For many of us it is time to put away all the Christmas decorations and take one last look at the various Christmas cards we received from friends far and wide. I have a great deal of affection for these friends and family members, and I long to be with them on a more consistent basis. I have that same feeling toward you as well. In my brief time at this church I have been blessed with new friends, and I have come to cherish you in my heart. I look forward to seeing you each week. It is my hope and prayer that this is true for you as well.
We come to church not only looking for God, but also looking for a community. Some of you may not feel like you belong anywhere. You may have a hard time connecting with a group of people. In this day and age, it is easy to live isolated lives. We are so busy, so distracted, pulled and pushed and prodded into so many directions that it is tempting not to pursue life together with others. On Sunday mornings it may be tempting to arrive late and leave early. It may be tempting to keep to ourselves, to keep our distance and remain on the margin of each other’s life, but this is not the kind of journey of faith that God has in mind for us.
Philippians is a letter that gives us a glimpse of what authentic and vibrant Christian fellowship can be like. The apostle Paul writes to them to encourage them… to abound in love, to partner together to advance the Gospel, and to grow mature in Christ. And he wants them to do it together, all for the glory and praise of God! I’ve been praying that this series in Philippians will help us to further our unity as a church, strengthen our vision for persevering in the work of the Gospel, and encourage us to pray for ourselves and one another to grow in Christ-likeness. Our passage this week, Philippians 1:7-11, is a great start in that direction, so I encourage you to read it, reflect on it, memorize it, and make it part of your daily prayer life.
“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 are all partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1:7-11)
With the affection of Christ Jesus,