Prioritizing Our Gospel Partnership

Aaron Birk January 30, 2022 Philippians 1:3-11
Outline

3 actions that help us prioritize our gospel partnership

I. Thank God for Each Other (vv. 3-5)

Philippians 1:3-5 - I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

“The basis of the thanksgiving will be given [in v. 5]—their past and present partnership in the gospel. Paul, after all, rarely thanks God for ‘things’; his thanksgivings are for people, for those special ‘gifts’ whom God has brought into his life, who, despite whatever frustration or grief they may also cause him, are invariably a source of great joy and thanksgiving.” (Gordon D. Fee, Philippians NICNT. Pg 80.)

A. With a heart of joy (v. 4)

Philippians 1:4 - …always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all…

B. Because of your faithful commitment to the gospel (v. 5)

Philippians 1:5 - …in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now…

II. Encourage One Another that God Started and Will Continue to Work (vv. 6-8)

Philippians 1:6-8 - For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

A. God’s work in your salvation

B. His work continues until the day of Christ (v. 6)

C. Resulting in a partnership that builds relationships

Philippians 1:7 - For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

III. Pray that Our Love Would Abound (vv. 9-11)

Philippians 1:9-11 - And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

A. Love characterized by knowledge and discernment

Philippians 1:9 - …real knowledge and all discernment…

B. Resulting in the ability to discern what is excellent
C. In order to be sincere and blameless

Philippians 1:10b - …in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ…

“Paul prays (1) for their love to abound yet more and more; that (2) this be accompanied by full knowledge and moral insight, so that (3) they might approve those things that really matter, so that (4) they might be unsullied and blameless when Christ returns, as (5) they are now full of the fruit of righteousness, fruit that is (6) effected by Christ Jesus (7) for the glory and praise of God.” (Gordon D. Fee, Philippians NICNT. Pg 96)

I don’t know about you, but already are you feeling a bit squeezed by your schedule and your commitments this year?

When we are not experiencing joy serving the Lord in the various commitments and responsibilities that we have, we must ask the question, are my priorities and commitments in the right place. There is a degree to which right priorities help result in right affections.

For example, when I am not prioritizing appropriate time with my wife and family, when I allow other commitments to take over, my attitude when I am home tends not to be as joyful. Or when I allow my commitments to comfort to become a priority over pursuing God by prayer and meditating on God’s word, my affections toward my work and others in the workplace are affected. Which is why this morning we need to hear from God’s word about prioritizing our partnership if we want to grow in gratitude this year.

Because Pastor loves us and wants us to find joy in Christ, that’s why he gave us a little growth assignment to make sure our priorities are in the right place…Remember the homework assignment from last week? How did you do?

  1. Read the Book of Philippians in one sitting.
  2. Read Acts 16 to remember how the church at Philippi began.
  3. Look for all the places in Philippians that mention joy/rejoicing.

Our annual theme is Growing in Gospel Gratitude. The more you immerse yourself in the book of Philippians and prioritize the gospel seeking to apply this book to every area of your life, the easier it will be to have the joy even in difficult circumstances

Today we have the joy of studying the next section of Philippians. Please turn in your Bibles to Philippians 1:3-11 that’s on page 154 in the NT in the back section of the bible.

As you are getting there, here are three quick reminders about the book:

  1. Philippians is a book of joy. Joy appears more frequently in this letter than in any other place in the Bible. This book is upbeat and will put some pep in your step!
  2. Philippians is a letter in response to a gift that the apostle Paul received in prison. For Paul this gift means this is a group of people focused on the same mission. He sees what they did as a sacrificial investment like a joint venture in gospel ministry.
  3. The letter is written about 10 years after Paul started the church in Philippi. This church maintained a strong relationship with Paul over the years.
  4. When studying one of Paul’s letters an important part of interpreting the letter is paying attention to Paul’s introductory prayers. They show Paul’s hand and give us a preview of some ideas and themes that Paul is going to talk about with the church. So, you can trace where does that idea come up later in the letter.

Read Phil 1:3-11. This is the Word of the Lord. The title of our message this morning is Prioritizing our Gospel Partnership. I would like us to consider 3 actions that help us prioritize our gospel partnership.

Please notice that gospel partnership is communal it’s something we do together, and the first action we can take to prioritize gospel partnership is…

I. Thank God for each other (vv. 3-5)

Philippians 1:3-5 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

Thankfulness and praying with joy are connected to Paul’s remembrance of his brothers and sisters in Christ. If your fighting for joy right now, learn a lesson from Paul and start to remember brothers and sisters in Christ.

When you reflect on our church family, I hope it results in prayers of thanks to the Lord.

  • We, like every church, have people who are not living for Jesus. Just like the church of Philippi.
  • Each of us have steps of growth to take. Just like Paul is going to call out some Christians by name in this letter who need to grow.
  • We are not perfect, nor is the church of Philippi perfect, but that does not rob Paul’s joy, love, and thankfulness for these believers.
  • Paul’s prayer of thanks keeps the priority in view…he views them not in terms of the problems but in view of their participation in the gospel.

The main headline today is that our Faith Church brothers and sisters are involved in gospel ministry. Thank the Lord! One person’s involvement positively impacts all of us.

When one is a part of a larger church, it is always possible to take one another for granted or at least to not know what is happening. As a father to four children, my wife and I often can’t keep track of what each is doing, so you multiply that to any church family and we might fail to remember things appropriately. I want to share some examples of gospel ministry for us to reflect on that important word “remembrance.”

Example #1: Christmas and New Year’s ministries [

  • When speaking to pastors in other areas of the US. Christmas can be a time of less opportunities for ministry because people are traveling to see family or for vacation, or to escape the cold…But around here I was encouraged to see our church family not shutting down, but ramping things up because we have the gospel we get to share with people.

Musicians and servants were trying to make the Taste of Christmas Two nights of presentation preceded by months of preparation to see as many ladies won to Christ as possible.

Living Nativity … set up, 5 nights, and then tear down until 11:30pm. That was not shutting down, it was let’s tell everyone about Jesus that we can. It was a blast serving with so many brothers and sisters who wanted to partner together in the gospel.

My wife and I were joking this year, because she has served in the Living Nativity since she was a child, for me its been 13 years now…we were reliving all the different roles…and I told her I had served in every cast position...except for the wise men, because thankfully I was not that old yet…to which my wife responded in the most loving and gracious form of communication possible to a wife…have you seen how much grey hairs you have coming in lately…and can you guess where I was assigned.

Christmas musical with a full orchestra and choir. It was amazing and amazingly exhausting for the team. Three Sundays in a row with multiple services each time.

Winter break ministries We had people serving every single day of winter break for parents who need affordable and reliable childcare when school is out and they still have to work.

New Years Eve Spectacular

I could go on and on. We were not shutting down; we were ramping up. That is a reason in your morning devotional time to thank the Lord that you go to church with people who want to capitalize on gospel opportunities.

Example #2: Restoration and Vision of Hope

There are people serving at both ministries every day. Many of you know that we are raising money for a new barn that will allow the ministry to expand.

  • That is great, here is another thing it will provide. The opportunity to work in a temperature controlled environment.

Right now, the current barn has no HVAC. That means the barn can be very cold. When it is 10 degrees in the morning, volunteers are working in the sawmill helping the men. Most of us would not know it is happening. Why do these servants go work in a freezing cold barn?

  • Because they care about gospel ministry. They want these men to come with their addictions and lay them down at the foot of the cross.

Vision of Hope

VOH has its own stressors. With so many people living in close proximity, how do you keep people safe?

  • The staff, interns, and volunteers have had to endure some greater restrictions and challenging policies that were never part of the conversation before. Yet, they serve.
  • And we get to celebrate and hear testimonies of women growing in the gospel like yesterday VOH graduation ceremony.
  • Why? Because the gospel is more important. If Paul can be in jail, then I give up a few freedoms to share Christ too.

Example #3: BCTC

A third example is a ministry that is just a few weeks away, but one we have been doing for almost 40 years – the BCTC. People come from all over the US and around the world to participate in biblical counseling training here. But every year, what surprises the newcomers the most is the way you serve them.

  • The resource center is packed with volunteers helping attendees find what they are looking for.
  • Break servants provide snacks and drinks with a smile and a short conversation.
  • When you allow people to stay in your home it builds a friendship and significantly reduces the cost of the conference.
  • Every single one of those attendees takes the training they receive and uses it to impact people in their communities. It is a tremendous gospel partnership.

Example #4: Children and Youth Ministries

People continually serve in Children’s and Youth ministries.

  • They provide age appropriate explanations to the Bible to help young people of all ages connect the truth of God’s word to their lives.
  • The only times that we miss those things is when they are not available.

I could do this all morning, but I will stop with one more …

Example #5: Individual care

A fifth example is the way people are serving people without a lot of fuss or fanfare. I know of many who brought meals, without any formal organization, to families struggling with cancer, after a surgery, or various other sicknesses. People housing others, people writing personal notes and cards of encouragement and prayer. People caring for someone else’s child to serve them. No one knows about it because it is quiet. But it makes a difference in the overall ministry of the church.

Each example is a small picture of our church family, giving us reasons to give thanks to God for each other.

  • These examples can help you “in your remembrance” of your brothers and sisters during your personal time of prayer with God.

Please do not miss this … while there is a place for thanking one another (Paul writes the letter to thank them for their gift), the focus is on thanking the Lord.

When Paul thought about the Philippians, he thanked God for them.

Fee explains, “The basis of the thanksgiving will be given [in v. 5]—their past and present partnership in the gospel. Paul, after all, rarely thanks God for “things”; his thanksgivings are for people, for those special “gifts” whom God has brought into his life, who, despite whatever frustration or grief they may also cause him, are invariably a source of great joy and thanksgiving.”—Gordon D. Fee, Philippians NICNT. Pg 80.

Also notice the way in which Paul prays…

With a heart of joy (v. 4)

Philippians 1:4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all

Paul’s gave thanks to the Lord with joy. We can allow circumstances, both great and small to rob us of joy. Paul, being under house arrest and imprisoned for 4 years would know something about the challenge of circumstances. But they were not an excuse. Don’t let your circumstances rob you of eternal joy in Christ.

Remember, Jesus’s words to his disciples when he tells them…“I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.”

As one of your pastors don’t let the circumstances of masks, or vaccines, or difficulties with people steal your joy in the partnership in the gospel.

Paul looked at his life through a lens of joy in the gospel. He saw the way this church partnered with him and cared about him. We can do the same thing.

I encourage you to thank the Lord for one another … just as your pastors are thanking God for all of you … and to do so with joy.

God also emphasizes the reason for why we can thank and pray with joy …

Because of your faithful commitment to the gospel (v. 5)

Philippians 1:5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now

When the Philippians sent a gift to Paul, Paul did not receive it as just a gift – but as a reflection of their partnership in the gospel ministry.

When you think about each act from that perspective, it produces joy that overflows in prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord.

Let’s return to the previous examples:

  • Participation in Christmas ministries is gospel partnership
  • Participation in Restoration or Vision of Hope is gospel partnership
  • Participation with the BCTC is gospel partnership
  • Serving in Children and Youth ministries is gospel partnership
  • Our care for one another in meals, cards, encouragement, or gifts is gospel partnership

When we see all these things as participation in the gospel, then it produces prayers with an attitude of joy.

Look around the room. These are people (and many more like them) who have proven with their words and their actions that they are partners in the gospel with all of us. As you remember them, thank God.

Maturing as a follower of Jesus Christ in joy…Growing in Gratitude…

You need the perspective of Paul.

Don’t start your day viewing brothers and sisters in Christ and the church in view of the problems but in view of their participation in the gospel, their faithful commitment to the gospel.

Perspective of Partnership Instead of Perspective of Problem.

Paul will address the problems, but joyful partnership is where he starts.

We also see a second action that we can take to prioritize the gospel…

II. Encourage one another that God started and will continue to work (vv. 6-8)

Philippians 1:6-8 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Paul reflects for a moment on the start of the church. He says that God began a good work. The talks about people who have fake faith.

  • It comes up in the parable of the soils where only one kind of seed produced fruit.
  • It came up in our study of John where Jesus did not entrust himself to some of them.
  • It comes up in Hebrews where some talk about being a Christian, but are not truly saved.
  • Paul has certainly seen these people in his ministry too. People whose profession of Christ was never really possession of Christ.

But that is not true here. Paul is confident because he has seen the fruit of their conversion shown by their love God and Paul. So, we can encourage one another in …

God’s work in your salvation

We can encourage one another that God has started his work in our lives.

It may be that as I am talking you might find yourself in a situation different than what I just described.

  • It may be that you know you do not have a saving relationship with Jesus. You know that you need him … Last Sunday a person at Faith North trusted and followed Jesus between the two services. Another person this week trusted in Jesus Christ through our counseling ministry, and you might be in the same position.
  • You know that you are sinner, you know that Christ died, was buried, rose again, and is returning. But you have never turned from your rebellion against God and trusted in Jesus Christ as your only hope of salvation and then submitted your will to his.
  • Today could be that day.

Brothers and sisters,

When we face difficult circumstances we can question and struggle wondering…“God are you at work here or not?” How can you be at work in these difficult circumstances…”

  • God…It seems like you are not doing anything….
  • My children are still struggling…
  • My spouse is not responding like I was hoping…
  • As I try to honor you, my job seems to be getting harder..
  • It’s easy to be discouraged…

We can be an encouragement to our brother and sisters…Send a note … card, text, email …expressing your encouragement that God saved that person. Help them remember their salvation…and praise the Lord for the work that he began in their life.

As Paul continues his prayer of thanksgiving, he expresses confidence that the Lord will continue the work that he started. We are not relying on our own strength to continue this gospel partnership. We are counting on the Lord’s continued work in our lives.

His work continues until the day of Christ (v. 6)

Until the day of Christ… The day of Christ or Christ Jesus is associated with the consummation of human history which involves Jesus Christ’s return and judgement. This reassures us for our future. We know that God is going to continue his work in us until he takes us home or he returns. Either way, God’s work continues until the very end of our lives.

Peter wrote that trials test our faith and that the successful endurance of trials reveals that our faith is genuine.

  • At the end of all this, we may learn about a few people who did not believe in the Lord as much as they say they did.
  • But by and large, what we have seen in a God-empowered ability to withstand adversity and remain focused on gospel priorities.

I think that every one of us can look forward with a bold confidence that the Lord is actively working to bring about his goals and his purposes in our lives.

This can happen in an entire church family. We should all be encouraged that so many people are participating in the survey … Over 1300. The Lord is working in people’s lives to consider how we can better partner together to find ways to serve Christ by winning people to Jesus and equipping them to be more faithful disciples. The Lord is going to work in our church in the days to come.

But sometimes these reminders need to come personally too. What if our entire church family this week was sharing…”the Lord is still at work. He will finish it.”

  • What if that message were a regular message we shared with each other here at Faith?
  • What if we regularly reminded each other that God is at work through our blessings, our normal life, and our trials?
  • Maybe that card, that text, or that email could make a significant difference in someone’s day.
  • Application to caring for elderly parents.
  • Application to a marriage choice that has significant consequences
  • Application to a divorcee…a discouraged parent…

What happens when people unite in gospel partnership … it builds relationship

Resulting in a partnership that builds relationships

Philippians 1:7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

In vv. 7-8 Paul returns to his relationship with the church that partnered with him.

  • The Lord’s work in our lives results in a stronger overall partnership.
  • As God completes his work our areas of common ground become more important than ever, and the areas of disagreement become less important.

If we will allow it, partnering together in the gospel to accomplish what God has given us to do can unite us at a corporate and personal level. We can enjoy our relationship with each other because we are focused on the same things.

We can find commonalities with people in similar spectrums of life, but I encourage you to make conversations about gospel ministry a priority because it binds us together across all spectrums…

So we can prioritize the gospel by thanking God with joy for the various ways that people participate in the gospel and encouraging each other that God began his work and will continue it until the day of Christ.

The third way to prioritize the gospel is to …

III. Pray that our love would abound (vv. 9-11)

Philippians 1:9-11 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Remember Paul’s prayers give us a glimpse into Paul’s priorities. What he thinks matters most for Christians that he is bringing these concerns before God.

How does your prayer priorities compare to Paul’s example?

Prayer requests often center around how a person feels (whether they are sick or not), or how a person’s circumstances are (whether they are easy or difficult). There is most certainly a place for these kinds of prayers.

  • As a Pastor, I regularly as ask people how I can pray for them. However, there might be a few things we should pray for in addition to their requests. That becomes also a teaching moment about priorities like Paul is doing in this letter.

When the biblical authors pray or ask for prayer, there is often a deeper spiritual connection to the request.

Paul prays that their love might grow. And look at how important this love really is.

Love characterized by knowledge and discernment

Philippians 1:9 real knowledge and all discernment

Paul prays for love constrained by the characteristics of knowledge and discernment. Meaning this is a love that is controlled by wisdom.

  • Our family business makes parts in the aerospace industry and one of the injected molded parts we make is a part called the “joystick.” It controls the aircraft. And some of the aircraft it controls are military and they have a lot of firepower…

To think of Christian love like that joystick that is so incredibly important and powerful for the Christian life and imagine how important that love be characterized and controlled by a knowledgeable and discerning hand. Just like you want a knowledgeable and discerning person controlling that joystick. You want Mark Buono or Dave Graves or Major Kirk controlling that aircraft…not me.

Oh ill have joy, but it’s not going to be fun for you.

We have to be discerning sometimes love really is really self-love masquerades as real love. Self-love pretending …

  • gives only when the return on the investment is high enough.
  • manipulates
  • assumes everything is okay
  • And it is destructive to relationships and partnership in the gospel.

The Scripture is God’s Word. It is the standard of truth. God wants to ensure that our love is based on the knowledge of the truth.

“Loving” based on a lie is not very loving. Sadly, that is what some in our world have to offer. They have an appearance of love which is clouded by the real truth of selfishness behind it. Once the selfishness is exposed, the love falls apart and its harms others.

Many of us have seen the Bible speak of what we might call “tough love.” It is the love that bases its response on the truth of Scripture not on what may feel good.

  • Discipline might not seem loving until the person grows up and is crippled for life.
  • Confrontation might not seem loving until the person grows up manipulating everyone in their life to get what they want.

The loving response is whatever response the Bible would say in a particular instance, because we must listen to the God who is love to know what love truly is and looks like.

We should ask the Lord to help each one of us (ourselves, our family members, our friends at church) to be people whose love is characterized by knowledge of God’s Word.

Sometimes what is right and what is wrong is not crystal clear. It seems as if multiple options could be acceptable. If that is the case, then it is discernment that makes the difference.

God wants us to grow in our love that is characterized by knowledge and discernment. I encourage you to make this one of your prayer requests for yourselves and for your church family.

  • We will praise God for the degree to which our love is properly controlled by knowledge and discernment, but we will also ask the Lord to continue to grow it.
  • Applications to family/relationships
  • Applications to evangelism
  • Applications to SMP

Look at what happens when our love is characterized by knowledge and discernment…

Resulting in the ability to discern what is excellent

There are some people who accomplish a lot for Christ. I think of in the Scriptures Grandmother Lois and Mother Eunice in the bible who instructed and taught their Son Timothy in the faith, who God would use in establishing many local churches and spread the gospel. Or Jay Adams who wrote 100 books and influenced the biblical counseling movement. Similarly, a single woman like Lottie Moon and her ministry that has inspired so many to the mission field and generous giving to missions for generations. Or Fanny Crosby who wrote more than 8,000 hymns and gospel songs…How do you do that? Bob Leffew starting two Christian schools after experiencing horrible suffering in Vietnam. How does that happen?

I believe every case, and many more like them, they had a love for God and people characterized by knowledge and discernment that resulted in them choosing to live their life productively for Jesus.

Not everything is important to your Christian life. Not every interest, hobby, or commitment is something that God would consider excellent.

  • Not everything we are involved in is worthy of praise

Love characterized by knowledge and discernment sees that. It can look out at life and register those things that matter and those that do not.

Making excellent decisions does not come naturally, it comes from a love characterized by knowledge and discernment.

We have witnessed some people with off the charts abilities. It is as if there is no end to their talents.

  • But they are not always the ones God uses to accomplish great things. It is ordinary people, doing ordinary things.
  • It is those who look at the next 24 hours and rightly divide their time with what is most excellent.

It is a knowledgeable and discerning love that allows the person to test what is in front of them and make the right choices.

I can speak for all your pastors when I say that we want to make excellent decisions in our lives and we want you to make excellent decisions in yours.

But even that is not an end to itself. It is certainly good to make excellent decisions, but notice what comes next …

In order to be sincere and blameless

Philippians 1:10b in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ

Phil 1:10 causes us to consider when Jesus arrives, in what state or condition will he find his people?

Commentators have debated what sincere means and the idea is authentic

Will we be found to be genuine…the real thing?

God wants our thoughts, our words, and our actions to fit together perfectly. He knows that if our love is abounding in real knowledge and discernment then we will approve the things that are excellent and therefore will be sincere and blameless at the coming of Jesus.

Gordon Fee explains this prayer as follows:

Paul prays (1) for their love to abound yet more and more;

that (2) this be accompanied by full knowledge and moral insight,

so that (3) they might approve those things that really matter,

so that (4) they might be unsullied and blameless when Christ returns,

as (5) they are now full of the fruit of righteousness,

fruit that is (6) effected by Christ Jesus

and (7) for the glory and praise of God.

—Gordon D. Fee, Philippians NICNT. Pg 96

Paul reminds us as followers of Jesus that we have the fruit of righteousness due to the finished work of Jesus, and that we are designed for the glory and praise of God.

You can prioritize the gospel in your own life which will help you grow in Gospel Gratitude.

  • Thank God for one another remembering gospel partnership.
  • Encourage one another that the Lord began his work and he will complete it.
  • Pray and ask the Lord to help us all grow in knowledgeable and discerning love so that we can approve what is excellent in daily life.

Authors

Aaron Birk

Roles

Pastor of International Ministries - Faith Church

Bio

B.S. – Accounting and Management, Purdue University
M.Div. – Faith Bible Seminary

Aaron is married to Tirzah and has four children: Zemirah, Boaz, Keziah, and Isaiah. Aaron is the Pastor of Global Missions for Faith Church. He serves as a service Pastor for the 11:00 a.m. worship service at Faith West. Aaron oversees international student and family ministries, missionaries, and short-term missions. He teaches in Faith’s Biblical Counseling Ministries and is certified as a biblical counselor through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).