Living A Life of Joy 3) Proclaiming Christ with Joy

Proclaiming Christ with Joy

Text: Philippians 1:12-30

 

Often what matters the most in life is what brings us the greatest joy. If your work really matters to you, you will find great joy in your work. If your family is your highest priority then you find great joy in spending time with your family. We find joy in what we find significant. So far in this series we’ve looked at how Paul finds joy in Jesus Christ, in serving Christ, that in Christ he is a saint, that through Christ he has received grace and peace. And we’ve looked at how we can pray with joy as we pray for one another, our partners in the gospel, as those who share in God’s grace. This morning we’re going to look at how Paul finds joy in proclaiming Jesus Christ. Our text this morning is found in verse 18, ‘18 …The important thing is that… Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. (Phil 1:18b)’ Paul’s priority is preaching Jesus and when Jesus is preached he rejoices. This whole passage is all about preaching Jesus Christ. In fact Paul mentions ‘preaching Christ’ three times in our passage this morning. According to Paul ‘15 …some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry… (Phil 1:15b)’ they ‘17 …preach Christ out of selfish ambition... (Phil 1:17a)’ but what matters is that ‘18 …Christ is preached. (Phil 1:18c)’ But what does Paul mean when he talks about preaching? Does he mean what I’m doing right now? Actually, the word in the Greek refers just to the proclamation of a message, and the message Paul is thinking of is the message of God’s love in Jesus Christ. In our text this morning Paul talks about, ‘12 …advancing the gospel. (Phil 1:12d)’ and ‘14 …speaking the word of God. (Phil 1:14c)’ and ‘16 …defending the gospel. (Phil 1:16b)’ and ‘27 …contending as one man for the faith of the gospel. (Phil 1:27d)’ It’s all about the gospel, the Good News that through Jesus’ death on the cross we have been reconciled with God. Paul isn’t talking about what preachers do on Sunday mornings, but what every Christian does whenever the opportunities arises, proclaiming the Good News about Jesus. And it’s seeing Christ proclaimed that is the source of Paul’s joy.

 

1) Paul’s reasons for Joy

So let’s start by examining Paul’s circumstances and how the proclamation of Jesus brings him joy. Paul starts by talking about ‘12 …what has happened to me… (Phil 1:12b)’ He wants them to know about his circumstances. Paul was a church planter, he had gone on three missionary trips into what is now Turkey and Greece, and his plan was to go to Spain after a short visit to Rome. But on his last trip to Jerusalem, everything changed. He was arrested and to avoid a flogging he appealed to Caesar and instead of travelling to Rome he was dragged there in chains. For two years he was chained to a Roman guard. Paul’s circumstances aren’t great and yet even in chains Paul finds reasons to rejoice. Paul wants the Christians in Philippi to know about his struggles, because they are facing the same things. Paul writes this particular passage because he doesn’t want them to be ‘28 …frightened in any way by those who oppose you… 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. (Phil 1:28a,29-30)’ Paul knows that often you can’t change your circumstances, but you can change your priorities and find reasons for joy. So what reasons does Paul find to rejoice while in prison?

a) Christ Proclaimed to the Palace Guard

Firstly, Paul rejoices in the fact that he has been given an opportunity to proclaim Jesus to the palace guards. Verse 13 says, ‘13 …it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. (Phil 1:13)’ Because Paul’s priority was proclaiming the Good News about Jesus he didn’t see being chained to a Roman guard as the end of effective ministry but as a new opportunity for ministry. As far as Paul was concerned he wasn’t chained to the guard the guard was chained to him. Paul had a captive audience, and he didn’t waste that opportunity. Paul proclaimed the gospel to these roman soldiers, and soon everyone in the palace knew Paul was in chains for Christ. Paul didn’t let his chains limit the gospel. What about the things that chain us? Maybe you’re chained to your desk at work, maybe you’re chained to your home because you’ve got young kids, maybe you’re chained to a sick bed. Even in those situations you can share the gospel. You can tell your workmates about Jesus, you can teach your children about Jesus, you can talk to the nurses and doctors about your faith. You can’t always change your circumstances but you can change your perspective, you can entirely change the way you look at your limitations. Like Paul you can say, ‘Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.’

b) Christ Proclaimed by the Brothers

Secondly, Paul rejoices in the fact that his circumstances encouraged the brothers in Rome to proclaim Christ. In verse 14 Paul says, ‘14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. (Phil 1:14)’ Because of Paul’s attitude to his imprisonment the Christians in Rome were encouraged to proclaim the word of God with greater courage and less fear. Last week Paul prayed that their love may abound more and more, and now because of his example in suffering it’s their courage to speak the word that abounds. When we stand up under trial we encourage others to do the same. When we prioritize the gospel we encourage others to do the same. When we constantly talk about Jesus and what he has done for us and how he has changed our lives, and the hope and peace that we’ve found in him, we encourage others to do the same. If we want to become a church that is courageous and fearless in speaking the word of God then we need to make speaking God’s word a priority in our own lives. And when we find joy in proclaiming Jesus we find joy when others do the same.

c) Christ Proclaimed by Paul’s enemies

In fact, Paul was so excited about the gospel that he even rejoiced when Christ was proclaimed by his enemies. According to our text this morning there were some Christians who, ‘15 …preach Christ out of envy and rivalry… 17 …out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. (Phil 1:15a,17)’ These guys weren’t anti-Christ, they were anti-Paul. If they were anti-Christ, Paul wouldn’t have been rejoicing. But even though they had it in for him, they were proclaiming the gospel, and because of that Paul rejoiced. So what was their problem? Well according to Paul they were jealous. They were jealous of his success, they envied his popularity. They wanted to be super-apostles like Paul. They wanted people to look up to them like they looked up to Paul. They also saw themselves as his rivals.  These guys were confrontational, argumentative and contentious. I’m not sure if you’ve ever met Christians that sound like that, people who are so caught up in theological differences that they don’t care who they hurt or the damage they cause to the church. It’s so easy to speak against such people, and it’s just as easy to dismiss them, but could you imagine responding with joy? I’m not suggesting that we condone their methods, Paul certainly doesn’t, but he does rejoice in the fact that they are proclaiming Christ, even though their motives are wrong.

The reason Paul rejoices is because he sees the gospel, the proclamation of Jesus Christ, as more important than himself. The fact that the guards are hearing about Jesus is more important than the fact that he is chained to them. The fact that people are spreading the Good News about Jesus more boldly is more important than the fact that he is stuck in prison. The fact that his enemies are preaching Christ is more important than their motives. Paul is filled with joy because his life isn’t about his own comfort and his own significance, but about seeing Jesus’ name proclaimed, and the significance of the cross explained. Do you find your joy in the proclamation of the gospel? Do your personal issues pale in comparison to the Good News of Jesus Christ being heard by others? If we shared Paul’s priority for the gospel our sense of joy would be less defined by our circumstances and more defined by what God is doing in our world.

 

2) Finding Joy in the Future

There’s a second reason for Paul’s joy in our passage this morning. Paul writes, ‘18 …I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that …what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. (Phil 1:18d,19b)’ Again Paul mentions ‘what has happened to me,’ which we know refers to his imprisonment. And his first reason for joy is that despite his chains the gospel is being proclaimed. But his second reason for joy is that despite his chains he has hope for the future. And Paul expresses his hope in three ways.

a) Paul’s hope for deliverance

Firstly, he expresses his hope for deliverance – that God will save him from his chains. Paul bases this hope on three things. Let me read verse 19 and 20 for you, ‘18 …I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed… (Phil 1:18d-20a)’

i) Through your prayers

Firstly, Paul bases his hope for deliverance on their prayers. These guys in Philippi have been praying for Paul. They have been praying that God would look after him, that God would protect him from persecution, that God would continue to use him to spread the Gospel, that God would release him from prison. The Philippian Jailer was probably praying, ‘God you broke the walls of my prison here in Philippi all those years ago, do it again for Paul’s prison in Rome!’ And Paul knows they are praying for him and he has great confidence that God will answer their prayers. It’s through their prayers that he will be delivered from his chains.

ii) Through the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ

Secondly, Paul bases his hope for deliverance on the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Notice first, that Paul calls the Spirit the Spirit of Jesus Christ. While the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity in a very real sense the Spirit is Christ’s presence with us. When Jesus promised to be with us always, he was referring to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. But Paul’s point is that he is ‘helped’ by the Spirit’s presence in his life. This word refers to the idea that the Spirit provides, or supplies, what Paul needs to get through his circumstances. But even more than that Paul is hinting that his confidence is on the fact that if the Spirit wills it, the Spirit has the power to deliver him from his circumstances, not just get through them. Paul’s joy comes from the fact that he has the Holy Spirit to help him in his time of trouble.

iii) I will in no way be ashamed

Thirdly, Paul bases his hope for deliverance on the fact that he will in no way be ashamed. We often think of this word ‘shame’ in terms of feeling guilt or disgrace or dishonour, because we have done the wrong thing. But Biblically this word is also used to describe our hope that God will not disappoint us, and that’s how Paul uses it here. And that’s exactly how the NIV translates it in Romans 5:5, ‘5 …hope does not disappoint us… (Rom 5:5a)’ Paul also twice quotes Isaiah 28:16 that expresses this same idea, ‘33 …the one who trusts in [Christ] will never be put to shame. (Rom 9:33c; 10:11)’ Paul’s hope is in Jesus Christ, and he knows that such a hope will never disappoint him. No matter what happens he knows that he is secure in Jesus’ hands. He knows that Jesus will never let him down, that he will never be ashamed of the fact that he has put his faith in him.

I don’t know what sort of things you are facing in your life right now, but do you share this confidence that Paul has that he will be delivered from those circumstances. Do you have confidence that God will answer your prayers and the prayers of others? Do you have confidence that the Spirit of Jesus Christ will help you in your time of need? Do you have confidence that Jesus won’t let you down, that you won’t be ashamed of your faith in him? Paul finds joy even facing an uncertain future because of his confidence that he will be delivered from his circumstances.

b) Paul’s hope that Christ will be exalted

Secondly, Paul hopes that Christ will be exalted. Verse 20 continues, ‘20 I eagerly expect and hope …that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (Phil 1:20)’ Ultimately what brings Paul joy is not just his confidence that Jesus has got his back, but that no matter what happens that Jesus will be exalted, or magnified, or glorified. This concept is so central to Paul’s life, it’s so central to Christianity that I want to unpack it bit by bit.

i) Christ will be exalted

Firstly, Paul’s hope is that Christ will be exalted. Ultimately, no matter what happened in Paul’s life, he knew that the final outcome of all history would be the exaltation of Jesus Christ. In the end it won’t be the Romans who will win, it won’t be the terrorists who prevail, it won’t be the Devil who succeeds, it won’t be evil that triumphs, it will be Jesus. Paul knows that ‘9 …God exalted [Jesus] to the highest place… (Phil 2:9a)’ And Paul wants to give Jesus the glory now that he knows he will have in the end.

ii) Christ will be exalted in me (my body)

Secondly, Paul doesn’t just want Christ to be exalted, he wants Christ to be exalted in me, in my body. Worshipping Jesus isn’t a spiritual exercise, it’s about how we live, it’s a lifestyle. Paul wants what he looks at to honour Jesus. Paul wants what he says, how he uses his tongue, to honour Jesus. Paul wants what he thinks, how he uses his mind, to honour Jesus. Paul wants how he acts, how he uses his body, to honour Jesus. In his letter to the Corinthians he says, ‘19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit… 20 …Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Cor 6:19a,20b)’

iii) Christ will be exalted by my life or death

Thirdly, Paul wants Christ to be exalted whether by his life or his death. Paul was so confident in God’s Sovereign power that even if he was to die it was according to God’s ‘good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom 12:2)’ When life is going well it’s easy to say ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him, (Rom 8:28)’ but that’s much harder to say when things get hard, when you face disappointment and pain. But Paul knew that even in his death Jesus would be exalted.

Paul actually goes on a little excursus at this point. And these are some of the most famous verses found in Philippians. Paul says, ‘21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far. (Phil 1:21-23)’ Paul is torn between not the good choice to live and the bad choice to die, but the good choice to live and the far better choice to die. Paul isn’t depressed here, he isn’t longing for death because his life sucks, no his life is filled with joy. Rather he longs for death because death means he gets to be with Christ. Paul knows that Christ is with him in his circumstances but Christ is present only in a spiritual sense. Paul’s hope is that when he dies he gets to be with Christ literally, he gets to see Jesus face to face. And that’s our hope as Christians, that’s the source of our joy even in the most difficult of circumstances that one day we will see Jesus face to face, we will be with Jesus.

Paul’s joy is based on the fact that no matter what happens Jesus will be exalted. Is that where you get your joy in life, that Jesus will be exalted? Is that your source of joy in death, that you will get to be with Jesus? Can you say with Paul, ‘For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain?’

c) Paul’s hope for continued service

Paul has one more source of hope and that’s in continued service. He has just said that ‘If I am to go on living in the body, it will mean fruitful labour for me.’ Remember our first sermon in this series? Paul found joy in the fact that he was Christ’s slave. Nothing makes Paul happier then serving Jesus, then fruitful labour. In fact, even though being with Jesus is better by far he says, ‘24 …it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (Phil 1:24)’ If Paul was only thinking about himself he’d prefer to die and be with Jesus, but Paul is thinking about them, and it was more necessary for him to remain. Paul gives his reason in verse 25, ‘25 …I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith. (Phil 1:25b)’ Paul is confident that he will be delivered from his chains because God wants him to remain for their progress and joy in the faith. The fruitful labour that Paul sees is the work of growing their faith in Jesus Christ. Back in verse 12 Paul was excited about the fact that the gospel was advancing, and now he’s excited about the opportunity to advance their faith in that same gospel. And again Paul connects growth in their faith with growth in their joy. As they grow in the knowledge of God’s grace towards them in Jesus Christ so they will grow in joy. I mean, how can you not be filled with joy to know that in Christ all your sins have been forgiven, that you have been reconciled with God, that you have received eternal life, that you will get to be with Jesus? Paul puts it like this in verse 26, ‘26 …through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. (Phil 1:24-26)’ Paul’s greatest joy is found in bringing joy to others, whether it’s reaching the lost with the gospel, like the palace guards he was chained to, or encouraging others to proclaim the gospel more boldly, or growing people in their faith.

 

I started this sermon by observing that what matters most in our lives is often our greatest source of joy. For Paul what matters most is the proclamation of the gospel, and even if he is chained in prison, he finds joy in the fact that the gospel is being proclaimed, even if it’s his enemies who are doing it. But even more than the Gospel, it’s Jesus Christ himself who matters most to Paul. Paul’s greatest joy is exalting Jesus, knowing that Jesus won’t let him down, but will provide him with more opportunities to serve others and to make Jesus their greatest joy as well. I want to ask you this morning: is Jesus your greatest joy? Is your life all about exalting him, and proclaiming him? Amen.

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