September 7, 2014 [Ephesians 4]

September 7, 2014
"Blessings in Christ"
[Ephesians 1:1-14]
Pastor Brendon Wu

We are starting a new book, Ephesians. Ephesians is a letter that Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote to the Ephesian church. When he was writing this letter, he was near the end of his life. Just like in Philippians, Paul was the near the end of his life. He didn’t know what was going to happen next. Was he going to be executed? Was he going to be freed? Was he going to have to live out the rest of his life in prison? He just didn’t know. So as we are reading this letter, let’s keep that in mind. That Paul the apostle is in prison! That’s really hard. I wouldn’t know because I’ve never been in prison. But what’s amazing to me is that in the passage we have today, Ephesians is already a very unique letter compared to all the other prison letters that Paul writes.

If you notice in the passage today, Paul doesn’t really start off with his usual stuff. Like, “I thank you so much for this, Philippians.” Or “every time I think of you, it brings me joy”. But what we have today in the beginning of Ephesians is Paul just bursting out of the gates and giving praise to God. In the whole section from verses 3 – 14, in the original language it is actually one sentence. It’s a very long run on sentence in the original language. There are no punctuations either in the original sentence. But Paul just get’s so excited. Have you ever met anyone for the first time and instead of starting out with, “Hey, how are you?”, they rush off with starting off with an amazing story or an amazing thing that happened in their life. And they just can’t stop talking. So today what we’re going to talk about is the excitement that causes Paul to keep running his mouth and can’t help but praise God. Paul says, he is an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. And that should be really important to us because Paul is saying – he’s an apostle. An apostle is somebody that saw the resurrected Christ and just loved Him and dedicated his life to teaching about him. But he’s only an apostle by the will of God.

A lot of times we ask, “What’s God’s will for my life? Where is my life heading? Who am I going to marry? How many kids will I have?” And we think about that. But what I want us to think about this morning is what’s in scripture. Instead, of thinking about what we want for own lives is to take a look a God’s life. What God wants to do with His life. After all, God’s not somebody who had His life planned out by an academic advisor or by His parents. But in the beginning, everything started out with God. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. The whole Bible is just about God and what He wants to do. So this morning, let’s take a look at what God wants to do with His life. He could do anything but what does God decide to do? 

Every spiritual blessing
Paul says that he is an apostle by the will of God. He is writing to those in Ephesus. In verse 3, he starts with praising God –  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”. Pastor Kenny and I were talking the other day and wondering, “What does this mean??”. Ephesians, seems like such high octane, lofty stuff. It could be all the stuff that Paul writes after this verse. Or it could be every spiritual blessing that could be imaginable, could be fathomable to you. And actually, I think it’s both. For example, if you take a look at what Paul is saying here, what God chose to do is that “he has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and the first of those spiritual blessing is in verse 4, “even as [God] chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him, in love”. This is so amazing.

There’s gonna be some real talk here. I’m conceited. No surprise to a lot of people. Kind of superficial. We think we are so much for noble and self-less than we actually really are. Let’s say there’s a guy or a girl we’re really interested in. We haven’t talked to them yet, but we’re all like “I really care about them”. And we’re like – “God, if you’re calling me to her or calling him to me, I will obey you.” Boom. Honestly, I have yet to meet somebody that is like “I unconditionally love this person, even before I said hello to them”. I have heard people say that but man, that’s not realistic. The fact of the matter is that, you just wouldn’t go out with somebody that you didn’t have some kind of interest in. if there wasn’t some part of them that was really appealing to you or did something for you. And we’re just wired that way. I remember with my wife, during the first part of our relationship, I prayed the prayer in Gethsemane. The week before I asked her out, I spent five days just praying the same prayer Jesus prayed. “Lord, not my will. But father, your will be done. Yeah! I pray that our union would glorify you. But Lord, if that doesn’t happen, that’s okay. Your will be done. Glory to you!”. Needless to say, we got married and I guess that’s God’s will. But man, it didn’t turn out the way it we sometimes dream it up to be. And the reason why I’m going on with this example is because our love is so conditional. We think we’re selfless and unconditional but we’re selfish and conditional a lot of times. We really think that we would take a job as long as the job brings good stuff to us. We really think that we would just be committed to somebody just because somehow in us, we have all the goodness that says that – no matter what sin creeps up, I’m going to commit to them. The fact of the matter is that it’s not like that. But, God is like that.

For us, when we first get into a relationship, we really like that person. But I think that’s lust. I like this about that person. I like this about that person. But you get to a point where sin rears it’s ugly head. That job that you loved so much, all of a sudden becomes really hard to wake up for. That church you were so excited about, now becomes .. Why am I at church? Why am I here? Or a friendship becomes really hard. God, it’s hard to have the same joy that I did. God, I’m fading, fading fast. The thing with God is that, He chose us in Him. He committed to us before the foundation of the world. Meaning, before our life began, before the world began, God chose and committed to us. He loved before the fact. He loved before the sin. He loved before anything happened and could happen. God loved us and chose us before. It’s an “I love you and I’m committed to you before I even really started my relationship with you”. For us it’s, “I love you, but once sin rears its ugly head and I’m starting to see everything, maybe I’ll decide if I really love you”. What scripture is saying is that, even before any bad thing could happen in this whole world, God loved us. For us, we see one bad thing in the relationship or in the church sometimes, and we just want to run in the opposite direction. We want to do a 180 and get out of here.

There are countless times where I saw something that I didn’t like about the Bible or something that I didn’t like about church – in another words, something that I didn’t like about God, it made just want to hide. It made not want to care. It made me want to bail. It made me want to run away. And there are times in my life where I did run away. And there are times in our lives even right now, where we still want to run away. Even when we still want to hide. But that’s not God. That’s not how God chooses to live His life. In love (in this committed love) he predestined us[b] for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Is Christianity really about us choosing God? Is it really about us, mustering, mustering – forcing ourselves to go to church. Forcing ourselves to do A through Z, and then even more after that. Is Christianity about us choosing God? Ephesians shows us that it’s not. Everything here – it’s God who blesses. It’s God who chooses. It’s God who predestined. I don’t know if you’re spiritually tired or wiped out in some kind of way. If you’re bored in your life or you don’t know where you’re going. Just something between you and God is just not working. Maybe it’s that. Maybe it’s the fact that you’re so focused on what you have to do. Throughout your whole life you think – I have to do this, I have to do that. But not with God. God doesn’t have to do any of these things but He does it because He wants to. He blesses us because He wants to. He predestines because He wants to. Even right now, as we are here hearing the word of God, God wants us to be here. And that’s God’s choosing. That’s God’s predestination. We don’t choose destiny. We don’t choose fate. God actually chooses those things for us. That’s not to say that, if we do something heinous in our lives, we can say that God made us do that. “Oh, I lied the other day. If God predestines everything, than He must have made me lie”. Or if something bad happened to us. “God, you did that didn’t you.” That’s what we think a lot of times. That’s what I think a lot of times. But what scripture is saying right here is that everything here – God is doing all these good things. In light of the fact that we ourselves don’t love God on our own, we don’t choose God on our own.

The reason why we can know that is because we have people in our lives. We have mom, dad, family, friends, people at church. Sometimes we learn something about them and we just don’t like it. And that little seed of judgment just grows and grows and grows until that seed just becomes a huge something that keeps us away from them. And we don’t want to love them. We don’t want to get to know them anymore. The way we love people is how we love God. But with God no. Through all the sin, through all of us not choosing Him, not having the inherent desire to want to be with Him and love Him, God chooses and God wants to bless us. In the beloved, God predestines us. And that’s what’s so amazing about Christianity. Christianity is not, I prayed a prayer once and then I became a Christian. I was baptized once and then I became baptized. But Christianity is the fact, maybe I did pray a prayer once. Maybe I did get baptized once. But even today as I’m standing on my two feet, and God you know just how sinful I am, even after coming to Christ – God you still love me. You still love? You still love me? You predestined me in love. You adopted me in love. You bless me in the beloved. You still love me. And because of that I want to praise you more and more. In verse 7, God goes into how He saved us. How He chose us. How He truly blessed us in the beloved. He blessed us in the beloved and in the beloved – in Christ. Scripture says that we
have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known[c] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

That’s amazing. So many of us want to live a great life. For those of us who are a little more ambitious, we would try to live the perfect life. For me, I’m a perfectionist. I hate to admit it but every perfectionist is smiling with me. I don’t know what kind of life you want to live, but how many of you want to live the kind of life where if you pumped out with your spouse, a perfect son. An amazing son that listens to you, obeys you. And you saw a kid who was imperfect, just vile, nasty, mean, not that great. How many of you would really give up your son for that kid. Just thinking about that, even on a human perspective, just blows my mind. This is how God loves us. He had one son named Jesus Christ. Perfect, beautiful, caring beyond caring. So self-sacrificing. And God would choose to sacrifice this son for us. For me. just think about your life. Look at your life. If that doesn’t hit you, if that doesn’t phase you, somehow you think you’re perfect than. Too perfect for Christ. Somehow you think you are the victim. You’ve never done anything wrong. And in my life, there are somethings that might have been done to me that was wrong. But when I look at my life, compared to how I have not loved God and not loved people in my life, it just doesn’t compare. When I see the grace, the glorious grace that this scripture is talking about, this is everything in the world. It’s the riches of God’s grace that He lavishes upon us. In Christ, we are getting showered with blessings. God’s patience, God’s love. His grace. Him choosing us and will never let us go. God choosing to love us even before He had a physical existing relationship with us. It’s just amazing grace.

Sealed with the Holy Spirit
Paul ends this section with verses 11-4. He talked about God the father. He talked about Jesus Christ the son. And now he’s talking about the holy spirit. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee[d] of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,[e] to the praise of his glory. How do we know that God loves us? If you’re hearing these words, God loves you. I don’t know how much God loves you. That’s true. God chose. God predestined. It’s really up to God. At the end of the day, it’s really between God and you. I don’t know for every single one of us. But if we are hearing these words, this is the gospel. This is salvation. What Paul is saying in these final few verses is that, everything just came to this point. Isn’t that crazy? That before the world began, God. And then God created everything, He sent His son Jesus Christ to die for the church. For us. Not for creation. We are above creation. Everything that God has done has come up to this point in our life – September 7, 2014. Where are we on this day? Do we have a relationship with God? Do we know that God loves us, more than we can imagine? Do we know that?

Before these final verses, it talked about – He chose us, He predestined us, us, us. But in these final verses, Paul changes from us to you. This is a challenge for us in another words. Do we know that God has given us everything? His inheritance. All of Himself. “He predestined according to the purpose of Him, who works all things” – that’s where I’m getting September 7, 2014. “He worked all things according to the counsel of God’s will ­(right up until this point) so that we can hope in Christ”. Put your hope in Christ. So that we know we’re not made for this world, but we were made to the praise of God’s glorious grace. That we were made to praise God. What does that mean to you? Really, think about it. What does that mean to you? For much of my life, I spent so many years trying to praise my parents by pleasing them. I tried to live for my dad, who is a wonderful dad. Who are you living for? Are you living for your parents? Are you living for your boss at work? Are you living for retirement? Why do we follow that? Do we live for ourselves? What God is just saying, is that you’re not just created and existing. You’re redeemed through Christ’s blood! You’re meant to live a life where you know what God has done for you. And you just praise Him in return. This whole passage is just about how God loves us. God blesses us. He’s committed to us and redeems us. What do we have to do? Just praise Him. Thank God. Why are still living with that boyfriend? Girlfriend? Why are you living for that academic career? What’s academic career going to do for you in return? Hug you at night? Who are you living for you? Is he or she going to save you? You’ll either crush them or they’ll crush you. What Paul is saying is that you don’t need to search for an inheritance. You don’t need to search for everything. It’s right there in God and in His life. What we need to do is, stop worrying about our life. What we need to do is just stop asking, “What’s my personal calling?” All of us were made for God. Christ for all of us. Let’s pray.

September 2, 2014

[Philippians 4:10-23]
“Joy of Serving”
Pastor Kenny Lee

This section of Philippians includes a verse we all have quoted. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Most times we use that verse flippantly. It is a very nice concept. “I can do all things through Christ.” Does it mean that a guy like me can be a professional football player? No, of course not. As a way of introduction, I just want to say that we need to see the context of Scripture. There are four points I want to stress: (1) There’s a joy in serving (2) God’s provision is enough (3) Share in our troubles (4) God’s sacrifice

In Philippians 4:10 it starts off, “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.” The whole book of Philippians is about joy! One of the first things I kept saying about this whole book is that Christianity 101 dictates there is joy in your walk with the Lord. If there isn’t you have to go back and ask why isn’t there joy? I love it when people think about me, especially when you have lost touch for a long time. All of a sudden you receive a text from that person, and you get all excited because maybe he wants to hang out. So you ask, “Hey, what’s up? How’s it going?” Then you realize they didn’t mean to text you, which makes you really sad. With Paul here, that is not the case. The church of Philippi did revive their concern for Paul and are thinking about him. Paul is rejoicing and happy. He is happy not just because there is a reunion, but he is happy for them. Why? “ were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.” Paul is happy because there is an opportunity to love. There is an opportunity for the church of Philippi to serve. Do you know that it is a privilege to serve? Many times we come into church thinking the church needs us. We think we are doing the church a favor by coming. The church doesn’t need you at all. The church wants you. God doesn’t need you. God wants you. There is a difference. Let me give you an example. In the context of this church, does this church need me? Yeah, it kind of needs me since I’m the lead pastor. I give the word and have administrative responsibilities. Compared to how much I need the church, the church doesn’t need me. Compared to how much I receive from the church, I give church nothing. Compared to how much Jesus Christ loves me, my love for Christ cannot match. Christ is greater and I am not. Isn’t that the gospel? In the midst of me being a sinner, Jesus died for me. The practical application is that Jesus doesn’t need me. But even better, Jesus wants me. There is nothing we can offer to the Lord that shows how great we are. After all, God gave us those things. Every opportunity we have, we should be thinking about how God could use us. Just imagine what it is like to be used by God himself. It is a privilege. There are times when I get up and I think, “Wow! I’m a pastor. I do this for a living. The Lord would use a wretch like me.” It’s a privilege that the Lord would use a wretch like you. Do you know the joy in serving? If you don’t it’s because you feel like you have something to offer. Or you think somehow that God’s provision isn’t enough, that God hasn’t provided for you.

Philippians 4:11-12 is the precursor to, “13I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Paul says, 11Not that I’m speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.12 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.”  Wouldn’t you love to learn that? How many of you guys are content? Paul was not in need. He knew the secret of being content. Paul was an interesting man. You couldn’t shut the guy down. He was writing from jail. Before that he was almost killed. They forced him out the gate and tried to stone him several times. Somehow he escaped. He was in jail many times. He was tortured and whipped. His response to all his suffering is, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” He writes letters to churches while in jail. He sings praises while in jail. You cannot get Paul down. He learned the secret of it. Wouldn’t you like to know what the secret is? What if you actually believed that you were a sinner? You believe it to a certain degree because you’re here at church or your parents forced you. If you came out of your own accord there is a certain level of knowing your sinful nature and that you’re in need of a Savior. How about if you knew that you’re a sinner and God came down to earth to save and redeem you? We have it wrong theologically and practically. For me, the more and more I mature in Christianity doesn’t mean I become less sinful. Instead, I realize how much of a sinner I am even more. Because of that I need to cling onto the cross even more desperately. Practically, it works out this way. You’ll meet in your life mature Christians. On the outside they look the same. What happens is that there is one who as they mature, they think that Christianity should make them better. They dress nicer and pray harder, but it is funny they are harder to approach. There’s that ‘mature’ Christian. Then there’s other people that as they are in Christ they realize their capacity to sin. They have the security to see who they are and because of that they cling onto the cross even more. They are even more desperate. They realize the cost of the cross. God provision’s really is enough. I desperately do need Christ.

Pastor Brendon mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but a whole bunch of us went peach picking. I was looking at that peach and was saying, “Do you realize God provided this peach?” He not only provided for the peach to grow plump, juicy, and sweet, but God provided it for me at that moment. Somehow because God loves me, he created the peach for me. Jesus puts it another way. He says to look at the sparrows in the air. The birds have nests. Jesus is saying that God provided all that as well. How about you? According to Scripture, you are the pinnacle of creation. We are commanded to subdue the earth. Do you see how well God provides for the creatures? You don’t think God will provide for you? The reason why God provision isn’t enough is because you cannot see it. You cannot see God’s provision because you are looking at yourself too much. Paul is in prison. Most of us would say, “Man, this stinks. I’m locked up.” Paul is different. He is singing and praising. In one of his letter he says, “Yeah, the imperial guards of Rome are Christian and love the Lord. You know the prison inmates? They love the Lord too. You know how? Because I’ve been singing praise and telling them about the gospel all day.” Paul saw things very differently. We look at it and it seems hopeless. We look at it and question God, thinking we deserve better. “Lord I’ve been serving you all this time and I get laid off work. This is how I get paid?” Paul used his time in prison to do Christ’s work. Those letters from prison are right in front of you if you are carrying the Bible. He saw his situation very differently. You think you know? God’s provision is enough. Are we able to see God’s provision and his goodness?

Verses 14-17, “Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15And 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.16Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.17Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.” You know why the church is important? The church shares in your troubles. If you’re past the age of three you would know it’s a lonely world out there. It’s a cruel world. When you do things alone, you try to mask your weakness. We try to promote our strengths and hide our weaknesses. If you think you have good hair you will fluff it up a little bit more. If you don’t have a good nose, you will draw attention away from it.  We don’t want to share our troubles. It is so lonely. In the context of the church, there is a group of people who know who you are. Believers come to Christ on the basis that they are imperfect. So there should be no basis for judgment. How about you come and talk about your troubles? It won’t make the pain completely go away, but it does soften it. At the same time, when something great happens there is a joy. That joy can only be found in Christ. Share in your troubles. Practically, how do we know if we are sharing in our troubles? Where is your heart? You’re heart is where you spend your money. Do you love God and do you love God’s people? Or is everything about you? When you share in people’s troubles we are often called to stand against the current trend. The Philippian church stood firm. When all the churches didn’t support Paul, the Philippian church stood up for him. The reason why is because they looked to Scripture. At the center of everything God’s word should matter.

Does God mean anything to you? Why should God’s word matter to you? There is man who claims to be the Son of God and he dies on the cross. God, his Father, loves you so much that he sent his one and only Son to die for you. Do you believe?  If you believe there has to be some practical application. It should affect your life now. Christ’s dying and him paying your debt has to affect you. Who is Christ to you? You have to care about what Christ has done. What wouldn’t you do for someone who gave his life for you? As a result we are able to love and care for other people. The reason why we have a hard time caring is because we cannot see God’s provision. God has already provided for you with His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Rejoice. Philippians 4:19-20, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches and glory in Jesus Christ. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

August 24, 2014 [Philippians 4]

"Guardian of Peace"
[Philippians 4]
Pastor Brendon Wu

The sermon is entitled, “Guardian of Peace”, referring to Christ who is the one and only true guardian that can guard that peace for us. The passage we are looking at today is at the tail of Philippians – a letter written by Paul from a prison cell. He’s in prison because he loved Jesus so much and he did everything he could to teach and tell about Jesus. So when he is writing this letter, I just want us to see how much hope and how much joy there is. Pastor Kenny talked last week about how the dominant theme of Philippians is joy. Paul keeps saying – rejoice, rejoice, rejoice.

Citizenship in Heaven
In Philippians 4:1 it says, “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” In order to really understand Paul here, we must understand what he said previous to this. Before this Paul was saying in Philippians 3:17-20, Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Paul is saying we have a new citizenship. And this place we call home is not earth but heaven. And because our citizenship is in heaven, we are waiting for Jesus Christ to return. Because we don’t belong to this world, we shouldn’t be living and acting according to the rules of this world. And Paul was really getting into that by sharing his resume. He had more passion than anyone else in the Jewish leadership. He had so much passion and loved God so much, he went out and
persecuted the church. How much righteousness did he have? Under the law, he was blameless. He had perfect character. He was really the best of all that he did. But despite all this, this wasn’t where he found joy. So he got rid of all that in exchange for having Jesus in his life and knowing Jesus.

True joy
At the tail end of his letter, he’s getting more into specifics. That’s why he says – “Therefore, my brothers,[a] whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” There are always going to be people in the world that seem to have joy, have happiness. I think a lot of times when we look at them, we wonder why our life doesn’t look like theirs. They seem really well to do. They seem really rich. Whether we are in middle school, high school, college, mid 20’s, older and so on – a lot of times we look at the world around us and feel like we are not doing something right. We aren’t getting grades everyone seems to be getting. People have nice cars. People are buying houses. We wonder – maybe these are the things we should be caring about. Maybe those are the things that will make us happy. But Paul is saying is that, that’s not what makes him happy. And that’s not what makes God happy.

Verse 1 points out so specifically, the only way we can have true joy. There is a big difference between joy and happiness. All of us are familiar with happiness. I’m very familiar with happiness. Being a person that experiences different emotions, some days your just happy. Some days you’re not happy. Some days you’re hoping something will go well. Maybe it’s a date. Maybe it’s an exam. Maybe it’s time you are spending with friends. But it just doesn’t go well. In terms of our heart and our feelings, we don’t feel that happy. Happy is very temporary. It’s something we try to hold onto. We try to grasp and hang onto that good feeling. But from the Bible and what Paul is sharing, there is something called joy that is greater than happiness. Joy comes to us from heaven. Joy comes to us from Jesus Christ because no matter what we ever go through, Jesus Christ vows to love us. And He never changes – past, present, future. And the fact that Jesus Christ loved Paul and loves us so much that He would go to the lengths of dying for us on the cross – when I read that, I am really challenged and really encouraged. Just thinking about different circumstances, even when I screw up and when I have a bad day – if that’s how Jesus Christ loves me, when wow! That’s an amazing joy. It doesn’t matter what happens in our day-to-day circumstances. The eternal fact is that Jesus Christ loves us. And as Paul is nearing the end of his life, he sees how Christ loves and long for him. How Christ views Paul as His joy and in a sense – His crown. And as Paul sees how Christ loves him, Paul can’t help but just love other people and wanting to have that same joy in Christ with other people. So in verse 1, take a note at the fact that what Paul calls his joy and his crown is the Philippians. His brothers and sisters. His friends. He’s not claiming anything else except for the relationship that he has with his brothers and sisters as his ultimate treasure. His joy and his crown.

I think it’s so amazing that what God promises is - Himself. A lot times I think that when we come to church, we have different expectations. I don’t know why all of us might be here at church this morning. But what I do know from my length of time here at this church is that if you are looking for money, you are looking in the wrong place. If you are looking for a fun time - yes, we do have a lot of fun in our church, but even that fun time alone, its not going to be everything we ever looked for. Maybe that’s why church is disappointing to us a lot of times. If we are looking for quick, easy solutions to our daily life problems, it’s just not going to happen. Our church can’t solve all the problems of the world. But one thing that Paul says and that we know is that – when we stand firm in the Lord, that’s where we find our joy.

Stand firm in the Lord
At our church, there are relationships that are hard. There are relationships that get really real sometimes. There are conflicts that we have. And as I am listening to myself, I can’t help but think how hard these things are. Why would anyone want to come to church? But doesn’t that look more like reality? The fact that we go through hard times. The fact that we go through hardships together. And yet we come to this church because there is a God that loves us and wants to go through all these things with us. And that’s a God that we can plant our life in. Paul is saying that – after everything that he has written about Christ, are we ready to stand firm in the Lord? Are we ready stand firm and know that the best things God gives us is Himself and our friends. So that was point number 1 – is Jesus Christ and the church our joy and crown?

In scripture it says that all of us who are in Christ will kneel before Christ, will fall flat on our faces and heaven will be worshiping Him just amazed and marveling at who Christ is. In Revelations, it says that we will offer up our crowns to Christ. The word, “crown”, is used. I think when I first thought about that for myself, it really freaked me out. It made me think about where my heart was. It made me think about what I was spending my time with. I just want to ask to same question with you guys. At the end of your life, when you’re there with Christ, what kind of crown are you going to give Christ? What will you declare before Him? “God, I worked so hard at this job and look how much money I made and gave to the church. Look at how many promotions I had. Look at all these amazing things I did at my job. And God I did it to glorify you. Here’s my crown God. Are you impressed?” Or will we look at God and say, “God, I tried to be the most loving person, the most patient person. I am to be the most forgiving person. God look at how I tried to be like Christ. Here is my crown. Does that impress you?” God is not satisfied with our righteousness or with any of the riches that we attain in this world. But where God wants us to be satisfied, is in the Lord. God is not looking for us to stand firm in being a good husband. Or stand firm in being a good student. Or standing firm in whatever our work is. But what Paul says to find our joy and make our crown is Jesus Christ and one another.

Reconciliation and agreeing in the Lord
Paul knows that is so important so he goes into the some specifics, talking about two ladies Euodia and Syntyche. “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.” When I thought about this at first, I imagined two old ladies just fighting. But when I looked at what Paul was really getting at and what he was really saying was, Euodia and Syntyche, these women labored side by side with me. These women were in the same church and same family of God with me. Why are they fighting with each other? Why is Christian on Christian crime? And what Paul wanted them to do was to resolve that relationship and to reconcile. They are both wrong. Notice how it doesn’t say, “Oh, Syntyche is right. Or Euodia is right”. And we don’t even really know what they are arguing about. But what Paul says is, it doesn’t matter. It matters that at the end of the day, they end up in the Lord together. They agree in the Lord. One of the things I appreciate so much in our church is that through good counseling, if I get into an argument with somebody, it’s never like – I’m right, you’re wrong. You need to hear how I’m right and then give me an apology and that’s how we mend defenses. But scripture teaches is that Euodia and Syntyche are both wrong. Only God is right. Meaning, when we look at these verses, Paul is asking his true companion to help these women reconcile. Paul is asking the church to help them reconcile. And the way that the church helps them reconcile isn’t to take sides or anything.

Usually when a guy and a girl get into an argument, guys take the guy’s side and girls take the girl’s side. But what we’ve been taught to do through scripture is to defend the other side. Say things like, “Wow, that’s brutal. But you guys should talk it out, talk it out like this”. We introduce reconciliation. Guys defend the girl and the relationship. Girls defend the guy and the relationship. And what Paul is saying is that, there might be guys that back you up and always agree with you. But at our church, we don’t agree with people just for the sake of agreeing with them and backing them up. But we agree in the Lord. And that’s what Paul loves so much. If we want real peace in our relationships, it’s not by beating up the other side and having peace our way. But instead what Jesus Christ wants to do is guard the relationship. Guard the real crown. It’s not us ourselves. But the real crown and the real joy is the relationship that we are meant to have with Christ and with each other. That’s how relationships last for an eternity.

Paul says, these women “labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life”. That really stuck with me – “whose names are in the book of life”. We can’t treat our relationships here like we do at home. At home, I felt like my dad didn’t really care so I didn’t bother to get to know him. I felt like my mom was a nuisance so I shut her out completely and give her a nasty attitude. But real relationships and real friends – real crowns last for an eternity. Our names are actually in the book of life. The book of life is God’s understanding and God’s knowledge of every single person that He has a relationship with. They’re bound for eternity because Jesus Christ died an eternal suffering and death for us. In the words of my sister in Christ, Angi, a lot of times she will say to me, “Hi, isn’t it nice? We’re stuck for eternity. Isn’t it cool?” At first, I was caught off guard but then I realized, it is pretty cool.

I want to end with the approach we have to guarding our peace and reconciling the relationships that we have. Paul says we have to rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord always! “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” We can actually reach our hand and find Him. It’s not like God is hiding Himself from us. The word of God is right here. The church is right here. God is at hand. We can reach out our hand and find Him. I don’t know how many times I had a really bad conflict with somebody and we would argue for two hours with our words. In that conversation, I just felt so hopeless and so defeated at the end. But what I realized at the end of the conversation is that a lot of times I thought I was being reasonable but I wasn’t. The reason why I was so down and depressed after the conversation was because there was no mention of the cross. There was no mention of Christ. There was no mention of God. Jesus Christ who wants nothing more than to reconcile His relationship with us and our relationships with one another. This is not to say that at the end of every conversation, you have to have joy and shake hands. It’s not that fake kind of thing where we have to pretend that we love each other. But what Paul really looks at is, do we know that Jesus Christ loves us even in this moment where the relationship, the conflict is so hard. We might not be feeling the happiness but it’s joy that we still have. We can still rejoice. We see a relationship that’s broken, and most people would become depressed and run away from it. But because we see the cross, even more than the brokenness, because we see the cross, we can still have joy. We have still rejoice. “God, I got into this horrible argument. I got into this horrible thing. There is no peace in my heart. Only anxiety. But God thank you so much that even after all this, you still love me. And you still love this relationship. In fact, you died for this relationship. And you rose again to defend this relationship. And because of that God, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” What Paul doesn’t promise, and what God doesn’t promise is a full understanding of how everything works. It’s not like that. There’s a peace of God that surpasses all understanding. What Paul teaches and what God is showing here is that God cares about everything. Every relationship that we have. There is a peace that we can have. It doesn’t make sense according to us and how we envision things and how we personally want things to go. But when we submit to God, and we care more about how God reconciles relationships rather than how we think relationships should go, there’s a peace that finally settles into the picture. “God, I know my relationships with my dad, my mom, my friends, or even the relationship I have with you just seems so not what I thought it would be. But God, thank you. Thank you that I can pray to you. Thank you that I can make my requests be known to you. Thank you, God”.

What I love what Paul says is that – it’s not like we make a request and then God has to do that request. And then we thank Him. But even the fact that we can pray to God because of Christ - Christ listens to us, Christ cares for us personally and through one another. The only way that this was possible was because there is a person that who took our actual anxiety. Took our actual unrest. The night before Jesus Christ died on the cross, he was actually going through anxiety. He was going through unrest. He was in the Garden of Gethsemane and he knew what was coming. That He was going to die on the cross and be separated from God for the very first time. Imagine if you were about to lose the one person that you’ve known so long and that you’re so close with the next day. The night before, you just wouldn’t be able to take it. During those moments from the Garden, leading up to the cross, there was no peace. No peace between Christ and God. To the point where even when Christ was on the cross, He said “God, my God. Why have you forsaken me? Why have you forsaken me?” To Jesus Christ, the most precious thing was His relationship with God. Jesus wasn’t thinking about other things. Other crowns and other joys. But that crown and joy that He had with God. And when Jesus Christ said, “My God. My God, why have you forsaken me?” There was no reply from God. God heard nothing of what Jesus was saying there. But because of the fact that Christ underwent that and was completely cut off in His relationship from God – Christ not only knows what it’s like a lot of times to be cut off from our relationship with God and with other people, and the kind of anxiety or nervousness that comes out of that. But Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead. And when He came back to life, the first thing that He did was to go to His disciples. If I was resurrected from the dead, I would be like “I need some food. I need a shower. I want to see my family first.” But no. When Christ was resurrected from the dead, He was so full of joy because of the resurrection. He overcame the greatest unrest possible. To be cut off from God. And when He resurrected with the new found peace and freedom that He had, He went to His disciples and spent forty days, forty nights with them. Just loving the word of God and forming a church. That was the world’s first church. That’s why we have a church.

Out of all this, if there is one thing we focus on – it’s the fact our relationships matter so much. With God. And with one another. There’s no greater joy that we can truly have. If we are avoiding repentance. If we are avoiding reconciliation. That might be what we are doing but that’s not what God wants. And Christ loves us and cares about us so much that He gave up His life so that we can have a reconciled relationship with God and with one another.