Philippians is “The Joy Manual”. Three keys in v1 to understanding Philippians.
1. Christ Jesus
Paul starts with Jesus and focuses everything on Jesus before he can get to joy.
In Isaiah 42, God the Father says that, "My servant is coming", Jesus, "to bring salvation." In Isaiah 52 and 53, there are an amazing series of prophecies about how specifically Jesus would serve us. First of all, he would come from a humble beginning, a poor simple family. He would live a simple life. He would have no beauty or majesty in him. "He would take upon himself, it says, "the iniquity of us all."
And when Jesus comes he is, in fact, a humble servant. . Jesus says, "I didn’t come, though I am God, to be served, but to to serve. This is a great clue to understanding joy. It’s not to be found in pride, but in humility. It’s not to be found in being served, but in serving. And nothing in culture or religion will tell us to be a humble servant. Only Jesus will tell us that. And if you believe that, and you’re a Christian, there’s a word that describes who you are. "To all the saints", that’s who you are. You’re a saint!
If you are a Christian or become one today, you are a saint. The Bible says there’s one step to being a saint. What is that? Being a follower of Jesus. Check. Done.
What that means is Jesus lived for you, died for you, rose for you. Intercedes for you today. He’s taken away your old life. He gives you a new life. He has made you holy in his sight. It’s a gift you’ve received by grace. You’re now set apart for Kingdom service, a new life. You’re a saint. That’s our identity. There’s great joy and dignity in that. And so, I don’t mind if we use the word saint, St. Francis. St. Augustine, as long as we use it for all Christians!
The other title that is given to Christians is slave. In using that word, the Bible is not endorsing slavery because it is a sin.
We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practising homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers – and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 1 Timothy 1:10
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul says, "If you’re a Christian, and you’re a slave, and you can get free, then get free. We don’t want Christians to have slaves or be slaves", but many people in the Bible were slaves. So, the Bible says, "As long as you’re a slave, be a good Christian. Do the best you can in the state you are."
This means a Christian is a slave to Jesus Christ. Jesus is your master. He’s in charge. You do what he says. He’s the one that you listen to, follow, and obey. It means you’ll do whatever your master’s doing. You’ll be serving wherever your master’s serving
Jesus suffered, so you’ll suffer. Jesus had difficult days. You’ll have difficult days. Jesus’ friends betrayed him. It’s probably going to happen. Jesus died. You’re going to die. If Jesus is your master and you’re his slave, then you’re life is going to look a lot like his. That’s just how it is. "Oh, my gosh, I’m having a bad day." Well, you belong to a guy they killed. Expect it. Just anticipate it.
We’re all a slave to something or someone. If you can’t stop drinking, you’re a slave to alcohol. If you can’t stop overeating, you’re a slave to food. If you can’t stop getting angry, you’re a slave to bitterness or rage. If you can’t stop sleeping around, you’re a slave to sex. If you can’t stop doing what someone says. If you can’t dump your abusive boyfriend. If you can’t get free of the demands of people who are hurting you, you’re a slave.
a) Here’s how slavery to sin works
It starts as fun, and then it gets real bad. Going out for drinks becomes drunkenness. Flirting with somebody becomes an abusive relationship. It goes bad. And then, you die and go to hell. So, it just goes real bad, alright?
Here’s how slavery to sin works. It’s selfish. It’s for me, it’s not for God and other people. I get to do whatever I want. Forget God and what he wants. It demands service. It’s about internal rewards. I like it. It made me happy. It felt good. I feel better.
b) Here’s how slavery to religion works
All religious people like to talk about is sin. Religious people murdered Jesus and that’s the wrong team. Religious people hated, murdered, opposed Jesus. Here’s how religion starts. It’s not fun. It starts bad. That’s why religious people have to work through threat, fear, condemnation, and intimidation because it’s no fun, so they scare you into being religious. And they tell you, "Unless you do good things, God won’t love you", as opposed to telling you, "God loves you, so now you can live a new life and do good things." It’s all about you, it’s not about God. Religious people are no fun.
And here’s the problem with religion. It’s selfish. It’s for me. It’s not for God or others. It makes God obligated to me.
c) Here’s how being a slave to Jesus works
We do what he says and wants, and it’s pretty fun, most of the time. It’s selfless, not selfish. Because Jesus has served me, now I can serve Jesus and others and obey the first two commandments, to love others and love God. It’s not about internal rewards, pleasures and feelings. It’s not about external rewards, compliments and promotions. It’s about eternal rewards.
One day, standing before Jesus, hearing, "Well done, good and faithful servant" and entering into your eternal rest. Life is short. Eternity’s a long time. This isn’t Heaven. Heaven is still coming. And there, faithful service will be rewarded by a faithful God who has served us well.