Paul’s letters (Peter says he writes the same way in all his letters (2 Peter 3:16)) are in two parts: Theory and Practice. So definitely don’t go straight to the application. These are the easier passages to understand but they lead to legalism rather that grace and mercy (v1.1).
Therefore (2.12) in light of the humility of Jesus to serve us (1-11), and the greatness of Jesus who has been exalted, we should live our lives like Jesus, with Jesus, for Jesus, by the power that Jesus gives us.
There are some very memorable verses in Philippians. 2.12-13 are perhaps one of the most memorable. What he is speaking about is what we’ll call the doctrine of regeneration. Jesus Christ is God. He died to take away our sin. That is true. But in addition to that, he regenerates us.
1. New Life
Regeneration is about God taking out that heart of stone and he replaces it with a heart of flesh. That is not a perfect heart, but a heart that is tender toward God that desires God. Regeneration is being transformed, utterly changed from the inside out. A new heart, which Proverb says is the wealth spring of our life, or a new nature, to use that language, or a new identity. It’s a new centre. "You become a new creation," Paul says. You change from the inside out.
You desire things you never desired before. God is at work in you. He gives you a new heart. That heart has new desires. With it comes your spiritual gift – new capacity to serve God. With that additionally comes a new power through the indwelling Holy Spirit
2. New Passions
The Christian life is very passionate. It’s not about white knuckling and grinding your teeth and, "Okay God, I won’t do the fun stuff because I want to go to heaven someday, but I’m really not happy about this." It really is a joyous life – new nature, new desires, new gifts, new power, new life that’s passionate, that’s joy filled, that’s meaningful and purposeful, because I’m doing what I was made to do – live in relationship with God. And my will and God’s will are synchronized, and God gives me his power so that I might obey him and live a new life with him and for him, and like him and through him.
Let me say that this is the absolute opposite religion. The religious view of God is that he is far away and he tells you to do things and he stands back and keeps score. What we’re talking about here is a God who initiates. A God who comes near. A God who works in us. A God who loves to serve. A God who delights in helping us because we need help. That’s how great God is.
3. New Living
There’s been a debate theologically about divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Does God do things or do we do things? Now first God works in you. God makes you a Christian. You and I, we don’t do anything to become Christians. Jesus did all the work. We trust in Jesus.
Now after that, we begin to mature into the likeness of Christ, sanctification. And what this is is where we react to God. He initiates and we respond. God gives you new desires, so feed them – nurture them. God gives you new gifts, so serve in ministry. God gives you a new power through the Holy Spirit, so live in accordance with the power of the Holy Spirit, not of your own desires and will, which were previously incapable of obeying God.
One theologian says that divine sovereignty and human responsibility is like two pedals on a bike. It’s a good simple analogy. God works. You respond. God works something in you. You work it out with him. God gives you a good desire. You obey him. God convicts you of a sin. You repent. God teaches you something and you learn it. God initiates. You respond. And together you make progress working with God to grow in your relationship.
Those who overly stress your responsibilities, they put too much pressure on you. Those who overly stress God’s work can cause us to be lazy, indifferent and passive, instead of acknowledging God’s work and "I want to work with him. God’s at work in me, so I want to work it out through me."
However, you and I will have conflicted desires. We call that temptation. We are tempted to sin. But if you truly have a new heart – a new nature – you’re deepest desire will be the desire to obey God, to live for him, to live life like him, to be someone who follows in the pattern of the life of Jesus
Some people argue for free will. I don’t want free will. I want God’s will. God is good and God is pleased to do good for you.
Now he says that there are a few things that get in the way (14). Grumbling is complaining and whining and nitpicking. Questions are perfectly fine. Questioning is more like interrogation. Questioning is, "I don’t trust you. You’re guilty until proven innocent. I’m holier than you and smarter than you, and until you convince me, I’m convinced you’re wrong."
How many of you were this kid for your parents? You were like this very little attorney who had lots of questions for your parents. And it wasn’t that you had questions, you were always questioning. "Why? How come? Johnny gets to do that." "What do you think
If you’re a Christian, here’s the good news – God is good. He’s already at work and he’s invited you to join him so you can have a whole new life.
1. Timothy (v19)
Timothy is a selfless, humble, and in a very good way, a simple man. He looks out for people’s best interests. I would commend those of you who are older and have been Christians a while find new Christians and to be in a mentoring, loving, developing relationship of encouragement. I
2. Epaphroditus (v25)
We don’t know how he became a Christian or when he became a Christian. We do know, as far as we can tell, he wasn’t a pastor like Timothy. He wasn’t in vocational paid ministry like Timothy. He just was a guy who loved God and was serving in his church.
James Montgomery Boice says, "He may have been sick for three months near death." IMaybe he’s in a comma in a hospital bed. I don’t know what’s going on.
Now the church is really worried. "Is Paul dead or alive? Is Epaphroditus dead or alive? What’s going on?
“Epaphroditus gets better, gets up, and what I love is, he doesn’t go back to the church at Philippi and say, "Hey guys, I got half way there. That whole near dying thing – I’m tapping out at this point. I’m a volunteer. Get one of the guys on staff to go." He doesn’t do that. Instead he gets healed and then he goes to see Paul. He completes his mission. I don’t know if he’s in a wheelchair, on crutches, dragging an oxygen tank. I don’t know what’s going on with this guy, but he is just – he is determined to get to Paul, ’cause that was his job. Gives Paul the gift. "Paul, how you doing?" Gets the report. Paul says, "Let me write a letter to my friends at the church at Philippi. Epaphroditus, I trust you to deliver it. Bring it back to them." That is Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
Epaphroditus faithful service continues to bless you and me today 2000 years later. Had he not finished his journey to see Paul and not faithfully delivered the letter from Paul, our Bible would be missing a book.
When you serve Jesus, you’re doing very important things, even if they seem very simple.
I’ll close with a few questions.
1. What is Jesus doing in you? If you’re here and you’re not a Christian, I’ll tell you what he’s doing in ya. He’s wanting to give you a new nature. Get connected to the living God. Get your past sins forgiven and get your new nature for the future. God has been working in your heart.
If you’re a Christian, what is Jesus doing in you? It promises us here that he’s at work in you. Where is he working? What is he teaching you? What is he convicting you of? How is he calling you to repentance? What burdens for ministry and service has he laid on your heart? What people has he brought into your life? This is a really good question, because the question we tend to ask people is, "How are you?”
2. What grumbling and questioning do you need to repent of? What do you need to just stop complaining about?
3. What do you need to work out? Has God taught you something and you need to apply it? Has God brought someone into your life and you need to learn from them? Has God convicted you of a sin and you need to go apologise to somebody? What do you need to work out?
4. Who needs you to be like Timothy or Epaphroditus? Who do you need to humbly come along side like Timothy and help them? Maybe this is at work or in ministry. Or Epaphroditus – what important task do you need to see through to completion because people are depending upon you? And maybe it’s even at school or work where people are watching you, seeing if Jesus really does make a difference.