The Lord’s Message:  Life in Christ:  Abounding in Grace

The Lord’s Message:  Life in Christ:  Abounding in Grace
Date:  October 29, 2023
Where:  Tilghman Methodist Church
Scripture Reference:  Philippians 1:1-11

            I was at Johns Hopkins Hospital with my dad for pre-op work for his surgery in November to improve his hearing.  He had to have blood work done.  So, after the pre-op evaluation, we headed to the lab.  Dad was called back to have his blood drawn and I sat in the waiting room.  In walks a senior African – American woman and a younger white lady.  The younger lady wore a white coat on which was written “Johns Hopkins Hospital”, so she must have been a doctor.  They were engaged in conversation, and I was not eavesdropping, but they were talking loud enough for everyone to hear them.  This might have been because of the older woman’s hearing. 

            The conversation went like this.  The younger lady asked the senior lady, “What were your thoughts when the doctor asked you did you fear anything?  Such as your upcoming operation or being in your home or fearful of others.”   The senior lady responded, “I only fear God.  I am not scared of God.  I have a healthy fear of God.  God is all powerful, all knowing, and all loving.  I fear Him out of respect.  I do not fear living in my home.  I do not fear the upcoming operation.  You, doctors, are doing the work of God.  I find it funny that people will believe a doctor and not believe God.  Doctors makes mistakes, but God never makes a mistake.  As to being fearful in my home, honey, I live in West Baltimore, if someone breaks into my home and takes my valuables, they can have them.  I cannot take them with me.  If they take my life, then I will be with Jesus.  I am fearful for all those in my family, and friends, who do not believe in Jesus.  I tell them in church, I tell them in my house, and I tell them on the streets, you need to believe in Jesus and have a relationship with Him.  I am telling you here and now, you need to have a relationship with Him.  One day this world is coming to an end, and I want you to be with me in Heaven.” 

            I glanced around the waiting room.  I noticed that the room had people of all ages, all races, different religions, and probably non-religious and maybe atheists in this room.  There was lady that was Muslim, she had on a hijab.  There were several senior couples in the room.  There were several people that looked to be in their thirties in the room.  There was one man that was in a wheelchair in the room.   It was an eclectic group.  No one could not hear what this lady that was abounding in God’s grace was proclaiming through this casual conversation.  I was thinking, do we as followers of Jesus engage people in this way? Do we allow God’s grace flow through us or are we ashamed to allow others to know that we believe in Jesus?  If the latter be true, then Jesus gives us a severe warning, Matthew 10:32-33.  This woman was proclaiming Jesus before all gathered in the waiting room, not with a loud boisterous voice, but with a calm, reassuring, gentle voice. 

            Let us pray.

            We are starting a new sermon series Life in Christ, focusing on the book of Philippians.  The Book of Philippians was a letter written by Paul while he was in prison, probably in Rome in 62 AD.  This is one of four letters written by Paul while in prison.  The other three were Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon.  Paul visited this Roman city on his third missionary journey.  He established a church there.  This was the first church established on the European Continent.    The people of Philippi had supported Paul by sending a donation with him to help the Christians in Jerusalem and Judea.  They had also sent a present to Paul was he was under house arrest in Rome.  This is one of his most informal letters and is overflowing with love and affection for believers.  Paul knows that this church is under severe persecution, but he persuades them to live as citizens of a heavenly city, growing in this commitment to serve God and one another.  Paul says to them that Jesus is the supreme example of this way of life.  True joy in life is found in following Jesus Christ.  Even through the persecution and afflictions, they are to remain joyful, united in service and stand firm in Christ. 

            Let us open our Bibles to Philippians 1.  Paul starts off with a phrase “a servant of Christ Jesus.”  Paul often beings a letter with the phrase, “apostle of Jesus Christ.”  This phrase sets a different tone to this letter and is carried out through the letter.  Most of the time, Paul is coming to rebuke Christians for not dealing with or recognizing sin in the church.  This is not the case for the church at Philippi. 

            Paul addresses this letter to the “saints in Christ Jesus,” and “the bishops or overseers and deacons.”  This letter is addressed to the congregation and the leaders of that church.  Again, a difference, Paul usually addresses this to the “saints” in a particular church or simply the church.  Paul recognizes that this abounding grace and love that he finds with this church is because of the leaders working together with the congregation to encourage one another to stand firmly in Christ.  I want to recognize this as well.  The leaders of this church have done an outstanding job to work with the rest of this congregation to keep us firmly established in Christ. The leaders of this church recognize that we are all “servants of Christ Jesus.”  Today, we are celebrating Reformation Sunday.  One of the most important doctrines that came out of the Reformation is the Priesthood of All Believers.  The doctrine states that all humans have access to God through Christ, the true high priest, and thus do not need a priestly mediator.  All Christians are equal.  You are all Priests! 

            How should we serve Jesus?  Paul answers this question in verse 5.  “Because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.”  As Priest, every one of us are responsible for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with unbelievers.  If you turn back into your Bible to Acts 16:11-15.  Normally when Paul went into a city, there was already a synagogue established in the city and in the synagogue, Paul would tell the Jews and Gentile converts about Jesus.  With apparently no synagogue, Paul is led by the Holy Spirit to go outside the city to the river where a group of women are holding a prayer service.  The women have chosen this place to get away from the worshipping of idols in Philippi.  It is from this small group that Paul establishes the church of Philippi.  The church began as a small gathering and grew into one of the most flourishing of churches in the area, because of the women willing to spread the gospel.  Think of what a difference we all could make if we are willing to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

            You might not think that you are equipped to do this or confident to do this.  Listen to what Paul says in Philippians 1:6. The good work, sharing the good news until Jesus comes back, we are all equipped to do this.  None of us is lacking. 

            Now, we should realize that this will not be easy.  Paul was put in jail numerous times for preaching the gospel message.  11 of the 12 disciples were executed.  Only John lived to an old age, but he was beaten, boiled in oil and exile to the Island of Patmos.  We may not face this same kind of punishment, but we should realize that we are going not against humans, but against Satan and the evil powers of this world, as Paul says in Ephesians 6:12.  After hearing the remarks about Jesus from this older woman, some people were rolling their eyes, others were turning away, some were looking at her with disgust, and some were simple ignoring what she said.  When a person becomes a Christian, that does not mean that everything in life is going to work out. 

In Philippians 1:7 & 8, even though Paul is in chains, he realizes that the Philippian church is sharing in his suffering and God’s grace.  They are partakers of his affliction by showing sympathy and concern and ready to assist him.  Fellow sufferers should be dear to one another.  In 1 Corinthians 12:26, says that in the body of Christ if one suffers, we all suffer.  So, whether it is a Christian in Somalia that is suffering because of the cruel war raging, the bombing in Gaza, the killing by Hamas or even the shooting in Maine, as one part of the body of Christ suffers, we all suffer. 

            As a Christian, we never reach the point where we stop growing.  Paul says in Philippians 1:9-10, that he wants our love to keeping growing boundlessly, our knowledge and depth of insight to grow, so that we may have better discernment of what is best, pure, and blameless in the sight of God. 

            Our ultimate goal is so that we will become like Jesus.  Jesus knew what God wanted and did not want.  Jesus lived his life blamelessly before God.  Paul says that is what we should all strive to do in verse 11.  Not so that we will be praised, but that God will receive the praise and glory. 

            The life of a Christian is filled with many trials and tribulations.  A Christian’s life is also abounding in grace through God and through each other.  We need the guidance of God.  We need to the support of each other, so that we can all grow in love and discernment.  So that we can all become more like Jesus. 

            We should not contain this abounding grace to ourselves, but we should share it with the world.  Amen.

November 1, 2023 5:49 am