Home     Philippians     Series     Audio     Notes     Study

Series:  What A Fellowship - Part Three

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
April 26, 2015

We are going on in our study of Philippians - Paul writing about fellowship.  We are coming to 1:27.


A really really long time ago in a church really really far away - the church was searching for a pastor.  Two factions presented two candidates to the congregation.  One side claimed that the other side’s candidate was too liberal.  The other side claimed that the other candidate was too fundamental.  Each side viewed themselves as being more spiritual than the other side.


Imagine how tense the situation was.  The conflict raging beneath the surface - the division between people who were related to each other.


True account.  I heard this from someone who was there.  At the congregational meeting where the candidates were being discussed - the word “discussed” not really covering the emotions involved - at that meeting finally one of the leaders of one group got up and punched out one of the leaders of the other group.


All of which led to a church split.  The “planting” of another congregation in town.  And two churches that for decades had animosity between them. 


That’s not entirely a unique account.  I read recently of one deacon who shot another deacon in a church meeting.  Also not unique.

If we went around the room many of us could share from personal experience ungodly crud that we’ve experienced with God’s people.  It happens.  And, it hurts.


One of the saddest things - maybe you’ve experienced this - one of the saddest things is talking with people who want nothing to do with church - sometimes they want nothing to do with God - because of the ungodly conduct of Godly people.  They’re wounded - disgusted.


Someone defined fellowship as some fellows in a ship.  People somehow moving together on a journey through life.  Which touches the surface level of fellowship.


But the fellowship of Christians - what we share - what we long for - the potential of Christian fellowship is way deeper than that.  Christian fellowship is the deep abiding relationship together of those who abide in Christ - who live because of Christ.


I greatly appreciate that this congregation puts up with me.  You all know I’m not the perfect pastor or the godly man I seek to be.  By God’s grace and the patience of this congregation God is growing me.


One of the comments that people make about Creekside is that this is a place of healing.  A congregation where people try to accept and love on each other.  Many of us have come here from other places.  Some carry greater wounds that others.  Some of us are little rougher around the edges that others.

Looking around - we’re not perfect people.  But we are here.


Creekside is kind of like people who’ve been out in the woods - getting beat up as they’ve been stumbling around in a cold dark forest - bumping in to things and tripping over stuff.  We’ve come together to gather around the warmth and light of the campfire - Jesus Christ.


Point being:  What we have here at Creekside is very special.  What the Philippians had was very special.  What God is doing here is amazing.  But it needs to be guarded.  None of us wants to experience toxic church - people getting beat up or shot.


Point being:  There are great opportunities for us.  But we need to be intentional in guarding our fellowship and following Jesus into those opportunities.


Paul is writing about fellowship - about what it means for us to abide together - to remain together in Jesus.  To follow Him together through life.  Where we’re coming to today is the beginning of a part of Paul’s letter where Paul is going to get down to the heart level of the Philippians and teach about what it means to guard and be intentional about fellowship.


Philippians 1 - the first part of verse 27 introduces us to Paul’s Theme for this next section.  Let’s read this together:  Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ   


Its crucial to understand Paul’s theme.  We’re going to slow down and do a bit of a word study here.  So, hang in and hang on.


“Only” is the Greek word “mono.”  Like Monopoly.  “Only” meaning singular purpose.  In Monopoly our purpose is to… own everything?  Starting with Boardwalk and Park Place.  Cause economic ruin for everyone else.  Very Christian.  But that’s the priority.  What’s of supreme importance.


Paul:  Whatever else is going on with me or with you - whatever the circumstances - this is what you need to be focused on.


“Your” is plural.  All the “yous” in this passage are plurals “yours” - “you alls”  Philippi is in northern Greece but Paul is writin’ southern.  “Y’all”  Let’s say that together:  “Y’all.”


Fellowship is a group activity.  Good - bad - ugly - whatever - something we intentionally work at together.  The idea of Christians not being integrally connected with - integrally involved in - the mutual life of a local congregation - what we sometimes hear today:  “I’m a Christian but I don’t go to church” - all that is completely foreign to the New Testament - to Scripture.


Hebrews 10:25 warns us not to neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging each other, and all more as we see the Day of Jesus’ return drawing closer.


We need to give priority to being here together - local congregation of believers.  Fellowship is an essential.  Not a negotiable.  We are created in Christ for fellowship.  We need each other or what God has for us isn’t going to happen. 


“Manner of life” translates the Greek verb “politeuo” which comes from the Greek word for a city - “polis.”  Think “poli-tics” - “poli-tical” - “poli-tician.”  “Polis” meaning not just the city - but what makes up the city - the people - the inhabitants - citizens living life together.


In a sense Paul is being punny.  He’s using a play on words.


Cutting through a whole lot of history - after the Romans conquered Macedonia about 168 BC the  Romans made Philippi into a Roman Colony.  Which put Philippi on about the same status as the city of Rome.  Meaning that Philippi was a major center of all things Roman.  The Philippians dressed like Romans.  The spoke Latin.  If you were born in Philippi you automatically we’re a Roman citizen.


Paul is writing to Philippians who prided themselves on being citizens of Rome.  Using “polis” is Paul’s way of saying that the greater priority of Christians is how we behave as citizens of heaven.


We may be good US citizens.  We may be involved in local politics and issues here in Merced and all that that may mean for us living in the culture and opportunities of this city.  All that may be good.  But its not the priority.  Our priority for how we live our lives - what must guide - our conduct - our actions and attitudes - our manner of life - is our citizenship in heaven.


Paul defines that “manner of life” - as citizens of heaven our conduct is to be “worthy” of the Gospel of Christ.


“Worthy” literally has to do with weighing something.  On a scale.  Weights on one side.  Fruit or meat or grain or whatever on the other side.  Balancing the scales.  Are we  together?


Gospel of Christ on one side.  Manner of life on the other.  Do they balance?  Does how we’re living balance with what we say we believe?  Does our conduct balance with the amazing reality of God’s grace?  God’s mercy?  Does our manner of life reflect the life and character of our Savior Jesus Christ Who gave His life for us?


Its been said that we’re to share the gospel and if necessary use words. Heard that?  We are the only explanation of the gospel people may ever see.  Every day God moves us through the greater Merced metroplex - at work - at school - in our families - where we shop - eat - hang out - one hundred of us scattered around out there 24/7/365 giving witness of the gospel.  That’s a huge amazing God given opportunity for heaven’s citizens to be ambassadors of heaven - of God’s kingdom.   

Creekside is like an embassy of heaven.  God space in the middle of Mercedland.  An embassy that people can look at and hopefully see the gospel being lived in real time.


Creekside is a gathering place for us to connect with heaven.  To connect with each other.  To build into each other and build each other up for going out there and representing Jesus.  A gathering where Paul writes that we are to give singular priority - to make absolutely certain that our manner of life here reflects the character of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


Which is at the core of fellowship.  What it means for us to follow Jesus through life together.  The intentional priority of our - plural - living with conduct that reflects the awesomeness of what it means to have life in Christ. 


Are we together?


Moving on in verse 27 - Paul writes that if we’re going to live worthy - first we need to Be Courageous.

Let’s read together down through verse 30: 
so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.  This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.  For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and  now hear that I still have.


“...whether I come and see you or am absent” whether I’m able to make it to Philippi or not - this isn’t about me.  You all need to - number one - be courageous by Standing Firm.


Ever try to stand in the ocean - at the beach - with waves pushing you towards the beach and the water pulling you out to sea?  Sand slipping away under your feet?  Standing firm is being immovable in the strong currents of life.


Spirit translates “pnuema” - meaning breath.  Meaning at the spiritual level - where the Holy Spirit does His work uniting and empowering us - we don’t move.  At the core of how we stand together - no matter what comes against us - we’re standing together because together we’re relying on the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and through us together to keep us standing.


Paul writes that we are to Strive Together with one mind.  Side by side for the faith of the Gospel.

There were three Czechs [Czechoslovakia] - I’m going with neutral countries here - trying to stay out of trouble.  Three Czechs decided to take the train to see a soccer game in a nearby town.  As it happened there were three Poles who also decided to take the same train to the same game.


At the train station the three Czechs buy three train tickets - one each - and then watch as the three Poles buy only a single ticket.  One of the Czechs asked, “How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?”


“Watch and you’ll see” answers a Pole.


They all board the train.  The Czechs take their respective seats.  But all three Poles cram into a bathroom and close the door behind them. Shortly after the train leaves the station the conductor comes around collecting tickets.  He knocks on the bathroom door and says, Ticket please.


The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand.  The conductor takes the ticket and moves on.  The Czechs see this and agree it was quite a clever idea.


So after the game, they decide to copy the Poles on the return trip and save some money.  When they get to the station, the Czechs buy a single ticket for the return  trip.  To their astonishment, the Poles don't buy a ticket at all.


How are you going to travel without a ticket? asks one perplexed Czech.  Watch and you'll seeanswers a Pole.


When they board the train the three Czechs cram into a bathroom and the three Poles cram into another bathroom nearby.  Once the train leaves the station, one of the Poles comes out of their bathroom  - walks over to the bathroom where the Czechs are hiding - knocks on the door and says, “Ticket please.


Striving together side by side has the idea of working together for a common purpose.  One mind - literally meaning at the core of what makes you you.  The seat of our mind - our desires - our affections.


Are we grabbing the picture of what Paul is getting at here?


Spiritually - mentally - with everything that we are from the inside out - regardless of what comes against us - we are to be united in one purpose - and that is living together worthy of the gospel.     


Paul writes:  and not frightened in anything by your opponents. 


“Frightened” the word in Greek described war horses that we’re startled by something unexpected happening in battle.  Opponents are those outside the church and the spiritual forces behind them.  Its not hard to imagine in a city like Philippi there was opposition to the believers.   Paul warns:  Don’t be startled by your opponents.


Peter writes:  “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”  (1 Peter 4:12)


Jesus told His disciples:  “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you…  If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”  (John 15:20)


Paul writes:  “Its been granted.”  It is a privilege we’ve been given to suffer for Christ.  To be engaged in the same battle that Paul was engaged in.  Don’t be shocked by it.  Startled by opposition.  Expect it.  And, stand firm.  Together.


Paul writes:  When you stand firm together it testifies of the truth of your salvation - the God given fellowship that’s yours in Christ - and the certainty of your opponents destruction.


We’re either following Jesus or we’re not.  If not, then we’re on a trajectory through life leading to Hell - not Heaven.  When we stand together in Christ - for the Gospel - empowered by the Holy Spirit - opposition only confirms that we’re on the right course - engaged in the same battle - following Jesus - living worthy of the gospel.


Let’s be clear.  Jesus said, “The gates of Hell itself cannot hold back My church.” (Matthew 16:18)


Larry Osborne:  “Don’t miss something important in that promise.  The gates of hell aren’t an offensive weapon.  No one picks up a gate and goes on the attack.  Gates are a last line of defense.  Jesus wasn’t just saying that the church can’t be destroyed.  He was saying that it won’t be held back.” (1)


When we stand firm - striving together with one purpose - the bold forward motion of the church - proclaiming the Gospel through the spiritual battlefield of this world - the church cannot be stopped.  Its our enemy - Satan - who needs to be alarmed.  Destruction is coming.  We’re not just coming up against the gates of hell.  We’re going through.


Paul - Romans 8 - writing about the worst assaults that Satan can send against us - the battle we’re in—tribulation, hardship, persecution, famine, poverty, danger, even death - Paul writes, “In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)


Stand together.  Strive together.  Together we’re going through the gates of Hell victorious.  So church.  Be courageous.


Second - moving on to chapter 2 - Paul writes that if we’re going to live worthy we need to Be Humble.


2:1:  So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,


Sometimes we wonder - especially if we’ve experienced toxic church - or when we get pulled by all of what’s out there - obligations and opportunities - we wonder if the fellowship we long for is really possible - if its really worth investing ourselves here.  Paul says it is.


Verse one is rhetorical.  Stated as a statement:  So, even though we’re in a spiritual battle - suffering together for Jesus - getting pulled and prodded by what’s out there - it is possible to be encouraged in Christ - it is possible to be consoled in Christian love - to have fellowship of the Spirit - to experience together affection and sympathy…


Verse 2 - since it is possible - complete by joy - literally meaning send my joy over the top - by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.


Its possible but we need to be intentional about three things. 


First - we need to be intentional in our love for each other.


A few years back I was on the island of Kauai - laying on the beach - listening to the waves - soaking up some rays.  As I laid there I slowly realized that I wasn’t alone.  There were these hundreds of little crabs scurrying around me.


As the water would come in they would dig little holes for themselves.  When the water would go out they would pop out of their holes - clean themselves off - and go back to their scurrying around.


Small little crabs that in the whole grand scheme of the universe probably were not of great significance.  But as they cleaned themselves off - with a kind of indignant brushing - the way they avoided interacting with each other - keeping to their own little area and defending their own little territory - scurrying around with their own self-important crabbiness - strangely I began to think about the church.


How easy it is for us to be focused on ourselves.  Living in our own little bubble.


Love needs to be intentional.  We have to make up our minds to work at getting out little bubble worlds.


Paul writes in Romans 12:9-11:  Paul writes:  Let love be genuine - literally without hypocrisy - meaning the real deal - not an act - not a show - not loving someone because of what we get out of it.  But love that follows the example of God for us.


Jesus dying on the cross in our place.  How great was that deal?  He got us.  That’s love.  God being committed to His relationship with us in spite how badly we’ve messed up.   


Abhor what is evil - hate it at the core of who you are.

Hold fast
- cling tenaciously - to what is good.


Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.  (Romans 12:9-11  NASB)


Do you feel the passion in these words?  Abhor - hate - hold fast - cling - be devoted - give preference - honor - be fervent - serve - rejoice - persevere - pray - contribute - practice.   Words of passion and energy.   Be that in your love for one another.  That’s intentional.


To borrow a phrase:  A church that prays together stays together.  A church that potlucks together stays together.  A church that does Life Group together stays together.  Worship together… stay together.  Serve together… stay together.  Put up with each other… stay together.  Cry together, laugh together, play together, hang out together… A church that intentionally lives lovingly together… stays together.


The only way that happens is if we are willing to be intentional.  That’s the humble being together in the mindset of setting aside our selves.  To be intentional about what we give of ourselves not thinking about what we get or how all this affects us.  The intentional commitment we make to this fellowship rather than what we expect from it.


Second - Paul writes that we need to be intentional in our purpose.


being in full accord and of one mind - literally reads:  “one in soul, the one thing minding”  Meaning at the core of who we are - we need to be focused - intentional about one thing - one uniting purpose.  Which is... what?


As Paul traveled around he was imprisoned on several occasions - including his first visit to Philippi.  Philippi where he’d faced a mob that had tried to kill him.  Paul was beaten more times than he could remember.  Whipped even by his own countrymen.  Rejected by his own people.  In the city of Lystra he was stoned - dragged outside the city - and left for dead.


We saw last Sunday that as Paul was concluding his third missions trip - the book of Acts describes Paul as man with a singular purpose.  He’s in a hurry - rushing to arrive in Jerusalem by the day of Pentecost.  On the way to Jerusalem - in the towns he visits he spends very little time with the believers there.  Other towns - like Ephesus - as He’s rushing to Jerusalem - some of those towns he bypasses completely.


Paul’s been told that what waits for him in Jerusalem is prison.  Even knowing that Paul rushes on.  He goes to Jerusalem.  He’s arrested.  Put on trial.  Not for any crime.  But because of his testimony of the Gospel.  Because he’s being faithful to Jesus Christ.  As a Roman - Paul - on trial - again with purpose - Paul appeals to Caesar for justice.  Highest authority in the Empire.

So Paul is sent to Rome - a prisoner of the Roman Empire.  One shipwreck and months later - about 60 A.D. - Paul is under guard in Rome.  Its from Rome - as a prisoner - that Paul writes this letter to the Philippians.


In past Sundays, when we looked at chapter one, we saw Paul using those experiences as an example of heart level single minded purpose.  Through all that Paul’s purpose never changed.  Always his purpose was... the forward progress of the gospel.  Share the gospel with others.  Which is what we must be intentional about doing together.


Jesus commanded us - we know this - read it with me - “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”  (Matthew 28:19,20)


With apologies to the worship team - worship is going to be way better in heaven.  Prayer will be amazing -  face to face conversation with God.  The teaching is going to be way way way better.


Out there the disease of sin runs rampant.  Evil is ravaging lives and families - maiming and destroying - terrorizing and causing fear.  People we deeply care about are being held hostage by our Adversary.  A roaring lion waiting to shred and devour them.  It may not be hell out there but we can get a preview.  A war zone with eternal consequences.

Not because of our great holiness or righteousness or anything that we can claim about ourselves - but only because of God’s grace do we know that the answer is Jesus.  Only by God’s grace have we experienced the cure.  Only by God’s grace do we have hope and confidence and victory.


There are a number of great causes that we could involve ourselves in - battles that could be waged for justice and culture and doctrine.  But we’re in a war and our Lord and Savior the commander of heaven’s armies has given us the singular purpose of proclaiming the gospel.  Whether someone smells or is pierced or tatted up or dresses different or whatever might personally cause us to seize up or stay in our bubble - all that is a distraction - a tactic by the enemy to get us off track from our purpose.


People are getting shot with fiery darts of evil.  Lives are on the line for eternity.  We need each other.  We need to be intentionally engaged together.


Third - Paul writes that we need to be intentional in our sacrifice.


The cross is an instrument of love.  Horrendous torture yes.  But because of love Christ uses the cross to die for us.  What is the ultimate demonstration of sacrificial love.  Which is what Jesus calls us to.


Jesus teaches that to follow Him means taking up our cross daily to follow - or losing our lives in order to gain life - or letting go of anything in our lives that keeps us from following Jesus with everything we are.  Death to self.  In order to live in Christ.


What Paul summarizes in chapter one:  To live Christ to die gain.


Hear this:  Dying to ourselves is the beginning of learning to love others sacrificially.


Loving others is a demonstration of our salvation because it demonstrates the surrender of our lives to Jesus - death to self.  Receiving by faith - not my self efforts - but by faith what Jesus has lovingly and sacrificially done for me on the cross.  If we haven’t died to ourselves then we can only love as the world loves - selfishly or by our own efforts.  If we haven’t died to ourselves then we can only love as the world loves not as Jesus loves us. 


John lays it out like this:  “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  (1 John 4:11)


In verse 3 Paul teaches that in humility we need to think of others as more important than yourselves.  We will always struggle with that unless we’ve died to ourselves.   


In verse 4 Paul teaches that each of us is not only to look out for our own interests, but also the interests of others.

That doesn’t mean being a doormat.  Someone that gets stepped on while people are meeting their own selfish needs.  But because we know that God loves us - that we are loveable - and that we can love ourselves - and so our needs and feelings - who we are - has merit - value - worth.  With that intentional taking care of what concerns us in mind we need to look out for what concerns others - our siblings in Jesus whom God also loves and are loveable.  We will always struggle with that unless we’ve died to ourselves.


Dying to ourselves doesn’t come easy.  Yes?  We resist that sacrifice of self at the core level.  That’s why it must be an intentional 24/7/365 choice to die.  


So many congregations struggle to live worthy of the gospel - are hindered in their witness and crippled in their fellowship - because we fall into the trap of serving ourselves - of thinking that “church” and “fellowship” is about us - seeing all this from our perspective - remembering wrongs suffered against us - of bailing and moving on rather than being an instrument of growth and love in each others lives - rather than courageously choosing to stand firm and strive together. 


Maybe 90% of church problems would be solved if we would just humble ourselves - get off our own little pedestals and learn - an intentional conscious choice to die - to value and put others first - to love others as we love ourselves. 


Processing all that…


One question:  Who’s interests are you looking out for?


Maybe that’s a God and you question:  God, what in me needs to die?”  Maybe that’s an intentional step to connect with what God is doing here and people He’s doing it through.  It’s hard to look out for interests we’re not aware of.  Maybe that means joining a Life Group or serving in a ministry - being more intentional about prayer and worship and hanging around for fellowship.  Whatever it takes.  Learning how to stand and strive together.


Who’s interests are you looking out for?




1. Larry Osborne, Sticky Teams, Zondervan, 2010, page 212


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.