Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"Thanks & Peace" Sermon: Philippians 4:4-9

“Thanks & Peace”
[Philippians 4:4-9]
November 13, 2016 Second Reformed Church
            Now that the election is over, all we are talking about is the election.
            Some numbers:  There are 325 million people in the United States.  251 million of those were eligible to vote.  Out of those, 129 million actually voted in the Presidential election.
            Some people are happy with the election results, some are not.  This occurs to one degree or another every election because someone wins and someone loses.
            For Christians, no matter what we may think of the President-elect, now is a time for us to give thanks and receive peace.
            Paul tells us that because of Who Jesus is and what He has done, we always have reason to rejoice:
            “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”
            Understand, Caesar Nero was reigning at the time Paul wrote – a man who brutally persecuted Christians – a man Paul instructed Christians to submit to and to pray for.  May we do the same.
            Paul is not saying that everything that occurs should fill us with joy.  Rather, he is saying that no matter what happens, we are filled with joy because Jesus remains our Sovereign God and King over all of Creation, including the temporary, nation-bound President of the United States.  This is true of every President – some people don’t like President Obama.  Still, Jesus reigns forever and ever, King of kings and Lord of lords.  Our salvation is secure and nothing can change what Jesus has done for us to the glory of God.  That is why – “in the Lord” – we rejoice and we continue to rejoice.
            Remember what Jesus says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28, ESV).
            Rather, our focus and our hope should continually be in Jesus and what He has done:  rejoice, and again, I say, rejoice!
            Second, Paul tells us to be Christ-like.
“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.”
The word used for “reasonableness” means we are to be humble, patient, willing to endure suffering.
This is a summary of what Paul writes earlier in this letter:
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:1-11, ESV).
By the power of God the Holy Spirit Who lives in us, we are to strive to become more and more like Jesus and that is most easily shown in our loving our neighbor – in putting them first and seeking their good and their believing savingly in Jesus.
We are to strive to be a humble people, a people that seek out the good and salvation of others, a people that put themselves out for others – even – to being willing to die, should it be the right thing to do.
Let us ask ourselves – not “What would Jesus do?” – we’re not Jesus – but what can I do and in what way should I act that shows others that we love them because of Who Jesus is and what He has done for us? 
Third, we can do these things – we can strive to be Christ-like and rejoice always – because Jesus is at hand.
“The Lord is at hand;”
Jesus meets with us in a special way through the preaching and reading of the Word, but Jesus is actually here with each one who believes – always.
 “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b, ESV).
Jesus is physically seated at the Right Hand of God, so how is He here and everywhere else at the same time?  Jesus’ physical body stays at the Right Hand, but His Divinity – He is the One God – is everywhere at the same time.
We will not see Jesus in the flesh until we are brought into the Kingdom, but He is spiritually here with us now and always.
Fourth, we are not to be anxious.
“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.”
Since the Lord is with us, since we are rejoicing about Who He is and what He has done, since we are striving to be changed by God into the Image of His Son, we have no reason to be anxious about anything.
Remember what Jesus says:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:25-34, ESV).
Rather than be anxious, Jesus tells us to seek the Kingdom of God – seek out all those things God would have us do and be – and seek His Righteousness – both to trust that it is by His Righteousness alone that we are made right with God and to strive by the power of God in us to become righteous – to live lives of holiness – without which, we shall not see the Lord.
Peter writes, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:6-11, ESV).
Rather than being anxious, Paul tells us to pray with supplications – ask God for those things we want – especially those things we know are according to His Will – with thanksgiving.  We are not to neglect giving God thanks for everything He has done and promised to do for us.
It is easier to state our need or to complain than to give thanks.
Are we thankful for our salvation?  Our lives?  The promises of God about salvation and our future with God in the Kingdom?
I fear we have too high an opinion of ourselves.  I fear we are not a thankful people – as we are called to be – because we believe we deserve better.  As we saw last week, we who believe in Jesus Alone for salvation have been blessed beyond comprehension.
But Paul tells us if we pray to God with our supplications and our thanks, God will give us the peace that passes all understanding.  If we pray for those things God has called us to pray for, those things that God has commanded and willed for us, if we are thankful to God for His salvation and Providence in our lives, then we will receive the peace that only God can give, because we will be doing what God wants, asking for what God wants, giving thanks for all God gives, and showing our satisfaction and joy in all of these.
Do you want the peace that only God can give?  Do what He says, pray for what He wants, and give thanks for Him and what He does.
Thinking again of our President:  God says we are to pray for those in leadership above us – that they will love the Lord our God with all their heart and soul and mind and strength and their neighbor as ourselves.  We are to pray that they will submit to God and follow God’s Will and believe in the only Savior Jesus Christ.  We are to call them to be accountable – not just to their righteous campaign promises, but to all that God has commanded all of us to do, and we are to remind them when they go astray to turn back and repent and to follow God, and we are to give God thanks – and to thank our leaders when they do what is good and right and pleasing in the sight of God.
            Fifth, focus on things that build up.
            “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
            How do you feel when you hear lies, when you see disgusting things, when you see injustice, when you see evil and things that are ugly and things that are damnable and reprehensible?
            How do you feel when you hear most news reports?
            How do you feel when you hear gossip about horrible things and how things will only get worse?
            I suppose you feel sick and angry and upset, don’t you?
Paul says we ought to be paying close attention to the true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, anything worthy of praise, the Gospel and the whole Word of God – think about these things.
How do you feel when you see beautiful and lovely things, hear the truth about God and His promises, reflect upon on the glorious praiseworthiness of our God and Savior?
If God and the things of God are the truest, most beautiful, loveliest – don’t you want to focus on those things and know those things and feel the joy that you feel when you do focus on those things?
            Paul tells us that if we focus on those things and keep them before us, believing the Gospel and doing the things that God calls us to do in His Word – seeking to do His Will – He will be with us – the God of Peace.
            As we live through volatile times and prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving as a country, what ought we to do as Christians – as those who believe in Jesus Alone for salvation?
            Let us rejoice at all times because of Jesus.
            Let us strive to be like Jesus in His character.
            Let us know that He is here with us always.
            Let us focus on all the glorious things around us.
            Let us do all those things God has called us to do and empowered us to do by the Holy Spirit.
            Let us seek to be an ever-thankful people, recognizing we deserve nothing and have received blessings upon blessing.
            And let us receive the God of Peace and His peace which passes all understanding as we put His Righteousness and His Kingdom first.
            Let us pray:
            Almighty God, our eyes fall from You to the turmoil around us, and we find ourselves easily sinking beneath the waves.  Lord, we know You are the Sovereign God over all of Creation and You are working all things together for the good of those who love You, and we ask that God the Holy Spirit would continually remind us and cause us to turn back to You that we would be thankful and have Your peace.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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