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Dave Dealy: Gratitude Beyond Your Circumstances, Philippians 1:1-11

April 8, 2024

Audio Recording

The Book of Philippians calls us to embrace our identity in Christ, lean into our faith amidst challenges, and actively engage in changing the narrative of the church through love, service, and unity.

Westside Church Podcast
Dave Dealy: Gratitude Beyond Your Circumstances, Philippians 1:1-11
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Sermon Transcript:

You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

As we enter into this book of Philippians, I want to talk just a little bit about why it's important in this moment for us. It's a small book. It's four chapters. You could read it probably in like 20 minutes, cover to cover. It's not for the length or the narrative of it that it makes it great. This is Paul's, like, greatest bumper sticker material. This is all his greatest highlights. He would get a Netflix special for sure. Just from the material we dive into here, a few that you might be familiar with. To live is Christ, to die is gain. You could chew on that sentence the rest of your life. To live is Christ, to die is gain. Or how about this one? Don't be anxious for anything, but through prayer and petition, make your request known to God, and the peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds.

You might be familiar with. I count everything else as filth. And this is an interesting word we're going to dive into in later studies. That word filth, it's really fun. I count everything else as filth compared to the riches of Christ Jesus. The riches of Christ Jesus. And the one we're going to lean into today, he who began a good work in you is faithful to carry it to completion.

There's so many good themes in this book. There's so many big theological ideas we'll explore together. But one that we're gonna lean into today is this absolute love that Paul has for his church, for Jesus church. He is passionate about the church. And you might feel differently, and that's okay. That's okay. If you showed up here today and you've been in the church a while, and you're bringing your wounds and your questions, you're welcome here. It's okay.

If you're new and you're exploring this curiosity of Jesus, and you saw a sign that said, life, love Jesus on the street, and you're just here. Welcome, welcome. Bring all your questions. They're welcome here 100%.

But if you're here and you have some resistance to the church, I wanna say, it's okay.

It's okay.

In my lifetime, I can't count the number of church scandals and pastoral abuse and political alignments where the church gets watered down to be a political thing for other people. We're power grabbing is present in the church. Money issues, integrity issues. I'm here to say, yes, yes, that's true.

And I think the responsible thing to do for the stuff you love most is to lean in.

Lean in.

Marriage does this.

Your calling will do this.

It will rattle you and press you and challenge you. And if you love it, you lean in the things you don't love, you drop and walk away.

And I get it. I get it why people do that with the church.

We've got so much baggage.

But here's our opportunity, and it's what Paul is writing to, is we get to change the narrative. We, you and me, in this room, here in Bandor. Again, in this moment, we get a choice to be the church, to be the people of Jesus.

And that starts with confession and honesty and ownership and responsibility. We should be those who are Jesus followers, the first ones to say, absolutely not in this place, absolutely not. Will we compromise on who Jesus is? Where is my integrity as a pastor? You should know that.

Whereas our integrity as a community, we should call that out for one another.

We should be aiming at a higher bar.

We have to, because my daughter is questioning if this is legit and she's not alone.

This is our moment to step in.

And Paul gives us encouragement in this.

The church in Philippi is a long distant place in history, away from where we are. But the challenges they had are not so distant from where we are.

Philippi was this small little community that was actually a retirement community. Believe it or not, they did that back in the day.

And what happened is they picked this little community for roman soldiers and officers and people who had given their life in service to Rome. They made this little enclave, this little place they could go, be taken care of, set up in retirement, live an easy life. You served Rome. Here's your reward.

And this little group of Jesus people pops up in the middle of that. You can imagine how this goes. All right, here's how Rome worked, in case you're not familiar with it. They moved across the known world conquering town by town, city by city. And when they rolled in, they'd say, okay, what gods are we dealing with here? And it would be this God and that God and this temple and that temple. And they'd be like, cool, no problem. You keep doing that. One caveat. Caesar is lord.

Caesar is lord. And as long as you're good with that, we just keep rolling. You do your thing. We don't care, really pay your taxes. Caesar is lord. That's the requirement.

And it works really, really well. If you're, like, planning an empire rollout, it's good plan, works really, really, really well.

But then there's this little group of Jesus people in the midst of this community who say, jesus is Lord, Jesus is lord, which by its nature means Caesar's, not.

And that was not a very popular thing.

So you're not talking about, just like we sometimes we romanticize the early church, like, wow, they had Paul and Peter and John, and, like, jesus was around for a little while, and, wow, the Holy Spirit fell on this group of people, and, you guys, this was a mess.

They're right smack in the middle of a whole nation of people who are like, you don't belong here.

Bow the knee or die and get out.

That's. This is where the Jesus people are popping up. But this weird thing happens, and this should be encouraging to us, as the people not only are talking about who Jesus is, they're not just doing Bible studies in their little group around coffee in the morning, but they're beginning to embody what they're talking about. And so sick people who are left by the wayside are brought into the community of Jesus to be cared for because they have dignity. In this community. Now, crippled people who would be executed or left for dead were brought into this community because they have dignity. And the imago dei is as it is in me. That's what we believe. And so these people matter. And people who were high on the food chain began to serve those who were literal servants in the hierarchy of the community. And they gave them a place at the table because those people had dignity and belonged in the community of God. And it revolutionized the known world.

It turned everything upside down.

So my question gently to you is, where is this now?

Where are we?

If our unction for bringing the kingdom of God is writing a check to a nonprofit that does the work over there and takes care of that, because I'm busy. I got stuff to do. What you're doing is you're blowing up the bridge.

There is a bridge that we have to connect to our hearts and our minds that become the way we live, that is the light of the world.

And when we offshore it to other groups, other people, other things, and by all means, support groups that do good work. I'm not saying don't.

I'm saying, how does that show up in you?

How does that show up in, like, your daily rhythm? How does that show up in your life, in your workplace, in your family?

We have to build that bridge of thought to action.

Our minds to our souls has to be restored. There's been a disconnect, and I am totally off my notes right now. So we just finished up the book of Matthew we were in for the whole start of 2024, culminated in Easter.

And here's something I just want you to chew on that's really important.

That the Bible is not a bunch of disconnected stories.

It's not just like some poetry over here and some history over there, some narrative here. The Bible is one big story. It is one big idea played out over generations and generations and generations of humanity, of God pursuing you, of God pursuing you.

And not just for you, but for your neighbor and for your family and for your community. The resurrection of Jesus is this pebble that drops in the lake and a ripple effect begins to move out.

So far out that we here in Ben 2024 are reading the letters of Paul that are written to us how we might be the church.

The ripple continues. It's moving.

And Paul is so in love with you.

Paul is so in love with you. Jesus Church, he's so convinced that this is the way the world will change.

He's literally sitting in a roman prison writing this letter of joy to Jesus Church.

And it's a call not just for you as an individual to have your best life.

There are parts of that. There are parts of that that like following Jesus is gonna bring you into a wholeness and a love you've never experienced before. That is true. But it doesn't stop there.

It ripples and it moves to change communities.

Jesus in Matthew, there's this beginning moment where the angels sing, Emmanuel, God is here. He moved into the neighborhood. He's with us. He's here.

And it begins to shift and change everything. You guys remember Sermon on the Mount? This is a new way to be human, a new priority list of how we are to live ourselves and with one another. But then it moves to the end of Matthew, where Jesus closing line is now go.

You've heard my teachings. You've seen my miracles. You've watched the way I love people. You've seen me rise from the grave. Now, it doesn't stop with you.

Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. And I will be with you through all of it, always. I will be with you.

This vision is not just for our best life. And you guys, this is important because I think some of the disillusion with what Christianity is is it's presented as just another self help tool.

It's just another thing to make you great. It's just another thing to make you happy. I don't know about you, I turned 47 this year, my happiness is very squirrely. Right. It's very hard to nail down. Like, what I thought would make me happy didn't make me happy. What made me happy last week didn't work this week. It's just a very subjective thing.

So Paul calls us to something different, calls us to joy, which is different than happiness.

Joy being an abiding, literally living in the presence of God that anchors you regardless of these changes and shifts in your life. And that's not just for you. It's for us.

It's for the church.

So let's read what Paul says in the book of Philippians, and we'll unpack it real quick.

Philippians one, one.

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all God's holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and the deacons. Grace and peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank God every time I remember you in all of my prayers for you. I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus, it is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace. With me, God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

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

Let's start with this greeting at the beginning of Matthew. If you remember, we opened with a genealogy, and this is the part most of us go, no, thanks. Skip onto the next.

But we dug in to see that there's meat here. There's, like, really good stuff. And hear this, you guys. There's no wasted words in the Bible. There's no wasted words in the Bible. None of it is throwaway. And even in this same idea, there's this greeting that Paul gives to the church that's loaded with meaning and purpose. So typically, a letter in this time would sound something like. Like this. Around the known world, say the apostles and elders, your brothers, to the gentile believers in Antioch or Syria or Sicily, greetings to you, it would sound something like that. When I was in business school, we actually, this is, again, date myself. We actually had a class on letter writing because people used to write actual letters to other people that would open a piece of paper and read the letter. And that's like how we communicated.

That's all gone now and a huge waste of my income. But.

But we were taught, like, here's a proper greeting, and here's a proper body of the letter, and here's a proper conclusion in a business setting. Yada, yada, yada. Same thing here. There was like an order to the way people wrote letters in this time. And Paul is messing with all of it. He's messing with it, and he's loading in, meaning from the very beginning. First notice this. He says, paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus.

Servants of Christ Jesus. Paul was not a servant.

Paul was like one of the highestly educated people in this known time. He was a roman citizen. He was high up in the hierarchy of the jewish faith. He was an enforcer. I don't know if any of you watch hockey. I won't pretend to be a hockey fan, but I know at least it used to be like this. There was a guy on the team just called the enforcer. Anybody remember this? And basically the enforcer's job was like, that's our best player. You're messing with our best player. So I'm putting in this player to fight you to stop you messing with our best player. That was his whole job. He got paid a lot of money to go be an enforcer and basically beat up the guy who was messing with their best player. Okay, lost you already. Stay away. No more hockey analogies.

Check.

Paul was an enforcer in the church. He literally would go city to city and beat the tar out of Jesus. People who were sub, you know, challenging the jewish faith in all of these places to the point of death. He was putting people to death who were challenging the church. He was the enforcer, and he calls himself servant of Christ Jesus. This is so important.

Paul was high status, high education, high power, until he has an encounter with Jesus, has a literal encounter with Jesus where he is riding on a road called Emmaus to another town to be the enforcer. And Jesus knocks him off his horse and he says, paul, why are you persecuting me? Why?

And Paul doesn't understand, and he's confused. And he goes into this care moment where he sits with another disciple of Jesus and begins to unwind what he's known and all the things that gave him his power and status begin to die. And he's given a new name. He was called Saul. He's given the name Paul, and he gets this new identity as a servant that he owns. He owns this identity.

I am here to serve and help, and I follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who, in this letter, Paul says, made himself so humble he would die, not only die, but die a death on a cross, a humiliating death.

I follow in those footsteps. I am a servant of Jesus.

And then he says to all the saints of Philippi, now, were these people holier than you? Probably not.

Were these people infighting and arguing over dumb things? For sure, we know it, because Paul's going to talk about it in just a second.

There's all kinds of problems. The absence of sin, the absence of issues and problems is not the definition of the church. The definition of the church is those who embrace the grace of Jesus. That smooths the road and invites us into something deeper. It doesn't end with our brokenness.

We're invited to something deeper. He calls all of them the saints of Philippi. And so I say to you, the saints of Bend, Oregon, the saints of central Oregon, the saints of this moment, you, if you would have it, the identity of Jesus, and own it.

Nothing will be the same, my friends.

Nothing will be the same.

And Paul says, he doesn't say, greetings to you.

He says, grace to you. Grace to you. And so, from the very first get go, Paul is loading their identity with who they are in Christ, loading the grace that smooths the road in front of them and invites them into a purpose that's bigger. I gotta wrap up here.

Two things I want to point out here. First is that Paul celebrates the partnership of the church.

With him, Paul, sitting in a prison cell writing this letter, expects to die soon.

And he has filled with this joy to the saints in Philippi because of their partnership in the gospel. And I want to tell you this. You own a part of this story. Your story is part of this story. There is nothing that has happened to you that has disqualified you from participating in this story. If you say yes to the invitation of Jesus, you are not disqualified unless you disqualify yourself.

You're invited by Christ into this life, and it begins with you, but it doesn't stop with you. It moves through you and me.

My daughter, Reagan, she is 17 years old. She had surgery this week on Wednesday.

She's a soccer player. She tore her ACLU senior year, last season of club soccer, which has really been an identity marker for her. Super sad. And for those of you that have had an ACL replacement surgery, and I have, it's brutal. It's physically brutal on your body. And so she was at our house really feeling down, sad about the loss of identity, sad about, obviously, the pain she's in. And I get a text message from Candice Nystrom, who's our women's Bible study director. And it says, left something for you on the doorstep.

And I go out and there's this box, and it's, like, the brightest yellow box you've ever. I don't know how anybody makes this or sells this box. It's, like, so bright. It looks like it's plugged in and it's got, like, snacks and a water bottle and, like, all of these fun things in a note. And it says, reagan, we're praying for you. And Jesus sees you and he's with you and he loves you. Women of Westside, now, here's the thing. Candace told me about these sunshine boxes, like, a year, year and a half ago, when we're going over budget and stuff. Like, she's feeling like, oh, we should do this. And I hear this, and I was like, okay, whatever. I know you like to do, like, crafts and stuff, and, like, I can make these things. So, yeah, whatever. Whatever you guys like to do, just go for it.

I had totally forgotten about this.

I was sitting with my daughter at the end of this really hard day, and she's like, dad, that was the best part of my day.

Like, these people don't even know me.

And they made this thing and they wrote my name on it. Like, just, like, it's blowing her mind.

And I just wanna tell you, doing this does not mean, like, go out on Wall street with a sign and just start yelling at everybody about Jesus.

Super ineffective.

But these little expressions of love that are the things I hope you've experienced in your life with Jesus that move into action for the people around you. It is life changing.

It is something my daughter will remember in this dark moment. There's literally this bright experience she has with the people of Jesus at West side.

This is, like, our moment. This is our purpose. Paul ends with this, and I'll end with this.

A prayer for the church. So he greets them with grace, reminds them of their sainthood, celebrates their partnership and activation in the kingdom of God. And then he prays on their behalf.

And this is my prayer. He says that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. What your love may abound to the point it changes the way you think.

It changes what you see as wisdom.

It changes the way you interact, your life. Strategies.

Nt Wright says this about this community in Philippi. He said, it's easy to have a community of unity, or it's easy to have a community of holiness.

But creating a holy community that is united together is a God miracle.

Here's what he's saying. If you want to have a unified community, you can easily do that. Just lower the bar so low where no one's life is affected by joining.

Yeah, yeah. Come, come. You don't have to change anything. You don't have to do anything.

Do whatever. And just. You can come be in our group. Just come join. No big deal. It costs nothing. It doesn't change your life at all. That's easy to build unity.

Or you can become a self righteous jerk and have this really small community of you and two people who regulate their life by rules and laws and what you don't do and who you're against, and you can have a community around that. That's fairly easy to do.

But to have a big group of people that surrender their identity and surrender their passion and give up other things so they might pursue Jesus together, and Jesus is the thing that unifies them. That's a God miracle. And that's what we are.

That's what we are. Imperfect, all the baggage of what the church has been.

In a moment where more people are curious about Jesus than ever, we're invited in, and there's never anything worth living for. That doesn't cost us something that we don't surrender to. To say, yes.

But that surrender is Jesus coming out of the grave into new life. The scripture says that the power, the spirit that raised Christ from the dead is alive in you. You. In you. So this moment's not too big.

The task is not too big, because the one who began the good work is Jesus.

The one who's faithful to bring it to completion is Jesus.

And what we do is surrender to Jesus together.

Together we're gonna take communion.

As communion is a practice. Jesus gave us to remember our place at the table.

The table. He invited you to the table. He made space for. For you.

And he said, whenever you gather, do this to remember me, my body broken for you, my blood shed for.