The Sermon for the 2nd Sunday in Advent December 9, 2018
Text: Philippians 1:3-11 ILCW Series C 18:2097
Theme: Dear God, I Want to Thank You …
Dear God, I want to thank You this season for the greatest gift You have given me, my Savior. Nothing can match what He means to me. He’s my forgiveness, my salvation, my life; He’s my everything! Even the next thing, which is at the heart of my prayer today, and comes to me through Him. Dear God, along with my Christ, I want to thank You …
I …for my Christian friends and our wonderful fellowship. Every time I think of them, I can’t help but see grace at work. Forgive me when I take our fellowship in You for granted, for the gift of Christian friends and this wonderful fellowship is from heaven and is without compare, except for the Savior Himself, for without Him I would have no Christian friends. Thank you for it.
What a different world this would be if we all took more seriously the deeper implication of our fellowship in Christ! What a different church ours would be if we all would look upon our fellow believers with thanksgiving in our hearts to God for the special relationship that You have given us. I could not do without it. Heavens no! In it You keep us secure and growing in love so that all will be well right up until the end when You come again.
What You have done here is given me special partners in this world – special Christian partners who center their lives around You. We have a lot of partners in many areas of life. In each one we have things in common (Kotvocr). There are partners at work, partners at school, partners at home, partners in organizations to which we belong. But the most important partners we have are those that You have graciously given us in this fellowship within Your Church.
St. Paul understood that. That’s the reason he wrote, “l thank my God every time I remember you. Every time I pray for al l of you, I always pray with joy because of your fellowship (Kotvc.ovta.) in the gospel from the first day until now.”
Why did Paul thank You for his Christian friends in Philippi? Why am I thankful for my friends here? Because You have given them through Christ for my comfort, support, and help with our witness to the Gospel. I confess that I could be more appreciative of them as the caring, Christ-centered friends whom they are.
They watch out for me in my life. They care when something is going wrong for me. They can’t always show it and I don’t always see it. Sometimes we don’t even know how to express it. But as we are one body in Christ, that concern is there. And I know that they keep me in their prayers, as I do them.
You have made it clear in Your Word that each believer is indispensible, no matter how great or small they would appear to be. Christian faith places equal concern in us for each other. If one suffers, all suffer with him; if one is honored, everyone rejoices with him. In the present we see but a poor reflection of this in us. But one day we shall see it fully even as we will be fully known (1Co.l2:26). For this, Dear God, I want-to thank You!
And there is more, something for which I am even more thankful to You for my Christian friends and our wonderful fellowship. Paul said it best when he wrote, “I thank my God every time. .. because of your fellowship in the Gospel … In my chains and in my defense and confirmation of the Gospel, you all share in this grace with me.”
It’s the Gospel that binds me together with my friends, and faith in it. It’s God’s grace, His undeserved love for sinners that ties me to them. It’s a mutual sharing in the blessings of forgiveness and salvation won by Christ when He came to earth to be born our Savior. None of us will ever receive a gift more costly and more precious than this. In it the punishment of hell is taken away, and You rescue us for Your heavenly kingdom. I get to enjoy and, best of all, proclaim these eternal blessings with my friends in a world that needs to know this for salvation.
I simply marvel, Lord, at your grace and ability to work these things out for us. And You will not fail to do it – not for me, nor for any of my friends as we keep looking to You in Christ.
So often I find myself failing in my own tasks. I don’t seem to finish them. But Lord, You always finish whatever You start.
When Adam and Eve fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, You immediately revealed Your plan of salvation when You said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will crush your head.” That was the first promise that You gave of the birth of Christ Jesus. Ever after that, throughout the long history of this world, You revealed more information as to how You would do it.
You said that Savior would be born of a virgin. You said that He would be born in Bethlehem. You said that many nations would be drawn to Him. Sometimes, throughout the long centuries, Your people wondered if You were going to carry out that plan. Then on that first Christmas morn, You sent Your Son for us.
Later the Lord Jesus died on the cross. Then He stood in the doorway of an empty tomb, the Victor over sin, death and the devil. Then He ascended back to His throne above where He watches over us. The plan was completed, just as You said. You never abandoned us, and You never will. So, when Paul writes, “I am confident that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion,” that means a whole lot. And I get to share the certainty of its joy and its hope with my Christian friends in our wonderful fellowship of faith! Things are always best when we get to share them with those closest to us. For this I want to thank You, dear God. And I ask one more thing:
II. Keep us secure and growing in this so that all will be well when You come again.
Your apostle said it this way: “This is my prayer: that our love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that we may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless on the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.”
Oh, Lord, help me be a confident Christian and pastor like Paul was. He knew that everything for time and eternity – every success, every growth, every point of proper preparation – lies in Your hands. Help my Christian friends and me to be just as confident, secure and growing in our faith till the end, like it was with Paul
The more I think about Paul and his situation, the more what You did in his life astounds me. What hope and confidence could he actually have at this time? This letter was not penned from a desk or a comfortable easy chair. Paul was in a room to himself, chained to a Roman soldier, a prisoner for preaching the Gospel. He was restrained from doing the thing he loved most -preaching. That must have hurt him because that’s all he wanted to do – share the blessings of a Savior with others. Because of that his concern for his Christian friends was great. What would happen to them? Would they wander from the faith like sheep without a shepherd? Would his friends fall and be lost for all eternity?
No! For the security and the growth of our faith does not rest in us, it rests in You who promises to be faithful to those who love You. So Paul could write, “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus ….And I pray that your love may increase more and more in knowledge and every insight. .. so that you will be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”
Lord, we are confident. You who began this good work of faith within us will carry it on to completion. From now until Jesus returns, all will be well for You have promised: ”I am your God. will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness. Nothing will pluck you from my hand.”
Oh, what a promise, dear God, a precious gift from Your hand that my Christian friends and I get to unwrap this Christmas season. Keep us secure and growing in our understanding of it -together. For these blessings, Dear God, I want to thank You this season. Grant it in all of our lives; for Jesus’ sake. Amen.