Joy to the World! – How to be God’s Christmas Lights
[Text Philippians 2:1-18 NASB]
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.
The book of Philippians is said by many, notably Warren Wiersbe, to be the Bible’s book on Christian Joy.
A. This is one of Paul’s most informal letters. With this church he did not feel the need to assert his Apostolic authority. His overflowing love for them is obvious. He even allowed them to send him money (cf. 1:5,7; 4:15), which was very unusual for him.
B. Paul is imprisoned, yet he uses the term for joy (noun and verb) over sixteen times. His peace and hope were not based on circumstances.
C. There is an element of false teaching present in the church (cf. 3:2, 18-19). These heretics seem to be similar to those in the churches of Galatia, who were called Judaizers. They insisted that one had to become a Jew before one could be a Christian.
D. This letter includes an example of an early Christian hymn, creed, or liturgical poem (cf. 2:6-11). It is one of the finest Christological passages in the entire New Testament (cf. John 1:1-14; Col. 1:13-20; Heb. 1:2-3). Paul uses it as an example of Christ’s humility to be imitated by every believer (cf. 2:1-5), not primarily in a doctrinal sense.
E. In a book of 104 verses, Jesus’ name or title occurs 51 times. It is obvious who is central in Paul’s heart, mind, and theology.
In Chapter 1, Paul communicates his thankfulness to God for the Philippi believers. He tells them he is sure that they will continue on with God, because Paul “has them in his heart” (v. 6-7). That is the greatest sort of encouragement a Christian can give to his disciples. Also, Paul had a great and godly affection for these believers. He wanted to see them. And they had a “proud confidence in Paul” (1:26). Joy is said to be “the sparkle in the eyes of those who are happy to be with you.” – James Wilder. Joy is relational. One cannot have joy without being in relationships. And, there is something special with being face-to-face with those who find joy in you and with you.
Further on in chapter 1, the Apostle Paul challenged these believers to continue to grow in true knowledge (of God) and in [spiritual] discernment (vv. 9-11), so that they could approve (receive for themselves) what is excellent in life and not have lives full of “cover up” or blame. This kind of excellent (abundant) life comes from the “holes in our lives” being filled with Christ’s righteousness.
In the middle of Chapter 1 (vv. 12-20), Paul talks to the Philippians about his imprisonment. Yes, Paul wrote this letter while in prison for preaching the name of Jesus. But, Paul still had joy to share with the Philippians (Ch. 2: 17-18)! What could give him joy in those circumstances? He saw many come to believe in Christ as a result of his apprehension. In fact, because Paul was fearlessly willing to speak the Gospel even while being imprisoned, others were encouraged to believe on Christ without fear. [As is the faith of the leader, so will be the faith of the disciple]. Some hated Paul’s message and wanted to agitate and discourage Paul by their taunts. Others spread the Gospel out of love for Christ and Paul. But either way, the Gospel was being spread, and Paul rejoiced in that!
The rejoicing of an imprisoned man sounds rather irrational to the natural mind. But, Paul did not have a natural mind. He had a supernatural attitude and perspective. You see, from Paul’s viewpoint, to live is to experience Christ in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings and in the power of Christ’s resurrection — a.k.a. fruitful Christian life (1:21-22, 3:10-11). Also, from Paul’s viewpoint, to die is to gain (or, be in the presence of Jesus, Ch. 1:23). How does one discourage a man with that win-win perspective?! But, admittedly, God had assured Paul of deliverance because of the Philippians’ prayers (1:18-20). In that light, Paul knew he would continue living for the Philippians’ joy and progress in the faith (1:25-26).
Yet, at the end of Chapter 1 (vv.27-30), we read Paul’s admonition to the Philippians. Even though Paul would be released, according to God’s answer of their prayers; Paul told the Philippians not to act too haughty. He wants their “proud confidence” not to be misplaced in him. [As is the faith of the leader, so will be the faith of the disciple]. So, Paul presents the Philippians with the alternate outcome as a hypothetical—what if he would not come to them. What then? Would their faith fail? Paul’s hope for them was that whether or not he could be present, they all would be unified and standing firm on the Gospel, despite opposition (2:12). Suffering is normal for believers. Afer all, Paul himself had suffered much for Christ. [As is the faith of the leader, so will be the faith of the disciple.] Whether the Philippians’ faith would fail or not, there would be no regrets for Paul. He viewed himself as expendable, and that, Christian joy was worth sharing, no matter what the personal sacrifice—even if there was nothing in it for him (2:16-18).
Thesis Statement & Transition:
Because God (through Paul) desires the faith of believers to be joyful and resilient, Philippians, chapter 2, shows believers how to be “lights” — God’s Christmas Lights — of joy to a dark world.
vv. 1 – On the Basis of Mutual Encouragement in Christ:
- Comfort that Comes from Love
- Fellow Participation “in the Spirit”
- General (Human) Affection and Compassion/Sympathy
Make God’s joy complete by:
- Being unified! (v. 2) – one love, mindset, and harmonized in purpose (vv. 3-15)
- Do nothing from selfishness or empty self-centeredness (self exaltation).
- Be Humble: count others as more significant than yourself.
- Be a Servant to others’ betterment: lift up others. Don’t look only on your own interests, look to aid others’ interests.
- Exalt those who humble themselves and serve. (vv. 9-11)
- Minding your own (spiritual) business! (v. 12-13) Exercise your own salvation —
- Realize and respect that it is God who is at work in you (just as he is at work in others) both to desire and to do his good pleasure (v. 13).
- Don’t worry if a leader is around to see you or not (v. 12)
- Not complaining or fighting! (v. 14)
- Why: the lost world is looking. They need a light in a dark world that is built on and promoted by scraping and fighting and putting others down. (v. 15)
- How: by “holding fast” (putting into practice) the reasonability of God’s way for Life—seen in vv. 3-11– a.k.a. “the mind of Christ.” (v. 16)
Joy Starts Here by Jim Wilder, et al