Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 7 years ago

The Theatre of Prayer

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

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

...meaning. They try to face good and evil in the world as though they were nothing, in particular, meaningless categories, as though the world were purely physical, as though life were nothing more than electrons doing their work, though we as though we were nothing more than just a piece of circuitry without any real meaning attached to it. We just sort of buzz along by fate. But people that argue this, or pretend to argue it, I think I'm fail even in their argumentation, seeing something even noble in approaching life this way, this viewpoint, and by looking at things through this viewpoint, they reveal what we all know, and what we know they know that life and death do have meaning, even if we attribute to them a sort of purely physical sense, even if we explain things by just randomness or fate, there's still the sense at which we're grasping to try to explain things. There's a sense in which we all know that life and death, these things which characterize us, they do have deep meaning. There's no way around it. And so, as people come to face this reality, they filled these categories with various things. What is the meaning of a death? It's a question that's always asked internally, sometimes externally at funerals and newspaper articles. Why did such and such a thing happen? What was its purpose? And we fill those categories life and death, with all kinds of things. We speak of family, achievements, memories, friends, honors, all kinds of things. But as...

Christians we know that even these kinds of things, family, friends, honors, achievements, money, treasures earned, even wisdom gained. As Christians God, we know that God has taught us that even these things perish and that pursuing them to find meaning in life or 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 hundred and eighteen. He talks about pursuing after wisdom and concludes with this, for in 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 a wise life, a life lived out according to wisdom, a sorrow is increased as well. He makes this point a poignantly in the next chapter, into sixteen, by saying that a wise man pursues after light and wisdom, a fool goes about life stumbling around in darkness. And what happens to them. Both they die, they end up, and he says, at the very same place foolishness. He concludes or possessions. In in chapter two, versus nine through eleven, he he talks about how he goes about working so hard to achieve all kinds of things. At the beginning of Chapter Two he lists various things that this he earned, like verse five, I Made Myself Gardens and parks and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forests of...

...growing trees. He talks about buying slaves and herds and flocks. In verse eighty, talks about gathering for himself silver and gold, the treasures of kings and provinces, singers, concubines, all the delights of the sons of man. He gathers so much, so many treasures, to himself, that he says I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. So, in addition to my wisdom, which remained with me, whatever my eyes desired, I did not keep from them, I kept my from my heart no pleasure. And yet he concludes that he considers the work of his hands, that all his hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it. And behold, all was in vanity and striving after wind. There was nothing to be gained under the Sun. So this vanity of life and toiling after wisdom and toiling after treasures or even just toiling in general, the the work itself. He could he says, for example, in Chapter Two, Verse Twenty One, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is a great vanity and a great evil. You see the kinds of things he's getting at. This picture of you work hard in all of your life, pursuing treasures and wisdom or just the value of hard work, you die and then you 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 teaches us that striving after these things, though certainly good in themselves and good under a certain context, will come to...

...think about later in and of themselves as 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 people try to fill their lives and their deaths with meaning. These are the kinds of 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 meaning lasting 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 deaths are connected to God, are connected to his ultimate will, his ultimate purpose and plans, his work, which is ever in vain, which never disappears, which is never spent worthlessly, only then, when our lives are connected to 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. Philippians to seventeen and eighteen, which I read before the sermon began, is a call 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 connection with 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 in him and death's died in him are deeply meaningful and lead to a very practical kind of application in this life, namely rejoicing. Rejoicing. Let's consider this by beginning to think about Paul, the...

...one who's speaking these things. I read to you just two verses for the sake of time, but I'll remind you 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 the Gospel and, worse yet, the prison and prisonment that he's enduring is being used 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 is in 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 spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but with that, but that with full courage now is always, Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. He expects that he will as soon be able to come to meet with them again and that he will be able to come and see with them, see them and continue in the progress and joy of their faith. And yet at the same time he doesn'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, he says, Eve, and if I'm to be poured out as a drink offering, even if I'm to die and as a sacrifice, then it's not in vain, though. Paul is in...

...prison and he expects his release. He sees death as a real possibility, not only because of his circumstances but also because this is true for all Christians. And if you'll allow me just a moment to kind of sidebar here and make this point, Paul expects death sooner 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 tells us do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes to test you don't be surprised about it. This is going to happen. Paul in prison is expecting this. He's not surprised by this. He doesn't see it as a guarantee that he's going to get out of this. Paul himself and acts fourteen, when he's going about doing his mission Mary Work, and ACS Fourteen twenty 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 saying that through many tribulations they will enter into the Kingdom of God. This is an 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 enter the Kingdom of God. But it's a part of our strengthening, it's a part of our encouragement. I love these...

...words from John, Fifteen, twenty. Jesus himself remember the word that I said to you. A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecute me, they will also persecute you. Paul is a servant of God. He knows this, he announces this constantly. It's a part of his identity. He belongs to Jesus, Christ, his Lord, and he knows that he is not greater than his master, and that's just fine. Jesus is his master and he desires to serve him. If they persecuted him, they will persecute me. To do many tribulations, we must enter the Kingdom of God. God, and so Paul expects that death is a real possibility, because it's a possibility for all who call 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 death often 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 should also be glad and rejoice with me. Imagine hearing that from the words of your 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 the church and he says, you know what,...

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

...defeated. Doesn't mean it won't be attacked again and again and again and again, but you need not worry. You can rejoice in the victory even now. Why? Because Christ has already overcome because the captain of the army, the King of our salvation, is one who is powerful and mighty. Well, this begins to teach us and begins to 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 called to 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 a way that when we live our lives, it's characterized by these things? It doesn't strike the world at first is making sense, does it? It's the way of thinking of the world that it's work, toil and wisdom and treasures that lead to that lead to glory and rejoicing. Right, you gain the desires of your heart and you'll be happy. You become a wise person, adept at 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 Kingdom of God that you'll find rejoicing. It's on this rocky road of picking up one's cross and following after the savior that you'll find rejoicing. where? How by living our lives in God. Paul...

...gives us a really powerful picture of that in these verses, in these two verses, he places this life that we live in God, through our Savior, Jesus Christ, in these old testament categories. I want to open those up for you a little bit as a way to impress these truths in your minds and in your hearts. Notice what Paul speaks in this Old Testament language. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I'm glad and rejoice with you all. So let's ask this question. How are we 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. Maybe not the first place you would go when you decide to think about your life in God, in Christ, but that's where Paul goes. That's how Paul thinks about it if you would turn with me on to one verse in First Peter to five. All reference some others, but this will set us up well to begin to understand what Paul has in mind here. First Peter to five encapsulates a lot of various New Testament passages that teach us about who we are as the church, as those who have been saved by Christ and founded on him. Peter says, you yourselves, like living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house. It's a way to speak of a temple, a spiritual house. You yourselves,...

...like living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable and pleasing to God. Acceptable, I'm sorry, offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. He goes on to say that we are those who have been founded on Jesus Christ. This, this corner stone. So you hear the metaphor that Paul, that Peter here is employing. He's saying that, 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 and lives. You are built on Jesus Christ, this foundation. But then he begins to mix metaphors in a way and he says, not only are you the temple, but you're also the priesthood. You are awful also those who not only are in dwelt by the spirit, but offer up sacrifices, sacrifices to God that are acceptable and pleasing to him. We read this in other places 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 picture of Old Testament temple worship and he compares his death to being poured out as a drink, offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith. So we have this broad perspective in scripture of this temple worship. Now we can narrow in a little more and we hear of these sacrifices, these particular sacrifices that are being offered. What sacrifices does he have in mind? What is the sacrificial offering of faith that the Philippians have offered...

...in the New Testament? We learn, and with much clarity, that the old testament sacrifices are over. We no longer bring lambs and goats and and pigeons and grain and these kinds of things to the temple of God to worship him, because Christ is our final sacrifice. Right. So what do we bring? One various passages, like the one in Peter or the one earlier I asked you to remember. In Romans twelve, we present what to God, our bodies, as living sacrifices acceptable and pleasing to God. In Hebrews Thirteen fifteen, we the author their talks 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 that interesting way to speak? Paul considers the gentiles like these animals that people used to bring, not a derogatory way, but he takes them as this act of worship. Paul understands the context of his ministry and he offers them up to 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 your sight. Well, it's in that kind of sense that the Philippians and you and me also offer up our bodies and our life together as a church up to God and we say, Lord Jesus Christ, except these offerings as pleasing in your sight, not to atone for our sin, not to earn favor on behalf of God, but simply as spiritual acts of worship, spiritual acts of worship. If you want to...

...get even more specific, take a look 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, some specific examples. In four hundred and eighteen he says, I have received full payment and more. In other words, he received the money that they sent to him. I received full payment and more. I am well supplied, having received from epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and 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 sees all of those kinds of things what we might call regular church life lived out in faith, as a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. So, going back to the question I brought up originally, how are we to perceive our lives and the things that we do is the body of Christ? We see them 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 our sacrifice is pure and holy, and God accepts them as pleasing and acceptable. Is it any wonder, then, that Paul is rejoicing that Paul says my death is but a drink offering poured out...

...in connection with your offering. Perhaps you don't remember what a drink offering is. It's a little bit complicated, but I'll tell you briefly for the sake of time this evening. A drink offering 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 those offerings complete. You read this in numbers, Chapter Fifteen, versus three through ten. There we read that when you bring a burnt offering or when you bring a peace offering, you're also to bring in the case of a lamb, three courts of flour, one court of oil. Why? Flour and oil to make bread. But also, in addition to the flower and the oil, these kind of grain offerings, you're also to bring a quart of wine. You see what happens there as you have something of a meal, right, you have the meat, the sacrifice, you have a bread now and 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 the Philippians are bringing. And it's possible, I can't say it with a hundred percent certainty, but it's possible, that the sacrifice that he talks about he means specifically that grain offering, those three courts of flour and oil. And so 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 my death. It's just as a drink offering. You see his pleasure in all of us. He sees his death, just as he sees their life, as just part of the sacrifice of praise and Thanksgiving and worship that we offer to God. This is how we are to think about our lives. Our lives in our deaths are not just bare facts. Our lives and our deaths are not just matter doing its thing. We live out our lives and our deaths as those who have been united to Christ in his once and for all sacrifice, 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 spirit of God. To put it as I put it in the beginning. We live it are all our lives and we die our deaths in connection and in communion 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 and pleasure 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 bring glory to him through Jesus Christ, and as I said at the beginning and as all end with, it leads to...

...a very practical application rejoicing. We rejoice as simple and as wonderful as that. Rejoice in who we are. Christ has 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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