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After close to 20 years, this is the first time Watermark has taught on the book of Philippians in its entirety. In the first week of the new series, Todd teaches us an overview of the book, as well as the historical context in which it was written. He also gives some historical context about Watermark and how if he wrote a letter to Watermark, it would be just like Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi.
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Philippians - Week 2
The Pastoral Epistle I Would Write
Good morning, friends. How are we doing? We're about to become a church today. Here's why. After 18 years, we're going to finally teach Philippians. I've taught through Minor Prophets. We've taught through the entire gospel of Mark, of John, of Colossians. We've done Galatians. We've done book after book after book, and I've never done Philippians. I think the reason is that's the book that everybody kind of goes, "You're going to do Philippians, right? Everybody does Philippians."
Some of you guys have been reading Philippians every day of your life since you began. It's just one of those books we go back to again and again. If you have not memorized a verse from this book, you have not been a believer very long. It's that common. It's just one of those places that we find ourselves gravitating to. I actually did teach a little of Philippians to our body. It was when we used to do these things called family camps up in Colorado.
When our church was smaller, almost 30 percent of our body would go to Colorado and hang out, and one of those weeks we were up there I taught through Philippians during the entire week. It was amazing. By the way, Plano and I think maybe even Fort Worth are going to do one of those again coming up next year, so get ready to spend your summer with some community of friends there, which would be an awesome thing.
I love this book. If I wrote a letter to this church, it would be like Philippians. It wouldn't be a doctrinal letter. There are a lot of places you can get great doctrine, and we need to know doctrine, but I wouldn't write you a Romans. I wouldn't write you a book on ecclesiology, which is really what Ephesians is. I wouldn't write you a book about the philosophy of the day and how you need to not be duped by it. There are other good resources out there about that.
If I wrote this church a letter, it would be like Philippians. It's actually the only letter Paul wrote that doesn't really have a rebuke in it. It's a love letter. It's a letter where he's just telling you, "You're my people. Your hearts are with me. We started this whole thing together." I'm going to show you exactly what I mean by that. It was Paul's letter to friends, just telling them how much he loved them.
In fact, I did write a book. I don't know if you guys heard this. I wrote a book called Come and See. I dedicated it to you. When you write a book, you get to do that. When you write a book, you have to go, "Man, I'm going to dedicate it…" If you're smart, you're going to dedicate it to your wife. I'm not an idiot. I still wanted her to sleep with me, so I did say something about her in here, but the dedication of this book is to you.
Let me read it to you. "This book is dedicated to the thousands of friends who, like I do, call Watermark their home and who so patiently admonish, encourage, and help me more fully experience the life I've always wanted. You all are living examples of all that I have written about in this book. May the Lord multiply your kind all over the earth."
I have been blessed. My family has grown here. My kids love the church because of this group of people. Paul is writing a letter to friends like that. I'm going to talk about that here in a little bit, but let me tell you why else this is such a great book: because it deals with the number-one thing that you have self-declared is the thing you'd like to hear more about, specifically our Porch crowd. We ask them a lot, "Hey, if we could teach on anything…"
We do different kinds of series at The Porch. We teach in short little snippets here and there, and we teach a lot of topical stuff. Even when we do a book, we go through it on a thirty thousand-foot level. When we ask them, "What is the thing you'd want us to teach about?" you would think they would say, "Dating. How to land somebody. How to close this chapter of our lives and move on" or "How to handle money and the pressures. How to adult or how to advance in my career."
You'd think it would be something like that, but do you know the number-one thing our young adult community wants us to teach about? How to handle despair, anxiety, and discouragement. Our country has never seen so many people on antidepressant meds. Our culture has never seen so many people struggling with whether or not this life is worth living. Philippians is the perfect book for our world.
What Paul is writing to them and telling them is, "Listen. I have the antidote to your despair. I know what the problem is. Let me remind you what you need. Let me remind you who you are." He's specifically writing to his friends who have come to understand the hope we have in this world. Let me explain something to you. This world is not perfect. Paul doesn't write this letter from a position of privilege; he writes it from jail.
The first time Paul was in prison… In fact, the last book we went through was the book of Acts. These are the last verses in the book of Acts. This is Acts 28:30-31: "And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters…" It sounds pretty sweet, right? No. They made him pay for where they held him. He was chained to guards. He was under house arrest. "…and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered."
They didn't have those little ankle bracelets where if you left your house it would go Beep! Beep! Beep! so they just chained you to a guard. These are the last recorded words in the book of Acts. Paul was eventually released from prison, and he probably went and visited his friends in Philippi and some other places, and then eventually was arrested again and beheaded. This book was not written from a place of privilege; it was written from prison, along with Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. They're what are called the Prison Epistles.
What you're going to find out is that Paul primarily wrote this letter because the Philippians, who heard and knew Paul had been falsely accused and was imprisoned, had sent a gift through their pastor, Epaphroditus, who brought the gift to Paul who was in prison. This is basically a thank you letter. These people loved Paul, and they were filled with sorrow because of what Paul was going through.
Paul says, "Hey, it's all good. It's all good, because God is in control. I'm not really sure how this is going to turn out. I think this one is going to be okay, because I don't think those folks who accused me are going to want to come all the way here to Rome and testify against me, because they know they don't have a case." He said, "Let me tell you something. Even though I'm in prison, even though my environment isn't exactly like I want it to be, even though my possessions have been stripped, even though the pattern of my life story has a lot of beatings in it, it's all good."
Last weekend I wasn't with you guys because I was teaching at a conference in Mexico City. When people heard I went down there and taught Saturday and Sunday in Mexico City, they went, "Mexico City? That's a little rough right now. Were you a little concerned?" I went, "No. I was frankly a little discouraged that some drug cartel didn't catch me, throw a burlap sack over my head, and cut my head off, because had they I'd have been home."
I would have missed getting to teach Philippians to you all and enjoying that, but hey, I don't care. Or I might have had a few scars on me and come back and had a great story. That sounds a little bit sadistic. I don't know what it sounds like. All I'm telling you is I was in Mexico City and I wasn't down there picking fights or walking around late at night or talking about the evils of drug cartels. I was sharing Christ, encouraging folks, equipping the Spanish-speaking church.
I was doing everything I could to advance the kingdom, and I wasn't really concerned what happened to me. That's basically Paul's attitude. This book will encourage you. It will strengthen your hearts, because this world is not as it should be. Can I just remind you of this? This world isn't the world your God wants you to live in. It is the world that we have, given that we have rejected God as our lover and king and redeemer and source of life.
God can't offer you what doesn't exist. He can't give you what doesn't exist. What doesn't exist is life and hope and peace apart from him. When you leave the God who is life, you're going to move toward death. When you leave the God who is light, you're going to move toward darkness. When you leave the God who is love, you're going to move toward hate. When you leave the God who is peace, you're going to move toward despair.
We live in a world that has moved away from God. The world is trying to find peace and meaning. To live is money, success, family, and all of the other things. Paul is writing, saying, "To live is Christ, and when you live with Christ in this world you'll understand why you're here while the world is all spun up, while sometimes you're in prison, while sometimes you have no possessions, while sometimes people betray you." All of these things exist in Philippians.
Paul uses one word once about every eight verses. The word is joy. Some people say this is the pastoral epistle of joy, and it really isn't. It's the gospel of Christ, because though joy appears 16 times in 104 verses, Jesus appears 50 times in 104 verses. It is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, because if you try and find life apart from Jesus you're just not going to find it.
Paul himself was trying to be a zealous religious man. This book has the greatest detail of Paul's life of any book, even though they know him the most, because he's just reminding them that in Christ alone is our righteousness. Paul was trying to find righteousness by being a zealot for God. He was actually killing people who proclaimed the hope and love of Jesus Christ, and what Jesus said to Paul was, "Paul, in vain do you kick against the goads."
We don't know what a goad is, because most of us aren't ranchers. A goad is basically a long stick, longer than whatever beast of burden you are trying to drive or shepherd. What you would do is take that goad, that stick, and you would put it… Let's say you're behind an ox (it would be a longer goad because an ox has a longer leg) and the ox isn't moving. You would take that stick and put it right in his tender backside.
If that happens, you're going to go, "Hey!" and if you're an ox you're going to kick. Like, "This ain't good. Stop it." But you're going to realize you're kicking air. Like, "What's back there? What hurts?" And eventually you're going to move. "In vain do you kick against the goads." What God is saying is, "Hey, guys, the game is rigged. In vain do you kick against me. You can't find life apart from me."
Paul is reminding the church that as long as you try and find peace apart from God… In this broken world, you're going to have trouble. When the Bible talks about joy, it says you can have joy in the midst of trials. Some people say, "The Bible doesn't talk about happiness; it talks about joy." That's a lie. The Bible talks about happiness all the time. The very first words out of God's mouth when he showed up in the person of Jesus…
He goes, "Do you want to be happy?" That's the word blessed. "Then you just have to stop thinking you can figure out life on your own, and you'll experience the kingdom of God, the kingdom of love and light and peace. Do you want to be happy? Blessed are those who mourn over their brokenness and inability to find life on their own. Do you want to be happy? Be gentle and meek. Let me lead you. Do you want to be happy? Live with purpose. Suffer for righteousness' sake."
Jesus is telling you how to be happy. Now, he tells you, "There are going to be some happenings in this world, even if you serve me, that you're not going to like, but don't let that bother you, because you can still have joy." Happiness does have in its root the same idea as the word happenings. What God wants you to know is there is no happenstance that's happening here. This is a story he's working out in the midst of history, revealing who he is, and there are a lot of happenings on this earth that break his heart.
He wants to explain why they're here, he wants to redeem you out of being the reason they're here, and he wants you to call others out of the judgment that's going to come because of the trouble that is here. He did that for the very first time in a completely new landmass in Philippi. Let me show you a little map here. This is Paul's second missionary journey, in effect. He left his home church, which is there in Antioch, and he went up and revisited some of the churches he started in what's called the Galatianregion.
That big area with Antioch in the middle of it is modern-day Turkey. You can see where Jerusalem is in the bottom right of the map. Antioch is the church in what's modern-day Syria that Paul was a part of. On his second missionary journey, he went back to Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and those places, because those were the places he had visited during the first missionary journey, to see how they were doing and to encourage them, and then he went up more and more toward northwest Asia, and he eventually was in Troas.
He was getting ready to cut back to the right and go farther up into Asia, and God told him, "I'm not going to let you." He forbid him somehow. We're not sure of all of the details, but he wouldn't let him go up to northern Asia. He said, "There's a guy over there in Macedonia." Macedonia is to the left where you see Neapolis, Thessalonica, and Philippi. If you go on down you see Athens. That's really modern-day Greece. Bosnia and some of those other places are right there.
Across the Aegean Sea, as you move from Troas to the left, is Europe. This is the very first church in Europe. God sent Paul to Europe and said, "We're going to push the gospel this direction." Just to encourage Paul, I think, when he got there, the very first person who trusted Christ, believe it or not, was an Asian woman in Europe whose name was Lydia who was from central northwest Asia. Then the church started.
This is the book of Philippians. I just want to encourage you with it. I'm so excited to talk to you about this book, because this book deals with the problem we're all in the middle of. God loves us. We want to be his people, but, dang, sometimes things aren't working the way we want. Paul, a loving leader, wrote a note to these people.
I told you if I wrote a book to you guys it would be like the book of Philippians, because I would just want to encourage you. I would want to tell you I love you. I would want to tell you how much of a privilege it has been to start this thing with you. I'm just going to take a second and give you a little backstory about why I would write a letter like this.
My story was I worked for 10 years in Christian athletic camps and was using sports and summer ministry in order to reach kids, and what I saw was those kids would keep going back home and would get plugged into churches that were a lot like, if you're in Dallas, John described today, where it kind of was people going through the motions and their lives weren't changed.
They'd come back the next summer to that camp and go, "This year is going to be different," and they'd go back to these dead, limp-along churches that, primarily, they were all a part of where they were going through the motions. I finally said to a group of friends, "We have to get in the city and just set up shop. We have to be a life-giving community to families. We have to disciple moms and dads so they can disciple their kids 51 weeks out of the year, not just give us one week where we can tell them about the hope that's in Christ."
I did that all through the 80s, and then in '91 I got to Dallas, and I ended up teaching a ministry that was a lot like The Porch. I would travel and speak. I did Porch-type ministry, some in Houston, some in the Mid-Cities, some here in Dallas. Then I ended up becoming a teaching pastor at a smaller community. I'd done everything I could to serve them there, and I saw the aspects of what they were doing as a community… They were kind of stuck a little bit.
I just said, "Hey, guys, you keep doing what you're doing. I just feel like there's something else for me. I feel like what we're calling people to here is falling a little short. We're not just supposed to have good doctrine," which we did. "We're not supposed to just be nice people," which they were. "We have to be more on mission. I don't want to just support missions; I want to be a missionary."
Actually, my wife and I and another couple, friends we were close to, looked around and said, "Okay, where is the largest number of English-speaking people who need to know Christ?" I went, "Lord, please let the answer be New Zealand. Please let the answer be New Zealand." It turned out it wasn't New Zealand. It turned out it wasn't Australia. It turned out it wasn't England. It turned out it was the United States of America.
There were more people right here in good ol' US of A, just numbers of people in a language I already spoke, in a culture I was already familiar with, in a place where I already had developed a reputation of being a faithful follower of Christ so I could use that relational capital to call other people to something else. It turned out it was right here where I was.
What was so interesting was that about that time I was also getting some phone calls from some friends in Atlanta who were like the small group here that I was spending some time with, and they were saying, "Todd, we want to start something here." It was in Marietta, Georgia, a really beautiful part of Atlanta, and they were getting ready to start a church. They were some friends who were the very senior part of the Chick-fil-A world right when Chick-fil-A was just beginning to be Chick-fil-A.
They said, "Come down here and let us start to reach and serve our community." When I started ministry, I was making about $10,000 a year. Even when I was teaching in the 90s, I was making about $20,000 a year. I had five kids under 7. We were living in a 1,700-square-foot home in 1999. I loved it. It was amazing. All seven of us. Some of the sweetest times in the history of our family. Love grows in small places.
Anyway, this group had me to Atlanta a couple of times, and I go, "This really might be where the Lord wants us. That's part of that land where there are a lot of nonbelievers." I eventually brought my wife down there with me, and when I brought my wife down there with me they said, "Todd, we're probably going to ask you to come and lead us in this mission as we start this work." They said, "We just want to show you some of the places near where we're going to launch this thing and where we think you can live based on how we want to bless you."
They drove us through the most beautiful neighborhoods I'd ever been in. They were gated communities with little swimming pools and tennis courts just for that community. The houses they showed us were on acre lots with five and six bedrooms. I remember thinking to myself, "There is no way my wife is going to pray about whether God wants us in Atlanta. It's over. She's a godly woman, but oh my goodness! Are you kidding me?" Plus they fed us Chick-fil-A nonstop when we were there. It was amazing. There wasn't a Chick-fil-A in Dallas at the time.
Lo and behold, we get there, and we go back one more time. It was the time they were going to ask us to be the senior leaders of that church. We landed. We got the rent-a-car. We got in the rent-a-car. This is a true story. I grabbed my wife's hand as we started driving to go meet them in Marietta, and I just said, "Lord, would you direct our steps? We want to do what you want us to do. We just want to be where you want us to be.
All we want to do is make disciples and be on mission. I don't want to lead a church; I want to be a part of the church. Will you show us if this is where…? We love these people. We love what we see, but we just want to go where you want us to go." True story. As soon as I got done saying, "Amen," I let go of my wife's hand, and I turned the radio on, and this is the very first thing I heard:
God blessed Texas with his own hand…
[End of song]
True story. I looked at her. I go, "That did not just happen." We talked and we laughed. We went, "No way." You know how songs kind of progress and go forward. Anyway, it was over, and I hit the radio one more time, and then I heard:
God bless Texas…
[End of song]
First words. That is the truth. Now look. I don't know. God can do that. He did do that. I'm not sure that's how you should determine where you should plant a church, but we laughed about it. I actually shared with them that night… In my spirit I just knew. Here's what I knew. I had lived in Dallas for about 15 or 16 years, and there were people here in Dallas, Texas, who I really loved. They were for me and were praying with me, and they said, "Todd, that sounds like an amazing thing. It sounds like those folks are ahead of us. We don't have anything. You ought to go there." But I just didn't feel a peace.
I can't say I had a dream and a Macedonian vision. I would tell you Little Texas was calling me back home, but there was a big part of my heart that just wanted to stay right here and do something, because I had people in Dallas whom I loved, and I didn't think we were part of a community that was really getting it done. So this is the group of friends. Let me show you why I'd write you this letter. This is just Watermark. Watermark hasn't always been on LBJ.
This is the group of friends I began to pray with. In the late 1998-99 season for about a year we prayed about what God might have us do. Later on we started meeting. I left that other thing. I didn't even have a job. We'd just meet in the room on Sunday mornings and pray. Eventually, we invited some other friends to come, so we went to two houses just to pray. Then we decided, "Okay, we're going to go for it."
At the very end of 1999, when I came back, what happened is that small group of friends sat down one day and said, "Okay, Todd doesn't have a job. He has five kids. There are seven of us families right here. What do we all have right now to start this thing?" So we all wrote down how much money we had. "Right now we could write a check on this day to start something." Then we said, "If God keeps us employed over the next year, how much do you think over the next year we could all possibly give?"
We wrote down those numbers, threw them in a hat, and we took those names out of a hat and looked. We went, "Okay, here's the money we'd have today if we all did this, and here's the money that maybe over the next year we could all have," and we said, "Let's go for it." I took a significant cut from what I was making at that time, certainly what I would have made in Atlanta, and we just said, "We believe this is what God wants us to do." So we started.
This was one of the very first Sundays at Watermark. We met over in the Lake Highlands area. You can see that was the original logo. We apparently were very inspired by Budweiser, so that was the original logo. These are pictures of the very last Sunday… This is seven years later. This is where we were, kids meeting in orchestra rooms. We met in like 20 different places, but primarily Lake Highlands.
You would go into chem labs. If your kids didn't break a beaker we'd give them back to you at the end of the Sunday. We loaded and unloaded the truck. Every week, we set up children's ministry and did all this different stuff. We destroyed trucks because young interns didn't know how low tree limbs were in certain areas. It was a bunch of work.
Let me insert this right here. In two weeks we're going to start again in Frisco. There are already 600 folks who come to Watermark, Dallas or Fort Worth, every week from the Frisco area, and we believe it's easier for you to reach and minister to your friends if you stay closer to where you live. So next week is going to be the last dry run where they're going to set it all up, and Frisco High School is where we're going to start.
I just want to say to you if you live north, up the tollway especially, north of George Bush or certainly north of Legacy, see ya. That's where you need to be if you're on the west side. You need to go up there and invest your life up there and just go, "We're going to serve the community in which we live, and we're going to get it going." It's going to bless you.
Do you know why these people's hearts were knit together with Paul's? Because they shared the gospel together. They suffered for the gospel together. They saw life change happen through the gospel they preached together, and it knit their hearts together. Not long after that, we had bought a piece of property. This is what this property looked like when we initially bought it. Here's the last picture I'm going to show you.
This is Watermark in the year 2003 through 2007. That's all we had here. We'd still be meeting all over the community. We used to say, "If you can find us, you can hang with us on the weekends." We slowly put together something here. It's why last year we took a bunch of the folks… This is a picture of the very first group who were members of Watermark. Some folks had died, but by and large…
We went to the Bible museum last year right before it opened. We said, "We've given our lives to this book and the God it talks about." There were 100 of us who started this thing back in the year 2000 and have developed this thing, and off and running we are, because we have been on mission together, we have suffered together, and we have seen Christ work together. I love this body, and I would write you a book like this.
This book, when it starts, says it's from Paul and Timothy, and I'll tell you about that in just a second. It says "bondservants of Jesus Christ." That's different than the way he starts the book of Romans, the book of Corinthians, the book of Galatians, the book of Ephesians, the book of Colossians, and even when he writes a letter to his disciples, Timothy and Titus, he doesn't start that way.
He starts by saying, "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ," because he's writing with a sense of "This is who I am. I'm sent forth from Jesus to teach you dogma and truth. I'm sent forth from Jesus to say this is how the church should be established. Timothy and Titus, when you guys go and found churches, this is the way they have to be founded. This is the way you name leaders. This is the way you treat widows. This is the way you handle the Word of God. I'm an apostle."
But when he writes to the Philippians he doesn't say, "I'm an apostle." He just says, "Hey, I don't need to come at you with a bunch of position; I'm just your brother and a bondservant of Christ." When I describe myself, I steal another word from Paul. It's 1 Corinthians 4:1 where it says, "If any man regards me, let it be as a servant of Christ and a steward of the mystery of God." Basically, what I want to do is let you guys know that I don't really care if you guys like me. I really don't.
I don't care if other pastors like me. I don't even care if other Christian leaders like me. I care that you guys know I love you. I hope you like me, because I hope you see me love you and serve you, but I'm a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and I want to teach what he wants me to teach and do what he wants me to do, and I want to call you to what Christ wants to call you to, and I want to do it with you, and I have. I have done it with you, and I have been so grateful that we've been able to do it together. I just think about what the Lord has done with us.
I'll say this really quick thing too. Some of you guys are thinking, "Do I really want to go and start this thing all over again in Frisco?" I'm going to tell you why you do. My friend Kyle Kaigler, who was one of those original seven, who's the leader of our Plano Campus and up there leading them today… He said, "Do you want excitement in your life? Do you want terror? Start a church. Do you want a sense of awe, a sense of all that God can do? Go for it. Do you want to knit your hearts together to Jesus? Then get out there and take a risk for him."
The closest friendships in the world are friendships that are formed in foxholes when you go to war together and suffer together and see what God does as you beat back evil together. Do you want to see your kids grow up really loving Jesus? Then model for them what it means to really love Jesus and say, "I'm not going to go to a place that's comfortable just because I can. I'm going to go someplace where there's no beachhead yet, and I'm going to establish it. We're going to establish something up there that's not there yet, and we're going to love other people." That's what we did.
It's a lot of work. I'll just put the video of the setup behind me. This is like four years in. This is what we used to do every Sunday at Lake Highlands. This was the teardown/setup. That's what's about to happen in Frisco. I'm telling you it's worth it. Some of you guys kind of rolled in here and think somehow we have some rich uncle who died and bought us a $100 million facility on LBJ. No, man. We gave sacrificially of our lives and our resources. We love each other and we love you, and that's why we did it.
So many of you have jumped in here, and now you are our brothers and sisters. The church in Philippi has grown, and we are on mission here. We're not trying to have some place that's comfortable here. This right here and what we just did in Fort Worth and what we did in Plano and what we're about to do in Frisco in the years ahead… That's either a $100 million mistake or the greatest investment in our lives. I think it's the greatest investment of our lives, because we've established something here where we see Jesus being exalted, we see people being transformed, and it's a blessing.
If I was writing you a book, it would be like Philippians. "Hey, guys, I know we're not home yet, I know it's not perfect, but be anxious for nothing, but in everything, with thanksgiving and prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Hey, we can do anything through him who gives us strength.
It doesn't mean we can't build stuff with money we don't have. It just means it doesn't matter what our circumstances are that we go through. We can be God's people. Our God will supply all our needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus, and he who began this good work in us will bring it about to completion." That's verse 6. The other ones were in chapter 4.
"As long as we do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind consider one another as more important than ourselves, as long as we don't merely look out for our own personal interests but also for the interests of others, as long as we have in ourselves the same attitude which was in Christ Jesus, we're going to change the world." That's all Philippians.
Look at what Paul says. I want to pick it up in verse 3. This is my heart toward you. "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you…" I want to tell you guys this again: I love you people. This is my church. This is where my kids fall more in love with Christ. This is why my kids, now all adults, radically love Jesus, because they find people who want to live for him. They believe in the God they have seen work in and through your lives.
"…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. For I am confident of this very thing…" That by the grace of God, as we yield to his Spirit, as we pray for one another and spur each other on to love and good deeds, as we practice the "one anothers" of Scripture, abide in his Word, and yield to his Spirit, he's going to finish this thing with us.
If we do our job, there's going to be a Timothy and a Titus after us who are going to make it even better in the days ahead. We're going to finish strong. We're not going to get more comfortable. We're not going to just kind of go through the Christian game and motions. No, this is going to be a mission, and a better one because there are more of us with more resource than ever. Let's go, church.
Verse 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." As soon as Paul left Philippi (and I'm going to tell you about what that was like), they chased him to Thessalonica with money. "Paul, what you did while you were here with us go do in Thessalonica."
A little bit later, he's down in Corinth. "Hey, Corinthians, don't give him any money, because we don't want you to think Paul is there to start a Chick-fil-A franchise. He is there to advance Jesus, so you just let Paul love you." Guess how Paul lived when he was in Corinth: the church in Philippi. Paul goes and he's in prison. Guess who chases him to prison in Rome: his church.
They say, "We love you. We haven't forgotten you. Are you okay?" and Paul says, "Oh man, I'm okay. For me to live is Christ. If I die, don't worry about it. I'll be home waiting on you. You just get after it in Philippi. But if I'm alive, you can be sure of this: the whole Praetorian Guard is hearing about Jesus." Let's go, church.
He says, "…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." I do. I love being with you all. I love being not just a pastor here; I love being a part of this flock. I love the way you guys encourage me when I'm weak and help me when I'm struggling and admonish me when I'm unruly. This is my family, and this is the letter I would write to you.
Now this whole thing started… I'm going to send you back a little bit. If you want to, turn to Acts, chapter 16, because Acts 16 is where this whole thing started. Almost a year ago to the day we were in Acts 16 and 17. That's where Philippians came out of. It wasn't written there. It was written in Acts 28:30-31 while he was in prison. I already told you that. Acts 16 is when this whole mess started. I'm going to show you why Paul loves these people.
Basically, what Paul did was he went and hung out down by a river. He talked to whoever was there. He found a fashionista who happened to believe what he said. He moved his operation to her house. He found some drug-induced slave girl whom he set free. He got beaten. He basically started a riot and got thrown in jail. There was an earthquake, and he started a church. That's Acts 16. He went to war with these people. Let me read it to you.
It says in verse 11, "So putting out to sea from Troas [after I had seen this vision of a person in Macedonia and 'God Bless Philippi' came on the radio] , we…" Which is basically Silas, Timothy, Paul, and Dr. Luke. "…ran a straight course to Samothrace…" Which is a little mountain on the way across the Aegean Sea. "…and on the day following to Neapolis…" I've been in Neapolis. There's really no reason for Philippi to exist.
Philippi is not just some nondescript, unimportant city. It does actually have some import. Philippi was named after Philip, the father of Alexander the Great. Later, the Romans went in and took it over. It was a strategic city because, basically, if you're going to have a trade route that moves from Rome all the way through Asia, the Silk Road… The Appian Way or the Egnatius highway went right through Philippi, because it's surrounded by mountains.
You had to go through Philippi unless you were going to climb the mountains in order to make your way either through a seaport right there at the Aegean Sea or, if you were by land, which is what almost everybody was, you had to walk up around that arch, and you went right through Philippi. There was a paved road there that started about 300 BC. The Romans, when they became the rulers of the world, went into sweet little Philippi, named after Alexander the Great's daddy. I love it, because the name of the city was called Colonia Augusta Julia Philippensis. That's what they called it.
"Where are you from?"
"I am from Colonia Augusta Julia Philippensis. Where are you from?"
This city that had this big name wasn't really important. It wasn't like Rome that had this enduring civilization. It wasn't Babylon known for its luxury. It wasn't Athens known for its education and philosophy. There's really no reason that Philippi is on the map or I would have visited Philippi except for one reason: they got a letter.
They got a letter from one of God's servants, and God preserved that letter for you and me, because he knew in 2018, when this extension of the ministry to Europe would make its way even farther to North America, we would struggle as we try and be on mission with each other and we needed to not be anxious and not be overwhelmed. We needed to have joy in the midst of a world that's not as God intended it to be, and we needed to be reminded why we're here. We needed to do what these folks had done.
Anyway, that's where Paul was. Verse 12: "…and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside…" Why? Because there were no Jews in Philippi. You need 10 Jewish males to start a synagogue. There weren't 10 Jewish males, so Jews would gather by rivers…for two reasons.
First, Psalm 137 says, "Back in the days of exile we used to go to the rivers of Babylon there, and we sat down and wept. We would cry that we weren't home because there was no place to worship in Babylon." They would look for moving, living water where they could do ritualistic cleansings and mikvehs, so they would go down by the river. Paul goes, "There's no synagogue." That was Paul's model.
He would go and see, "Is there anybody who has any concept of who God is, how he has revealed himself to the Jews, the wonders he has wrought already, and is waiting during these now 500 years of silence for what God is going to do next? I'm here to tell them God has done something next. God himself has come. The prophet Isaiah's visions have been realized. The fulfillment of the law has been accomplished. You've been set free, because God has come."
He would go and look for Jews. He thought, "If there are any Jews here, they're going to be down by the river." Guess what. There really wasn't. There was, though, a God-fearer. A God-fearer was a Gentile who had heard about the Jewish God and, basically, had embraced the idea. Lydia, it turns out, is from Asia, Thyatira, somewhere on the road from Antioch to what was Troas where he launched from. That's where Thyatira was.
Actually, Lydia went back, I think, to Thyatira and planted a church. It's one of the seven churches in Revelation that a letter is written to. All that to say, he goes down there and begins speaking to some women who had assembled. It's interesting that the church began with Jesus' servant Paul finding a faithful woman. Do you know the very first person in the Scriptures who Jesus himself told, "I'm the Messiah"? It was a woman.
Women have great dignity and value. They are equal in honor, and they are beautiful. We need them. There are roles that men play and roles that women play. We're not the same, but let me tell you something. Jesus loves to work through men and women. This is going to be a place where women always thrive, but it's not going to be a place that plays to the cultural whims of the day.
I don't really care if women like me. I'm a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and he said, "When you start the church, these are the roles for men and the roles for women." But I want to tell you something, men. If you treat women like their role isn't as important as yours because you're the dad and they're the mom, that's a problem. That's abusive. That's not kingdom-oriented male leadership.
Women ought to be cherished and honored and venerated and use their gifts for the glory of God and help advance the kingdom and advance the church. That's going to happen here, and it has happened here, but we're not playing to every little cultural whim. Oppressive patriarchy? Unbiblical. Interchangeability? Unbiblical. Godly servant leadership that venerates, honors, empowers, and unleashes women for glory? That's God's way.
"A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, 'If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.' And she prevailed upon us." So Paul moves in with this chick…and Silas and Timothy and Luke.
"It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling." Basically, the word there is frenzy. She'd be a drug-induced girl, probably sold by her parents into slavery. Go back and listen to my message on Acts 16 where I talk about divination, demon possession, and who this girl was and what was going on. She probably was a worshiper of the goddess Python, which was not far from there.
They would drug her up, and she would go into fits, and whenever she spoke, people would think it was like a way to hear from the gods. Paul kept hearing this gal following them, saying, "These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation." That was true, but she was doing it in a way that annoyed Paul and in a way that Paul said, "This is not helping us, that a woman who people with any sense would know is not in her right mind is saying these things about us."
That's why false teachers always tell you as much truth as they can. I heard a guy say this, and I agree with him: the church is never more in trouble than when the enemy of God tells the truth. What happens when people tell the truth is you start to believe them. It's why false teachers will tell you as much truth as they can, and then they will slide in their error.
It's why it's called TheChurch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They don't like to be called Mormons. It's why Mary Baker Eddy and Joseph Rutherford, Christian Scientists and Jehovah's Witnesses, talk as much as they can about Jesus, but they pervert him and redefine him. It's why Islam talks about "Father Abraham." There's going to be some truth, people, but that's to build some trust.
At one point Paul was greatly annoyed. He said, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!" Let me fast-forward what happens. Basically, in verse 20, they brought these guys who took away their moneymaking operation, and they threw the city into confusion. They said, "They're Jews." They started a race riot. Anti-Semitism is at the root of this. Basically, they were beaten with rods and thrown in jail.
So Paul starts a Christian worship band in jail. He's in stocks. He starts singing while he's beaten. Probably his back is bloody and exposed. Who knows if it's broken. His back is beaten with rods. They couldn't kill him, but they would beat you to the point of death. They put him in stocks. Not the cute little Puritan stocks. The Roman stocks were put the legs out as far as you can, put the arms out as far as you can, and just be stretched out like that.
He's beaten, he's bleeding, and along about midnight he and Silas say, "Okay, man. Let's just praise God, because this isn't the world we chose, but we're not going to be anxious. Our God is in control. To live is Christ; to die is gain." God threw an earthquake into that little prison, if you keep reading, and the jailer thought, "Okay, the earthquake happened. The jail walls have fallen down. The stocks have been busted open. Surely the prisoners are going to run away." That means the jailer is going to be executed.
Paul says, "Hey, man, don't kill yourself. Come here. I haven't gone anywhere, and neither have these guys who can't believe I was singing and praying to this God who apparently has just delivered us. We're right here." That jailer said, "I have to know that God." So they went back to that jailer's house. He led the jailer and his family to Christ, and guess what they did. "Let's go over to Lydia. There are more of us who know him here."
This is the beginning of the church. Think about what they went through together. A guy shows up. We have a fashionista, a very wealthy woman who probably owns a home in Philippi and a home in Thyatira. She's loaded. We have a demon-possessed slave girl who has now been set free, we have a blue-collar worker, we have Jews, and they are one, and they love each other, and they are singing, and they can't believe the hope God has wrought.
Do you think their hearts were knit together? Man, when you go in a foxhole and start something like that, your hearts are knit together. Let me show you this. Go back to the very beginning of the book. I told you this is the most autobiographical book of Paul. In chapter 3, verses 4-8, you're going to hear Paul be very specific about who he is as he reads his résumé. He's reminding them, "All of the things this world has to offer me I count as nothing and a loss. So don't worry about who you are on this earth."
Timothy is described in Philippians, chapter 2, verses 19-22. He says, "Timothy is my kindred spirit. You know how concerned he is for your welfare because he loves you. He has proven worth to me. He's my fellow servant of the gospel. Timothy is serving me like a child does his father. We're writing you, and we are bondservants." Bondservants were basically slaves who chose to give themselves to their master.
Let me throw this in right here. When people hear about slaves in the Bible, they go, "Yeah, what is that about slavery in the Bible?" Exodus 21:5 talks about bondservants. It's when people who were slaves, primarily for economic reasons, would say, "Even though I've kind of paid my debt or I've come to the time of my service being done, even if I couldn't repay my debt, I don't want to leave, because you've treated me so well."
So that slave would go and put his ear on a door, and they would drive an awl through it. You would be marked, maybe like a cow whose ear was punched. You would say, "I'm staying here, because I love you, because you've been gracious to me, because you're a good master, and I'm going to serve you the rest of my days. I'm going nowhere, and I am willingly subjecting myself to you." That's Exodus 21:5. It's a bondservant. The word is doulos in the New Testament.
The slavery we think of in America is Exodus 21:16. Exodus 21:16 says, "If any man kidnaps somebody or finds some other person in their possession and owns them like cattle, put that guy to death." It was ignorant, hick, uneducated men who did not rightly divide the word of truth who tortured the Scripture to give us permission to institutionalize the slavery that was in England and Europe and America.
The Bible never endorses slavery as we've known it. If you want a short little seven minutes on that, there's a podcast called Real Truth. Real Quick. What Does the Bible Say About Slavery? I talk you through it in a quick way. Don't ever let somebody tell you that a person who knows their Bible would have ever been a part of slavery the way it has been known in our country.
Paul is basically saying to his friends, "I am a servant of Christ, and I'm writing to all of the saints in Christ Jesus." The word saint is interchangeable with Christian. Saints are not people who have done two miracles who folks, after they've died, have prayed to and something has happened. There are just saints and ain'ts. That's it. The only way you're a saint is if you're in Christ Jesus.
The word saint is the word hagios. It's the word holy, and it means separate. Paul said, "Don't go build a monastery in the wilderness and separate yourself from the world. No. You saints are in the world for a reason." You're here, Watermark, for a reason: to be God's church. You live in the world, but you're not like the world; you're separate from the world. How are you going to be separate? Three ways.
First, in your love for one another. This is the only real admonition Paul puts in the book. In Philippians 1:27 he says, "Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so when I come and see you or remain absent I'll hear that you're standing together, firm in one spirit, with one mind, that there are no little divisions or factions among you, because God has brought us together. We're unified in him."
A little bit later in chapter 4, verse 2, he basically says, "Hey, Euodia and Syntyche, you guys have to get along." Paul never mentions a guy's name in this book and talks about the fact that there was conflict. I'm just saying. The gals were not getting along. He says, "Stop it. No more catfights." It isn't about just the women. He's saying, "Philippian church, you guys have to get together. Love is what marks you." That's the only real admonishment in the book: a reminder that we cannot have little schisms and factions and divisions among us.
So, love is important. What else is true of saints? Holiness. What marks a saint is their love for one another and that they're in the people but they're separate. In Colossians 2:14-16, he says, "Listen, guys. You know why the world isn't working out perfectly for you. So do nothing with grumbling and disputing, even if you're in stocks, even if you're beaten with rods." Philippians 2:14: "Do nothing with grumbling or disputing." Separate yourself from the rest of the world who's all beat up.
A little bit farther down he says, "I want you to be individuals who are proving yourself to be blameless and innocent, children of God, above reproach. In the midst of a dark and perverse generation, you distinguish yourself as lights in the world." That's who you should be. Hold fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ Jesus he can say, "See? I put my people upon you. I showed you there was a different way, because there were people just like you, born into sin, who were separated by Christ."
The last thing is be people of courage. This is what saints are. They love, they live holy lives, and they're courageous. It's why Paul says in Philippians 1:28-30, "Don't be alarmed by your opponents, that they beat you or throw you in jail. Your lack of being alarmed by them is a sign of destruction for them. You know something they don't know. This world is not your home. If they kill you, they don't kill the soul. Don't fear the one who can kill your body. Fear the one who can kill the body and keep the soul in hell forever. You know something they don't know, so be courageous."
Folks, this is what the church is. Paul loved them, and he's just saying, "Take heart. Be loving. Be holy. You don't go to a meeting in Lydia's house; you're Lydia. You're missionaries who are supposed to change your Thyatira and your world. You're going to suffer, because the world doesn't always like you, but this world isn't your home."
Paul uses three things to basically describe what's going on here, and it's really important. He uses prepositions. He says you're in Jesus Christ, you're of Jesus Christ, and you're from God our Father and Jesus Christ. Let's look at them. You are a saint in Jesus Christ. Can I say this to you? If you're not in Christ, you're in trouble and you're not a saint. I don't care what you do.
This week I was with our buddies. I met some guys I lead with, the different campus pastors, and we were having a long meeting all day long. We had breakfast, lunch, and an appetizer all in the same place, all day, never left, just talking about different things. Our waiter was a guy named Jose. After a while, over the hours, we built a relationship with him, and I finally said, "Jose, tell me. You can hear what we're doing. Can you tell what we're talking about?"
He says, "Yeah, it sounds like you guys are talking about stuff you do as friends in a church in the city." I go, "Right. We are a church. We're friends. This is what the church is. Do you have a community of friends who are about what God wants you to be about?" He goes, "Oh yeah, yeah. I keep the ten commitments." I go, "Okay." He said, "I'm Catholic." I go, "Okay, great. We're catholic too." The word catholic means universal.
I said, "We're not Roman Catholic. That's a particular group of people in Rome who said they were part of the universal church who decided to structure themselves a certain way and have introduced certain traditions of men that we don't think are actually in Scripture, but we're both catholic if we're really part of the church of Jesus Christ. Do you know how you become a part of the church of Jesus Christ? It's not by keeping the ten commitments. They're actually commandments.
Do you know that there was a guy who came to Jesus one time and said, 'Hey, how can I know that I'm in your family?' and Jesus said, 'Do you keep the ten commitments/commandments?' and the guy said, 'I think I do.' So Jesus says, 'Great,' because the guy responded, 'I don't murder. I don't lust. I don't lie and take my neighbor's wife.' Jesus says, 'Great. Go sell all your possessions and give your money to the poor and come and follow me.'
It says the guy walked away, Jose, and he was very sad. Do you know why Jesus said that to him? It wasn't because he needed his money; it was because he was showing him that the very first command, 'You should have no other god before me,' is exactly what that guy did. That guy loved money more than Jesus. He didn't keep the first commandment, much less all of them."
I go, "I think when you told me you keep the ten commitments, that means you've probably never murdered anybody. Have you ever murdered anybody?" He goes, "No, I've not murdered anybody." I go, "But have you ever told somebody you hate them or that they're a fool? Because Jesus was talking to another group of people, and he said, 'You've heard it said that you shall not murder, but I say to you if you look at your brother and say, "You're a fool" you have murdered him.'
Jose, I imagine you probably, by the grace of God, have never slept with another man's wife, but Jesus says, 'I want you to not even look at a woman with lust in your heart.' Jose, have you ever looked at a woman with lust in your heart? Me too, Jose. Jesus says we're adulterers." He said, "I've got to get the hell out of here." That's what he said to me. I go, "Jose, no you don't, bro. You've got to get the hell out of you is what you have to do, and here's how."
I told him what Paul told Lydia. I said, "If you're not in Christ, you're not a saint. Jesus is looking for people who are committed. He's looking for people who need to be saved. Come on, Jose." If you're not in Christ, you're in trouble. Secondly, we're not just the saints in Christ Jesus. Look at this. Paul says, "I'm a servant of Christ Jesus." That's what we are. We're servants of Christ, and we're faithful to him. That's the only one we live to please.
Thirdly, we are people who get grace and peace. This is what it says. Verse 2: "Grace and peace from God our Father and our Lord." Do you want to know why you have despair? Do you want to know why you don't have peace? Because you're looking for other things to give you peace. The diagnosis you received may not give you peace. The career you have may not give you peace. The person you married may not give you peace. The sufferings of this world may not give you peace, but Jesus will. In this world you're going to have trouble, Philippi, but take heart; he has overcome the world. Let's go, church. Let's go.
Father, help us to be your people. Help us to learn from this book. Thank you for the love we have shared with one another, the joy we have had together, the peace that passes understanding, the chance we have today in our little Philippi to get after it and to change the world. Just like the world shook in Philippi to set the gospel free, I pray because the gospel is set free here the world shakes and things change. Thank you for the love we have for one another. Help us, Lord, to live radically for you and your glory. In Jesus' name, amen.
If you're here and you've never come to Christ, ask the person next to you. They'll tell you how. Come up here. I'll pray for you. If not, let's go, Lydia. Let's go, demon-possessed ex-slave girls. Let's go, jailers. Set them free. We'll see you.
Todd & JP walk us through the entire book of Philippians, a love letter from a pastor to his congregation.