Letter of encouragement to the church plant in Philippi. You can see the city’s ancient ruins in modern Greece. At the time of Paul’s writing of this letter from prison in Rome (1:7), Philippi was a bustling, strategic, cosmopolitan centre - the fledgling church (you can read about its founder members in Acts 16) was a very diverse but tiny minority. Pressure from an unbelieveing society was causing a little bit of discouragement and disagreement within. They needed encouragement. The church always needs encouragement.
And in our passage this week, Paul encourages the church to, despite everything, BE OUTGOING.
Would you see yourself as an outgoing person? Paul says that the Christian church is always outgoing. No matter what the range of personalities within all of whuch are vital. If you become a Christian you become part of a people, the church. And that people are an outgoing people!
See it in the text.
Paul says in v12 that we are to WORK OUT our salvation
in v15, that we are to SHINE OUT like stars in the night sky
as we v16 HOLD OUT the word of life
finally in v17 we’re to follow Paul who’s life was being POURED OUT for others
do you see this OUTGOINGness?
Now, if they’re our action points we’ll come back to them in more detail.
But this idea of moving out towards others as examples - stars shining out; as messengers - holding out the word of life, the message of the bible; as servants - pouring out yourself for others…
this idea of being commissioned by God to be OUTGOING for the sake of others raises a whole host of immediate questions and, frankly, immediate fears.
consider for a start the sheer level of need in our world, the tragedies this week. the sheer level of need in our local area. UPA with some of the highest levels of deprivation in the country. even a stones throw circumference from this building. the gaping level of need in people’s lives is enormous. what are the boundaries and limits? if we are to pour out our lives for these people - how long before we’re all completely empty?
or consider the sheer numbers of people who have no knowledge of Jesus Christ. We’re told that our city is more secular than it has ever been. Census stats, Hackney - 50%+ no religion. Hordes on London Fields on a hot weekend. How do we hold out the word of life to them? And If we don’t hold out the word of life to them - does it mean death for them? That feels like an enormous burden to bear. We can be paralysed by the sheer overwhelming size of the responsibility. We’re out of our depth..
How are we to do this? Our reaction could to be - What’s practical? Shouldn’t we just huddle together for energy and then on a few considered occasions - a social project, a mission week.. be outgoing? BE OUTGOING for a few hours a week or a few weeks a year?
And what about God?
Why does God place such heavy burdens upon us?
Why does he sit in heaven unmoved while we are the ones who are told to be outgoing?
Well this is where the encouragement comes in..
See, there are reasons why we are to be an outgoing people - constantly outgoing, not just occasionally, a MISSIONAL people, people on mission. There’s a reason why… that is also the means for how we are to be that people.
Notice the therefore in v12
Paul tells us in vv12-18 to be an OUTGOING PEOPLE
because in vv1-11 he has told us about our OUTGOING GOD
here’s the vital truth to learn: we are to be and we can be OUTGOING because Jesus has moved out towards us! we become outgoing because God is originally and eternally the outgoing one.
we’ve looked at vv1-11 recently but let’s remind ourselves. It’s one of the greatest sections in the whole Bible. Look at verse 6. Here we see the eternal nature of God on show. This is about Jesus Christ, the son of God, the eternal Creator making a decision in eternity. Notice how Jesus makes a decision before He was born. Jesus decided to get born. You and I don’t decide to get born do we, that’s not our decision, Jesus did. And if you could choose to be born, would you have chosen what Jesus chose? I don’t think so. Read with me from verse 6:
6 Christ Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself …nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!
What does it mean to be outgoing?
Space exploration. Crossing the great divide in search of life on other planets. To boldly go where no man has gone before.
Or the King who longs to commune with his subjectes before a great war and so disguises himself as a commoner in order to walk among his people
Or the servant to the poor, who gives up her life to serve the suffering
What does it mean to be outgoing?
From eternity, Jesus Christ wills to pour Himself out. It is His eternal glory to GO OUT from Himself. First, crossing the great divide from heaven to earth. From the Divine to the human - He, the eternal God, becomes a single cell in Mary’s womb and is born as a wriggling helpless baby, laid in a feeding trough. Grows up, but not to be a King but a servant. He humbles Himself further and dies. God the Son dies! And not any old death – a godforsaken death on a cross. The eternal God pours Himself out. That’s what He’s like.
And do you notice in verse 10 that wonderful word again “Therefore.” Therefore – because He poured Himself out so completely, He is crowned as King. Because He is the greatest servant, so He is declared LORD.
Here is the deepest truth. I don’t know anything as profound or mind-blowing as this: When Jesus came and stooped and served and suffered and was shamed and bled and died that was NOT a departure from His divine glory. He wasn’t taking a day off from being God. THAT WAS THE EXPRESSION of His glory. The cross is the MOST GOD-LIKE THING IMAGINABLE. Because GOD’s life is a life of OUTGOING, OUTPOURING, SACRIFICIAL, LIFE-GIVING LOVE.
The Father sees Christ poured out to death… and Therefore (v9) God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
a name that one day ALL the world will confess.. vv10-11
One day when Jesus returns ALL will see him. and we will see His SCARS, the wounds of His crucifixion, the marks of his outgoing love and THAT will make every mouth spontaneously cry “You are Lord, You are Lord,”
Jesus will be worshipped by the whole world, not just because He is big but because He made Himself small.
Here’s the encouragement to be an OUTGOING, serving, missional people.
We don’t do mission because normally we’re inward looking and once in a while we turn our hand to being outgoing. And we don’t do mission because we have to do God’s job for Him. It’s not like He stays in heaven and we have to go out. NO!
Mission IS our ongoing life because mission is God’s outgoing life.
As Jesus says in John 20:21: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” We stand in a torrent of sending love – from the Father to the Son, from the Son to us and out on into the world. We don’t become outgoing because every now and again we feel we ought to. We ARE an outgoing people because Christ has adopted us into HIS kind of outgoing life.
Jesus is the great missionary. And even though he has ascended to heaven Jesus continues to be outgoing! Jesus is ever going out, going out, going out.
The book of Acts in the NT tells the story of the explosion of Christianity, the growth of the early church after Jesus returned to heaven. The acts of the apostles. BUt the book is not really about the acts of the apostles, or the early church. Luke, having written his gospel begins this book by saying Acts 1v1 in my former book i wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach before he was taken up into heaven’ Hear that - the gospels is just the beginning - implication = the book of Acts is the continuing acts of Jesus by his Holy Spirit who is in the world. the Spirit goes ahead of us. the outgoing God. If you want to be where Jesus is if you want fellowship with him, if you want to know Him who loved you to death.. go out and be with Him. We know Christ best as we join Him in HIS outgoing Life. So mission is our ongoing life because mission is God’s outgoing life.
Let’s look at the ways we work out, shine out, hold out and pour out.
First – work out. That’s verses 12 and 13:
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Now a lot of rubbish gets talked about verse 12. People sometimes read it as though Paul says “work FOR your salvation.” But of course if Paul said we need to work “FOR” our salvation it would be a contradiction of everything he’s ever written. Paul’s doesn’t say work FOR your salvation, he says work OUT your salvation. Because, v13, God has worked it IN you. Do you see that? In v12 we work OUT, because in v13 God works IN. The Father has given us Christ. He’s said “Here have my Son, in Him is life and forgiveness and peace and a cosmic inheritance – have Him.” And we say thank you and are given the life of Christ. But what kind of life does Christ have? An outgoing life. A life of obedience, of suffering servant-hearted love. And you can’t have Christ worked into you without His life working out of you. Your salvation is an outgoing thing and it will out.
If you say “I am saved but I keep my salvation to myself” what do you say about verse 12? Because v12 says your salvation is to be worked OUT. Salvation IS a secure possession to be enjoyed forever. But it is NOT a private possession to be enjoyed by individuals. It’s designed to be worked out of you which is a fearful and trembling thing, but it’s also a divinely helped thing. God will help you to will and to act in this outgoing way. WORK OUT ..
The thing is it will make you stick out a mile. Look from v14 SHINE OUT:
14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.
Stars attract the gaze only because they are different to the blackness of space around them. No-one goes space-gazing, we go star-gazing, because the light is what’s attractive not the darkness. And Paul says the Christian is to stick out. Not like a sore thumb, but like a star shining in the darkness.
And what is it that’s going to really stand out about Christians? They don’t complain or argue. Do you want to stick out in a godless crooked and depraved generation? – don’t complain, don’t argue. We never think of ourselves as complaining – we always think our grievances are legitimate. We never think of ourselves as argumentative – we’re just standing for the truth. Paul says, Please, please, please, think again. Are you complaining? Are you argumentative? If so … The lights go out when you complain or argue. All the distinctiveness is lost and you’ll be as dark as the surrounding world. Stand out, shine out.
And, v16, HOLD OUT
16 as you hold out the word of life--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour for nothing.
What would someone else say about your words? How would they describe the kind of words you use? Always griping? Always moaning? Always making light of everything? Always talking about yourself? No, says Paul, hold out the word… of life!
Notice he doesn’t say “hold to certain values”. Or “hold up a certain world view.” He says hold out the word of life. We do need to put words to our Christian hope. The mission of the church is a word-y mission. It’s about delivering a message to a world that will meet Jesus. Social and creation care and political action and justice all encapsulate the gospel hope and yet spiritual life comes through hearing the word of Christ. The word of life. Look at who he is we say - the servant Lord of glory, trust him now, love him, bow the knee of your heart to him, live for him. And God grants life through that word. That’s our mission holding out the word of life. [find that difficult - open to question. amazed at the power of the word of life]
And then finally, POUR OUT
here’s how we do it – we do it like Paul, v17:
17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
Poured out like a drink offering. Every day, morning and evening at the temple, the priests would pour out a drink offering before the Lord. It was a grateful response to the Lord’s salvation. And Paul says “I AM a drink offering, poured out.”
Let me close with this... How do you think of life? Many people think of life like it’s a cup where we need to hold on to every drop we can. And we’re nervous in case we spill any of it. We might lose money, or comfort, or reputation, or personal space, or whatever. And so we move through life very carefully lest we spill a drop. Paul says “I pour it all out. It hasn’t been poured into me for me to hold onto it. It’s been worked into me so I can work it out, so I can shine it out, hold it out, pour it out.” Which means he’s free. He’s not scared of spilling any – he considers it all to be expended in Christ’s service. And while we tip-toe around, nervous and furtive Paul walks boldly through life pouring himself out.