Continuing with a Heartfelt Plan – Sermon by Steve Filyer – 29 November 2020

WELCOME

Welcome to First Baptist Church Kingsville. We are so glad you have chosen to join with us in corporate worship of the one and only God, revealed in and active through Jesus Christ our Lord.

In the words of the Apostle Paul: “For in Him we live and move and have our being.”

Today is a significant day in the life of our church. Today we celebrate 197 years of presence as a church in this community. A presence that had its beginnings before our Town was even officially formed. As we think back to what that presence has meant to us and to this community, we see God’s faithfulness amidst both the challenges and the progress. As we look ahead it is that very faithfulness that gives us hope for the challenges and progress that lies ahead of us. May God use this church for His glory.

We are pleased to have our friend the Rev. Steve Filyer with us for this occasion in the life of our church. As many know, Steve was the long-time pastor of two of our CBOQ churches in the Bothwell area. It is always good to have Steve with us and we look forward to what God will say to us today through him.

Call to Worship – Advent Candle – Hope

Today is also a significant day in the life of the Christian church as we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the nativity of Christ at Christmas and the return of Christ at the second coming. Today we light the candle of HOPE!

One candle to remind us of the Advent hope in which all ages have looked forward to the coming of the Lord.

“In the days after that time of trouble, the sun will grow dark, the moon will no longer shine, the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers in space will be driven from their courses.  Then the Son of Man will appear, coming in the clouds with great power and glory.  He will send the angels out to the four corners of the earth to gather God’s chosen people from one end of the earth to the other.”

Lord Jesus, we thank you for your promise to return to this world, not as a tiny baby but as a triumphant king.  Keep us watchful against temptation, and joyous in your service, for your name’s sake.  Amen.

Song

A Prayer to Begin This Advent Season of the Year

God of justice and peace,
from the heavens you rain down mercy and kindness,
that all on earth may stand in awe and wonder
before your marvelous deeds.
Raise our heads in expectation,
that we may yearn for the coming day of the Lord
and stand without blame before your Son, our Saviour, Jesus the Christ,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

We will seek the mighty God
in the most unlikely places
as a child in a stable,
and in an empty tomb.
May God hear these prayers,
which come from the unlikely corners of our lives.

So give us ears to hear, O God,
and eyes to watch,
that we may know your presence in our midst
during this holy season of joy
as we anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today's Message: Continuing with a Heartfelt Plan

Scripture Reading

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.  9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,

10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

INTRODUCTION

Thank you for this invitation to speak at your 197th Anniversary.  It is a privilege to be back with you. This is a unique day. As well as this Church’s Anniversary, some of you may also be continuing to celebrate the American Thanksgiving Day from this past week. Others of you may be acknowledging the up-coming Christmas Season as today is the 1st Sunday of Advent. No matter which of these special occasions you may choose, my goal is to have something for each of you from these verses. This is not meant to be a deep theological treatise. My goal is to remind us where we have come from; and with Paul’s help from his short letter to these Christians in Philippi, to suggest three “gifts” of prayer, or three goals that can help carry us into the future.

I am calling today’s message “Continuing with a Heartfelt Plan.” I have just read from Philippians 1:3-11. And within those verses I will give more attention to verses 9-11 which contain Paul’s “Three-part Targeted Goal” to help people grow in their faith.

Paul began this chapter with the theme of “beginnings” – reminding the Philippians in verse 5 and 6 how their “faith” journey had begun and promising them that God was still working through them:

5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

“Miracle” drug Penicillin Compared to Miracle of Jesus’ Cross

Paul uses that theme of “beginnings” as a foundation for this letter to a local church. Obviously, none of us were here 197 years ago at the founding of First Baptist Kingsville. But we can agree that those pioneers must have worked hard to achieve a good beginning. Like today there were both economic setbacks, and medical calamities. Yet in the midst of those challenges their dedication and sacrifice eventually provided a wonderful foundation for future success. Worthy goals were turned into accomplishments.

In order to turn any goal into reality it must be accepted, internalized and then one must follow through by striving after that goal. In a similar way we must also choose to accept Jesus’ prescription for eternal life.

Theologian Alister McGrath describes the three theological stages of “beginning” or receiving what Christ did for us on His Good Friday cross:

  • I may believe that God is promising me forgiveness of sins;
  • I may trust that promise; and
  • I must respond to that promise to receive forgiveness.

The first two stages of faith prepare the way for the third—for unless we live out our response, both belief and trust are incomplete.

To help us understand or visualize these points McGrath illustrates the three stages with the following true story. And with all of the world’s recent health concerns I think that we can all identify with [his] illustration. [McGrath] writes of a historic period when there were few if any antibiotics. He says:

Consider a bottle of penicillin, the famous antibiotic identified by Alexander Fleming, and first produced for clinical use in [Great Britain] by 1942. The drug was responsible for saving the lives of countless individuals who would otherwise have died from various forms of blood poisoning. [So] think of the three stages of faith like this:

  1. I may accept that the bottle exists.
  2. I may trust in its ability to cure blood poisoning. But nothing will change unless:
  3. I receive the drug which it contains.

[To benefit from that drug] I must allow it to destroy the bacteria which are slowly killing me. Otherwise, I have not benefited from my faith in it.  It is that third element of [active] faith that is of vital importance in making sense of the cross. Just as faith links a bottle of penicillin to the cure of blood poisoning, so faith forges a link between the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ and ourselves. Faith unites us with the risen Christ, and makes available to us everything he gained through his obedience and resurrection.[1]

——————————–

[1]    The Three Stages of Faith in Christ, Alister E. McGrath, What Was God Doing on the Cross (Zondervan, 1992), pp. 99-100 | posted 4/18/2011, Copyright © 2014 by the author or Christianity Today/ PreachingToday.com.
http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2011/april/5041811.html

Reflection

Have you taken all of those beginning steps as described by McGrath?By Believing that God is promising you forgiveness of sins through JesusThen Trusting that Jesus is the powerful answer to that promise, and alsoResponding to that promise by receiving God’s forgiveness.

BUT WE NEED MORE THAN JUST A GOOD BEGINNING

But we must not stop at that point–there is more! It does not end there! And if you think that sounds like one of those late-night T.V. infomercials, please do not change the channel. Throughout his ministry Paul believed that: The best way to influence someone was to pray for him or her.  Here in verses 9-11, Listen again to Paul’s 3-part targeted goal for his Philippian friends found here in verses 9-11:

A THREE-PART TARGETED GOAL – Philippians 1:9-11

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Now let’s put that “Bible Talk” into modern-day speech:

Paul was laying out the next path of their faith journey. He prayed that his friends in Philippi would have “Love,” “Common Sense,” and “Good Results.” Let’s look a little deeper at these three prayer requests.

Paul was laying out the next path of their faith journey. He prayed that his friends in Philippi would have “Love,” “Common Sense,” and “Good Results.” Let’s look a little deeper at these three prayer requests.

Paul was praying for three things

  1. 1.[Verse 9a] Paul’s first “gift” or goal is that their love would grow as they learn more about Jesus; This is not a “fluffy” emotional Valentine’s Day type of love but a wise sacrificial love, a wise love that was informed by God’s worldview. Kent Hughes notes that this love is not limited—it has no object.[1] This type of love continually flows up to God and then out towards others. But unlike The Beatles, Paul did not believe that “all you need is love.”
  2. 2.[Verse 9b-10] Paul next stresses that as believers they would also have what we call “common sense” or practical insight; Tom Wright says “They lived, as we do, in a world where several moral issues were blurred and distorted, and it was often hard to see what was the right thing to do.”[2] Some writers refer to this as moral discernment. It comes from a personal knowledge of God.
  3. [Verse 11] Paul believed that Christians could live like this because of the third gift or prayer–that they would see good results, or “fruit” as they lived for Jesus.

Motyer comments:

At Philippi, [this type of practical] love showed itself to be of the very essence of the new nature given to the believer: “No sooner had Lydia become a Christian than she pressed Paul and his company to become her house-guests. No sooner had the jailor become a Christian than, though he had earlier fastened the apostle’s feet in the stocks, he began to bathe his wounds. When the hostility of the people made Paul leave Philippi, the church, by contrast, identified with the persecuted apostle (verses 5–7) and sent him help more than once (4:16).

Love was their new nature in Christ.”[3]

These prayers in Philippians 1:9-11 urge that his Philippian friends’ faith might move even further forwards; that they would grow deeper in their faith.

But the pathway to those over-arching goals of “Jesus’ love,” developing “common sense,” and exhibiting the “fruit of God’ Spirit” still had to involve a “beginning.” When I was here this past summer, we reflected on the sacrifices that were made by both Lydia and Paul in order to establish this same Philippian Church. Sometimes as we think of those goals, or “finish lines” even within our Bible-teaching Churches, we forget that our life in Jesus is not a sprint. Rather, it is part of a process. Or rather, it is, as one of Eugene Peterson’s books is titled: “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.”

“Committed Continuing”

So, as well as a Good Beginning we also need a “Committed Continuing.” I just made up that phrase so please do not go searching for it in any theological textbooks. Perhaps you can better understand what I mean by that phrase “committed continuing” if we look at it in a negative sense. Christian writer Phillip Yancey has lamented the tendency of some Christian teaching to just emphasize accepting Jesus and then “sleeping through the journey of the rest of our lives” while waiting for Heaven to reach out and grab us.  He writes:

A friend of mine uses the analogy of a busload of tourists [travelling] to the Grand Canyon. On the long journey across the wheat fields of Kansas and through the glorious mountains of Colorado, the travelers inexplicably keep the shades down. Intent on the ultimate destination, they never even bother to look outside.

As a result, they spend their time arguing over such matters as who has the best seat and who’s taking too much time in the bathroom.

The church can resemble such a bus, says my friend. We should remember that the Bible has far more to say about how to live during the journey than about the ultimate destination.

Some people of faith tend to be either/or … so heavenly-minded they are of no earthly good OR so earthly minded they forget they belong to heaven.

[But] the world does not need [either/or] people…. Rather, we need the [both/and] type of people devoted to God’s creatures and God’s children as well as to God, and as committed to this life as to the afterlife, to this “city” as to the heavenly city.[4]

I believe that as Baptists we are correct to place a lot of emphasis on “believing in Jesus” or “being saved” but sometimes I think that, as Yancey says, there might be a temptation to stop there and just wait for Heaven. But our Christian life is so much more. We need to continue on, journeying or travelling towards Jesus. As a church family we might need motivation to continue forging ahead with new creative means of reaching people. For example, I thought your VBS program this past summer was a very creative way to reach younger people and even entire families in spite of or in the midst of this 21st-century health crisis. Paul was determined to help motivate his Philippian friends to reach with similar creativity.

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Philippians: The Fellowship of the Gospel, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007).

[2] Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004).

[3] Motyer, J. A. (1984). The message of Philippians (p. 55). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[4] Missing the Journey for the Destination, Philip Yancey, “On the Grand Canyon Bus,” Christianity Today (September 2008), p. 102 | posted 9/08/2008, Copyright © 2014 by the author or Christianity Today/ PreachingToday.com.  http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2008/september/2090808.html

Reflection

What choices are you making to “grow” in your love?

Are you doing it with Common Sense?

Are you remembering to grow the other Spiritual Fruit as you grow in your love?

APPLICATION

Lessons for Us

Paul’s prayer here in Philippians affirms that Jesus, our Lord of life, is the one true constant in all of our experiences of life. You and I both know that every occasion or every part of our life’s journey will in itself not necessarily be good. But, based on the message of the Bible, we can agree with the words found in Philippians 1:6 that “the God who began the good work in us will complete it.” [1] The Bible tells us that the Spirit will help us and encourage us. And as life happens around us God can even redeem our bad experiences, creating something new and beautiful in spite of them. As we read these verses during this time of Covid-19, please remember that as Paul wrote these words, he was not having an easy time. Paul was not living in an idyllic little house with a white picket fence, a car in the garage or a roast chicken on the Sunday menu. Instead, he was living within a prison, under a Roman government which was at the height of its powers.  Yet in light of that, or in spite of it, Paul prayed that his friends would also “choose wisely” (Philippians 1:9) as they tried to live for Jesus in a very unsympathetic world.

Paul had an even higher goal for these three points that he offered up to God on behalf of his friends. He wanted this prayer to lead his friends into or towards Worship.  All of this was to be for God’s glory.  You may feel that our real time world often seems to be spinning out of control. But there is hope. Like the pioneers that founded this Church we believe in a Living Lord Jesus who is “Coming Again!” THAT is why we can worship today! That is why this church is still here, worshipping and serving and reaching out after 197 years. The Bible reminds us that in Jesus there is nothing that can ultimately defeat us. Paul’s letter reminds us that God is at work behind the scenes and involved in many, many miracles that most of us will never hear about. The Cross becomes the beginning. His death led to His Resurrection. And someday Jesus will come back for us and “take us to be where he is.” The Bible refers to that promise as our greatest hope or reward. It makes this life, with all of its trials and uncertainties, worth living. Because God loves us and has saved us, we want to please Him by becoming what he wants us to be. The Love of God becomes the motivation behind our choices in this life. We joyfully, gratefully belong to Jesus, who provided all this for us at infinite cost to himself.

While we continue to serve and to live as Jesus’ disciple-learners we can be certain that God sees us and loves us for who we are for He can see us as we will be. That is the important part—what we are becoming, what we will be. He is able to see the finished product. He does not fixate on any mess we may be making in the meantime. So as Paul wrote in verse 6, we too can be “confident that He who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Return.”

[1]  Roger Van Harn, The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2001), 345.

CONCLUSION

Today we can continue to pray for the Leadership Team here at Kingsville, for your eventual Pastoral Search Committee, and for Pastor Alex as he guides you through the beginning of this interim period, all of which is happening during these trying times.  Covid-19 has made it much harder to be in touch with candidates or to discover which potential pastors might wish to join in leading this group. During the medical crisis that we are facing, “pulpit committees” might need to be re-invented much as we have had to reinvent how we “do” church. I am confident that you are praying for your leaders that even amidst these challenges that God will continue to refresh and re-invigorate them for His continued service.

Finally, we can pray that First Baptist Kingsville will continue to be guided by love, common sense, and determination to continue the good work that was begun here 197 years ago. And we can pray for our friends, families, and community the same way.

Final Reflections: Paul’s love for Jesus led him to this helpful way of praying for his friends.

Can you list three people that you will pray for like this over the next week?

How do you think you and they will be changed?

Listen to Paul’s three wishes one more time:

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.


Philippians 1:9-11

Song

Benediction

Ephesians 3:20-21

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”