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Learning to Love Christians
Paul’s thanksgiving and affection for the Philippians in 1:3 to 8–part 3
Verses 7 to 8
Do you read the labels attached to the products you buy? Some of them are hilarious. On a Sears hairdryer—“Do not use while sleeping.” On a blanket from Taiwan—“Not to be used as protection from a tornado.” On the packaging for an iron—“Do not iron clothes on body.” On a bag of Fritos—“You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside.”
On a Korean kitchen knife—“Warning: keep out of children.” On Nytol sleep aid—“Warning: may cause drowsiness.” On Sainsbury’s peanuts—“Warning: Contains nuts.” What makes them funny is their obviousness. Of course I’m not supposed to use a hair dryer while sleeping. Or, obviously this bag of peanuts contains nuts. Are you nuts?
But to be direct–I’d love to put some obvious labels on some Christians, so every time your spouse looked at you they’d read, “Be thankful for the way you see Christ in me.” Or every time you kids looked at your parents you’d see the obvious label, “Remember, I’m not what I once was and I am not what I will become.”
Or each time you saw your brothers and sisters from FBC you’d read, “Please have me in your heart.” Why? Because we desperately need to learn how to love each other as Christians, which Paul has been modeling for us in his letter to the Philippians. Open your Bibles, take your outline and follow along, for in verses 1 to 2 Paul the humble slave of Christ his Savior writes to the members and leaders of the church in Philippi as saints set apart to serve Christ alone.
Those graced by God as Father and Christ as Lord are also blessed to enjoy loving relationships with each other in God’s family, which Paul models in verses 3 to 8. Read with me from your outline. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
In our final look at this single paragraph, the five main verbs have shown us how to love the Christians in our lives. We learned to . . .
#1 Thank God for Christ in them
Verse 3 says, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” Be grateful for the character of Christ in Christians. Paul didn’t have an easy time in Philippi, but he chose “to remember the best, and forget the rest.” How do we do this? Two ways . . .
First PRAYING for them with Joy
Verse 4, “always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all.” To love the Christians in your life, practice positive praying. The fastest way to change a relationship from bad to good is to begin thanking God for that relationship in prayer. And what can we give thanks in prayer for?
Second Rejoicing over their LOYALTY to Christ
Verse 5, “in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.” The Philippians were like Paul, spreading the Gospel in every possible way and helping Paul with financial gifts and personal help. Their loyalty was so strong, they’ve been faithfully helping Paul for over a decade–making the Philippians a source of great thanksgiving and joy for Paul, even while Paul is under arrest in Rome.
And verse 6, their enduring faithfulness convinced Paul they were genuinely saved, causing him to assure them God would finish what He started in their lives, reminding us to learn to love Christians.
#2 Remember God is not finished with them yet
Verse 6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” I’m not what I used to be, I’m not what I’m gonna be. If you don’t like me today, just hang on, I’m getting better. We can enjoy our spouse, children, and our fellow believers when we remember we are all in process–we have not arrived. But God will complete His work of salvation, and complete it on the day Christ returns.
Now for today, verses 7 to 8, Paul’s example points to three more keys to learning to love Christians in our lives.
#3 Have a Truthful mindset about them
Verse 7 says this, “For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all.” We lose some meaning in the translation from Greek to English, so let me explain. Paul is not merely stating an opinion, but showing you his fixed mindset about the Philippians. The word feel, “For it is only right for me to feel”–we think emotions when we read “feel”. But the Greek word for “feel” means a mental disposition, an action of intellect plus will.
Translated “think” in the KJV, Paul uses this same word several times in this letter. In 2:2, “being of the same mind,” 3:15, “have this attitude,” 3:19, “set their minds,” 4:2, “think the same,” 4:10, “have concern”–and elsewhere in the New Testament as ought to think, think with sound judgment. Overall in verse 7, the word “feel” is best understood as a mindset. Paul has set his mind. Like cement that’s set is now hardened and will not change, Paul is expressing his unchangeable viewpoint. When Paul says he feels this way, he means his opinion of the Philippians is certain and solid.
Again, what is this mindset? In verse 3, Paul is thankful to God for the Philippians, expressing his thanks, verse 4 in joyous prayer, and verse 5 thankful for their participation in the Gospel for over ten years, which gives Paul confidence verse 6 they’re truly saved and will be kept secure in Christ until Christ returns when they will all be one with Christ forever in Heaven.
Paul was not a fair weather friend–Paul would not like you when you have a cabin up in Mammoth in winter, but then dump you for the beach house friend in summer. No, Paul had a fixed mindset about the Philippians. To love Christians, you must decide to be loyal. You must choose to believe the best about Christians, have a fixed mindset, even when life is strained between you.
The divorce rate proves how difficult this is today. But as a Christian, we’re to fix our minds in a thankful (verse 3), prayerful (verse 4), and hopeful (verse 5) manner in order to love others. And this mindset is not only hardened in cement, but Paul says in verse 7, it is right. It is right.
Verse 7, “It is only right for me to feel this way about you all.” It is right means more than mere appropriateness. “Only right” for Paul expresses a moral and spiritual rightness–not merely that which is expected, but that which is required. Paul makes certain we know this is not wishful positive speak.
Paul is not a non-objective person giving a fanciful opinion. This is not praise from Paul in order to score points. No–this mindset is literally “righteous”. The word “right” is actually the Greek word for righteous. Paul says this unchangeable opinion about you is righteous–this is a God-honoring choice, a Christ-pleasing decision. The apostle Paul is telling his beloved Philippians, “It is righteous for me to have a set mindset about you.”
Paul is demonstrating his love for the Philippians by having an unwavering opinion of them, which God says is a righteous decision. And if you’re to learn to love Christians, you must decide to have a loyal mindset about them as well. Choose to have a thankful (verse 3), prayerful (verse 4), hopeful (verse 5) mindset. Thank God for them, pray for them, rejoice in their loyal commitment to Christ, believe the best, and recognize God is not finished with them. Embrace the same unchangeable mindset Paul displays toward the Philippians here.
Everything in our culture works against this. Leadership compromise, media cynicism, biting TV comedies, conservative commentators with their harsh sarcasm will drive a Christ-like, loyal mindset right out of your heart. Then if your parents betrayed you, your child said something hateful, your spouse deserted you, or a so-called Christian friend ripped you off–that only adds gas to the burning fire of suspicion, distrust and cynicism in your heart.
Some of you sitting here have allowed yourself to feel justified in your “be wise as a serpent and shoot all the doves” negative mindset. You’ve been hurt, your heart is hard, you’ve been betrayed and burned too many times for you to develop a thankful, God is in the process, hopeful, loyal, set mindset. I believe God wants to crack through the hard shell covering your heart. For God says, “The thankful, hopeful mindset of verses 3 to 6 is righteous–it is a Christ-like mindset.”
You say, “Chris, I can’t trust them.” What you mean to say is you won’t love them. Biblical love involves trust, for love believes all things. When you refuse to trust, you’re not like Christ–you’re grieving the Spirit and undermining your assurance. Remember, Paul is talking to genuine Christians–those who in verse 6 so proved their faith through years of sacrifice, service and perseverance, Paul knew were saved.
Paul is not telling you to trust a phony believer or an unbeliever, but to believe the best of those who have demonstrated not a perfect life, but a fruitful life. Paul says this to the Philippians who were hurting each other. They were thinking of themselves as more important than others. Some were dividing up against one another. So they desperately needed a set, righteous mindset. So Paul shows them what it looks like.
Will you seek that which is righteous? Will you adopt a thankful, joyful, hopeful mindset towards the body of Christ, our church? Look carefully at verse 7, “For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all.” Paul is talking to the entire church family at Philippi. Like Paul, will you extend a set mindset to your church? Will you believe the best, give thanks and pray for this body, maintaining a loyal mindset toward FBC?
It’s amazing to me to watch how strained relationships can sour people to a church. If they obeyed the Word of God here, they’d actually grow more intimate with each other as family. Do you have a loyal mindset toward your church–a “this is my family, Christ will make us one” mentality? You say, “Chris, that’s asking a lot!” No, actually Paul takes it a step further. Why does Paul choose to have a righteous mindset?
Verse 7, “For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart.” Love starts with a thought in our minds, but Paul expands his expression of love for the Philippians by saying, “I have you in my heart,” which includes more than thoughts and feelings. Solomon warned in Proverbs 4:23, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”
The heart is the authentic you, who you really are, where you desire, deliberate, and where you decide. The heart is the place of spiritual activity, the seat of your inner spiritual life. The heart is the place where God meets you, the place of our fellowship with Him, the place God reveals Himself to us. That is why believers are commanded to have a clean heart, a pure heart, an obedient heart, a worshiping heart, a forgiving heart, and a loving heart. Your heart is crucial.
And in verse 7, Paul tells the Philippians he has a Christ like, righteous, loyal mindset about all of them because he has them all in his heart. Paul is sold out to them. Heart in our culture is the center of our feelings. Heart for Paul here is the center of his being, his person–the seat of personality with its mind, emotions and will. Paul isn’t saying he merely cares for the Philippians—no. They have all of him–mind, will, and feelings . . . his heart.
Paul’s not the hard-hearted truth monger. God turned this legalistic, hateful, murderer, into a compassionate, heart-driven lover of people, as well as a lover of truth. Christians who love people have them in their heart. Jean is in my heart. So are my sons, their wives, and my grandson and next grandson coming in January. As a church family, all of you are in my heart. Many of you individually are in my heart, and I’m thankful that for many of you, I’m in your heart as well.
As Paul is under arrest, he’s like a father who is away at war, expressing in his letter total concern for the Philippians. He has them in his heart, as they go through exactly what Paul is going through. Read verse 7, “For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart [listen to this], since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.”
The Philippians are going through what Paul is going through. What do I mean? Look close at verse 7. “Since both in my imprisonment”–literally that’s “my chains”, meaning Paul is under arrest as he writes this. Then he says, “and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel,” using two legal terms to describe his trial before Caesar.
His defense tells us Paul has already defended himself before the Roman authorities and will probably be released soon. The Greek word “defense” describes how Paul removed the suspicions about Christianity at his trial by answering the allegations of his accusers before the Roman courts. The term “confirmation” in verse 7, “confirmation of the gospel,” tells us Paul not only dispelled the negative accusations, but successfully proclaimed the truth of the Gospel, proving his claims about Christ are historically true.
He confirmed the truth of the Gospel, the good news, which is this–only God Himself can forgive you, transform you now and bring you home to Heaven later. And it’s good news because God Himself did it through His Son Jesus Christ. Defense deals with the negative, errant thinking that’s been corrected about the Gospel. And confirmation deals with the positive proclamation of the truth of the Gospel.
You do this too. Often before you are able to share the Gospel you have to correct the errors people have embraced. So you defend the Gospel by correcting the errant ideas people hold, and you positively confirm the truth about who Christ is and what Christ did on the cross.
Now look carefully at verse 7, “since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.” The Philippians are all partakers of God’s grace with Paul. There’s a grace God gives when we suffer for Christ’s sake–you’ve tasted it and you’ve watched others display it. So Paul could be saying, the Philippians share in that special grace because of the financial gift and personal ministry that came through Epaphroditus.
I believe when Paul says, “You all are partakers of grace with me,” he is referring to the suffering and hardship of the Philippians, which is exactly what Paul is going through. The Philippians are also being put on trial for their faith. Some of them are arrested for believing Jesus Christ as Lord instead of Caesar as lord.
When Paul says, “partakers of grace with me,” he’s telling them, “just as I, Paul, am receiving special grace from God through this arrest and suffering, so also you Philippians are receiving God’s grace in your arrest and sufferings. You’re partaking, literally partnering in this grace.” Prove it, Chris. Sure. Look at Philippians 1:29 to 30, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”
Some of the Philippian Christians are being jailed and forced to stand trial over their loyalty to Christ as Lord, over Caesar as lord–a trial where they have the same unique opportunity as Paul to proclaim the Gospel. I know–you’re just like Paul, the Philippians and me. When I’m given a severe trial, I immediately start praying, “Lord, let this trial glorify you. Let these circumstances give me a unique opportunity to share the Gospel.” Whether the trial is about my kids, my health, my family, finances, relationships, or ministry–each trial is a grace from God, and an opportunity to glorify God. And the darker the trial is, the brighter Christ can shine.
No wonder Paul says his mindset is righteous toward them. Not only have they given a financial gift to Paul, delivered by a man of God sent to minister to Paul personally. But they’re also going through exactly what Paul is experiencing, some of them suffering imprisonment, standing trial or beatings for the Gospel–God’s grace.
Learning to love genuine Christians involves embracing a truthful, Christ-like, trusting mindset about them. Remembering each Christian has their own story, recalling each believer struggles with their own weaknesses, and every single saint battles with their own sinful bents, each disciple experiences specific trials and tests by God making each and every Christian completely unique. Learning to love believers requires Christians to stop comparing themselves with other believers. Comparing ourselves is wrong–it damages relationships.
1 If you think you’re better than another, you’ll be proud
2 If you’re worse than another, you’ll give into pity–more pride
3 To compare means you don’t trust the sovereign control of God who gives and withholds through His all-knowing, loving wisdom
If you want to learn to love Christians, remember they may seem to be more fortunate than you in some area, but they’re all going to experience some unique form of suffering and trial for the sake of Christ–a unique grace. God promises every true Christian they’ll suffer for the Gospel. It’s a biblical promise, and a powerful way we all get to experience the grace of God.
Verse 7, “Since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.” To learn to love believers, you need to adopt a thankful, praying with joy, grateful for their loyalty to Christ, God is not finished with them yet, unbreakable righteous mindset recognizing, though we’re each different, we’re all graced.
So with that rich Christian, or warped homeschooler, or funny looking saint who stares at you, the loud joker and the one who looks like the bully who beat you up in third grade, ask God to change your mindset about them to see them as someone who is different, but graced by Christ the same as you. Two final examples–as Paul shares his love for the Philippians, he models a love for believers which is . . .
#4 Be SINCERE
Look at how Paul begins verse 8, “For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Because it is so crucial the Philippians know how ardently Paul loves them, and for them to take to heart his admonitions, the great apostle actually appeals to the God who cannot lie and the God who judges the hearts of all men as his witness to the truth of His love. Paul is not exaggerating. These are not words of mush but a genuine expression of his heart.
And Paul calls on God as his personal witness—“my witness.” I am not lying; I am being fully sincere. Paul says, “God knows I am telling you the truth.” This morning if I could plug these projectors into your brain and all of us could see what you are thinking, we’d see some of you thinking about lunch, your spouse, your kids, more sleep, what’s next? Some gal is wondering, “I wonder if that guy will ask me out?” Some young married guy is hoping his wife will look as good as Jean Mueller when she is a little older. And more of you are thankfully thinking about the Lord and His Word. But if we could plug the projector into Paul’s brain, we’d find all he’s written and about to write is true. And we know that because God is his witness.
To learn to love Christians, you must be sincere. You cannot flatter–flattery is based upon deception. Flattery is spoken so people feel good about you. Compliments are given to keep clients committed to a company. But sincere words of thanks, encouragement and heart-felt emotion are given to build people up in Christ. Genuine words are given to honor the Lord. Authentic speech points others to Christ. Don’t flatter.
Paul says, “Be sincere” in Ephesians 4:25. “Laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” And James 5:12 repeats Christ with, “Let your yes be yes, and your no, no; so that you may not fall under judgment.” Speak the truth, tell the truth, be sincere; be genuine in order to love your brothers and sisters in Christ.
How? Do what Paul has already done here in verses 3 to 8. As you give thanks, pray with joy, rejoice in their loyalty to Christ, remember God is not finished with them yet and maintain a righteous mindset about them. Then you can say anything to them and they will still know you love them. They’ll not be offended because they know you believe the best about them.
Then you can pour out the genuine heart of Christ like affection for a believer and they’ll believe you. For that’s exactly what Paul does now in the second half of verse 8, with the final key verb of this paragraph. To learn to love Christians then . . .
#5 Allow Christ’s affections to be EXPRESSED through you
Notice how verse 8 ends, “For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Paul pours out the affections of Christ in his heart to the Philippians. And if you’re to learn to love the Christians in your life, you need to be allowing God to love them through you. Some Christian marriages struggle and friendships end because they love each other superficially–they don’t depend on the Spirit to love through them. They’re not relying upon God’s love reservoir already poured out in them.
As Romans 5:5 affirms, “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” If you’re a genuine Christian, God the Holy Spirit already lives in and through you–meaning you have all the love you could possibly need. You rely upon the Holy Spirit and depend on God’s Word to let His love out through you.
You say, “I can’t love him or her anymore.” Then try the divine alternative–let Christ love them by His Spirit through you. Choose to be dependent and obedient by faith and God will do incredible things through you.
Verse 8, “How I long for you all.” Paul’s longing means he is straining after them with an anxious yearning. Like coming home to my family after being gone overseas–there’s a yearning that’s almost unbearable.
And Paul’s yearning for them is with a deeply felt affection–verse 8, “with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Affection literally means the bowels–the intestines, stomach and liver, the inward parts . . . the strongest word for emotion in the Greek language. It is the most compassionate word. Affection describes Paul’s gut feelings. Not too romantic, but definitely descriptive–Paul reminds the Philippians he feels deep emotion for them, loving them from his guts.
Men, don’t use this on your wives–“You move my guts, Honey.” She’s gonna slap you, or point you to the bathroom. The emotions were described as guts in Greek culture, for when you are emotional you tighten up in the gut. To learn to love Christians in your life, don’t merely tolerate them, learn to long for them with gut-wrenching affection. How?
First EXPRESS your heart
Verse 8, “How I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Paul models, “I’m anxiously yearning for you with Christ’s affection. I open my entire inner being to you, showing you my gut affection. I am expressing my deepest, innermost feelings for you.” Not a superficial, “Hi, how are you?” Nor a mere reporting of facts, “See that sky, talk about blue.” But the most personal, intimate, open, honest communication from the heart.
Like right now, to a few in this room, I love the way I see the joy of Christ on your face and your hunger for the Word as you interact with the sermon. You are a great encouragement and keep me preaching–that’s sincere, genuine affection. And Paul’s affections are heart to heart and sincere. Paul doesn’t merely long to be with them by letter, nor merely be reuniting with them someday. Paul says, “If I could, I long to be with you all the time.” The verb “long for” is present tense–continually long for. God is witness–Paul longs for the Philippians all the time. How else?
Second Rely upon CHRIST to love through you
Verse 8, “How I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Christ lives in every true Christian. Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” As we live by dependent faith in Christ, Christ will manifest Himself through you more and more.
When you see an injustice, you will feel His righteous anger. When you see the starving you will feel His compassion. When your heart is knit to a people who have the same passion for the things of Christ that you do, you will feel His affections for His people through you. This is what Paul is saying in verse 8. The affections Christ has for his own beloved children are overflowing in the heart of Paul, and he expresses them here.
To learn to love the Christians in your life, remember there is a three-way bond in your heart–you, them and Christ. Children to parents, wife to husband, shepherd to group, discipler to disciplee, believing friend to believing friend–as you give thanks pray with joy, rejoice in their loyalty to Christ. Remember God is not finished with them yet and maintain a righteous mindset–and if you are filled with His Spirit, Christ Himself will express affections for people through you–the affection of Christ Jesus.
It doesn’t matter if you’re quiet, an academic, proper, stoic, dry or distant–if Christ is in you, He will show through you with genuine affections for people. And at times it can be a little scary . . .
Third Don’t LIMIT the extent of HIS love
Verse 8, “How I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” This is the fourth time in verses 3 through 8 Paul says “for you all.” There were people in Philippi who caused concern–yet together, as they all served Christ, they all became the object of Paul’s Spirit-directed affections. There are times it’s difficult to feel affection for a believer, but within the context of the church something changes. You can love them because they’re part of the whole. Alone is tough, but as a part of the church family better.
Paul longed for them all with Christ’s affections because the Philippi family together meant so much to him. Become a Christian who expresses your heart. Allow Christ to show His affections through you and don’t limit it to a few friends. But embrace the body of Christ with Christ’s affections–then each individual member will be more precious to you than you ever thought possible.
So are you curious? The phrase, “the affection of Christ Jesus” has captured my heart. Think about the implications. One commentator says it this way, “The affection of Christ Jesus … expresses a yearning that is as much physical as mental, a longing love which moves the whole inner being. But what a remarkable expression Paul uses! He loves them ‘in the inner being of Christ Jesus.’ Certainly this means that he patterns his love for them on that of Christ… but the wording demands something more than the notion of ‘imitation.’ Paul is saying … he has so advanced in union with Christ that it is as if Christ were expressing His love through Paul. Two hearts are beating as one—indeed one heart, the greater, has taken over and the emotional constitution of Christ Himself has taken possession of His servant.”
I want to become that man–Christ through me. How do we learn to love the Christians in our lives? We’re to be thankful for Christ for believers through prayer with joy, always remembering their loyalty to the Gospel. We know God is not finished with them yet. We’re developing a loyal mindset about them. We’re sincere with them. And we allow Christ’s affections to be expressed through us to them. And next week–we’re to pray for their love to grow.
1 Emotions overflow from a correct THEOLOGY
The more you know about Christ, the more emotional you’re going to become. The more you understand Him from His Word, the more you will break out into praise. Throughout the New Testament, Paul writes profound truths, then breaks into praise over those truths. As I am studying the Word, I find myself suddenly weeping for joy and praying in thanks for who God is. If your heart is cold, the path to follow is a deeper study of the Word, seeking to intimately know and fully enjoy the author of the Word.
2 Make CHOICES
Give thanks, pray for, remember God is not done, so you can develop a righteous mindset and express sincere affections towards your family in Christ, and you will learn to love them too. Make choices–be a doer of the Word, not merely a hearer. Don’t wait for a feeling, step out in faith. Stop living Hollywood and start living Holy Spirit. Stop looking for a sign and start obeying the Scripture.
3 Turn to CHRIST to be able to enjoy Christians
It is Christ who makes Christians so special–if you don’t know Him, of course you won’t love them. Sin is blocking your ability to love others. Sin is stopping the resources of Christ through you. Sin is what must be dealt with and only God can do it. God did it for you by pouring out His wrath for sin upon His own perfect Son in your place. If you surrender your life to Christ, God will wash you of your sin and fill your life with His love. Turn to Christ today. Let’s pray.