Do You Love? Then Love More

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)

I want to begin where we finished last week. Last week we looked at verses 7 and 8 primarily.

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. (Philippians 1:7-8)

We can summarize these verses and that message like this: Paul has them all in his heart, in his inner man – that is, the church people in Philippi. They share in gospel ministry together, they have the same goals, which are exalting Christ in prison, in persecution, in suffering, in financial giving, they are in ministry together, they are mutually united in Christ in one family, and so they work together doing the work of Christ. And with all of this there is a deep, emotional, God-given affection that extends to the core of Paul’s being. 

And I gave some direction, some strategic direction on ways that we can cultivate these attitudes toward each other. Remember that here was the application, what we can do to reach toward these attitudes so that we can share what Paul so enjoyed:

  • Begin praying for your brothers and sisters in Christ here – I mean, specifically pray for them. Use the prayer list, ask a few people how you can pray for them, take the church directory and pray for each person every week. Prayer, sincere prayer, can bind your heart together with others in the body.
  • Interact weekly with others in this body – Get to know those you don’t know. Have lunch, coffee, or ice cream. Make a phone call, have a family over, spend some time building involvement with your Christian brothers and sisters that you will be spending eternity with. When was the last time that you initiated a get-together with someone you don’t know well from our church?
  • Get plugged into ministry with others from our church – Ask someone, “How are you ministering within this body?” and see if you can work alongside them. Ask an elder or a deacon how you can get involved. Share in gospel ministry with each other.
  • Find ways to meet practical needs of others in our body – Is there a mother struggling to keep up with her responsibilities? Help her out. Someone having mechanical problems with their car and you can help? In the name of Christ, help! Someone need childcare, or maybe just an encouraging word? Can you counsel someone struggling through life? Jump in and do it for God’s glory.
  • Are you struggling in a relationship with someone in our body? Seek to resolve known issues right away. Don’t let conflict or any other thing interrupt the unity that you have in Christ with another believer. Seek to do what you can biblically to make it right, so that your relationship with that person can mirror the very unity that Christ has with His Father.

 

We have been called to live life together in the joy of Christ. Paul is celebrating that here, and we can celebrate with that same joy! As we do these things, or things like this, our hearts will be drawn through Christ to each other as a family; we are a spiritual family.

I’m repeating these points of application from last week for a reason. Out of a concern that I have regarding preaching and Sunday mornings and our tendencies, perhaps, to hear something and then to quickly move on to the next thing without applying the first thing we heard. I just don’t want us to brush past too quickly what God has for us and miss out on the joy of living in what we have learned. I know I can easily not apply something I have learned. And I want to urge you not to let that happen.

I spent some time yesterday doing something I’ve never done much of before. I like to cook out on a gas grill, but I’ve never been much for cleaning it. Now you’re probably thinking, “Have I ever eaten anything the Shooks have grilled? Because that sounds really gross.” I mean I do brush off the grates, you know, clean the part where the food touches, but I don’t like take it apart and clean all under that where all the grease drips down. I’ve had a reason for that, besides just being lazy about it, but I won’t go into that now. Anyway I took it all apart – took out the grates and put them in a large tote in soapy water, and there were these metal pieces on top, just above the burners, shaped kind of like a roof top, slanted either way and about 16 or 18 inches long, and they protect the burner from getting covered with grease – I took those out, and threw all of them in the soapy water. I just let all of that sit in the soapy water for an hour or two while I scrubbed all the inside of the grill housing. It was a huge mess. Some of you may do this every weekend, I don’t know, but I’m just telling you I don’t, this was new for me.

So I got done with all the grease in the grill housing, and went back to the parts soaking in the soapy water. I cleaned two of the roof shaped pieces that protected the burners from grease, and they came clean really easy because of the soaking. I then picked up a third one out of the water and found that the fourth one was stuck to it, underneath it. They stacked perfectly together, being shaped the same, and when I pulled them apart, the one on the bottom was completely dry on the side that was touching the other. Completely dry. It had been under the water just like all the others, but totally unaffected by the soap water. 

I fear at times that we can hear truth, sometimes the same truths over and over again, we can hear about love, real Christian love, we can even be convicted about some passage on love, we can be convinced that we should love more by the strength of Christ, and yet we can walk away dry, in practice we can walk away as dry as that metal strip that had been soaking in soapy water. I hope that is not you or me.

So hopefully with verses 7 and 8 on your mind, because it is important, we move right into verse 9 with great ease. I want us to see verses 7 and 8 flowing perfectly into verse 9.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment (Philippians 1:9)

Paul goes from thanksgiving for these Christians – he discusses why he is so thankful for them – and moves to sincere prayer for them. He is is so thankful to have them in his life. His is with them, they age together spiritually, united. If we are that way with each other, if we are together spiritually, united one to another through Christ, then shouldn’t we, for each other, for the sake of the church, for the spread of the gospel in a lost work, shouldn’t we be moved to prayer for one another?

If I am in your heart, if you are in my heart, then what greater thing can we do than to go before God, who possesses all wisdom, all power, all love, to go to Him and offer up prayer of all kinds on behalf of each other? “God, help my brother in this, help my sister in Christ with this, intervene in their life in their difficulty, show yourself mighty in their life. God, help them to see your glory and be dazzled by your grace.” If we are in each other’s hearts, we have this way that we can enter into their lives, their suffering, their joys, their troubles, their work, and one way we can do this is through prayer. It’s not that, “I guess there is not much I can do for you, so I guess I’ll just pray.” No, how about if we don’t do anything before we pray, how about if we see prayer as a prerequisite to any work that God puts before us?

It is interesting as we think about prayer to consider how much Jesus prayed and talked about prayer. I have often been very convicted when I charge off to do something without prayer, how I am really doing it in my own strength. God the Son prayed to the Father when He was walking on this earth, and He teaches us to do the same. Here are some ways we can pray:

  • We can pray for our enemies – “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)
  • We should pray sincerely, and not to try and impress others – “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Matthew 6:5)
  • We can pray privately, knowing that God is always there – “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “ (Matthew 6:6)
  • We can pray with simple words, we don’t have to be poetic or impressive with our choice of words – “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:7)
  • We can pray evangelistically – “therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:38)
  • We can pray alone after a hard day of ministry, after having met fierce opposition, or just after long hours of service – “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23)
  • We can pray boldly that God’s will be done, even if it looks or feels really scary – “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’” (Matthew 26:39)
  • We can pray as a means of facing and not giving into fierce temptation – “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

 

We can and should pray for each other in these ways, pray for those who are close in your heart and for those whom you are learning to hold close to your heart. Paul talks a lot about prayer and he prays a lot. His favorite prayer of mine is from Ephesians 1. He just gave the Christians in Ephesus what would seem like more truth than maybe what they could handle in one sitting, glorious truths about salvation, the gospel, God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and how the entire Godhead works in us and for us in incredible ways, and wrapping up those thoughts he prays like this:

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:15-23)

You can pray for me like that! Pray for each other like that! Paul does pray for the Philippian church, and for them he begins his prayer with this: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment” His prayer is that their love abound more and more.

They already were loving. He is not accusing them of not being loving. He is praying that their love, the love they already possess in Christ, that it may do what? Abound more and more. Many years earlier, before Paul penned these words, he wrote to the Thessalonians with a similar prayer. He prayed that their love also would increase, but in that prayer he is a little more specific about this love when he says of this love that it be a love for each other and for everyone else.

and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you (1 Thessalonians 3:12)

In that case he specifies a direction for their love, there are great similarities in the two prayers contextually, and I think that the prayer in Philippians is directed the same way. I think Paul’s prayer then is that their love for one another abound more and more. This love is the same love with which God loves us. It is a kind love, it has been shown and proven ultimately to us through the crucifixion of His Son. It is an ultimate love, a sacrificial love, it is a very thoughtful, sober kind of love, it is a purposeful love. It is a love that places a high value on God, that in turn is seen as we actively seek the benefit of others. It is love as we have learned about from 1 Corinthians 13.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

It is this love that Paul prays will abound more and more. That it will overflow from their hearts and spill out on those around them, or that it will gush out, flow forcefully out in ministry to others. This is a love that does not mix well with selfish pursuits. It does not go with thinking highly of oneself. We cannot put ourselves first and do this love at the same time. Selfish ambition and conceit, which Paul will bring up in chapter 2, undermines this love. Demanding our way and this love don’t mix, A thrill in winning an argument and this love doesn’t mix. Holding on to all our stuff while others are in need and this love are incompatible. 

Yes, you love, I think to a large degree we love one another, even sacrificially at times, and yet can’t we pray, shouldn’t we pray, that we abound more and more and more and more in love for each other? You may be thinking now, “Here we go again on love. We spent weeks on this through 1 Corinthians 13, don’t we all have this now?”

I’ve got to tell you that I have not been a part of a congregation anywhere that has loved each other more than what I have seen here. Never before in my experience. I see many of you reaching out to each other in tremendous ways. What a blessing that is to see and to experience. I hear testimonies from many of you about this very thing, and I know that I only hear a small fraction of what really goes on. You guys know what I am saying, right? But we can, by God’s grace, by His power, abound in love even more. And while we as a body are loving, maybe there are some who haven’t really gotten on board so much in loving others in practical ways. Maybe you are still struggling to hold others here in your heart. Maybe you have heard a lot of teaching on love and yet you feel like a hearer, but not a doer. Are you loving in a way that is pleasing to God?

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment (Philippians 1:9)

Lastly, our love is to be rooted in knowledge and discernment. In knowledge would be in truth, in the truths of Scripture. Jesus said “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” Our love is to be rooted in God’s Word. How do we express love? We live out God’s Word in other people’s lives. As we live in the knowledge of God’s Word, we show love to the brothers, right? Love is not wishy washy. It is grounded in truth. We love like the good Samaritan, we love by obeying Jesus when He said, “Go into all the world and make disciples.” We love as we consider other people’s needs ahead of our own. We love as we sacrifice, as Christ did, for the church we love, as we obediently pray like Jesus describes prayer. When we say, “I don’t know how to love,” we can go to the Word and see how it says we can love. This is very practical. Pick a verse, a passage, study it, and make application. If your true desire is to please Him, you will be expressing love as you live out the application. You will also, get this, you will also be loving your neighbor.

Lastly for today, our love is to be discerning. Paul prays for that. The word here translated discerning is from a Greek word that is only used this one time in the New Testament. It refers to a high level of biblical or theological, moral and spiritual perception. It also implies the right application of the knowledge, like wisdom. So it is an ability to take knowledge, biblical knowledge, and to apply it well.

So Paul prays for an abounding love, in the knowledge of God’s Word, applied with godly wisdom. That sounds like what we need. That is how Paul prays for those he holds in his heart. We can pray that for each other, can’t we? We need this.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment (Philippians 1:9)