He was in chains, jailed for disturbing the peace by preaching about Jesus. In spite of the threat of execution he was single minded; focused on Jesus and the spread of the Gospel. He was happy that his case brought more attention to the Lord.
He was controversial. There were plots to kill him. Often beaten; once after being stoned he was left for dead. There were even problems within the church. Some thought he was a saintly preacher of truth; while others criticized his teaching, fearing he had gone too far. Some attacks were more personal. Being an apostle for Jesus was difficult.
He was courageous and enthusiastic. He had experienced the Risen Lord. God provided strength to face the challenges of his vocation. He worked with others, though he did not always know whom to trust. He feuded with many of them, sometimes bitterly. Always, however, his focus was Jesus, whatever the cost.
He loved his church folks. Just thinking about them made him bubble with joy and shout “thank you God!” He desperately wanted them to know and understand the fullness of God’s salvation in Jesus: The Good News of the Kingdom and Jesus the Messiah! Grace and Blessing!
Yet he also said this grace and blessing are a task. He exhorted them: ‘Be faithful, live the life of Christ! Live a life worthy of the grace.’ A minister knows his folks get weary of such expectations and demands, so he consoled them with this reminder, “God is among you, He will finish the work. You aren’t alone.”
“You aren’t alone…” Those words probably sustained him as he sat for long stretches with no one but his God. He may have doubted sometimes. Still, a man must practice what he preaches….
He wrestled with the challenge “do I want to go on? Live or die?” He truly believed that Jesus waited for him, so death had an appeal, but his sense of duty drove him onward. He realized that there is still work to do, work which benefits others. Yet, he knew, living or dying was not his decision to make. It was in the hands of the Roman authorities. This precarious grip on life, however, filled him with urgency. He loves these people so he challenges them to be faithful--“have one mind, one heart!”--but not unity for its own sake, oneness in Christ. He quotes from a hymn, one of the first.
Jesus was God. [In ancient language “form of God” means His essence or real identity was divine.] Yet He did not grasp tightly to His divinity, He emptied it out and became human. The great mystery and central revelation is this: The Eternal God entered time and space. He became a true human: temporal and servile. He emptied to embrace selfless, humble obedience. He suffered greatly. He died accursed on a cross! This is God revealed in Jesus to Paul. Paul says that Jesus is the model for us.
This has been a paraphrased summary of the first two chapters of Philippians, supplemented by Paul’s words and deeds recorded elsewhere. His consistent message is that Jesus the Crucified Lord has saved us; so trust Jesus and live like Him. This is why we are here today.
David and I are your priests. We understand Paul because we feel that same surging love for you and the same intense joy. We also know the powerful compulsion to tell you about God’s gift of salvation and God’s call to imitate the Son.
Church is not about us and what we want, it is about Jesus: emptied for us. Jesus: our Savior and our model. One mind, one heart, one Jesus. Repent and embrace His way.