While I was studying the writings of several commentators and pastors when preparing for this passage, I came across this section of a sermon on Philippians 1:9-11, and it was too good to just paraphrase or include as a link. This is from Tom Steller’s sermon on verses 9-11, delivered at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota in August of 1986. The entire transcript of the sermon can be found at http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByScripture/34/556_The_Excellence_Which_Love_Approves/
How, then, could Paul be filled with such warmth for these rascals? Or even more, how could Jesus be yearning for them with his own deep affection?
God Smiles on His People Through Jesus Christ
Do we dare say that God Almighty, the Holy One, is excited about the Philippians—problems and all? And can we apply that to you and me and say that God’s face is aglow with affection toward us this morning, even though we too have varying remnants of selfishness and grumbling in our hearts? Doesn’t the fact that we are still unholy demand God’s countenance to be a stern one with a frown instead of a smile? O how many of you out there are laboring under a frowning God. You can’t look into his face because he makes you think of your angry father or teacher or boss who is demanding perfection of you NOW! And you can’t give it so he frowns and you are defeated and depressed.
Well let it be known that God Almighty through his Son Jesus Christ is smiling on every one of you who are diligently—though not perfectly—working out your salvation with fear and trembling. True, when he zeros in and points his finger at the sin in your life, there is angry fire in his eyes; but never think he is locked into that gaze until every vestige of sin is burned away. God alone, in his infinite complexity, has the ability to frown and smile at the same time—and he is not a hypocrite, he is not two-faced, and he is not fickle. He frowns when you delight in sin and frolic in the defamation of his name through covetousness, lust, dishonesty, and bitterness. Wrath burns in his eyes, but then he is continually reminded that the full force of his righteous revenge and punishment which you and I deserved was unleashed once and for all upon his own dear Son hanging in our place on the cross of Calvary. So God is free to look beyond our sin and see the whole picture—and what does he see? He sees you and me—pieces of worthless coal which he has snatched from the fire which he is holding in his loving and strong hands, and squeezing and applying infinite pressure as he transforms us into brilliant diamonds which will reflect his glory, his character, and his worth forever.
And THAT, my friends, is the love of Christ—the same love with which we are to love one another. The love that sees the big picture, that loving confronts sin but does not take that sin personally. The love that presses each of us farther from ourselves and closer to the foot of the cross. The love that allows us to put others’ needs and desires ahead of our own. And the love that will conform our needs and desires to become the same need and desire; the need and desire to see Christ glorified and a lost and dying world come to know Him as Savior. We are, after all, called to be of one mind and one goal– the goal of showing and sharing Christ should rise above all other goals and desires in our lives. If we began living each moment of our intentionally, with the display of the glory and love of Christ as our goal, people might actually see Christ living through His body, the church!
Take some time the next couple of days to really meditate on the love of our Father God. Really think about what He gave, what Christ sacrificed for us, and consider how you can show that same love to those around you. Are you willing to give whatever it takes—a little self-discipline, a little inconvenience, maybe setting aside a personal desire to give time or money or advice to someone really in need—to show the world around you the love of Christ?
I will post the actual lesson for verses 9-11 in another post; but I thought this would be an appropriate “warm-up” to get us back on track after taking some time off.