Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 years ago

The Theatre of Prayer

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

Well, if you're able, pleaseremain standing and let's hear God's word. Now, from Philippians to verses seventeenand eighteen, Philippians to seventeen and eighteen. Here Paul, Writing From Prison,completes this next this section of his letter, with with these words Phesianstwo, seventeen through eighteen. Even if I am to be poured out asa drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad andrejoice with you all. Likewise, you also should be glad and rejoice withme. May God bless his word to us. Please be seated. Iwant to talk to you about some big ideas tonight. I'll put them rightup front. And life death in and meaning. I want to talk toyou about the way we think about life and death, the way we thinkabout meaning, the way we think about life and death particularly in connection withmeaning, or more particularly the way we fill our thinking about life and aboutour death with meaning. Now, I'm aware that some people pretend, pretendthis ability to strip life and death of...

...meaning. They try to face goodand evil in the world as though they were nothing, in particular, meaninglesscategories, as though the world were purely physical, as though life were nothingmore than electrons doing their work, though we as though we were nothing morethan just a piece of circuitry without any real meaning attached to it. Wejust sort of buzz along by fate. But people that argue this, orpretend to argue it, I think I'm fail even in their argumentation, seeingsomething even noble in approaching life this way, this viewpoint, and by looking atthings through this viewpoint, they reveal what we all know, and whatwe know they know that life and death do have meaning, even if weattribute to them a sort of purely physical sense, even if we explain thingsby just randomness or fate, there's still the sense at which we're grasping totry to explain things. There's a sense in which we all know that lifeand death, these things which characterize us, they do have deep meaning. There'sno way around it. And so, as people come to face this reality, they filled these categories with various things. What is the meaning ofa death? It's a question that's always asked internally, sometimes externally at funeralsand newspaper articles. Why did such and such a thing happen? What wasits purpose? And we fill those categories life and death, with all kindsof things. We speak of family, achievements, memories, friends, honors, all kinds of things. But as...

Christians we know that even these kindsof things, family, friends, honors, achievements, money, treasures earned,even wisdom gained. As Christians God, we know that God has taught usthat even these things perish and that pursuing them to find meaning in lifeor in death is really a fool's errand I'm consider God's words from ecclesiastes here. The preacher takes up various topics, like in a feat ecclesiasts one hundredand eighteen. He talks about pursuing after wisdom and concludes with this, forin much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increase he who increases knowledge, increases sorrow. There's this sense of which, even as one pursues awise life, a life lived out according to wisdom, a sorrow is increasedas well. He makes this point a poignantly in the next chapter, intosixteen, by saying that a wise man pursues after light and wisdom, afool goes about life stumbling around in darkness. And what happens to them. Boththey die, they end up, and he says, at the verysame place foolishness. He concludes or possessions. In in chapter two, versus ninethrough eleven, he he talks about how he goes about working so hardto achieve all kinds of things. At the beginning of Chapter Two he listsvarious things that this he earned, like verse five, I Made Myself Gardensand parks and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myselfpools from which to water the forests of...

...growing trees. He talks about buyingslaves and herds and flocks. In verse eighty, talks about gathering for himselfsilver and gold, the treasures of kings and provinces, singers, concubines,all the delights of the sons of man. He gathers so much, so manytreasures, to himself, that he says I became great and surpassed allwho were before me in Jerusalem. So, in addition to my wisdom, whichremained with me, whatever my eyes desired, I did not keep fromthem, I kept my from my heart no pleasure. And yet he concludesthat he considers the work of his hands, that all his hands had done andthe toil I had expended in doing it. And behold, all wasin vanity and striving after wind. There was nothing to be gained under theSun. So this vanity of life and toiling after wisdom and toiling after treasuresor even just toiling in general, the the work itself. He could hesays, for example, in Chapter Two, Verse Twenty One, because sometimes aperson who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything tobe enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is agreat vanity and a great evil. You see the kinds of things he's gettingat. This picture of you work hard in all of your life, pursuingtreasures and wisdom or just the value of hard work, you die and thenyou leave it to some lazy person who hasn't worked for anything. Vanity,says, a great evil under the Sun. So in all these things God teachesus that striving after these things, though certainly good in themselves and goodunder a certain context, will come to...

...think about later in and of themselvesas seen as striving after the wind, something in which is this vanity.You can't gain anything. And yet these are the kinds of things that peopletry to fill their lives and their deaths with meaning. These are the kindsof things that they they push into those categories to give lasting value to them. But it's as if you're striving after wind. So where is true meaninglasting value found? Well, the answer scripture gives is it's found in God, and God is found in Christ. Only when our lives and our deathsare connected to God, are connected to his ultimate will, his ultimate purposeand plans, his work, which is ever in vain, which never disappears, which is never spent worthlessly, only then, when our lives are connectedto him, will they be filled with meaning that isn't empty and isn't vanity, but filled with something that is truly worthy and of lasting value. Philippiansto seventeen and eighteen, which I read before the sermon began, is acall to see things in that way. It's a call to see our life, our whole life, even our deaths, in connection with God, in connectionwith him. We see this through the example and teaching of God's Apostle, the Apostle Paul, and these verses God teaches us how lives lived inhim and death's died in him are deeply meaningful and lead to a very practicalkind of application in this life, namely rejoicing. Rejoicing. Let's consider thisby beginning to think about Paul, the...

...one who's speaking these things. Iread to you just two verses for the sake of time, but I'll remindyou that Paul's in a bit of a rough spot, to put it mildly. He's in prison. He's in prison for the sake of preaching in theGospel and, worse yet, the prison and prisonment that he's enduring is beingused by fellow Christians. Is being used by fellow Christians to attack him.They're using it to seek to harm him and puff themselves up. Paul isin this difficult position and he's fairly confident that he's going to be released.You see this in Verse Nine, Verses Nineteen and twenty, of Chapter One. I'll read them to you, and he says yes, I will rejoice, for I know that, through your prayers and the help of the spiritof Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. As it is myeager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but withthat, but that with full courage now is always, Christ will be honoredin my body, whether by life or by death. He expects that hewill as soon be able to come to meet with them again and that hewill be able to come and see with them, see them and continue inthe progress and joy of their faith. And yet at the same time hedoesn't take this as a guarantee. He says, whether in life or death, these things I will be accomplished. He sees death as a real possibility, and that's what he's getting at here. In verses seventeen and eighteen, hesays, Eve, and if I'm to be poured out as a drinkoffering, even if I'm to die and as a sacrifice, then it's notin vain, though. Paul is in...

...prison and he expects his release.He sees death as a real possibility, not only because of his circumstances butalso because this is true for all Christians. And if you'll allow me just amoment to kind of sidebar here and make this point, Paul expects deathsooner or later. He expects it because it's the uniform testimony of God's word. I'll give you just three examples and first Peter. Twelve will peter tellsus do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes to test youdon't be surprised about it. This is going to happen. Paul in prisonis expecting this. He's not surprised by this. He doesn't see it asa guarantee that he's going to get out of this. Paul himself and actsfourteen, when he's going about doing his mission Mary Work, and ACS Fourteentwenty two. We read that he was strengthening the souls of the disciples,encouraging them to continue in the faith and saying to them that through many tribulations, they must enter the Kingdom of God. If you don't understand the New Testament, if you don't unders stand the way Paul thinks, that one,two three movement that you see there and acts fourteen maybe a little bit surprising. He's going around strengthening their souls, encouraging them in the faith and sayingthat through many tribulations they will enter into the Kingdom of God. This isan expected part of our life. It's a part of our strengthening and encouragement. It's not a discouragement to Christians, that we will, through many trials, enter the Kingdom of God, that through many trials, we must enterthe Kingdom of God. But it's a part of our strengthening, it's apart of our encouragement. I love these...

...words from John, Fifteen, twenty. Jesus himself remember the word that I said to you. A servant isnot greater than his master. If they persecute me, they will also persecuteyou. Paul is a servant of God. He knows this, he announces thisconstantly. It's a part of his identity. He belongs to Jesus,Christ, his Lord, and he knows that he is not greater than hismaster, and that's just fine. Jesus is his master and he desires toserve him. If they persecuted him, they will persecute me. To domany tribulations, we must enter the Kingdom of God. God, and soPaul expects that death is a real possibility, because it's a possibility for all whocall themselves servants of God, followers of Christ, Jesus. And yet, and yet, though he knows this is a possibility, a real possibility, it doesn't seem to concern him, least not in the way that deathoften can seems to concern us. Listen to his words. He says,even if I am poured out as a drink offering, skipping a little bit, I am glad and I rejoice with you all. Likewise, you shouldalso be glad and rejoice with me. Imagine hearing that from the words ofyour missionary, a missionary that you've sent out and are supporting and praying for, a missionary who's been preaching the Gospel and now finds himself in prison,and he says, you know what, he writes back a letter to thechurch and he says, you know what,...

...even if I'm poured out as adrink offering, even if I am to die, I'm glad, Irejoice and you should rejoice. To Paul does. Paul sees his death asa possibility and it doesn't concern him. The Bible speaks of speaks this wayin other places as well. In other words, suffering for the faith isnot only something that is to be expected, as we mentioned earlier, it's alsosomething to be rejoiced in. It's not just that we say, well, yeah, I suppose that might happen to me some day, or eventhat I know this will happen to me some day, but I know thatit will happen to me and I will rejoice in it. Consider James aswords. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials ofvarious kinds, or Peter's words, we rejoice in the salvation of God,though now, for a little while, if necessary, you are grieved byvarious trials. In Romans three, Paul says we rejoice in our sufferings.In Colossians one hundred and twenty four, he says, I rejoice in mysufferings. or Jesus's words in John Sixteen thirty three. In the world youwill have tribulation, but take heart, rejoice, I have overcome the world. You will have tribulation in the world, but take heart, I have overcomethe world. You need did not fear. You might compare our beingin Christ is to as servants, to belonging to an invincible army, anarmy that could never and will never be...

...defeated. Doesn't mean it won't beattacked again and again and again and again, but you need not worry. Youcan rejoice in the victory even now. Why? Because Christ has already overcomebecause the captain of the army, the King of our salvation, isone who is powerful and mighty. Well, this begins to teach us and beginsto get at this way in which we view our sufferings and trials,the way in which we view our life and our death. We are calledto expect suffering and to rejoice in it. But where does that come from?Where do we find rejoicing? Where do we root ourselves in such away that when we live our lives, it's characterized by these things? Itdoesn't strike the world at first is making sense, does it? It's theway of thinking of the world that it's work, toil and wisdom and treasuresthat lead to that lead to glory and rejoicing. Right, you gain thedesires of your heart and you'll be happy. You become a wise person, adeptat business deals or uncapable of managing relationships, or whatever it is,and you will be happy. But the preacher and ecclesiast he says no,you'll find yourself in sorrow and and chasing after the wind. The Bible,in the other hand, says that it's in suffering and sorrow for the Kingdomof God that you'll find rejoicing. It's on this rocky road of picking upone's cross and following after the savior that you'll find rejoicing. where? Howby living our lives in God. Paul...

...gives us a really powerful picture ofthat in these verses, in these two verses, he places this life thatwe live in God, through our Savior, Jesus Christ, in these old testamentcategories. I want to open those up for you a little bit asa way to impress these truths in your minds and in your hearts. Noticewhat Paul speaks in this Old Testament language. Even if I am to be pouredout as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I'mglad and rejoice with you all. So let's ask this question. How arewe to think about our lives in the way that he's thinking about them,so that we might rejoice, so that we might find happiness? Well,Paul calls us to think of them in terms of Old Testament worship. Maybenot the first place you would go when you decide to think about your lifein God, in Christ, but that's where Paul goes. That's how Paulthinks about it if you would turn with me on to one verse in FirstPeter to five. All reference some others, but this will set us up wellto begin to understand what Paul has in mind here. First Peter tofive encapsulates a lot of various New Testament passages that teach us about who weare as the church, as those who have been saved by Christ and foundedon him. Peter says, you yourselves, like living stones, are being builtup as a spiritual house. It's a way to speak of a temple, a spiritual house. You yourselves,...

...like living stones, are being builtup as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrificesacceptable and pleasing to God. Acceptable, I'm sorry, offer spiritual sacrifices acceptableto God through Jesus Christ. He goes on to say that we are thosewho have been founded on Jesus Christ. This, this corner stone. Soyou hear the metaphor that Paul, that Peter here is employing. He's sayingthat, as the church, you're to think of yourself like the temple.You are this holy spiritual house in which the spirit of God in dwells andlives. You are built on Jesus Christ, this foundation. But then he beginsto mix metaphors in a way and he says, not only are youthe temple, but you're also the priesthood. You are awful also those who notonly are in dwelt by the spirit, but offer up sacrifices, sacrifices toGod that are acceptable and pleasing to him. We read this in otherplaces like First Corinthians six and and others. But going back to our passage tonight, Philippians to seventeen through eighteen, Paul sort of moves into that pictureof Old Testament temple worship and he compares his death to being poured out asa drink, offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith. So we havethis broad perspective in scripture of this temple worship. Now we can narrow ina little more and we hear of these sacrifices, these particular sacrifices that arebeing offered. What sacrifices does he have in mind? What is the sacrificialoffering of faith that the Philippians have offered...

...in the New Testament? We learn, and with much clarity, that the old testament sacrifices are over. Weno longer bring lambs and goats and and pigeons and grain and these kinds ofthings to the temple of God to worship him, because Christ is our finalsacrifice. Right. So what do we bring? One various passages, likethe one in Peter or the one earlier I asked you to remember. InRomans twelve, we present what to God, our bodies, as living sacrifices acceptableand pleasing to God. In Hebrews Thirteen fifteen, we the author theirtalks about US offering a sacrifice of praise. Paul in a really interesting way.In Romans fifteen talks about offering the gentiles up to God. Isn't thatinteresting way to speak? Paul considers the gentiles like these animals that people usedto bring, not a derogatory way, but he takes them as this actof worship. Paul understands the context of his ministry and he offers them upto God and he says, this work belongs to you. Please accept them, this ministry that you have given me, and take it as pleasing in yoursight. Well, it's in that kind of sense that the Philippians andyou and me also offer up our bodies and our life together as a churchup to God and we say, Lord Jesus Christ, except these offerings aspleasing in your sight, not to atone for our sin, not to earnfavor on behalf of God, but simply as spiritual acts of worship, spiritualacts of worship. If you want to...

...get even more specific, take alook at Philippians, this book that we're in, Philippians four hundred and eighteen, and listen to the very specific things Paul mentions about this church, somespecific examples. In four hundred and eighteen he says, I have received fullpayment and more. In other words, he received the money that they sentto him. I received full payment and more. I am well supplied,having received from epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptableand please to God. So Paul sees this outpouring of their faith.There's confidence in the Gospel, to send the Gospel for through this missionary,their gifts given to him, their support of him, their prayers of him, even the sending of this minister, epaphroditus, to them. Paul seesall of those kinds of things what we might call regular church life lived outin faith, as a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. So, goingback to the question I brought up originally, how are we to perceive our livesand the things that we do is the body of Christ? We seethem as spiritual sacrifices given to God, as acts of worship through Jesus Christ, this one who went before us atone for our sins. That makes oursacrifice is pure and holy, and God accepts them as pleasing and acceptable.Is it any wonder, then, that Paul is rejoicing that Paul says mydeath is but a drink offering poured out...

...in connection with your offering. Perhapsyou don't remember what a drink offering is. It's a little bit complicated, butI'll tell you briefly for the sake of time this evening. A drinkoffering was something that was added. It was added to they burnt offerings,into the peace offerings in particular, as a way to kind of make thoseofferings complete. You read this in numbers, Chapter Fifteen, versus three through ten. There we read that when you bring a burnt offering or when youbring a peace offering, you're also to bring in the case of a lamb, three courts of flour, one court of oil. Why? Flour andoil to make bread. But also, in addition to the flower and theoil, these kind of grain offerings, you're also to bring a quart ofwine. You see what happens there as you have something of a meal,right, you have the meat, the sacrifice, you have a bread nowand you have a drink. And so Paul sees himself in this way.He sees himself as simply being added to the sacrifice, that the that thePhilippians are bringing. And it's possible, I can't say it with a hundredpercent certainty, but it's possible, that the sacrifice that he talks about hemeans specifically that grain offering, those three courts of flour and oil. Andso you have this picture, then, of Christ. Are Offering Jesus Christ, this one who endured suffering in persecution and trial for the sake of sins, and we are called to follow after him and, in connection with him, offer ourselves as sacrifices, perhaps that grain offering. And Paul says,I'm simply right in there with you,...

...even if I'm poured out unto mydeath. It's just as a drink offering. You see his pleasure in all ofus. He sees his death, just as he sees their life,as just part of the sacrifice of praise and Thanksgiving and worship that we offerto God. This is how we are to think about our lives. Ourlives in our deaths are not just bare facts. Our lives and our deathsare not just matter doing its thing. We live out our lives and ourdeaths as those who have been united to Christ in his once and for allsacrifice, as those who are living stones being built on this Temple Foundation.We live out our lives as those who are being in dwelt by the spiritof God. To put it as I put it in the beginning. Welive it are all our lives and we die our deaths in connection and incommunion with God, and that means that they have meaning, richness, value, and in that there's not sorrow, but in suffering even there's rejoicing andpleasure and triumph and confidence. Every aspect of our lives lived in this way, lived as belonging to God and fulfilling his purposes, are things that bringglory to him through Jesus Christ, and as I said at the beginning andas all end with, it leads to...

...a very practical application rejoicing. Werejoice as simple and as wonderful as that. Rejoice in who we are. Christhas overcome the world and we overcome in him. We are unto God, those acceptable and pleasing sacrifices of worship, and in these things we can rejoice. Let us pray.

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