- 21 November 2023
- Stuart Robinson
St Peters Watsons Bay.
This morning we come to the end of our study in Philippians where we’ve been ‘residing’ each Sunday for the past few months.
Next Sunday – is the ‘feast’ of ‘Christ the King’ and it marks the end of the current church year – after which we begin a new church year with Advent (on December 3rd).
Simply put, the season of Advent is where we look back to Jesus’ birth, his incarnation – and look forward to his return, his coming again; his second advent.
So, this morning – from Philippians 4, I want to cover-off on two key tenets of Christian faith and belief; two foundational truths that will prepare us for Advent, and for whatever the Lord has in store for us in 2024.
Let us think for a few moments, then, on – the ‘Grace of God’, and the ‘Generosity of God’.
First, the Grace of God.
This note from St. Paul to the first little church in Europe begins and ends on a note of grace:
Philippians 1:2 – ‘Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’.
Philippians 4:23 – the very last verse, ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, be with your Spirit’.
So, the letter is ‘book-ended’ by this notion of grace.
Grace informs and motivates the people of God.
That is because grace, put simply, is God’s unmerited kindness to us in Jesus.
When I was a teen (about 90 years ago) a young preacher explained it with the acronym – GRACE:
I like that.
For grace, you see, has its centre and focus in Jesus who (according to Philippians 2) ‘being in very nature God…was made in human likeness – and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross’ – Philippians 2:6,7,8.
…at Christ’s expense: God-in-Christ, for us.
Jesus goes to the cross and to death, for us.
So that we might stand before our Heavenly Father free and forgiven.
We learn in Philippians 3:9, that those who entrust their lives to Jesus (and I quote) have ‘a righteousness that comes through faith in Christ – a righteousness that comes from God – on the basis of faith’.
God credits those who place their trust in Christ – with his (with Jesus’) righteousness, with his standing before a holy God.
And then, in his mercy and kindness, God enables us to serve him, and live to please him, through the renewing and enabling power of his Holy Spirit – Philippians 3:3.
Do you see?
It is all of grace.
God’s riches at Christ’s expense.
God’s unmerited kindness and love poured out to all who entrust their lives to the risen Lord Jesus.
Recipients of God’s grace are indeed ready for Jesus’ second advent – or their own deaths (whichever comes first) as they are now right before God and have no fear of judgement or condemnation.
And recipients of God’s grace are also ready for whatever – in God’s good purposes, might befall them in 2024 because God, by his Holy Spirit will empower and enable them to live for him (Philippians 3:3) and God is actively working in and through them – to quote from Philippians 2:13 “to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose”.
Second, the Generosity of God.
Now, everything I’ve just spoken about goes to the generosity of God and his breathtaking bounty poured out in abundance to us, through Christ.
So, I want to focus here, then, on the generosity of God – through people.
Yes – I’m speaking now about money and resources.
Fun fact(s): It’s been noted that 16 of Jesus’ 38 parables were concerned with how to correctly handle money and possessions as they can be so distractive, or worse – destructive.
In the Gospels, an amazing 1 out 10 verses (that’s 288 verses) deal directly with the subject of money.
The Bible comprises some 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2,000 verses on money and possessions.
Yep – money and ‘stuff’ is a big deal.
And St. Paul’s dialogue with his friends in Philippi sharpens our perspective in regard to our use of God’s resources.
Did you note from the reading (Philippians 4:11) that St. Paul has learnt to be content in all circumstances?
And he’s ‘done it tough’, let me add.
He’s known hunger and great privation – verse 12.
So, why has Paul learnt to be content?
Look at verse 13 – ‘I can do all things through him who gives me strength’.
Paul can be content – whatever his situation – because God is personally enabling, and equipping, and strengthening him, and verse 19 – he is providing for his every need (and I quote), “according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus”.
Why is Paul content?
Because God enables, equips, strengthens, and provides for his children.
And in his mercy and grace – he affords us, the church of God, the privilege of being conduits of that provision.
In verse 10 Paul rejoices greatly in the Philippians’ kindness and generosity to him.
In verse 18 Paul thanks them for sending Epaphroditus to him with supplies and gifts (remember Paul is in prison) and he reports that he is now ‘amply supplied’.
This little church in Philippi, in the Provence of Macedonia, was known for its generosity in the advance of the gospel and in the service of God’s people.
Paul once praised them thus (and I’m reading from II Corinthians 8:1-5):
We want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.
And this selflessness, Paul says in Philippians 4:18 brings much joy to the heart of God; he describes it as a ‘fragrant offering’…and as Paul notes in II Corinthians 9:7 – “God loves a cheerful giver”.
And those who are generous also know the blessing of having “their accounts credited” (verse 17) – which Paul explains in verse 19 as the blessing of knowing that God will meet all their needs in and through the glorious work of our Lord Jesus.
Now I want to just take a moment, as I close, to commend you for your generosity – for you beloved, have indeed been conduits of God’s mercies.
In this past year you have supported international outreach ministries through families that we’ve set out from this place to Dubai and Indonesia.
You have given tens of thousands of dollars for the training of Aboriginal pastors and leaders at Nungalinya college in Darwin.
You have served on Sundays mornings – many of you – in the Bread of Life feeding programme in Surrey Hills
You have supported the ‘Rough Edges’ street ministry to marginalised, homeless, and vulnerable women and men in and around Darlinghurst, and the Banksia Women’s refuge.
You have made community chaplaincy possible in an inner-city public housing precinct through the recent Supper at Sunset benefit dinner.
Our new ‘Toys and Tucker’ appeal will bring relief to needy families over Christmas. Did you know that last year extra trucks were needed to take all the gifts from our church to the repository, such was the response?
Our Little Sheep church has provided newly arrived refugee families with hundreds and hundreds of nappies and nursery supplies to address their pressing needs.
And each week you generously bring your tithes and offerings so that gospel ministry can continue in this place.
And it does – we are, in God’s grace, connecting with those who like Paul are in prison and in very dire need – right through to people who apparently ‘have it all’ – like those in Caesar’s household (Philippians 4:22)…but who have now found true riches in Christ Jesus (4:19).
The Grace of God.
The Generosity of God.
May we pray?
Lord – we thank you for this epistle to the church in Philippi.
May we, like them, live in the light of your grace and mercy.
Help us to trust you with our lives and our resources – that we might live to please you, in the light of your return (your second Advent), to the glory of your name.