Living Joyfully Together in Christ

Philippians 2020  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Live joyfully in Jesus Christ through generosity in gospel partnership, gratitude for God's provision, greeting the saints through fellowship, and living a grace-centered life.



Gracious Lord,
Transform our minds by Your Word.
Reform our behavior according to Your desires.
And Conform our hearts to Your Son.
For Your glory.


One year ago, last Sunday, Don and I began preaching through Paul's Epistle to the Philippians. With everything that happened last year, I don't expect you to remember each of the 11 messages Don or I preached with vivid clarity! I don't think that even Don or I remember those messages! So, if you're wondering about the content of those 11 messages you can listen to those on the church website, Actually, we were supposed to have preached 12 messages that would have concluded our study in Philippians on March 22nd. Obviously, that didn't happen. Instead, we paused the conclusion of the series while we attempted to navigate the uncharted waters that was 2020! Despite all that happened last year, I would hope that you at least vaguely recall the overall theme of Philippians that we focused on: Living Joyfully in Jesus Christ.
To shake off some of the rust, let me map out what we went through in Philippians. As we worked our way through the letter, we saw Paul's heart for the Philippians expressed in his opening prayer for them. We saw Paul's confidence in the advance of the Gospel despite his imprisonment. We learned about what it means to be committed to Christlike living as a community of believers. We were encouraged to be unified and follow the humble example of our Savior. We were reminded that God is at work in us, activating us to obedience, using us as lights in the world, and delighting Himself in us. We were exhorted to watch and imitate Christians who exemplify Christ, like Timothy and Epaphroditus. We saw Paul's love of Christ and how Christ should be more valuable than anything to us. We were spurred on to make every effort to pursue Christlikeness. We were reminded that this world is not our home and that we are to live as citizens of Heaven. We were told to live in the peace of God and not allow anything to rob us of His peace. And then we learned the secret of contentment, which is to be fully satisfied in and completely dependent upon Jesus Christ. That's those 11 messages in a nutshell up through verse 13 of chapter 4.
Today, Lord willing, I'd like to finally finish up our time in Philippians, closing the book, literally! I think it would be helpful to give us a running start into our passage by beginning in Philippians chapter 4 verse 10 and I'll read to the end of the letter.
Philippians 4:10–23
Philippians 4:10–23 ESV
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
In his conclusion, Paul expressed his thankfulness for the Philippians’ partnership in ministry and their financial support he had received from them. He states his confidence in God's provision for them and offers up a doxology to praise God. Then he ends with a greeting and a blessing.
This is a perfect capstone to the overall purpose and message of Philippians. Paul wrote this as a sort of “thank you note” to the believers in Philippi for their love and support. But, he also wanted to give these believers encouragement. Paul encouraged the Philippians to live joyfully together in Jesus Christ in any and all circumstances that they encountered. Primarily, Philippians is a letter centered on joy and unity rooted in Jesus Christ. So, it should come as no surprise to us that Paul closes his letter with sentiments of partnership, fellowship, and community. This is the key, really, to living joyfully in Christ. It must be done together, with the saints, with one another.
And so, as we wrap up Philippians that is what I wish to direct our thoughts to. Living joyfully together in Jesus Christ. Thankfully, we don’t have to wonder how to do this because Paul lays out some wonderful methods to living joyfully together in Christ. I have tried my best to boil these down to three words. That’s right, my sermon this morning will only be three words! Well, ok, the outline is only three words! But, they are important words for us as a church. They are words that will help us to thrive as a unified people marked with the joy of Jesus. What a New Years resolution to aspire to keep as a local church! To thrive as a unified people marked with the joy of Jesus! Let’s strive to
Theme: Live joyfully together in Jesus Christ through...

1. Generosity

Generosity. That is the first word that will help us to live joyfully together. Does it shock you to know that our unity and our joy in Christ is bound up in giving? If you’ve read through the Bible you might not be so shocked by that truth. Scripture teaches constantly about money because our hearts and our pocketbooks are closely connected, and God is after our hearts. All in all, the Bible has about 500 verses about prayer, another 500 verses about faith, yet these two subjects pale in comparison to the amount of verses about money and stewardship of resources. 2,000, yes, 2,000 verses, give or take, concerning money and stewardship. Throughout the four Gospels alone, 1 out of 10 verses deal directly with money. That’s 288 references just in the Gospels. 16 of Jesus’ 38 parables deal with how to use our money and possessions.
Clearly, God cares how we steward our finances and our resources. And that’s because He is after our hearts. Show me where and how you spend your money and use your resources and I’ll tell you the god that you worship. Giving and generosity are vital components to our worship and to our fellowship with one another as believers.
Paul emphasized the importance of the Philippians’ generous giving to his ministry in verses 14 to 17:
Philippians 4:14–17 ESV
14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.
The word “share” in verse 14 and “partnership” in verse 15 are from the same root word used earlier in this letter. It’s a word meaning “to have fellowship with” or “to be made a partner”. That’s what the Philippians’ generous giving evidenced and resulted in. Through their generosity they proved themselves to be partners in the gospel with Paul and it resulted in true fellowship, even though they weren’t physically in the same location.
The Philippians provide us with a picture of genuine, authentic Christianity. The Christian life is about giving generously to others because God has given so generously to us. To be a partner in the gospel means generosity. If all a person does is take and receive they aren’t a true partner. Instead, they are a customer; a consumer. The Philippians weren’t consumers; they were co-laborers according to Paul because of their gifts to him. They may not have been the richest or most well-off citizens in the Roman Empire, but they had made a name for themselves. Their reputation was one of giving generously, sacrificially, and joyfully to support the advance of the gospel.
It’s no wonder why out of all the other churches Paul wrote letters to, the Philippians were clearly loved and special to him! When no other church was able or maybe willing to support him, the Philippians stepped up. Many of the other churches enjoyed receiving Paul’s teaching and the benefits of his ministry to them, but the Philippians were compelled to give. They viewed it as a privilege and responsibility as a church to do this.
The application, I think, is rather obvious for us. Gospel partnership, true Christian fellowship involves generous giving to advance the gospel and meet the needs of fellow brother and sisters in Christ. Honestly, from a pastoral standpoint, I have no reason to say anything more about generosity and giving to you all! One glance at the back of our bulletins and the joy we are already experiencing as a body is proof enough that you know how to be generous. You have proved yourself time and again of that to this church and to me personally!
All I’ll say is: keep it up! As Paul says in verse 17, “I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.” In other words, Paul is saying that when you give to the Lord’s work, you’re storing up credit in the Bank of Heaven, and it has a guaranteed high return for you! That’s not to say that you are earning brownie points with God, or your generous donation is making you more righteous, or more saveable. No, it means that you’re investing in eternal souls to the praise of God’s glory! There isn’t a smarter investment you can make on earth than that.
So, Live Joyfully Together in Jesus Christ through Generosity...

2. Gratitude

The next word that will help us to be unified and joyful together in Jesus is Gratitude. I almost feel as if I don’t need to say anything about this word in light of Nate’s message last week. He did a great job of contrasting ingratitude with gratitude; talking about how gratitude is at the heart of relationship whether that be with God or our fellow man. Expressing our gratitude blesses God and bonds people.
Like I said earlier, Philippians is Paul’s “thank you note” to the believers at Philippi. Verses 18 through 20 express his gratitude to them as well as to God on their behalf. Take a look at what he wrote:
Philippians 4:18–20 ESV
18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
In the context, gratitude is tied to generosity and giving. Or should I say that generosity is, at its very core, an expression of gratitude first to God and also for one another. Undoubtedly, the Philippians’ generosity toward the apostle was an expression of their gratitude for all that he had done for them and was doing for the Lord, as well as what God had done for them as a church.
Although Paul has already said that he had learned to be content with whatever he had in any circumstance he was in, he still wanted the Philippians to know that what they had done for him had made an impact. In so many words, Paul thanked them for giving him more than he had expected, for supplying him with sufficient resources for his ministry work. He actually goes a step further describing their gift to him as “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God”. The terms that Paul used here come out of the language from the Old Testament about sacrifices offered to God by the worshipper. Interestingly, they are also terms used to describe Christ’s giving of Himself on the cross for our sins in Ephesians 5:2.
Ephesians 5:2 ESV
2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Paul, back in Philippians 4:18, wanted to clarify who the Philippians were really giving generously to. This is the point Paul wants us as Christians to understand. When we give our money, our time, or other resources, we aren’t primarily giving to the church. When you put your money in the offering plate you aren’t chiefly giving your money to Don or to me as your pastors. When you write a check to one of our missionaries you aren’t supremely giving to them or to their ministry organization. I mean you are giving to the church, you are supporting Don and me, you are helping our missionaries, don’t get me wrong! But, first and foremost you are giving to the Lord Himself. That’s how Paul described the Philippians’ giving. It was like a burnt offering on the altar, a sacrifice with its aroma wafting up to the throne room of God, which to Him was acceptable and pleasing. God was delighted with their generosity because it was a form of worship unto Him. It was an expression of their gratitude for the work He was doing in His kingdom and for who He is.
Gratitude must define our worship; and giving is just another component of our worship, is it not? Do we give with willing and joyful hearts because we are grateful to God and view it as an act of worship?
Verse 19 gives us even more reason to be generous and grateful.
Philippians 4:19 ESV
19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
We ought to be generous and grateful because God has been generous to us. God’s abundant provision is the fuel for our gratitude. This is a glorious promise from God.
We see the Sovereign of this Promise: my God. This promise has the authority of God behind it. And this God is a mercifully personal God to us.
We see the Surety of God’s Promise: will supply. This promise is the certainty of God. When God promises, He fulfills. He has never broken a promise and never will.
We see the Scope of God’s Promise: every need. Paul does not promise that God will supply our every greed, but rather that God will supply our every need. Whatever we lack for His service, whatever is deficient in our glorifying of Him, God will supply what we need.
We see the Society of this Promise applies to: of yours. In other words, this promise is not for everyone. It is only for those who are believers, who are in Christ by faith. Those to whom God supplies every need are His redeemed.
We see the Supply of God’s Promise: according to His riches. I believe I’ve mentioned this before in a previous message, but it is worth repeating. Notice that Paul does not say that God supplies our every need out of His riches. He is not like a billionaire donating $20 to a charitable cause. That would be God supplying us out of a portion of His wealth. No, No, No! Paul says that God will supply every need of yours according to His riches! He supplies us with everything we need in proportion to His own wealth! There is a limitless supply to God’s promise.
We also see the Security of God’s Promise: in glory. This is the safest promise in the world. It is stored in a Bank where neither moth nor rust destroy or thieves break in and steal! This promise and its supply is protected, kept unfading for us in heaven.
And lastly, see the Savior and Shepherd of God’s Promise: in Christ Jesus. This is the One through whom God supplies this promise to those who believe. Outside of Christ there is no such promise of a sure, limitless, secure supply of your every need. But, with Christ, in Christ, we have such a promise. And we know that this promise is good in Christ because if the Father who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, then how will He not also with Christ freely give us all things?
Do you see now why we ought to be so generous to other believers? We should be generous because in Christ we will never lack what we need. God has promised to supply every need of ours according to His limitless riches. We can express our love and joy in Christ through our giving to one another without fear or doubt because He so loves us and has promised to provide for us through His Son, our Savior.
Do you see now why we ought also to be grateful to God? He spares no expense. His generosity toward us knows no end. His pockets never run dry. His cup always overflows. There is always more bread at His table. And yet He doesn’t hoard all of that for Himself. He desires to supply us again and again and again.
So, here’s another simple application: Be generous toward others because God will provide your every need; and be grateful to God because God will provide your every need! Additionally, follow Paul’s example in verse 20.
Philippians 4:20 ESV
20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
He bounces from the promise of God’s provision to the praise of God’s glory. Glorifying God is an appropriate response to all that God promises us and has given us in Jesus Christ and it is the natural outcome of a generous and grateful heart. A generous and grateful heart will glorify God and will lead to us praising God.
Live Joyfully Together in Jesus Christ through Generosity and through Gratitude...

3. Greeting

Now, the third word that will help us be unified and joyful in Jesus is Greeting. It is obvious from the Bible that God created us to be relational beings. Christianity is essentially relational! The Two Great Commandments call us as believers to be rightly related to the Lord and to one another: “Love the Lord your God” and “Love one another”. Sadly, because of the Fall, because of sin, relationships are broken, intimacy is lost, blame is shifted from self to others, and love for God and for one another is often neglected.
This means that true fellowship doesn’t just happen in a sin-fallen world, even in the church. Because we are sinners, albeit sinners saved by grace, we have to constantly work at cultivating fellowship, both in our own homes and especially in the church. Someone has jokingly said that
“To dwell above with the saints we love, O that will be glory! But to dwell below with the saints we know, well, that’s a different story!”
In a way, we all wrestle with this. But, this is where Paul’s greeting at the end of his letter can help us to cultivate true fellowship. Verse 21 and 22:
Philippians 4:21–22 ESV
21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.
In the letters of the New Testament, these tend to be the sort of verses we skim through in our Bible reading. To us, we either decide there isn’t anything of value to grow us spiritually or that these words simply aren’t directed to us so they must not matter. Yet in these two verses, Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, relays six marks of true Christian fellowship which we would be wise to grow in.
The first is that true Christian fellowship is a fellowship where every individual matters. “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus,” Paul wrote. Some translations say, “Greet all the saints”, but the word Paul used is in the singular, meaning, “Greet each one individually who is in Christ Jesus.” This isn’t to be a blanket greeting. It’s to be warmly personal. None are to be excluded from being welcomed who possess faith in Jesus. Each member of the body of Christ is vital to the health of the local church. Every believer matters. That is why Paul places the emphasis on greeting each saint in the church. They count for God’s work. They are at the center of Christ’s affections, just as you are. Therefore, extend to them the same affections He does to you.
Second, true Christian fellowship is a fellowship set apart from the world. Paul says, “Greet every saint...” Saint simply means, “one who is set apart.” Unfortunately, we tend to think of saints as some group of “super-soldiers” for Christ who are more distinguished, more righteous, or more holy than other believers or ourselves. But the Bible is clear. Every person in Christ has been made a saint, has been set apart by His grace unto holiness. To be a believer means you are a saint. It means God has called you to be set apart for Himself. We are to be distinct from the world, and yet still bearing witness of Christ to the world through our gracious words and good works. True Christian fellowship is a fellowship of saints, whose position is in Christ, set apart for God; and whose practice is godliness and good deeds toward all.
Third, true Christian fellowship is a fellowship centered on Christ. “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus.” Apart from Jesus, we would not be saints at all. There would be no holy union between us. This means that everything we do as a church must be centered upon Christ for us to have true fellowship. If it wasn’t centered on Him, we’d just be a social club, a place where we gather together to talk about things going on in the world, catching up with one another before we go our separate ways. When we gather as a body, it should be our supreme desire and purpose to know Christ more deeply and making Him the focus of our fellowship. Christ brings us together.
Fourth, true Christian fellowship is a family fellowship. “The brothers who are with me greet you.” Through the new birth, God has made us family members. Brothers and Sisters in the Lord. This outstrips any racial barrier, national barrier, gender barrier, or social barrier. Those who were with Paul when he wrote this letter were just as much the Philippians’ kinsmen in Christ as those who were present reading Paul’s letter in Philippi. Even if they never met face to face, believers like Mark or Luke were their brothers in Jesus Christ.
Think about what makes a person your family member. It isn’t by virtue of what that person has done or said, but by virtue of their birth, of who they are and who their parents are! Same with Christians. “All who receive Christ, who believe in His name, He gives the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12–13). A family is comprised of all sorts of different people. The elderly and the young, the smart and the dumb, the healthy and the weak, the stable and the crazy, men and women, boys and girls, teens and infants. And families aren’t perfect. Boy, do we know this! Everyone is at different stages in life, growing, and maturing. But, you care for one another all the same because of the bond you have as family. That’s how it ought to be in the church. We come together as a group of diverse people, not because we want to sit in a hard pew and be entertained, but because we want to be together, with one another, find out what’s happening in each other’s lives, and grow together under the preaching, teaching, singing, praying, and fellowship of the Word precisely because we are all family! That’s why we gather on Sundays and various other days in the week: to fellowship and share all things in Christ with each other.
Fifth, true Christian fellowship is an expanding fellowship. “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.” Here we have evidence that the gospel was indeed spreading, advancing to the most pagan and prestigious parts of society. By God’s grace, the gospel had found an inroads into the very household of Caesar, who was the notoriously evil Nero at the time of this letter. If you don’t know anything about Nero, know this: he was not a good guy, not even to his own family! Five years into his rule as emperor, he had his own mother killed just because she was too pushy. Three years later, he had his own wife killed so that he could marry another man’s wife. And of course, we know what Nero did to Christians who refused to deny Christ as Lord to claim Caesar as Lord. He lit up his royal garden by tying Christians alive to stakes, dousing them in oil, and igniting them with fire to be human torches. Yet, the gospel made its way into his palace. More than likely, Paul was referring not to Nero himself, but to some of the praetorian guards and other people serving the emperor or living in the palace. Important and influential people of society. Amazing, isn’t it?
We have much encouragement here! Even when we live in an environment surrounded by wickedness and godlessness, God’s grace is not deterred or diminished. Perhaps you look at America and think, “I wish we would be more godly. That we would be a nation that didn’t celebrate sin. Or at least we’d return to our Judeo-Christian roots.” Nevertheless, we live in a nation that we should be viewing as our mission field. God has placed us in the perfect position and has given us a glorious opportunity to shine as lights; and lights shine more brilliantly in the dark! As lights, we should be attracting those in the darkness to come and join in our fellowship. And we shouldn’t be surprised if those people are some of the most unexpected people. God’s love, grace, and mercy knows no boundaries, knows no sinner too sinful, knows no spiritual corpse He can’t raise and claim as His redeemed child. May we too look for ways to minister to those in the proverbial household of Caesar today that they would enter into fellowship in Christ with us!
And finally, sixth, true Christian fellowship is a grace-oriented fellowship. Paul concludes the letter in verse 23:
Philippians 4:23 ESV
23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
This may be a benediction, a closing blessing, but it is really far more than that. The grace of Jesus Christ is key to the whole Gospel. Grace means the unearned, undeserved favor of God shown to those who have only earned and deserved His judgement. Without grace, we could not believe the gospel, and none of us could ever attain salvation. Without grace, we do not grow in holiness and righteousness because we are so self-centered and evil that if God gives us what we deserve, we would all have been burned up. His grace is our incentive to live to please and glorify Him. We stand every day in constant need of His grace. Without it, we'd be dead.
God's grace is what we all seek for ourselves, but we don't like to offer it to others, particularly to those who have hurt or sinned against us. We are all quick to offer grace to ourselves when we sin and quick to condemn others when they sin against us. But we ought to be quick to judge ourselves and quick to offer grace to others.
True Christian fellowship could not happen if there was no grace. First, because God’s grace creates fellowship, unites us together in commonality in Christ. And second, because we all still sin, grace allows us to “bear with one another, forgive one another, as the Lord has forgiven us.” Therefore, we must be gracious to each other. We have no excuse not to show grace and we have no fellowship without grace. This is why, in part, I believe, Paul blesses the Philippians desiring that the Lord’s grace be with their spirits. To be filled with His grace allows true fellowship to flourish.
Live joyfully together in Jesus Christ through Greeting.


So, there you have it. Three words that will help us to thrive as a unified people with the joy of Jesus in 2021. Three words that will help us to live joyfully together in Jesus Christ. Generosity toward others through giving. Gratitude toward God to glorify Him. Greeting one another through grace-infused fellowship.
What a difference these three words would make to our church this year! What a difference these words will make to our community and country, too! When the world looks at Taylorville Evangelical Free Church this year, may they see a joyful church being overly generous, worshipfully grateful, and graciously greeting! Let us commit ourselves to living joyfully together in Christ this way, this day, this year, and every year until we are with the Lord.


Our God and Father,
Help us to do this.
Help us to live joyfully together in Christ.
We cannot do this without You
without Your grace
without Your Spirit working within us.
Bond us together in unity with the joy of Jesus, I pray.
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