Hello and welcome to a new week of Foundations podcasts. My name is Dave and this week we’re going to be picking up where Bryony left off in the book of Philippians. Thank you for joining us this week as we seek to ask God what He wants to say to each of us today. Philippians is a letter written by Paul, one of the major characters of the New Testament, to the Church in Philippi, which if you were to search on a map now, you’d find in north east Greece. Paul is writing to a Church he planted. You may remember back in Acts a woman called Lydia and her family coming to know Jesus, a servant girl being healed and a jailor and his family joining the new Church after hearing the Gospel from Paul and his companions. As Paul sits in prison writing this letter he is thinking of these people and others. People that he counted as friends. As we read the passages this week we are not reading some dry textbook meant for the shelves of professors, but a letter written to encourage, to build up and to instruct fellow believers in the Jesus life. We can all learn from these passages, so let’s get stuck in.
Today we’re looking at Philippians 3:1-6, here is verse 1: Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Rejoice in the Lord. It’s not the first time we’ve heard Paul share this sentiment as he openly admits, and it won’t be the last. In fact the next chapter contains the line Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice. Some of Paul’s message can be tricky to understand. But this he makes plain and simple. Rejoice in God. Celebrate Him. Give thanks.
This is about far more than having an excuse to party every now and again. This isn’t advice to help us to live lives that are marginally happier. Rejoicing in the Lord, giving thanks, praising Him reminds us of who we are. This is about identity. Paul goes on to explain that we are not defined by what we do. We are not defined by our family. We are not defined by our job, our social status, our relationship status, we are defined by God and what He has done for us. We are defined by the fact that we are His creation. We are defined by the love that He chooses to lavish on us. We are defined by the grace that He freely gives us. We are defined by our eternal status as sons and daughters of the living God. By the truth that Jesus died and rose again that we might have life and know Him. As much as we might try to define ourselves apart from God eventually those things come crumbling down. Rejoicing in the Lord, giving thanks and praise reminds us of who we are.
I lead STC College, our discipleship year and we recently returned from a mission trip to Sicily. We visited a Church and we all learnt a lot through the experience. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a culture, either in the UK or abroad, where people really let go in worship, but it’s refreshing and challenging to see. Now, I admit I don’t speak much Italian beyond hi, thanks, and, pertinent to some of the work we did, ‘watch out for that falling tree’. But I didn’t need to understand the words to be impacted by the outpouring of thanks as people prayed. Speaking to some of the more linguistically blessed team afterwards we found out that many of the prayers, songs, and much of the sermon was in fact declarations of who God is. Of what He says about us. How healthy is that? Not lists of requests or lists of how to be a good Christian, but an outpouring of truth and praise. Let’s be a people that rejoice in the Lord. That give thanks. And through doing that, God will affirm who we are in Him.
Thank you Father, thank you that you are good to us. That you love us. You care for us. You are worthy of all the thanks and praise we have. Today Lord we choose to rejoice in you, to say that all we have comes from you. Thank you God, amen.
READING: PHILIPPIANS 3:1-6
Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh – though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.