PHILIPPIANS: Week 3 | FREED - From the Prison of Self
Topic: New Testament Passage: Philippians 1:12–1:26
Christopher Rich – April 22, 2018
FREED | From Prison to Peace
Freed to from the Prison of Self |Philippians 1:12-26
Introduction | Prison of Self
Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we’re continuing our series FREED: From Prison to Peace.
What makes you wake up every day? What is driving you? Who do you think about most? What or who do you talk about most? Who do you worry about most. When circumstances change or get difficult who you spend the most time with? Who do you live your life for? Maybe you say others like your spouse and kids, even then in some sense you know it is really about how they feel about you or some pride you take in being necessary for them. If you fail them it kills you. What do you hope for in the future? What goals do you have or are you look forward to? Who is the focus of those goals? What do you fear the most? Who is you life being lived for? Most of us at our core live for ourselves. We think about ourselves, we talk about ourselves. We think about others in relation to how they interact with us or how they make us feel. This focus on self grows in times of great difficulty, we cannot see others or beyond our difficult circumstance. This focus on self grows as we face criticism, opposition, or hostility from other people, particularly people we think should be FOR us. Walls start to close in and we find ourselves in a prison cell of self when we begin to have these things happen and we start to consider the finiteness of our lives. We maybe old and realize time is really short, we may be young and are reminded our time can be easily cut short. How do we break free from this? If we’re not going to focus on us who will? Where does our focus need to change or shift to in order for us to have peace and wholeness when facing challenges externally and especially internally. When our life is in Christ we are FREED from the Prison of Self.
PART I | FREED to be a Prisoner| v12-14
Phil 1:12-14 | 12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
When you’re not in the prison of self you are freed to suffer with peace and purpose. The Philippians wanted to know how Paul was doing and his report was it served to advance the Gospel. Prisoned for Christ. Paul, trajectory was young influential educated respected religious leader and now it’ been endless travel, beatings, rejection, controversies, and multiple stints in prison. Here he is again, and it must be so discouraging. How is God going to use this? Paul doesn’t talk about Paul. Paul isn’t talking about the difficulty. House arrest, not fun. He is talking about what God is doing in and through the difficultly for His glory. It seems like I’ve been slowed down but God’s not being slowed down. You want to know how I am doing? Instead let me tell you what God is doing. I’m in prison again, but it’s really being used by God to advance the Gospel. There is no disbelief from the Philippians because they remember how they were planted with the jailer becoming a Christian when Paul was imprisoned there. Now he’s imprisoned by Caesar himself in Rome under house arrest by the imperial guard (the praetorium) like Caesar’s secret service. In a sense Paul’s been promoted from doing prison ministry in a smaller town local jail all the way to the being a federal prison inmate in the capitol of the greatest empire in the world at the time. What a career path! Greater trial, greater suffering…leading to a greater impact for a greater purpose.
He is making use of his time as they switch guards on him each shift, they entire imperial guard who has been told Paul is there as a subversive political prisoner is hearing straight from the source why he is in this situation. For Christ. Because He is IN Christ. Literally his chains are in Christ. He’s not here for Caesar, or himself, he is He for Christ. There is peace in the mists of pain if you know why and for whom you’re enduring. There is no room for a prosperity Gospel here. Become a Christian….and jail… There isn’t any boasting about how big the impact is, or how many have responded. The gospel is advancing regardless if there are great reports of conversions or not. Why? Because, Paul’s job isn’t to save people but to point them to the one who does. Jesus. What is God doing in your present situation to advance the Gospel? If you’re dealing with something difficult how are you processing it? Is it leading you to more self-focus or to Christ?
Paul enduring, with grace, and continued focus being on mission, is serving as a bit of an inspiration to other believers. Boldness and confidence are growing in the church of Rome through Paul’s imprisonment.
Hey how is Paul doing? Oh he’s in jail now? Dang I was really hoping to catch his next podcast. His mission and ministry must be on ice. No?! He’s doing multiple services a day with each changing shift of the guards of his house? That’s our boy! Our God will use Paul in prison, what can God do through me in my freedom? We now we can speak up, what’s the worst that will happen? Where have you been given freedom and equipping? How are you using it? More and more people are preaching and talking about Jesus without fear. Paul is a prisoner of Caesar, he may even be a topic of news in Rome. People are wondering why he’s there and other Christians are able to engage with their fellow Romans to speak about Jesus because the issue of Paul’s imprisonment. Even when the topic is about Paul, it’s being turned to Jesus.
PART II | FREED to Chill | v15-18
15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
When you’re not in the prison of self you can handle adversaries and criticism with peace. Because you remember what actually matters. Paul have you heard about what the other guys are saying about you? Can you believe some guys are actually excited you’ve been knocked down? We can understand you’re focused on sharing the gospel with people who don’t know Jesus and you’re encouraged that other Christians are more confident and bold but aren’t you discouraged by these other guys who seem as interested in growing their ministry at the expense of knocking yours down? Aren’t you upset they aren’t for you? Isn’t that hard to bear? Are you kidding? I’ve been blessed by so many people that know and love Jesus AND they love/like me. What a joy. As for the other guys who love Jesus and for some reason don’t love/like me? I am not going to smite them. They’re talking about Jesus! That is cause for rejoicing!
Paul hasn’t mellowed out in His old age to not care so much about the Gospel, he’s currently being imprisoned FOR it! Paul has no issue in calling out guys who are bad on their doctrine who have perverted the gospel to make is something it’s not. These are other pastors/preachers. And they are competitive, they jealous, they love Jesus they want to see Jesus advance in the lives of other people in their city, but they just don’t like Paul. They want to see God move and the gospel to advance AND they want it happen not through Paul, but through them. They want a bit of the credit. They’re ambitious for their own success (as opposed to an ambition for the Gospel) but God is even using this ambition they have for themselves to make His gospel advance. Anyone been impacted by church, preacher, teacher, author, who wasn’t perfect or maybe at times seemed a bit too into themselves or growing the brand? Don’t discount that God worked. All God can work with in human agents are imperfect people. That doesn’t mean Preachers shouldn’t be humble and bold. But God’s gospel is too great to be thwarted or held back because the preachers aren’t perfect. The peace come for Paul and for us when we see like him his biggest concern isn’t for his name, fame, and honor. Paul isn’t trying to make a name for himself. He knows that it’s going to take a lot more churches and leaders and for the gospel to go farther and deeper. In all the ways Jesus is being proclaimed in truth and clarity (even from imperfect motives) Paul rejoices. Why? Because it means Jesus is being glorified more. In a sense freed from the prision of his own desire for self-aggrandizement or adulation from all. Paul has been freed to chill. I am about the advance of the Gospel. I want more people to know Jesus, as savior, and follow him as king. I could give a rip about why theses guys do it. They’re just the messengers of what is true and right. I’m not hero, they’re not the hero. Jesus is the Hero. The Gospel is for me but it’s not primarily about me. It good news for me, for you, but its focus is Jesus.
God has freed us to have a new focus. How can Paul be so chill about these other preachers? Because He has a singular passion and an eternal perspective. This is a rare thing to be able to meet open hostility with indifference. Settled identity. Paul is not about Paul. Paul has been Saved by Jesus’ Work.
PART III | FREED Passion | v18b-24
Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
When you’re freed from the prison of self you can have passion with peace. When all of our passions, desires, goals, and hope are set on ourselves and what can benefit us we can be imprisoned by fear and failure if it looks like we are going to be limited especially if we believe our life is all there is. Paul’s assurance of deliverance isn’t a prophetic word on his present circumstance changing but in the promises in Christ of his eternal destiny. Paul is playing the long game. Paul is sustained both by the prayers and support of his friends and supports. He knows he has people that are FOR him. But more importantly he had the Holy Spirit (The Spirit of Jesus Christ) the one who began a good work who will bring it to completion. He’s not worried “am I going to get out of here so life can really begin?” At the same time He’s not ultimately concerned with what the judgement of Caesar is about him, because Paul isn’t concerned with Caesar will declare about him, but what God has already declared. His settledness and chillness has led Him to great sense of deliverance. It has given him an eager expectation that the Gospel will not bring him shame. Because Paul’s goals are not about Paul. He is eager and hopeful that the Gospel would continue to grow.
What are your goals in your life? How do setbacks and derailments discourage and send you to despair? What if you needed to not focus more on your achievement and your goals and what you are eagerly anticipating is the wrong thing? We will imprison ourselves if we focus on our finiteness and think all the should be achieved in the world needs to be done by us. Prison should lead to despair if this is our only life. He has real hope, that has given him great courage. A specific type of courage. It is a courage that is given when we have a proper perspective of the purpose and presence in our life and death. This courage, this fearlessness is that whatever happens to him would bring fame and glory to Christ alone.
This brings us to this tattoo verse “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” it sounds bold it sounds like a rally cry. It sounds counter to what we default to. Why? Because… For us to live is self and to die is loss.
This verse reached out and grabbed me 12 years ago in a book by John Piper called Don’t Waste Your Life the concept broken down changed the way I see and focus on the purpose, outcome, and perspective of what my life is to be about. The reason Paul has to say this because we don’t naturally think this way.
We think to die is loss because we imagine it as the end of our life rather than the beginning of a better one. We have a fundamental misunderstanding who we belong to and what the next life looks like. Where are you living for self? Where are you fearing loss?
Freed to “Live is Christ” This means will be sharing in the sufferings of Christ, it means Living on Jesus’ Mission
Ok I know we need to be on mission tell people about Jesus, etc be change by Jesus Grace, but how or why would we ever say “to die is gain? What our life is right now is not full deliverance and final salvation. We’re all in house arrest. In our death is a closer communion with God in Christ than now. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Father and Jesus tell the thief on the cross today you will be with me in paradise. My hope, and Paul’s hope, is not to make death so attractive we despise life. Our life now is for Christ. When we’re dead, and/or Jesus has come back there is no more mission of seeking and saving the lost. That doesn’t mean this life won’t have some times of great difficultly. On Tuesday I was in PT and I desperately wanted to be absent from the body and present with the Father. I get to be absent from all of this, be with Jesus not with my broken self. GAIN. Few if any of us will be called to die for Christ, but all of us are called to live for Christ. That is a more difficult charge. It is one we need to navigate faithfully. Not using ourselves and our desires as the primary driver. I am either here for Jesus or I am there with Jesus. Either is good. But I’ve got a preference.
Freed for fruitful labor. Have you every wondered why as Christians we don’t become and get zapped up to be with Jesus in Heaven for ever? Why the delay? Why remain? To live is to participate in “fruitful labor”. This is the purpose of our lives. Labor, work, not toil. Toil is the curse at work in our work. In Christ our labor is not in vain. Because we know Jesus saves, because we know Jesus lives, because we know Jesus is the one who begins, grows, and sustains, any labor we do on His behalf we know will be fruitful. It will produce something. It many to always be what we think it should but it always produces something. It may produce fruit in us through endurance, character, and hope in ourselves. It should produce fruit we can see in others. Paul doesn’t even talk about how he is growing just how others are benefiting. Praise God!
I can’t tell you which one I would choose, It’s really difficult to say my preference. Both are honorable and glorious in there own way. To live is to be on mission with/for Christ, to die is to be present with the father and with Him in paradise. It’s a tough choice. Ok I’ll tell you. I’d really rather not be here in prison and instead be with Christ that would be so much better. Like not even close.
We have to understand what our purpose otherwise we cannot see any benefit to this life. We can’t have any tension about it because we’d want to just check out. We’d be in despair about being in this prison holding pattern waiting for the real life with Jesus to begin when we die. Christians would face an epidemic of mass suicide. In Christ is not a cult of death but new creations of eternal life, now and forever.
Jesus determines which one we do. The only thing that can make this a difficult choice is where you focus is. If it is on yourself only. Or even yourself and Jesus than it’s not a hard choice. There is another part of the equation. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, not be served but to serve. So to live is Christ means to live for others.
To have a heart of Christ is to have a heart for others. Being freed from thers focus. When you put others into the equation. All off the sudden the choice has more tension. There is a pause and more than a pause, but a resolve that now the best thing for this season is to remain and engage with and for others. In fact here we see not just a 50/50 coin flip but a laying down of personal preferences for the purposes of being more effective for Christ. We don’t choose, Jesus does and if you’re here and alive it means there is fruitful labor for you.
When you’re Freed from the prison of self you are freed to a of what is best for self and others. Life with Jesus has benefit and joy for you as an individual. It’s not so sad as to be some rented mule for Christ with nothing enjoyable. But here is Paul in Prison and he’s saying. I am ok suffering I am ok enduring (because it’s serving to advance the gospel) but man it would be good to just be home for good. That would be my preference. Yet… ya’ll… Where is your presence necessary in the life of others? Where are you being called to remain? WE talk a lot about going on mission. Being a sent people. But there is challenge in the right here. Life with Jesus in Heaven for ever in His presence is the target. But apparently, at least for today we are needed here Living on Jesus’ Mission, more than we are needed or necessary in Heaven with Jesus glorifying and enjoying him forever. Who are you here for? Who have you been made necessary for? Some of these are easier if you’re married or if you have kids. You are necessary for you spouse. You are necessary as a parent. You’ve been freed to be..
PART IV | FREED Presence| v25-26
25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
When you’re freed from the prison of self you can have peace living for others. There is something beautiful about choosing to be somewhere rather than feeling like there is no other choice. We remain where we’re called. If you’re IN Christ We are all under house arrest like Paul. We know Jesus, we are having our life orientation redirected from ourselves to God in Jesus. We in a place that is purposeful, but we’re not yet home. We eagerly await something better, some real deliverance. We have hope.
Our identity is not in what the world says about us but what God has said about us.
There is a purpose to our presence. Remaining is for Christ Glory and Honor not ours.
It’s is for the progress of others, building the faith of others and Joy for all. Others and you.
Do not be burdened. We can only be freed for this because Jesus has already accomplished this for us.
Jesus frees prisoners “he sets the captives free” He is the one who was selfless and suffered in our place. He was the one who suffered great criticism and was reviled by those he came to serve and rejected by those he served with, even those who were actually for him and wanted to see His kingdom come.
Jesus lived the perfect life as the Christ Savior King. Jesus died the death we deserved because he knew it would gain the purchase of a people who have been imprisoned to the sin of loving self more than God and others Jesus. Jesus in the Holy Spirit remains with us for our progress, fruitfulness and joy.
Jesus is going to return so we can see him in glory and rejoice in His presence. We live here and now for Jesus. And we long for forever with Jesus. So we Trust Jesus.