Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 7 years ago

The Kind of Church We Ought to Be

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

If you're able, please remain standing and will hear God's word this evening from Philippians chapter four, Philippians four, two through nine. Hear the word of the Lord. I entreat IODIA and I entreat Syndici to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you, also, true companion, help these women who have labored side by side with me in the Gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to every one. The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with Thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things, what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Practice these things and the God of peace will be with you. God bless the Reading and preaching of his word may be seated well here. At the end of the book of Philippians and the chapter four, versus two through nine, Paul begins to close his letter to this church with...

...some instructions. Some of them are very specific, addressed specifically to two women, even named, possibly even a third named person. Will come to that a little bit later. But addressed to these two specific women who are told that they need to get along. I'm. He entreats them, I'm, openly and publicly, perhaps indicating that there was some kind of public nature to their dispute. He calls them to agree in the Lord. But in addition to these specific instructions to the specific individuals, Paul also gives instructions in a general way that without a doubt apply to our church, to covenant OPC just as much as it did to the Philippian Church, instructions that we are to heed, to he year and to follow. I'm just as Paul says, they're at the end of Philippians four, verse nine. He says, what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me practice these things. This is what our God has called us to do through his through his apostle we also, though the Apostle Paul hasn't been among us in person, has certainly been among us in other ways. We have his his acts, his works, his life given to us in quite a bit of detail in the pages of scripture, in the acts of the apostles, in that book and and throughout this letter and in many other places. I'm there are many ways in which we can look and see each of these things. I'm written for us. Commands to follow, but also commands that are written in the example of this apostle, commands that teach us as as church who we are ought to be, the kind of church that we ought to be. So I...

...want to consider those with you tonight, thinking very particularly about our particular church. What kind of church has God called us to be? Well, first in verses two through three. will go through these in order. I'm versus two through three. God calls us to be a unified church. This comes out implicitly in his exhortation or admonishment to Yodia and to synthikeate. He says that they are to have unity with each other, we are to find peace among themselves. The fact that this applies to us is obvious. I think I'm just from it being written. But to prove it with yet one other thing, we could note that what he says to them to be of one mind or to agree in the Lord, is something that he's said at other times and in other ways throughout the letter. You Remember, back in Ephesians chapter two, verse two, Paul says this. He says, complete my joy by being of the same mind. He also says in verse three, do not thing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, count others more significant than yourselves. or in verse five, have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. And these various ways, Paul calls us to seek unity. He says a similar thing we read earlier in Romans Fourteen. He says welcome the weak brother, but not to quarrel with him. We of course do this. We find people that we can disagree with simply for the purpose of disagreeing, I'm not for the purpose of finding unity, not for the purpose of coming closer together. Paul, here, I'm doesn't take sides, he doesn't tell one and he doesn't actually give them very specific instructions about what to do. He simply says, you need to agree,...

...you need to work it out. He puts the responsibility on them. He says, in a certain sense, you're mature enough to handle this. I'm you need to come to one mind. He calls this, he calls them to this, and also, I'm calls the church to this as well. He addresses someone in verse three and asks that this person help them. He says, yes, I ask you, true companion, help these women who have labored side by side with me in the Gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my fellow new workers whose names are written in the book of life. There's the sense that these women, along with Clement and along with this other, possibly unnamed person, have all been a part of the same team, along with Paul, working together for the sake of the Gospel. He doesn't say exactly in what ways, but they are laboring side by side, even as he has called us to do in the church. I don't mean to be coy about this third person. I'll just kind of get this out of the way. It's a little bit difficult to know who he's addressing in the way it's translated here in the ESV. It doesn't a name, a particular person, and all kinds of guesses have been made as to who it is he's addressing, without any particular person being very convincing and conclusive. One possibility you might see in your notes is that a word that he uses here is actually a proper name when he says I ask of also of you, true companion. In the notes here it says or loyal, scissor, sidgus. This is a possibly he's it's a it's a person who's named after a quality, like a lady might be named peace or or something like that. Something like that may be going on here. It doesn't matter a...

...whole lot, just to have kind of move that out of the way and say that what we do have, clearly, though, here, are specific people, I'm laboring side by side For the sake of the Gospel, and Paul wants them to remember that and to seek their unity in in remembering that. Well, the same is true for us. I'm dismemberment harms the church as much as it harms the physical body, and so unity must be one of our main objectives. We must do it whenever we can and whenever we can to bring ourselves together. So we are called to be unified and to have peace. Then in verse four he says that we are to rejoice, we are to be a rejoicing people. This is clear enough. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say rejoice. Paul repeats it explicitly twice, even tells you that he's repeating it. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say rejoice. And Paul has been rejoicing throughout the letter for various reasons. He's called us to rejoice, if you remember, back in a chapter three, verse one. Finally, my brother's rejoice in the Lord. So in addition to being a unified people, we are called to be a people that rejoices. We are to people, be a people who knows what it means to have joy and to let it spill out in prayer and in praise. And if you think about it, there is of course much to give thanks for. Think about what God has done for you, just in your physical and temporal needs. Has God not cared for you abundantly and in many ways, even in spite of your many sins? As God not provided for you food and clothing, strengthen your body, all kinds of pleasures and good things, music to listen to, things to watch and read...

...and enjoy a family, friends and if you are a Christian, you can add to this a whole host of spiritual brought blessings as well. You are a child of God. The Holy Spirit has enlightened your mind so that you're no longer pursuing sin and darkness and death. I'm he's given you the Scriptures and is opened and revealed him self in his word. He's strengthened your will so that you might live your lives in accordance with that word. He's giving you security in his death and in his resurrection. He's given you confidence in your prayers and forgiveness for your sins, and the list just goes on and on and on. Isn't God good? Isn't God good? Doesn't he take care of US and provide for us in every way? Paul says that we are to be characterized, the Church of God is to be characterized, by rejoicing, and of course he does. We have much to rejoice in, and the rejoicing of Christians, he says, is not a one time thing that sort of snuffed out in a moment, but it is a thing that happens always and difficult circumstances as well. We remember that this one who is calling to calling us to rejoice, Paul, is one who sits in a prison as he writes these things, as one who is enduring persecution for preaching the Gospel, is one who is suffering the attacks of even other people in the church. And he says, this one in prison, this one suffering these things and many others in his life, says rejoice, be thankful, James says in his letter, in James one hundred and seventeen, every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of lights and whom there is no very shan or shadows do to change. To...

...connect those ideas that God is good and that he doesn't change, that he is the father of lights and whom there is no shadow and whom there is no variation due to change, and that he is good and provides good for us, should indeed cause us to rejoice and to rejoice always. So we are to be a unified church, we are also to be a rejoicing church. Next, he says that we are to be a reasonable people. He says we are to be a reasonable people. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord he goes on to say is hand be reasonable. Other translations, other English translates and translations translate this as as gentleness. I think Luther had it right when he said that we are to be those who don't insist on our own rights. There's a sense in which it had reasonable here is used in the sense not of being smart, but in the sense that you might say to someone, come on, be reasonable, that kind of tone of voice, that sort of meaning behind it. Don't insist on everything that you might insist on. Show some gentleness, show some compassion, be reasonable here. Consider others interests along with your own. Remember, Paul says that at the beginning of the letter. I'm going back to Luther or I want to read to you a little bit from an illustration he gives of this. Luther writes, I can't illustrate this any better than to them by two good friends. How you see them treat one another is how we should treat all people. Now, how do these two act? Each one conducts himself in a way that benefits the other che each one forfeits, yields, tolerates, does allows what they perceive as useful and beneficial to the other. And...

...all of this is done freely, uncompelled, so each one accommodates and adapts their self to the other. Neither compels the other to act for their benefit, and so if one infringes on the other's rights, they forgive them. In brief, there is no law, no rights, no compulsion, no necessity, but rather pure freedom in favor. Everything is done in such abundance that even by law and compulsion, we would not be able to produce even a hundredth as much. And this is true, isn't it? You can try, for example, in your workplace, to set a kind of a mission statement and, and I was set of rules. This is how we treat each other in this workplace. In your families, you can set a list of rules and and regulations down to the finest details about how we will speak and how we will act. And even if those, even if the rules were kept exactly, it wouldn't have the joy and the freedom and the love that comes out when we are reasonable with each other, when we are gentle with each other and loving toward one another, when we're not insisting on our rights and insisting that everything be perfect. All the time exactly in the way that we think it ought to be. One good example of that, going back to the passage we read earlier in Romans Fourteen, is a perfect example of that. It's not an ideal situation Paul describes there. The weak person is characterized as weak, the strong person is characterized as strong. There's a kind of inequality among the among the faith of these diff varying believers. There are mistakes and difficulties. It's kind of a messy situation, but he calls them to love nevertheless. He calls them not to all everybody insist on...

...their own rights, but to be gracious and gentle toward one another. This is to be true of our church as well. We are to be a reasonable people, a gentle people, people that do not insist on their own rights, but treat each other, even those we might have a hard time getting along with, as friends. So we are to be unified, we are to rejoice, we are to be reasonable, and then we are to be prayerful. Excuse me, the air conditioning keeps blowing my pages away. Here we are to be prayerful. He says this in verses six and following. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with Thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds. In Christ Jesus, when you think about the anxious person, I hope you'll think of a slave. An anxious person is a slave. There are a slave of the things that they're anxious about, whether it's a particular fear they have, is often someth what it is, or a particular love that they have. People are anxious about money, people are anxious about getting things done, they're anxious of people's perceptions or their particular cares or responsibilities. Sometimes they're anxious about things that are terrible and you should never love to the smallest degree. But oftentimes we're anxious about good things, but we are anxious and fearful and slaves to them in a kind of inordinate and unholy and even sinful way. We are in we are slaves to them. We are not slaves to God. When we are ruled by our our care for money or people's perception or getting things done or any number of things you might list,...

...we are, it trapped we are enslaved. The answer is not to give up on good things, nor is it simply to wait for a favorable solution from God before we finally say, okay, well, I don't have to be anxious anymore. What is scripture say? The answer is to our anxiety. It is to pray, simply to pray. John Calvin compares prayer to an asylum. It's a place that you can run to and seek protection when you are tormented. We do so with Thanksgiving, a sort of on the way there, and while we are there we lift our hearts up with Thanksgiving, because we come to God knowing that he will answer prayer. If you come to God not believing that he will answer, what kind of prayer is that? If you go, for example, and you ask your boss for a raise that you know they won't give and don't have the money in the budget to give sort of what's the point? Do you think your boss will hear you? And if your boss knows your heart on these things and he knows that you know the money's that there and he knows that you know you haven't been performing well and he knows that you know, he won't give it to you. It's nothing more than mocking, perhaps an action of insubordination, of causing strife. Whatever it is, it's not good when you do the same thing, when we go to God, not believing, not with Thanksgiving and praise in the God who is good, as we've talked about earlier, the God who takes care of us. No, we go to God in faith, knowing that he hears our prayers, that he is good, as we read from James or we remember from Jesus's words that, like a...

...father, he is pleased to take care of his children. He gives us what we need. He even tells us to pray for what we need. When you pray, pray like this and give us our daily bread. God calls us to ask for these things and says that he will take care of us. And so we have anxieties. Rather than making up excuses for why we are rightfully so anxious about these things, or rather than simply waiting for them to be over, we are called to be a prayer for prayerful people, to go to God and to rest on him for these things. We are called to pray and when we do so, we are told that a peace, a peace which surpasses understanding, will guard your hearts and minds. The image is like a battalion of soldiers guarding and protecting. God says that when we go to him in prayer, constant prayer, he will protect our inward lives from going a muck. So we are to be a prayerful church, a unified church, a rejoicing church, a reasonable church. All of this is concluded. All of this is concluded in verses eight, when Paul says he gives this kind of statement, this long list of things by which we are to then judge all things. One way you might connect these various ideas is each of these things that we've been called to be prayerful, rejoicing, reasonable, unified. We are to approached it and to strive after it through this particular lens as well as the rest of life. It's a way to direct our prayers, to focus our thoughts, to find unity and rejoicing and many more things. What does he say? Verse Eight? He says, finally, Brothers, whatever is true, honorable, just, pure,...

...lovely, commendable, excellent or worthy of praise, think about these things. What are our conversations like? What are the things that we talk about. What are the things that we enjoy when we com together and fellowship with one another? What are the things that we are pointing one another toward? These are the things that are to be the work of our minds and hearts, things that are true and noble and excellent and Pure and praiseworthy. Through, through this filter, everything that we come into contact must pass, and not just once but continually. Notice the verb Paul uses. He says practice these things. He says, practice these things, practice, grow in them, try it again and again and again. Become in the habit of thinking on these things. In them you will not only find holiness, but a holy God. You will not only find peace, but a god of peace, as he says, practice these things and the god of peace will be with you. So this is the kind of church God calls us to be, a church that is unified, a church that is reasonable, a church that is a rejoicing and prayerful, a church that thinks about things that are excellent and praiseworthy and loves to meditate on them and dwell on them, a church that directs all of our hearts and our thoughts on through that particular lens or filter. Now I will have failed entirely at my job if I were not to say that these things were entirely impossible and told and are totally unattainable to...

...those who live their lives apart from God. We can't simply say these things and say here is what you are to be, now go and do them, as if it were that easy. We know in our sinful flesh, as we hear these things over and over, that we have not done them, that we are at Church, that is guilty, at Fay, and Fay has failed at every single one of these points. We can think about it in our individual lives and some of our relationships with one another, and we can think of it a corporately as well, not just here but our denomination and Christianity as a whole. We have not always done well on these things. In fact we've probably done more poorly than we've done well. We don't have anything here that we can pat our backs on, our pat our backs and say keep on keeping on. There is a lot to be humbled about, but it is even worse for the one who seeks of these things apart from God. They're not just difficult and and challenging, but they are impossible, entirely unattainable, and the scripture is very clear about this. These commands and the expectation for their fulfillment is directed specifically at believers, specifically at these believers, and the same is true for these promises. Take a look at them again briefly, verses two and three. This unity that they have is not an arbitrary unity. It's not a unity that they are here to be seeking in something that is that is simply decided upon from them, but they seek a unity in something that is higher than them, namely the Gospel,...

...which convicts them of their sin and promises salvation in the death of Christ as those who are unified in him and him in his death. These sisters, this church is to seek a unity that they already have. They are not to attain it entirely, as as though they were to work for it and simply attained on their own. They are to strive to and enjoy a closeness that they already possess. They are already sisters, they already work side by side for the sake of the Gospel and are united in it. In a sense, you could say it's not so much about getting a blessing, but getting out of its way. They are called to be unified, not in something arbitrary but in something foundational, and that's namely the Gospel, something that his unified them together before they unified themselves. Similar thing is true with rejoicing. Those who rejoice apart from Christ have a baseless joy. They have they treasure things that will soon be taken away and removed. That's not the case for Christians, though. We can be commanded and expected to rejoice and even fulfill it in a certain measure, rejoicing in all things, because we rejoice specifically in the Lord. Hardships don't overly concern us or trouble us because we have Christ Christian martyrs can go to their death and say, you can take my life from me, because I have everything and you can't take him from me. Nothing can separate me from his love because of the strength of his love, not because of the strength of my faith, but because of what he has done. It is God who guards and protects and works for our good. It is God who has forgiven our sins, resurrection from death...

...and victory over Satan. We are freed from sin and therefore freed to rejoice. But if you are enslave to your sins, what is there to rejoice in? What is there to rejoice and when all the world and even God himself is against you? To consider the good things of God and yet were to reject him is only to incur a greater ground for his judgment. But those of us who worship and rejoice in the Lord do indeed have something to rejoice in. This is why Paul's reminder at the end of verse five the beginning of verse six is so helpful. He says the Lord is at hand. When you know that the Almighty God loves you, how easy it is to let go of fear, to let go of your rights, to let go of your slavery. It is God who works in us. It is God who is protecting us and is watching out for us. These thoughts, these assurances of our salvation, are the things that start to put to death our fears, our anxieties, our slavery's you remember what David says and the Psalms. Though I walk through the Valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because of God watches over him, who is his rock, who is his salvation, who are the WHO has the wings that overshadow him and protect him. This is why we can find unity and rejoicing in gentleness and prayer, because we find it not in some arbitrary standard or some kind of end to which we are trying to attain, but because of God, because of what he has done for us already in Christ because of the kind of people he is established. We're not trying to establish the church that's...

...already happened. We are simply trying to act in accordance what God has given us. A church that is adorned with these graces described here is a church that is adorned in this way not because of her amazing effort, but because of God's amazing grace. Another way to think about it is to say that the peace of God belongs to us. When we belong to the God of peace, when we are taken care of him, we are taking care by him. When he watches over us, we know that we are watched over. When we pray to him, we know that he hears our prayers. We belong to him because he has made us his own, and that's what it means to hear these commands as Christians. It's to hear them, not in the strength of our own wills and to get up and say we will create this church, but it is to say this is who God has made us to be, this is the kind of place, in the kind of people he has created through the work of his son, through the Holy Spirit, in welling us, the trying and God has worked in us. And it is entirely in this perspective that Paul is framing all these commands to rejoice in the Lord, to pray with Thanksgiving in the Lord, to find peace in God, to be united side by side in the Gospel. All of these things remind us that, as we just seek and desire to be the kind of people God has called us to be, we do it knowing that God is the God is the kind of God who he is. So we are called not merely to seek morality but to seek God, not just excellent...

...and praiseworthy things, but the excellent and praiseworthy king who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ and the God of all grace in the good news to us is not only that he has he revealed himself very freely in this way, but they the god is also promised that all those who seek him will find him. So let us seek him, let us search after these kinds of things and these graces that he has has called us to. Let us seek to obey the commands that he has given us as a people that have been called and made in his name, because when we seek after God, we will find him and he will bless us. Let us pray.

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