FREED: to Follow and be an Example | Philippians 2:17-30
Topic: New Testament Passage: Philippians 2:17–2:30
Christopher Rich – May 20, 2018
FREED | From Prison to Peace | Wk 7
FREED: to Follow and be an Example | Philippians 2:17-30
Introduction | RECAP - What is true to what you do.
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 happens when the gap between what we see as an example to strive for and what we are capable of accomplishing seem so great? How do you respond? Does it encourage you to work harder to try to move in the direction in a healthy way? Does it place great pressure and burden on you to perform thinking if you don’t met this standard all the time in every way you’re not measuring up? Does it overwhelm you and cause you shut down because there is just no way you’ll ever come close to achieving anything like it. OR do you do what is really easy and just say, we’ll that’s some otherworldly example that is so beyond what anyone else is capable of that clearly we shouldn’t even attempt to live or act in the same way. This is Instagram where nothing is actually real so why try. Yet, we still can find some inspiration that says I should go and try to do that. There is a tension that is created that we need to navigate. I noticeably experienced this tension twice in my life. As a kid I watched Michael Jordan play Basketball, even on TV it was spectacularly amazing. As an Adult I got to attend a conference where John Piper was preaching. Both experiences led me to this place of internal conflict. I simultaneously had these completing thoughts. 1. That’s Basketball/Preaching?! Is should go play basketball/preach! 2. Wait, IF that’s Basketball/Preaching, I should NEVER attempt either because that guys is clearly called and design do just that and I know I am not that guy! If we are in Christ, Trusting Jesus, I think we can easily wrestle with similar tension in nearly any area of the Christian life and life within the church. There is a gap!
During this series we’ve talk about the gap between Jesus/God and us. How we underestimate God, and overestimate ourselves. So we can think the gap is too small, God/Jesus is no big deal, but the gap is bigger than we think. Yet, despite this massive gap between a holy perfect God and broken sinners we’ve had that gap closed by God in Jesus who came down to us, Since Jesus didn’t count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, lived as a servant, died as a savior, rose again and is exalted in Heaven and now gives us an eternal hope of a new future where there is a day where everyone will bow and acknowledge Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus is our example of humility and others focus BECAUSE he is our savior who save us who are selfish and prideful. We’ve now been called to be this person, these people who with the mind of Christ who thinks of others, on mission for telling others about this glorious Jesus.
We’ve seen we’ve been called to a life that is not stuck in the prison cell of self and conceit but we have be told to walk out freed to consider others, be unified with other Christians. The great example we’ve been given is JESUS! We’re told to obey God, take ownership for our faith with reverence and assurance. Live on mission for the Gospel without grumbling or arguing, to be a light for others. We all say yes, that would be great! I know should do that, I know I can’t do that on my own, but should I still try? Now what?
How do we wrestle with the tension between what is clearly idealistic and what is actually realistic?
If this tension isn’t navigated well, our expectations rightly calibrated, and examples aren’t put in their proper perspective in our lives it will lead us to places of crushing despair or paralyzing hopeless. We don’t need the bar lowered or the ideal changed but we do need some guidance and encouragement from others who are not Jesus who have also been called to follow Jesus as attainable examples, who empower us to live out what it means to be faithful followers of Jesus recognizing none of us are Jesus.
It’s looking at Pintrest to get some ideas and it invariably leads to some more frustration if there is nothing but a pretty picture to try to follow. But when there is a blog attached where someone who doesn’t work for an HGTV show walks you step by step through what they did it builds confidence you can do it too.
In Philippians 2, in the wake of grand theological truths and big transformational ideal we are given examples of people practicing Gospel Living showing everyday real people who are impacted by the Gospel and are having an impact for the Gospel. This is a descriptive section that we as disciples today can use as prescriptive for what it means to live this out in the everyday stuff of life. Less theological but more practical (but all driven by what is true theologically). In Christ we are FREED from the prison of performance TO follow and live as real examples. Let’s look at 3, Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus.
PART I | FREED to Lead | 17-18
Philippians 2:17-18 | 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. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
Paul is a representative of Jesus, he is a great leader, visionary, apostle, church planter, and pastor, and he’s just a guy who has been Saved by Jesus’ Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus Mission.
He’s been given great responsibility but it has not led him not to great comfort but great personal sacrifice. He’s in prison and his legal status is still in doubt. He could be freed, but He knows he may indeed be executed, if so what is the church to make of it? Being a martyr is a bit noble but Paul wants his pain and potential sacrifice in perspective. He equates being executed as being a “drink offering.” In contrast to the “sacrificial offering” of the Philippian faith. We have to explain this since we don’t do either. A sacrificial offering in a Roman context was a lamb or valuable animal killed and burned on an altar. While it was burning a second (much lesser) offering called a Libation/Drink Offering of a cup of wine would be poured over the burning hot animal/altar and would vaporize into nothing. In talking about himself, Paul is saying his life of sacrifice (even the sacrifice of his life) would be next to nothing compared to the enduring faith of a church full of people. He’s less concerned with his achievements than their faithfulness. “I am just one guy, you are a church full of faithful believers.” He’s one part of the body. One with a distinct role. A good leader knows the relationship between those he leads and serves is not for them to build him up as something great but to work to encourage and equip saints for the work of ministry. This is not always easy.
Paul is a leader with great responsibility but also great intensity of emotion, pain, suffering, etc. Paul’s suffering in prison. He has anxiousness. He has great affection for the saints, great fruitfulness to be encouraged by, but also demonstrates the possibility for great sorrow. He’s lonely, he only has a few close people by him, he can be discouraged at the prospect of the loss of someone who is helping him out. We read earlier, He has some concern that his labor will be in vain. This is so encouraging as a leader because Paul has all the theological truth of who Jesus is and what He’s done. He has the added assurance that comes with seeing Jesus face to face. The added confidence in his call that Jesus has commissioned him. He has the settledness of years of seeing people become Christians, churches being planted, amazing supernatural things he’s been a part of and witness too. And yet, He still has great concern. Is what I’m doing actually going to produce lasting fruit? How will I deal with loss of a ministry partner? What a comfort to know the guy who met Jesus face to face and wrote half the New Testament also struggled to at time with confidence, anxiousness, etc. Yes he suffered well, endured in the face of great trials but he didn’t do so as an unfeeling robot. Paul wasn’t a perfect Superman However, it can still be intimidating to try to compare yourself to this world impacting historical figure. What about the next generation?
PART II | FREED to Care | 19-24
19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy's proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. 23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.
After Paul there is the next layer of leadership who is to endure beyond Paul to care for the flock and lead the mission. As we learn about Timothy as an example we also learn more about Paul as his representative. Timothy wasn’t a perfect leader he had his own weaknesses. He was at times insecure in the face of people who were older and faced opposition “don’t let them despise you for your youth” He has stress and physical pain in ministry, so much so that Paul tells him “why don’t you have a glass of wine every now and then to calm down and help your stomach.” He had a great mom, and grandma, who loved Jesus, but we don’t know about his dad. He worked with Paul as an apprentice and second in command.
None Like Him- “I have no one like him” There is nobody else that is quite like Timothy. It is a “we are so similar yet distinct.” There is an “equal in soul” we would say something like “kindred spirits”. In hoping to send them Timothy Paul is hoping to send them a piece of himself. Some one who knows what Paul’s leadership looks like, someone who has the same soul that manifests itself a love of the flock, care for sheep, and who will defend truth of the Gospel and work to expand the mission of the Gospel.
Genuine Concern- Tim is very pastoral (truly cares about the sheep) Has the interest of Jesus in mind for the people. Not the interests of self. Timothy isn’t merely driven by duty from a role but desire to care from a relationship. His genuine concern isn’t a generalized one for all churches but is specific to the church he serves. He care for individual sheep and he leads the flock as a whole. He stands out among other leaders who seem care most about their own interest. You can have genuine concern for others when you are:
Jesus-Centered (Not self-centered) He can care for the flock and individual sheep because he’s under the care and leadership of the Great Shepherd. He is interested in Jesus interests more than his own. When you are captivated by the truth of who Jesus is and what he has done and you build your ministry in constantly pointing people to, and back to Jesus, seeking Jesus on the mission of Jesus it will lead to:
Proven worth - Faithful – Enduring service, so much of ministry/mission, Gospel work, parenting, leading, is just continual presence. Timothy’s has proven his worth not through some remarkable otherworldly gifting, but in being faithfully present and engage with the work of the gospel for an extended season across many contexts. He’s linked up with Paul and said “I’ll keep going where you go for the sake of the Gospel.”
There is a clear generational gap. Paul has more experience but he’s been using and imparting that experience on to the next generation of leaders (specifically Timothy) Paul knows the mission is to endure beyond one leader and past one generation. There is clear generation Gap, Paul says it’s like a father and a son. Or like an older brother to younger. This gap can be easy to navigate early between parents and children when they’re kids, but when both are adults its more challenging. I’ve experienced the generation gap for the first time with younger adults as I had to explain who Bo Jackson was to a bunch of newly married guys in their early twenties. Paul is experienced, but Timothy has been encouraged, equipped, AND empowered by Paul. Paul doesn’t say “He served me” he says “He served with me” so there is an understanding of both training and serving together for the purposes of preparing the next generation of leaders. When we are Jesus-centererd then we can equip and empower young leaders knowing the mission (until Jesus comes back) will go beyond our generation to the next and so on. Ok sure we’ve got Paul clearly varsity, All-American, Heisman. Timothy is the chosen up and coming leader who’s like freshman all conference 4* recruit who tore it up on the practice squad. But does that make the rest of us just fans in the stands? No. The example that is last and the most detailed isn’t a leader but a member.
PART III | FREED to Serve | v25-30
25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
Who is Epaphroditus? This guy gets the longest description as an example that is the most flushed out and detailed. He is a guy who get the honored of being included in the Bible and it’s not a warning or admission “Demas left me because he’s too worldly” it is as a laudable example. At this time there are dozens of preachers, pastors, and leaders Paul could talk about and this guy gets a paragraph in the bible. Why? So all of us can have a realistic example of what it means to be part of the people of God on mission for the glory of God show in Jesus. Paul is a singular legendary figure with a global impact across millennia, “there is no one like Timothy” cut from the same cloth, but everyone can be like an Epaphroditus.
What’s his role, what’s his title, what are his accomplishments? What did he write, lead, plant, pastor? Nothing that we know of. He was “Just a member” yet. There is no such thing as “Just a member”. He is a:
Brother – part of the family. This is how the Gospel makes us Family, Son’s and brother. Beyond race and status. Paul Jew, Epaphroditus a Greek. Just two races calling one another brother would have been unheard on a generation before. These men are part of the same family of God because of Jesus work.
Worker – Because Jesus has worked in us we can be at work for Him. There was a sense of responsibility to the gospel birthed out of a relationship formed by the gospel. Paul is working in His capacity, gifting and deployment, Epaphroditus is working for the gospel as well through serving. It’s not “leaders” paid pastors work for the Gospel and everyone else is on the sidelines or in the stands, everyone is in the game.
Soldier – The game has real stakes involved. There is opposition that seek to discourage, disunify, God’s mission and His people. There is a real battle that is real difficult. It’s easy to say we’re bothers, we work when things are going well, but soldiers endure when things are still difficult seeking victory and overcoming evil. There is a recognition that the advancement of the gospel is in conflict with the darkness of the world. This isn’t peacetime work there is a sense of urgency for this mission that knows the conflict is real. Shoulder to shoulder in the trenches tight together.
Family is always family. Workers show up. Soldiers don’t give up. There is a flow from relational connection, to coworker, to the bonds that are forged on the battle field that are not easily broken. The tread of all of this is the deep connections through relationship and enduring faithful service in the face of suffering and trials. Because of their relationship with Jesus and each other they also had responsibilities.
Connected and trusted in the life of his local church. He is known and trusted by the people in his church to serve as they messenger and envoy. Because, he embodies the culture, shares the values, believes in the mission, so much that he has been selected to be a messenger and envoy to Paul. Do you want to have an impact for the kingdom of God in this world? Have a deep, faithful, and fruitful relationship with your local church.
Humble- guy cares more about how people will be concerned about his illness than about His illness. He’s not oh I am glad they’re thinking of me. He’s distressed/distraught/perturbed over the idea that there is a church full of people that are worried about him because of His illness.
Invested - From Philippi to Rome is a 6 week journey meaning just for word to get back and forth it would be a 3 months stretch. He had at least a season of sickness. One that was so intense Paul says he was “near death”, “nearly died” and that in completing his journey and service “risked his life”. He was clearly willing to have his very life put at the disposal of the mission of the church. My life vs Gospel. Gospel is my life, source of life, purpose in life, hope of eternal life, I can keep going!
We to easily idealize what ministry and mission really look like. It’s everyday and ordinary. And Extraordinary. It has seasons of excitement and clear fruitfulness that are easy to be enthusiastic, and it has seasons that are slow, even challenging and difficult that require greater faithfulness and endurance. We minimize the impact we can have on the mission. The mission advances as members continue in faithfulness. Faithful to be obedient to God. Faithful to be unified with other believers, faithful do all things without grumbling or arguing, faithful to be lights to the world in evangelism. Honor such men. We can invert importance and think at times it’s all about the leader. Good Leaders, who are good followers of Jesus, are necessary. But Leaders are only as effective as there are people that are responsive to the mission. We can set and articulate vision but if no one follows nothing moves. We can budget like experts but if no one gives the mission/vision doesn’t get fueled. We can plan ministries and discipleship opportunities and environments but if no one serves then nothing gets executed. We can pray, study, and prepare, but if no one gathers to hear the word it’s impact is hindered with less hearers. We can pray and fast, sacrifice, evangelize, but how much more powerful and effective is it when there is a church full of people praying.
We struggle with relationship and responsibilities because we want to avoid pain and connection. We don’t want responsibilities because we want to be independent and unencumbered thinking it will lead to greater flourishing. We know the closer the relationships have the greatest capacity to cause us pain. We respond with disconnecting and avoiding others, to avoid pain. Yet they also have the greatest opportunity for the most joy and fruitfulness. We are freed to affection and concern. WE are freed from being Aloof and callous. We are told to be independent (Ownership of your own faith is not the same thing as begin on your own.) None of these people are independent. They are very much interdependent.. But Our answer is not just be a Paul, be a Timothy, be an Epaphroditus. Our example is still Jesus, our ideal is still Jesus, we are called to follow Jesus and be a disciple of Jesus. What Epaphroditus had was a great willingness to be used by and have his time, talent and treasure given to the church both locally and for the greater mission even when it was painful. Jesus willingly does what is painful because he knows it will produce for us. Jesus pursues us because he knows we’ve been hurt and won’t pursue. Jesus wasn’t near death, he experienced it for us. Jesus was the perfect envoy. Jesus dwelled with us and calls us to dwell with him? Jesus is still our example. Only Jesus is our savior, but we can continue to pursue relationships and responsibilities as a people, and as individuals who Trust Jesus.
Names of people in the church to call out:
Kelly Meacham - Patrick Edwards - Curtis Hall - Joe and Cassandra Johnson - Al and Linda Muzzy – Caleb and Emily Yost - Seth Anderburg - Jon Birdsong - Matt Grant, Matt Knepper, Matt Nickel, countless others.
More in FREED | From Prison to Peace | Philippians
June 24, 2018FREED: To Contentment | Philippians 4:10-23
June 17, 2018FREED: To Peace in Conflict | Philippians 4:2-9
June 10, 2018FREED: to Present Maturity and Future Glory | Philippians 3:17-4:1