To the Glory and Praise of God

3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:3-11)

We are in an exciting place this morning in Philippians 1. As we get to the end of the paragraph that began in verse 3, we can see that Paul has been building up to his last thoughts, and his last thoughts are high and glorious, and in some ways too high for us. But I hope that we can take them and see them in a way that we might be awed, stunned in a good way, and ready to say, really, “this is for me?” Like, is this really for me? This is what God has for me?

I mean, do you ever struggle with that? With reading the Bible and thinking, “Wow, that’s great, really great, interesting.” But it seems more like a fairytale than a book written for you, for real living, a book designed by God for your good, for your life. Do we sometimes take the words as something impersonal? I mean, any other book you pick up to read, any book, none of them were written for you. I mean, some author didn’t sit down with you personally in mind and write his book. But God did. It’s personal. It’s very personal. If we don’t see it that way, we will not read it as God intends. We read in places about how God knows and cares for us and has made provision for us. Catch the personal nature of this:

13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16)

But he didn’t stop there. It’s not just that He formed us, each of us individually, with all our individual features and distinctions, and that’s it. No, His provision kicks in, His care, His love, His involvement with us, His faithfulness to us, all of this. And His provision is not random, it is intimate, because that is how He knows us

1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:1-6)

And so He formed us, made us, and He knows everything about us, you and me, and with that He acts, doesn’t He? He moves in us:

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24)

He leads us. And how? By His Spirit. Through what? His word. It was written for you, it was written for me. I mean with you and me in mind. Sometimes we pick up a book and it so speaks to us, maybe talks about some issue we are dealing with, and we say, “Wow, this book was written just for me.” Well, not really, that author probably doesn’t know you. But God knows you and He has written to you. I love that about the Bible! And so we go to His word and we see that He speaks to us there, He guides us through it, He gives us our direction, our path, and that is what we have this morning. It is not a fairytale or a dry old history book, it is living, it is active, and it speaks. And so I say, Lord speak to us, enlighten the eyes of our hearts today! So with that, here we go.

9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

We have in verse 10 a continuation of verse 9, it is part of the same sentence in our English translation, as it should be. The “so that” in verse 10 connects us back to verse 9. Verse 9, as you recall, was a lot about love – abounding love, overflowing love, holy love – a love that comes to us from God that pushes out selfishness and self-centeredness, and overflows from and changes the way we interact with other people. This love is to drive our behaviors and thoughts in relation to all people around us. It is to touch everything we do. It is to penetrate and even saturate our thoughts and actions. Paul wants this love to abound more and more. We have talked a lot about this kind of love over the last six months or so, but talking doesn’t produce much. I think what Paul is doing in verse 10 and 11 is helping us to move forward in this love and really showing us how to love more and more.

In verse 10 he says, “so that you may approve what is excellent,” The word “approve” is translated in other places as “discern.” It has to do with proving the content of something or the genuineness of something. So approve, prove, discern what is excellent. “Excellent” is what is true. What is true is what we have as God’s Word. What is excellent is God’s Word, because it contains what we know about Him and what he wants us to know about Him, life, and even ourselves. And so if we put all this together: 

9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, (Philippians 1:9-10)

If God’s love is in us and we love Him as our God and Christ as our Savior, if we are wrapped up in Him and in His love, if that is all that we are about, God loving us and us loving Him, then we will approve of or be discerning about what He has communicated to us in His Word. 

We can’t say, “I love God and He loves me, and now I’m going off to do what He hates.” We are hypocrites when we say, “I love God and He loves me and now life is going to be all about me and my fleshly desires, and my sinful pursuits, and disobeying my parents because they are fools, and speaking rudely to my wife because she deserves it, and cheating because others cheat me, and ignoring a brother in Christ because he gets on my nerves, or not sacrificing for others with my time and money.” No! We can’t say, “I love God and He loves me, and His love is abounding in me,” and now and then be selfish in every way. That makes no sense biblically!

If love is abounding in us more and more, we will approve of what is excellent, we will be discerning and agree with what is excellent. That is, we will approve of God’s Word for us, approve of what is true. For example: “Be angry and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your wrath nor give place to the devil.” If we love God and He loves us, and if that love is abounding in us more and more, then we will approve of that verse, discern how to live it, agree with its excellence. Or how about this:

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42)

Yes, that is excellent, isn’t it? Turn that cheek when wronged, give more when sued, go the extra mile, give generously to the one who begs from you, and lend freely, that is excellent truth! And so the approving of what is excellent is certainly a mental agreement with God’s Word, but there is more to it. The word also is used of testing. It was used of testing metals to determine purity. There is some action to the word.

You know, sometimes I sit in elder meetings or deacon meetings and we sit around and ponder something together. We talk about ideas and seek to come up with solutions or how to implement a ministry or something. Someone may say, “That is good, let’s do that,” and we look around the room to see who approves. Everyone approves, a good idea. But you know what? So far that approval is pretty useless. That sometimes was the easy part. Can you imagine a group of church leaders who just sat around and their whole goal was just to come to agreements on various things, but there was never any action that followed? That would be some pretty shallow approval if no action followed.

Paul goes beyond a mental assent or agreement here. The word itself demands action, a proving of sorts of what is excellent, but the action is further seen by what follows as he says, “and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,” This purity and blamelessness is not, I don’t think, the purity and blamelessness in our position before God because of the finished work of Christ. I mean, we are pure and blameless before God through Christ positionally. Our sins have been paid for, the blood of Christ covers us, we stand before God in Christ as holy. All of that is true. However, in life we are to be moving to purity, holiness, righteous living, which is being more like Jesus Christ.

Mark’s dad, Billy White, passed from this life into life eternal with Christ last week. He is perfect, sinless, and is enjoying all that comes with that state. He is way more like Jesus Christ than any of us will ever be on this earth. We will get there, right? But for today, while we are becoming more like Christ as Christians, we have a great way to go. But we are nevertheless to be on that path. And what that means is that we are not to be just sitting around agreeing with God’s excellent ways because we love Him, but we are to be living in agreement with His Word, because His love in us is abounding more and more and this process is moving us ever closer to purity and blamelessness in life. There is something going on in us, there is change taking place, there is this process of sanctification going on, moving us more and more to live like Christ.

filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, (Philippians 1:11a)

These are good works! There is action involved. We are headed in a direction of Christ-likeness. Now, in this life, here on earth, becoming more like Christ. I want you to see the moving, acting, that is powered by God’s love. We are to be active, God calls us to action. And so we have love, abounding love, that is moving us, motivating us to approve of what is excellent, God’s truths, changing our hearts and minds through sanctification, being more like Christ, and now our deeds begin to reflect all of this change taking place in our lives. Do you see the progression?

Having been filled means something that has happened in the past and has continuing results. What are these fruits, these results of our salvation and our growing in Christ? They can be many things, but whatever they are, whatever our good works are, they must be done in the proper attitudes given in Galatians 5.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-26)

Each of these comes through Jesus Christ! Love empowers us to approve of the things of God, His Word, which leads us to the process of becoming more like Christ in our minds, and spiritual growth, which leads us to good works, fruits of the Spirit. All of this comes because of our union with Christ and in Him alone, and as we wrap it all together, this work of God in us, we are left with the most amazing thing yet! Here comes the greatest thing of all. Look at the end of verse 11:

to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:11b)

What happens as we love, embrace God’s truths, move toward a more Christ-like walk, begin working in the fruits of the Spirit, doing good works, what happens? God is glorified, “to the glory and praise of God.” This where we either want to jump out of our seats in joy or we give a sigh of “hum,” or, “oh.” Either we may think, “Wow! This is too good to be true,” or we say in our hearts, “So what, what’s in it for me?” What drives our response? I think what drives our response is back in verse 9: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more,”

Either we are overwhelmed by God’s love that we want to lift up His name, praise His name, make our lives about Him for His name’s sake, or we are still stuck in a ditch of, “I’m still really concerned about myself.” And it all goes back to what is our treasure, what is driving our hearts, what fills our minds? Is it God, His glory, His work, His love, or is it something else?

Some say, “There has to be more to life. There must be something I am missing. I go to church, I labor through the Bible, I do good things for my neighbor, I try to love my family, I pray, all these things, but I’m still not really happy deep down. I do these things, but it’s just not paying off for me.” Maybe this is where the rubber meets the road for you. Maybe you are doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons, which makes all of those right things pretty dull and useless. We’ve got to get out of that. We have to live for something bigger than ourselves, and the biggest thing, the greatest thing to live for is God, because He is God. To live for Him because He is God. To love Him because He is God. He is a God who intervenes into our evil world, and lives, and raises us up into heaven. He forgives our sins, He cleanses us from all the junk in our lives, He washes us clean from the filth that we have wallowed in, He makes us new, He redeems us from the grave, He takes away the sting of death, and makes death a glorious event. He does all this for us, and in us, and He says, “Live for me! Take up your cross and follow me!” And we get to do that! And as we do, He empowers us to do what we do to bring attention to His name. We live as if He is great, because He is great. Our lives point to a fantastic beautiful, perfect, loving, forgiving God, we say, “He is great! Everything about Him is great!” We make Him known, to the praise of the glory of His grace. We are nothing, and He is everything! And if we can embrace that, I think it’s the most exciting thing in the world.

So if you can’t get excited about ”to the glory and praise of God.” It is time to ask, “Why?” Why wouldn’t that excite you? And honestly answering that by discovering what in your life is competing with Him, you can repent of those idols, that is what they are, and forsake them, and refocus on what is greater than any other person or thing. What are we living for? The answer to that question will determine whether or not we will have contentment and joy and peace in life, or whether we will not. It’s about finding our delight in Him. If you’re not finding your delight in Him, then I would encourage you to consider the attributes of God. Who is this God that has made us? Know Him through His Word, let Him consume your thoughts, your mind. Stay with Him in His Word until you are dazzled by His grandeur and His mercy and grace. Go to the Gospels and stay there, and follow Jesus through His ministry. Be amazed by His work, His faithfulness, His love, His sacrifice for you. Be familiar with the story of redemption from Genesis to Revelation, see it as personal, don’t be consumed by anything until you are consumed by God the Father, Christ the Son, the work of the godhead to bring about your redemption. 

Be intoxicated by them and their work until you can say, “Yes, to His praise, to His glory. All to Him, all that I am, all that I do, let it reflect Him in all that I am.” That is living for something big, someone big, all for Him. And for His glory.

So this abounding love, agreeing, approving of what is excellent, God’s truths, leading to our spiritual growth of purity and blamelessness, our good works, fruits of righteousness that comes through Christ, all of this, all of it bringing attention not to ourselves but to the One who is behind it all. All glory and praise to God. Or as Paul puts it in Ephesians 3:

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)