Treasure the Gospel.

On Sunday we studied Philippians 1:3-5 as a church, and I had the privilege of preaching (you can hear that sermon here).

One of the major focuses of the book of Philippians is joy, and we dove into that one for a good bit of the sermon since we are not going to get the chance to study the entire book together. Paul says in Philippians 1:3 that he thanks God with joy for the Philippian church. At the outset, that may not seem like a big deal; as a matter of fact, we may want to say that Paul was in some way of a wrong mind if he did not pray with joy! But the rub lies in the context: Paul was writing from under Roman house arrest, under a constant watch from Roman guards, chained to where he did not want to be, awaiting word on whether or not he would continue on in this life and serve Christ or have his head cut off and join Christ with the Father. When we discover this context, then the question changes drastically: how on earth did Paul have the strength to do anything with joy, let alone pray to the sovereign God who allowed this to happen?

The answer lies in the phenomenon of a changed heart. Paul has gone from Jesus Christ’s church’s foremost persecutor to Jesus Christ’s foremost apostle to His church. As Christ knocked him off of his horse on his way to Damascus, he not only changed his perspective on who Jesus is but he also radically changed who Paul was from the heart, which in turn changed everything about who he is. The Lord teaches us about this in 2 Corinthians 5:17, telling us that all who are in Christ are a new creation–something that is there which was not there before. Not an improved creation, not a continuing creation, but a new creation. It is from this new heart that Paul is able to treasure in his heart Jesus Christ and His Gospel more than anything on this earth, material or immaterial, including his own life.

Throughout the book of Philippians, Paul talks about joy (or rejoicing) 14 times, more often than any of his other letters. In the first 11 verses of chapter 1, he mentions Jesus Christ 7x and His Gospel 2x. In looking at the 14 references (Phil 1:18; 2:2; 2:17; 2:28; 4:1; 3:1 & 4:4) to joy and rejoicing, there is one common theme: Jesus and His Gospel. The secret to a joyful life is discovered in what this dead-man-walking prisoner understood: to treasure Christ, His work and the preaching of His Gospel above anything else, is to understand where true joy and contentment flows from. If we pursue the things of this world and horde them as if they are our treasure, we will be crushed the moment they are taken from our hands and lives. We must hold onto the things of this world with an open hand, appreciating them with an attitude of thankfulness and acknowledging that we do not deserve any kindness like this at all. All the while we should be holding onto and truly treasuring Christ, His Gospel and His work (in our hearts and in others) with a tight fist, because this is truly what is valuable; this truly is treasure. When this is our attitude as opposed to the natural mind which is opposite to this, all of what this world calls valuable, from the material world of people, money and things to the immaterial world of relationships and status, can be taken away from us at a moment’s notice and result in joy. Why? Because we treasure Christ and His Gospel, nothing more.

Look at your life through the lens of the Gospel. Jesus Christ sacrificed himself for you so that you might have eternal peace with God through the forgiveness of your sins and the placing of the wrath of the Father onto Jesus. This must be the center of your thinking, and from this center will flow a desire to see His name proclaimed throughout the earth above every other desire in all of our lives. And when this change takes place in the way that we think and in the way that we value things, we will understand joy and contentment.

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