Gospel Peace (Philippians 4:2-7)March 27, 2022 | Brandon Cooper
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You’re gonna go ahead and grab your Bibles open up to Philippians chapter four. We’ll be starting in verse two this morning. In chapter four, beginning in verse two, kind of as an appropriate segue. Honestly, I’ve got a little poem for you. It’s not an original. It goes something like this to live above, with the saints we love. Oh, that will be glory. But to live below with the saints, we know well, that’s another story. Clever, sure worth laughing at Absolutely. But all too true at the same time. Church would be easy. If it weren’t for the people, am I right? Can I get an amen? That’s what’s happening in Philippi. As Paul is writing this letter, there’s a conflict brewing between the saints. And that disunity threatens the Gospels advance, both in the church and through the church as they seek to reach of the world. And so Paul is going to in our passage this morning, headed off at the pass. And how he goes about this, though, is a little bit interesting, very instructive for us. So may maybe in the past few weeks, you heard this Latin slogan, because he got tossed around a little bit in the build up to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. The saying is this he wese POC him a para bellum translates roughly to if you want peace, prepare for war. And you get the idea of paradoxical statement, but it makes good sense. Sometimes the best way to keep peace is to let people know that it’s not going to be worth the effort for them to do something like invade a neighboring country. And so there’s this, you know, speak softly, but carry a big stick sort of idea. Well, I mentioned this because Paul knows that the Christian life is war, not against people, but against the powers of darkness. And so the question we’re asking this morning is how do we find peace in the midst of so much conflict, and it is real conflict. In fact, he’s going to use military metaphors in our passage this morning. That’s why I’m speaking in this way. But the advice Paul gives us is really to throw this adage on it’s ahead. Paul’s point, I think, is this to prepare for war, pursue peace, prepare for war, pursue peace, three choices that we can make to fortify our defenses, so to speak, and they’re all choices that promote peace. So let’s take them one at a time. First choice we make is to choose gospel unity over selfish strife. You see this in chapter four verses two and three, we read it for us now. I plead with you odia. And I plead with sin Tiki to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes. And I asked you, my true companion, help these women, since they have contended at my side and the cause the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers, whose names are in the book of life. There are, I don’t think any other moments like this in Paul’s letters. Paul has some strong things to say, but he doesn’t often name people, you know, like, yeah, you got these would be apostles and Corinth are the guy who’s in an ancestral relationship. Also in Corinth, Corinth had issues. But to have your name called out, like, I’m not sure that we can really understand the impact that these words would have had when this letter was read aloud in the church. I mean, just imagine for a moment that as I was speaking on Christian unity, or something like that, and I’ll pick on the elders, when you sign up to be an elder, you sign up to be a hypothetical bad example, in my sermon illustrations, that’s it. But imagine that we’re in the middle of a sermon, and I go, Look, Don, and Joe, like, you guys need to get your act together. The health of the church is at stake, the future of the church is at stake because of your petty squabble. And some of you were like, I was not paying attention, the introduction, what did John and Joe do? So just want to be really clear, that was a hypothetical. It’s actually Pat and Kyle that always fight so.
But that, that awkward tension in the room right there shows how significant our unity is. A division between even just these two women threatens the whole church and frankly, the work of revival in the city as well. And so he pleads with them directly, to be of one mind in the Lord. And that is almost a direct quote by the way from chapter two verse two you know, if you got any encouragement from you, being united Christ, be of the same mind, be like minded. It’s that mindset word that we keep coming across in Philippians, in fact, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus and your relationships with one another. And even last week, we looked at some opponents who Have their minds set on earthly things, we’ll hear Paul saying, Get your mind set on the same thing, the thing that matters most. So who are these women? And why are they fighting? Good question. We don’t really have a ton of answers here. But there’s some things we can probably speculate with, with confidence about, almost certainly these are leaders in the church, which is why they’re being called out in this way, no surprise, by the way to find women, as leaders in this church. Because the church started with women, you may remember that it’s Lydia and that group of women praying by the river, that’s where Paul plants this church and Acts chapter 16. So these are likely Deacons in the church, these servants who have an important role to play what an important reminder for us today, by the way, just to remember the key role that women play in the church. And we are a church that takes the stance Scripture teaches that the role of Pastor elder is reserved for men, we’ve talked about that he got questions about that you can shoot me an email, I can direct you in some ways I get that that like flies in the face of our culture, but it’s cool. We’re with Scripture and not culture. And so we hold the line there. The problem with that mentality, though, is that sometimes we spend so much time telling them what what they can’t do that we forget to tell them what they can do, and what they must do. Like we need the women of this church to serve because the body grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work. And so we’ve got women here, I’m so grateful for our women serving as deacons. In this church, for example, we have been leading key ministries, the finances, clothes, closet, Christians against poverty, two of our worship leaders are women what a contribution they have to make. But because these women are leaders, by the way, that means that this is a more serious issue. We get Clement mentioned as well here, this could be coming to Rome, who writes the earliest non canonical Christian letter first, Clement, it could also not be because Clements a really common name. So whoever this is, these are again, these are people in the church that had some poll. And so it’s quite clear, just by naming names here, Paul is saying that leaders need to set the pace. When it comes to unity. We should set the example elders, deacons, teachers, and all of that. What are they fighting about? Then these two women leaders, this is not a petty squabble, not by any means. But this is a clash over how to live out the Gospel, which you see right there. Because it says that, I pray that you’d have the same mind in the Lord. So in Christ we talk a lot about in the Lord and Philippians as well. This is what does it look like to live in Christ, which we keep hitting in Philippians? Again, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, Paul says, Well, so what does it look like to have a life that’s shaped by an understanding of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus? It means humbling yourself, instead of working for your self advantage means setting aside selfish ambition to serve, or even we saw in Philippians, three, participating in his sufferings, so that we may gain Christ attained to His resurrection. Look, that’s great, right? In theory. But what about when the rubber meets the road? Like, who here is like, I don’t think we should humble ourselves as Christians? Oh, of course, we think we should humble ourselves as Christians. But what happens when there’s somebody in the church that you think is teaching a view that is contrary to Scripture? Maybe you’re wrong about that, by the way? Well, all of a sudden, then you’re like, Well, I noticed that you humble but I also think I’m right.
And I think I need to deal with it. Do you see how like, that’s the tension point right there. Like I get Humility is a good thing. But what do I do when it’s complicated? And how do we discern? That’s the kind of moment we have here. You can almost certainly this is coming from the persecution that this young church is experiencing at the hand of those who are part of the Emperor called in Philippi. And so who are basically worshipping Caesar, and are really concerned that the Christians seem to have a higher allegiance to this other lord and savior than they do to Caesar. Well, okay, how should a church respond when it’s experienced persecution, when you’re looking at people that you love, who are suffering? And maybe then you start to go, what if we did adopt some of those Jewish boundary markers, like circumcision or something like that, so that we then are a protected class and the Roman Empire? She talked a lot about in Philippians 312 11. That’s most likely what’s happening here. Okay, like that’s an interesting conversation, at least. So this is this is the conversation that they’re having. This is where the two are in conflict. Frankly, I love Paul’s open acknowledgment of it here. Like this is refreshing to my mind, because when there’s conflict like this in the church, we all know Right? This is not cool. fusing. So for somebody who just go, we should probably talk about this right is really refreshing to my mind. And in part of that is because of what it reminds us of who we are, which is sinners still, like with issues that need to be changed, transformed still. And so this is a great reminder that the church, the church should never be a safe place to sin, the church should be a very safe place to repent, to confess sin, and go, I need help, at this point to turn from it to reconcile with those we’ve hurt or separated from for whatever reason. So maybe we need a bit more of this. Honestly, that awkward tension that we just had a moment ago, even with a hypothetical that earthen early intervention, church discipline that happens in places like Journey groups and community groups where people are just going in love and humility, I think I have to call you out here. You know, that’s what the church should actually look like that gentle correction, as well as the vulnerability to just acknowledge it. And anyone else here tired of community that’s like, let’s just pretend like the biggest issue we have is we don’t spend enough time reading our Bible every day. It is not your biggest issue, that is an issue. We got other stuff that we got to work on. And it just feels like it’s so hard to get us to draw that out and be willing to say, this is a safe place to repent. No to that this is not just for these two women. Like Paul broadens his gaze here. And he says unity is the responsibility of the membership as a whole. And so it’s time to step in and help church. And he does call out the leaders in the church again, especially now this is singular, and I asked you my true companion. Alright, who is this? Exactly? This true companion that Paul was talking about? Has to be someone who would know that he was being singled out even without his name. So there aren’t a lot of options there. It’s probably not a member of the flippin church more likely. It’s one of Paul’s itinerant preacher, friends who’s there in Philippi. We actually have a pretty good guests on this one if you follow X closely. So who wrote x? You’re all saying that just really quietly, okay. Luke wrote x. Yes, that’s right. Luke wrote x. And so periodically, Luke has the first person plural as he tells the story. So Paul, and his buddies, they were doing this, they were doing this, they were doing this, we were doing this. And one of those places is Acts chapter 16. We all were hanging out in Philippi. And then Paul has to leave Philippi. And he goes to, you know, Athens and places like that and stuff. And he did this. And they did this. And they did this. And they did that. And Paul came back to Philippi. And we
were hanging out again. So you got Luke drops off and Philippi. And a few years later, and it’s during that period that Paul writes the letter to the Philippians. We’re back to the we so good chance, doesn’t matter if not true. Okay? This is just like interesting Bible trivia stuff. Good chance that this is Luke that he’s talking about here. So Luke should help them. But even if it’s not Luke, the larger point is we should help people like them. Why? Because they contended at his side in the cause of the gospel. That word contended is the same word we saw back in chapter one, verse 27, translated there as striving together. I told you that I don’t expect you to remember this, but that got our word athletic comes from that word. So it’s this idea of teamwork, right, striving together the same team, same goal. And this is some of the reason why I said we put aside selfish strife, choose gospel unity over selfish strife, because it’s that going it alone idea where you’re not on the same team anymore, but you’re gonna, you’re gonna do this on your that’s the issue. You need to start to get together, same team, same goal. And actually, the word order that Paul uses here emphasizes the goal. If we were to translate it a little more woodenly, literally, it would say since in the gospel, they contended with me. The focus is the gospel focuses gospel advance. If our focus if our mission, our purpose, our aim is gospel advance. Well, let’s live like that’s what matters most. And that’s what Paul say, Can we put aside some other stuff and focus on what we’re actually here to do? The Gospel, and Paul’s often lifted our gaze to the eternal plain, and he does so again here, because Clement, who is you can come a name and the rest of these people, their names are written in the book of life. And so he’s talking about people who belong to Christ. And so who have the eternal hope they know what the future holds the vindication. One, they will experience the the unending joy of heaven that matters more than everything else. That’s the most important piece. And that’s then the secret to Christian unity. What unites us is so much more important than what divides us. Here’s the way Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it. The strong word is Bonhoeffer, he’s strong. He says the unity of the church is not made possible by Concord, similarity or affinity between souls nor should it be confused with unity of mood. Instead, it is real, just where seemingly the most intractable outward opposition’s prevail. I love that Christian unity is the most real right at the moment where you’re going well, those two people have no business being friends, where each man leads is quite individual life and it is perhaps absent, where it should prevail. Most, it can shine more brightly in the conflict between wills than in Concord, Christian unity shines more brightly. When you got issues, as opposed to that, well, you’re all just the same No wonder you get along. That’s not Christian unity, then that’s just this unity of move that he’s talking about, precisely at those places where in the world’s eyes we should divide. That’s where we see the gospel shining. Read plenty of examples today, right? There’s places where we got that conflict there to mask or not to mask thankfully, that one’s a little bit in the past, but like three months ago, churches worried about when people leave the church over that issue. Or who cares? Because the gospel is so much more important than that. Because did you vote for Trump or Biden? Who cares? Is Jesus king of kings and Lord of lords? Good? That’s my guy. Okay. That’s more important. So what does this look like this type of deep Christian unity, it looks like that white cop who’s you know, proud member of the Fraternal Order of Police serving down in the nursery alongside the young black man in the Black Lives Matter hoodie, and being like, we may have some political disagreements here. But in Christ, we’re one.
That’s a powerful message in a culture like ours, we live in divisive times. That type of unity would be such a powerful, apologetic, both proclaim and evidence, the Gospel, so to prep for war, divisions and conflict that the enemy will seek to stir up in the church pursue peace. Choose gospel unity over selfish strife, second, choose joyful gentleness over harsh tempers me read verses four and five. Rejoice in the Lord, always I will say it again rejoice. Let your gentleness be evident to all the Lord is near. So Paul, here, he’s moving to his concluding exhortations. And if you’ve read Paul’s letters, you know, usually near the end of his letter, he just starts throwing out like, staccato commands. And that’s what we got here. But he keeps the focus on the gospel as he does it. In fact, even here, he says, Rejoice in the Lord, like by now in Philippians. I’m hoping every time I say the phrase in the Lord, you guys circle in your Bible, like, Oh, that one’s important. Brandon said that one already. Rejoice in the Lord. rejoice in what we have in Christ, his past, present and future work on our behalf. Now, Joy has been an oft sounded note in Paul’s letters in this light motif running throughout it. So it makes sense that he’d start here, as you speak into the Philippians. But actually, Paul does this a lot. This is not unique to Philippi. It’s this theme to which he returns often. So we read in his letter to the church in Thessalonica. For example, these three staccato commands, Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Rejoice, pray, thanks. That’s three things. He’s going to say. We’re gonna get to prayer and thanksgiving in the next section, but this is just what we do in Christ. This is what it means to be in Christ, a lot of rejoicing, a lot of praying and a lot of thinking, God. I mean, how could we not rejoice always? Because even in suffering, and persecution, which are always there, in varying degrees, we’ve got hope. We’ve got peace, we’ve got love. We’ve got assurance, what matters most is already taken care of. Guaranteed we’ve received the downpayment of that future glory in the Spirit, we can rejoice in that. You just have to imagine like your your friendly neighborhood billionaire comes to you and says, I just want you to know as you’re going through this trial that you’re going through, all your bills are taken care of. Okay? Just the rest of your life on paying all your bills that would kind of change how you experience some things, unexpected car troubles or whatever. But like it’s cool. It’s taken care of. We got way better than that, because it’s like future glory that we’re talking about eternal glory, not just a couple of bills. So here’s the point. Then Gordon Fenix coming out of this, that joy, unmitigated, untrammeled joy is, or at least should be the distinctive mark of the believer in Christ. Joy should be the distinctive mark of a Christian. That, by the way, just flies quite in the face of some later expressions of Christianity that we’ve gone through periods in church history, where the church was like, we should wear black all the time. Like we’re goth now. No. I mean, if you’re like black, that’s fine. But like, there’s no somberness to this, like it should be joy. All of the time in Christ. Are you joyful? Would people characterize you as joyful? Do people see your hope in Christ, because they should mean Jesus says, If you remain in me, then you’ll remain in My Father’s love. I’ve told you this so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. John 1511. He’s given us this assurance we were made in the Father’s love so that our joy might be complete or you despising that gift, or embracing it. We’re not talking about surface happiness here, which is always based on circumstances, right? We’re talking about a deep rooted joy. One way you can tell if your joy is real deep, is if our Jep gentleness is evident to all. It’s interesting that Paul continues his focus here on relational peace. He looks horizontal again, right after he says rejoice. He goes, How y’all doing with each other, we still good.
But your gentleness be evident. All. This is a word that Jesus uses to describe himself. She looked at the passage or at Matthew 1129. When he says, I am gentle, and lowly of heart, we got the lowliness the humility already in Philippians, two, and here we get the other part we should be gentle, like Jesus as we imitate this Lord. That’s what flipping says about we emulate Christ as we imitate him, we should be gentle. The word is gently forbearing. In particular, like with each other’s foibles, it looks like this in Jesus’s life. First Peter to verse 23. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate. When he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly was a relevant word for the Philippians. The Philippians are suffering. They no doubt are having insults hurled at them. They seem to be hurling insults at each other as well. How are they going to respond? It’s going to look like Jesus. Because joyful people are kind people. But the opposite is also true. unhappy and stressed out people tend to be snippy people, mean people, occasionally cruel people. So as we reflect on the Gospels, we reflect on a passage like First Peter to it should produce a gentleness in us. Because we’ve been treated with such gentleness and kindness, compassion, patience, we ought to be the most difficult people to offend. We ought to be gentle, in the same way that we’ve received gentleness. And that’s why it should be evident to all God’s love, the joy he gives, that provides an internal peace. That then gets expressed in an external piece and the way we treat others, necessary reminder and what is undoubtedly a harsh age. And the church is not immune to the harshness of this age. You just scan social media, sometimes you’re like, maybe we should be calling more names in church. Because we got issues, don’t we? Unfortunately, Paul saying this is even more than just unity in the church, because again, this is our witness. Will your gentleness be evident to all, not just to the brothers and sisters in the faith, everyone should see this. Harsh tempers reckless words they they threaten gospel advance, and they threaten it because it’s so unknown, Christ’s likeness, on Christ, like we deny with our lives, what we proclaim, with our lips. So we got to keep going back to Paul’s kind of main imperative to the church at Philippi. conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Little bit of a heaviness in the room right here, that’s cool, hang on to this, we’re gonna have a time to confess in a little bit here, like you might need to hang on to that confession for later. And it’s okay. Because this is a safe place to repent. Just as a quick reminder, there’s a cross behind us as clear testimony to the fact that you are messed up, you got big sin issues, you are such a sinner that you could not even save yourself. And Christ had to die for you in your place. So it’s cool to confess that here safe place to repent, and maybe you’re gonna have time to do in the quietness of your heart here and a little bit in the service. But this might be something you need to actually bring in to your community group, your journey group, as you talk through these sorts of issues. We ask those questions like Where can you apply what you learned this week, which we try to ask in community group every time this is a place, isn’t it? So So hang on to this was if we needed an another spur other than the gospel of Christ, Paul gives us this reminder to the Lord is near ces as close to a double entendre that we actually get anywhere in Paul, because it both concludes this section and introduces the next you should be let your gentleness be evident to all because the Lord is near because the Lord is near Don’t be anxious about anything. So it’s this interesting hinge and transition. The Lord is near. That could mean the way you’d say like, Hey, are you close? And you’re like, Yeah, I’ll be there in five minutes. Okay, so that like imminent nearer, he’s coming soon, which might bring with it a fear of judgment. I would like my gentleness be evident to all because I don’t want to have to answer for my behavior here in a moment. But also that sense of joyful expectancy when wrongs will all be set, right?
Well, that’s gonna happen here in a moment. So I can entrust myself to the one who judges justly just like Jesus did. And so in light of that, I would be gentle. But the Lord is near could also mean kind of like the way the Psalms often say, The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, or the passage that Kyle read for us earlier, Psalm 145, verse 18, the Lord is near to all who call on him to all who call on Him in truth. So the Lord is presently present, and coming soon. And both are good reminders for us. Knowing your father is near slows you down a bit, doesn’t it? You ever seen kids starting to feud a little bit with other kids, and then they look up and they see that mom or dad is watching, and they make different choices. I think that’s what Paul’s encouraging here. To some extent it can help knowing he’s coming in again, he’ll set things right. But that knowing he’s near leads into prayer as well to where we’ll get to in the next section here. But to prepare for war, we need to pursue peace. When we do that is that when the harsh tempers kick in, we choose joyful gentleness instead. third choice though, then, to choose thankful prayer, over unbelieving anxiety may read verses six and seven, do not be anxious about anything. But in every situation by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Do not be anxious about anything. Now, this is a little fascinating, because it’s the same word that Paul used to describe Timothy positively. In chapter two, verse 20, He’s genuinely concerned for your welfare. So there, it’s a very positive sense. And here, it’s clearly very negative, probably negative here, because he’s quoting Jesus, Matthew six, right? You don’t need to worry because your father, he takes care of the birds and the flowers, is he not going to take care of you? Of course he is. So he’s quoting Jesus here, if you wanted to get into the like, what exactly is the root idea of this word? Maybe it’s the the sense that we want to be carefree, but not uncaring. That’s kind of the idea that we have here.
Now, when he says don’t be anxious, then we need to be careful, because anxiety is an emotion and a behavior. We are not responsible for our emotions, because they’re not under our control. They serve as I’ve said many times before, like warning lights on your dashboard. So you’re like, okay, the little flat tire sign came on, I should check air pressure at this point. That’s how emotions functions you go, okay. When we give you this example, Ephesians four, Paul says, In your anger do not sin. And it’s quote from Psalm four. And in Psalm four, the Psalmist actually says tremble and do not sin. That tremble is the emotion piece, right? Like sometimes somebody does something and your eyes turn red, and your hands start shaking, because you feel angry, but then you have a choice. Are you going to You act angry, and most likely sin, then it’s the same thing with anxiety where you go, I’m sweating, and I got butterflies in my stomach. What’s going on? I need to figure this out. And then what choice do we make coming out of that? Well, Paul tells us in every situation. By the way, these are two really black and white phrases, aren’t they? Do not be anxious about anything. But in every situation. So that’s just a great reminder, no situation where we should feel like, oh, we get to settle into anxiety here, if not an okay choice for us. So what do we do instead of leaning into that anxiety in every situation, let your requests be known to God. Now Paul stacks up synonyms here, it’s so interesting, right with prayer and petition, make your requests known to God. So like when you’re feeling anxious, you should pray and plead and intercede and pray, I say, Pray yet you should pray. That’s the point he’s making. We should constantly be in prayer. I think there might be some progression here, if you want to define it will be this. The word that Paul uses for prayer is a slightly more general word than the word for petition, which has that request idea. So maybe his point is in that general conversation, that ongoing intimacy that you have with the Father, in that you can bring the petition as needed. It’s a little bit like you don’t talk to your spouse or your friend, only when you’ve got a request to make of them. But in the middle of a larger conversation, you might raise an issue. So there will be times in prayer when we present a request. Jesus taught us to do that. Give us today, our daily bread. There you go, request good time to bring it up for ourselves or others. Even here, though, Paul says, it’s not just the laundry list, this happens with thanksgiving. Another key reminder, again, Paul said it Give thanks in all circumstances, this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Here’s the reminder, even if God never gave you anything else for the rest of your life, you get no more money, you lose your health. Circumstances are just bad for you. If you are in Christ, you are still infinitely blessed, and have reason to be thankful. Because the blessings of Christ are in fact infinite. So anything else you get in addition is infinite plus one. He played that game as a kid, right? infinity plus one. Like that’s it. And so that’s what it actually did not change my levels of Thanksgiving, because you cannot add to infinite, no matter the current circumstances, no matter your current struggles, God has been very, very good to you. Give thanks, should be the tenor of your conversation with God, if you are in Christ, when we do this, thank God, pray, present are requested. That anxiety that we were feeling is replaced by peace. Not because we get what we want, necessarily, but because God is enough, even in our need. In fact, I love the phrase, the peace of God, it’s so delightfully ambiguous. The peace of God the peace that he gives, surely, that’s what it means. Primarily, it’s he’s the subject of peace. But what if he is also the quality of the peace, the peace that is, knowing God, having him the piece that we have, because we know that he knows that he sees that he cares, and that he’s completely trustworthy. It’s proven that time and time again so that we can entrust ourselves to Him. This is the piece that happens when you’re heading into the doctor’s office. And of course, you’re praying that the test comes back negative. But it’s a piece that says but I can trust because I know that he will provide the grace regardless. And that whatever happens will be for His glory, and my good
that’s that peace that surpasses understanding then surpasses understanding because God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways, but they are far above our thoughts in ways. And so that means we present our requests exactly as Jesus modeled, presenting request, Father, if it’s possible, take this cup from me to request in a moment when Jesus was feeling anxiety, pretty intensely, in fact, yet not my will, but yours be done. There’s the trust. That’s what it looks like. This piece, Paul says, guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. There you go. By the way, all three sections of the sermon has had in the Lord in the Lord in Christ Jesus. Did we get the point yet? All right, everything we do happens in Christ. But that word for guard would have been such a familiar word to the Philippians. Because it is exactly the word that was used to the Roman garrison, stationed in Philippi. This is a military term, which is why I brought up a war in the introduction. This piece will Garrison your mind will provide that defense against the onslaught of the world, the flesh and the devil, which will threaten our peace unceasingly. Of course, when trouble comes, the enemy is only too happy to whisper. See, God doesn’t care. And then those moments we need to guard. And if you’re experiencing persecution, like a Philippians, we’re of course, you might need that guard quite a bit, to prepare for war, pursue peace. That looks like thankful prayer instead of unbelieving, anxiety, anxiety that’s steeped, and I’m not sure that God does know or see or care or that he is trustworthy. Now, I want to be careful here. Because everything Paul just said in these two verses is still connected to what came before we got that hinge phrase The Lord is near, we don’t even know which part it goes with. Well, that’s because it’s kind of one fluid thought. And we’ve even got the same word used twice to connect them. Let your gentleness be known to all and then make your request let your requests be known to God. So there are all sorts of connections here. This is a united paragraph very definitely. What that means for us is that peace begins in the individual, but has broader implications. Isaiah tells us, you will keep in perfect peace, those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you. That’s the internal part. Right. So actually, the passage preached on the week COVID hit so like, a day when we needed peace, right? We talked about this, right here, he keeps in perfect peace, the one whose mind is steadfast, he trusts in You. But that piece has a corporate focus. Still, again, we’ve seen this router passage would be of one mind, gentleness be evident to everyone, that individual piece leads to corporate peace, we need to dig in here for a moment and talk about this. I gotta give you one caveat upfront. I’m going to talk about mental health next week, in some detail. And so I’m not going to talk about it this week. So if you’ve got like mental health questions, something like anxiety, for example, just hang on to it until next week. But putting that to the side, what happens when your mind is not at peace? For different reasons, when you just got issues up there, maybe it’s conflict with somebody else, maybe whatever it could be, what happens, it does not just affect you as an individual. It affects everybody around you, disrupts the peace of those around you and brings division when we’re striving for unity, and so I think we just have to talk about this for a moment. Tim Keller talks about what exactly happens there and how it leads to self absorption. This is from his book on marriage, but it certainly has relevance well beyond marriage. He says our woundedness makes us self absorbed. When you talk to wounded people, it’s not long before they begin talking about themselves. They’re so engrossed with their own pain and problems that they don’t realize what they look like to others. When you point out selfish behavior to a wounded person, he or she will say, Well, maybe so but you don’t understand what it’s like. The wounds justify the behavior. The Christian approach begins with a different analysis of the situation. We believe that as badly wounded as persons may be the resulting self absorption of the human heart was not caused by the mistreatment was only magnified and shaped by it. Christianity teaches your hearts already so absorbed, you didn’t need any help there. So it just brings out what’s already inside of you. Now.
I gotta be so careful here because I know how you listen to sermons. Having listened to sermons myself, you listen to sermons going
so if you’re thinking of somebody who’s got that self absorption thing, stop, think of yourself and even with that person, what’s your response? Your response is gentleness. We just hit that okay? Still there, gentleness, compassion, patience and love. But if you are the one where you know like, yes, that, quote, hit way too close to home. It is important to see the effect that that has on community, a mind at war can turn a community to war very Silly John Piper gives an example of how this works and often works in the church. He quote him it’s another longer quote, he says emotional blackmail happens when a person equates his or her emotional pain with another person’s failure to love. They aren’t the same. A person may love well, and the beloved still feel hurt and use the hurt to blackmail the lover into admitting guilt or he or she does not have emotional blackmail says if I feel hurt by you, you are guilty. There is no defense. The Hurt person has become God, his emotion has become judge and jury truth does not matter. All that matters is the sovereign suffering of the aggrieved. It is above question. This emotional device is a great evil. I’ve seen it often in my three decades of ministry, and I’m eager to defend people who are being wrongly indicted by it. I’ve not been in ministry for three decades, I’ve seen this too. You’ve seen this too. This is not like a hidden secret. This is common. It poisons the community. Again, this is one example of the different ways that a mind at war can lead to a community at war. We need that individual peace that comes with pursuing God in prayer. That brings about community peace. And here’s the thing, there’s more than just the community at stake. Although that’s important enough, Christ died for his bride, the Church, her peace matters. But it’s our witness that’s at stake to when there’s conflict in the community. Our world has lost its bearings.
Pretty sure our world has lost its mind. I mean, you want to talk mental health, again, we’ll get there next week.
I mean, look at the levels of anxiety, which came up in our passage this week, and depression, especially among the younger generation, and how technology is rewiring our brains and just some of the worst possible ways. We are a broken, broken people. And we are marked by conflict and chaos, hatred, rancor and division, our peace, and our joy, as the people of God in any and every situation is such a powerful pointer to the gospel of Christ Jesus. God loves. God hears, God cares, we can be at peace. And let me just say this, in closing, if you’re here this morning, and you’re not in Christ, because you’re still asking questions about Christianity. So I always say we’re so glad you’re here and answering the questions that are here. But that is the invitation right there. That sort of peace and that sort of joy available to those who will put aside self will submit themselves to Christ, and believe and trust in him. Let’s pray.
Father, we are an anxious people. Oftentimes a harsh people and a people in regular conflict. That describes not just the world outside this room, but those of us in it as well. And so we have to begin Lord with confession.
To confess that those descriptions are true of us. And even now, and in the quiet between my phrases, I’m sure there are people who are confessing specific examples of what I just spoke about generally. Lord, would You hear her confession? Would you forgive us our sin? And then lota, would you cleanse us? purify us from that? unrighteousness? Would you make us whole? We know what the word for hole is in Hebrew. It’s peace. Shalom. Would you make us a people characterized by shallow by that piece that’s internal and external? That is physical and emotional and spiritual, as we entrust ourselves wholly to you? Or may we be not just people who are at peace inwardly, but people who strive to make peace horizontally, not just keep peace, that’s usually cowardice. But those who are actively peacemakers with gentle, humble correction, with faithful prayer, with thanksgiving, with love, unity, gentleness and Lord as we become that people by Your grace work of your spirit alone. May we be a beacon to a world that is not at peace in any sense of the word. May people see that peace in us ask us where it comes from. And in that moment, Lord, may we be able to speak of and reflect your glory and what you bring about that revival for which we continue to pray for your namesake, amen.