earth.
The Kingdom of heaven is coming to earth.
Because the King of Heaven is coming to earth.

And we eagerly await Him.

Right? Are you eagerly waiting for the return of Christ?

Are you longing for His kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven?

Where is your focus?

Is it just on the upcoming election?
Is it just on standing up for your rights?
Is it just for building your financial portfolio?

I have to regularly ask myself if I am just trying to building my own personal kingdom. Maybe trying to get more people to come to MY church or follow ME on social media.

Where is my focus?
Where is your focus?
Is it on earthly things?

The people who have their focus on heaven coming to earth are the people who are the most earthly good.

And they are the ones who stand firm. Chapter 4, verse 1 again.

“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!”

Here’s how:

Follow godly examples who are humble and hungry to know Christ and know Him more.

And focus on the King of Heaven and the Kingdom of Heaven coming to earth.

That is how you and I can stand firm.

My joy and my crown.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. "I Always Pray with Joy"
02. "Because Of This I Will Rejoice"
03. "I Will Continue To Rejoice"
04. "Whatever Happens"
05. "Make My Joy Complete"
06. "Your Attitude"
07. "I Am Glad and Rejoice With All Of You"
08. "With Great Joy"
09. "Rejoice in the Lord!"
10. "I Want To Know Christ"
11. "I Press On"
11. 11

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