28 May 2017 | The Lord’s Day AM | Thompson Road Baptist Church
Philippians 1.1-11 | I thank my God in all my remembrance of you
[TRBC Resignation Message]
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now.
6 And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so 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.
I think it is probably safe to say that out of all the scores of churches that the apostle Paul either personally gathered and founded himself – or else nurtured and ministered to – no church was nearer and dearer to his heart, or more beloved to him than this church in Philippi
He loved all the churches, but he probably used terms of endearment when he addressed this Philippian church that he didn’t use to address any other church.
We just read some of them:
verse 7 – It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart
verse 8 – For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus
And so, please allow me to borrow and echo some of Paul’s words and sentiments here to express my own feelings and commitments to you all this morning.
I won’t be but a few minutes – but I want to use three of Paul’s anchor statements here to speak for myself also:
#1 verse 3 – [Paul said…] I thank my God in all my remembrance of you…
[I say…] I WILL REMEMBER YOU – AND THANK MY GOD FOR THE MEMORIES
#2 verses 7-8 – [Paul said…] It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart…For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
[I say…] I LOVE YOU
#3 verse 9 – [Paul said…] And it is my prayer…
[I say…] I PRAY FOR YOU…AND WILL PRAY FOR YOU
verse 3 – [Paul said…] I thank my God in all my remembrance of you…
[I say…] I WILL REMEMBER YOU – & THANK MY GOD FOR THE MEMORIES
Note that he doesn’t even say “I thank YOU for the memories…” [i.e., referring to the Philippians themselves]. He does thank them for the memories – because he had made the memories with them. They had created and experienced the memories together by their personal interactions with each other.
But, he says, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you”
The reason he says it this way is because Paul recognized that he had God to thank:
- that he even knew them at all
- and that he had any relationship with them at all
- and for all the memorable experiences they had shared together
Of course, every church relationship is a God-thing. Only God can gather a church and create a church body. The church is the very body of Jesus Christ – a human physical incarnational Presence of Jesus Christ. Paul tells the Philippian church that they are a church “in Christ Jesus”: verse 1 – “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi…”
And so, we are NOT just a gathering or society of mutual friends.
- We are NOT, first of all, just friends with each other – we are first of all friends with Christ [John 15.12-17].
- We are NOT, first of all, partners with just each other here in the church – we are first of all partners with Christ [1 Corinthians 3.5-9ff.].
But, just think about this church at Philippi. Just remember from Acts, chapter 16, how this church came to be. This church was an “uh-oh” church – [as far as human intention and planning had to do with it]. Paul and his missionary partners had not planned to establish this church in their own purposes and vision.
Paul and his missionary team had no intentions of being in southern eastern Europe [where Philippi is]. They were trying to go back into Asia Minor when the Holy Spirit just stopped them cold and re-directed them across the Aegean Sea into Macedonia and on to Philippi [Acts 16.6-10].
And then, if you will remember, when they got to Philippi, there was no Gospel presence in that Roman colony.
But there were three episodes of “God-things” that got that church started:
- God opened Lydia’s heart in a gathering of women to pray down by the river and she became a believer [verses 11-15].
- God expelled a demon from a slave-girl and she became a believer [verses 16-24].
- God sent an earthquake and dismantled the prison where they were being held and the jailor became a believer [verses 25-34].
No doubt these three new believers [along with others] became the founding nucleus and charter members of the church at Philippi. And they continued to befriend Paul in his ministry and travels to other places during the next ten years up to the writing of this letter.
But when Paul says “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now…” – what he is remembering most of all, and thanking God for most of all, is those first memories and experiences of how they came to know each other to begin with – and how they first became partners in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Every one of those experiences was a “God-thing” – “an act of God.”
God had brought them together through extraordinary, unexpected, unintended, and supernatural Providences. God had opened their hearts. God had bundled them together – not only in the bonds of human experiences and relationships – but more so, in the bonds of Gospel witness and the service of Jesus Christ.
And so, even now – at this very moment – as I stand here and look at you all in this room, my heart is awash with thanksgivings to God for bringing me here to this place the first time – and knitting our lives together in this body & this ministry.
Because [if I may go personal on you here] – my very first memories for which I thank my God – go back even beyond 35 years ago when Debbie and I came here to serve in this church. I go back even 10 years before that, to another February of 1972, when Pastor Hamilton asked me to come here & preach in the Youth Conference that was hosted by this church.
He picked me up at the Bluegrass Airport and brought me to their house to stay, and I first laid my eyes on their daughter, Debbie – and I was very impressed. It may not have been the fabled “love at first sight,” but I was very impressed!
She was a Phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely Apparition, sent
To be a moment’s ornament… [William Wordsworth, 1804]
And then four years later, we were married right here where I am standing now.
But, after that and beyond that – I thank my God for bringing us together for the past 35 years in this present relationship to serve, work, and labor together in this partnership God has created and given to us – and we have forged together in the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
And I do mean all of you – and all of those many others – who have given to us and shared with us the love, the ministry, and the God-given memories of the past 35 years.
“I will remember you…and thank my God for those memories!”
verses 7-8 – [Paul said…] It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart…For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
[I say…] I LOVE YOU
I have already pointed out how Paul unashamedly and unabashedly expressed his passionate love for these dear people.
And, this was not just a perfunctory “OK – I have to love you, so I do.” He was real, genuine, sincere, transparent.
- “I hold you in my heart…”
- “I yearn for you all with the affections of Christ Jesus…”
So, just allow me to tell you again, “I LOVE YOU ALL!”
- I love you for your faith
- I love you for your commitment to Jesus Christ
- I love you for your partnership in the ministry of the Gospel and serving Jesus Christ – just think of everything we have done together over the past 35 years
- I love you for your personal friendship to me
- I love you for all the expressions of your love, affection, and appreciation you have shown Debbie and me and our family over all these years
- I love for all the ways you all have taken care of us in every way we have needed to be taken care of
- And, our love will go on…
“God is my witness – I LOVE YOU with the affections of Christ Jesus!”
verse 4 – [Paul said…] …always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy; and in verse 9 – [Paul said…] And it is my prayer…
[And I say…] I PRAY FOR YOU
I pray for you…everything Paul prayed for this church
I pray, first of all, that God will continue to do greater “God-things” here through the ministry of this church in these days to come
verse 6 – And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
God has begun this good work in us – has continued doing His good work in us to this day – and I am sure He will work it to completion…until the Day of Jesus Christ [whenever soon that Day will be…]
There is no one day – nor groups of days during our lifetimes and histories that tell the whole story of what God has done – is doing – and will do through us – between now and the Day of Jesus Christ.
Everyone of us – and all of us together – are on-going works in progress.
And, I will continue to pray and hope that the best days of Thompson Road Baptist Church are still ahead of you & yet to come.
The ministry of this church will continue to go on. The church has no way to go but forward. Commit yourselves to the call of God to continue to press forward. And, I pray that you will.
8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so 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.
Greater things are yet to come. You should commit yourselves to your mission and vision and follow the call of Jesus Christ to reach this community and city with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1.27 (Christian Standard Bible)
Just one thing:
As citizens of Heaven, live your life worthy of the Gospel of Christ.
Then, whether I come and see you or am absent,
I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, in one accord, contending together for the faith of the Gospel…