Prayer as Supplication, Part 2
Prayer as Supplication, Part 2
I’m not much of a planner. I tend to plan on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis. One of my spiritual gifts is procrastination. It has taken me a while to develop this spiritual gift, I’ve tended towards procrastinating in developing it. This lack of planning hasn’t been all that bad for me. I tend to always accomplish my responsibilities when I need to. Finish them “right on time.” I don’t finish them at the “last moment.” I finish them “right on time.”
One of my favorite preachers has said that when he is asked the question, “What’s your next sermon series?” or “What will you be preaching on in 6 months?” his response is, “I don’t know. I just know what I will be preaching on this coming Sunday.” That’s my approach to preaching and work. I take it day by day, week by week. I don’t think much past that.
Sometimes, though, a lack of planning can come back to you and bite you. Sometimes a lack of planning has not resulted well for me. There are some things that we must plan for in life. Overprocrastination is not a virtue. A perpetual, “I’ll do that tomorrow” attitude is not good. Rather, this type of mindset is indicative of lethargy, laziness, indifference, and foolishness. There are some future events in life that are so important that they require us to plan for them.
The Bible is a book that tells us to plan for the future. The Bible speaks of the future repeatedly. The Bible speaks of death, judgment, salvation, eternity, heaven, and hell repeatedly. These are all future events for us. We must plan for these events. We must be mindful that they way things are now for us is not the way things will always be.
Specifically, the Bible tells us that we absolutely must be mindful of Christ’s return. The reason why we must be mindful is because we must be ready for this day. We have to plan. We have to think about the return of Christ so that we will be ready for it. It is coming. It will come. Just as Christ came once, so also, he will come again. We must plan. And that planning starts right now.
With this introduction, go ahead and turn with me to Phil 1:9. This is the general theme that we will explore this more. We must plan right now for Jesus’ return. Read the passage with me. I will read through v. 11.
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, And so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
For last week and this week, we are exploring this passage of Scripture. What Paul is doing here is he is praying for the Philippians. He is supplicating God on their behalf. Last week we explored vv. 9 through the first past of v. 10. I argued last week that Paul is praying that the Philippians abound in a certain type of love—a discerning love—so that they may determine what is the excellent things of life, namely Jesus Christ.
Paul continues with this prayer in the second part of v. 10 through v. 11. Paul wants the Philippian’s love so that they are ready for Christ’s return. Let’s break this thought up into three points.
The Current Manifestation of Love
My first point for you all this morning is this: “The Current Manifestation of Love.” For this morning’s sermon, I will actually start with v. 11. This is where I am getting this point. But to understand v. 11, we have to first understand the second part v. 10. Look with me at the second part of v. 10. It reads,
And so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
We will deal with the verse more later but at this point I want you to see that this verse is forward looking. Paul wants the Philippians to be mindful of the day of Christ. This day is future. This verse is future looking. Now look at v. 11. It says,
Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ
What is the relation between these two verses? The way I take them is that v. 10 refers to a later point of time (the future) and v. 11 refers to an earlier point of time (the past). Verse 11 is the event that happens first, then v. 10. Being filled with fruit happens before being pure and blameless for the day of Christ. Because v. 11 happens before v. 10, I want to deal with v. 11 first.
Verse 11 specifies what Paul wants to see in the Philippians currently. Verse 11 specifies what a current manifestation of love might look like. That current manifestation of a discerning love looks like the Philippians being filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. It looks like their sanctification that is a result of grace alone.
This idea of “filling” is passive. A more specific way to translate it would be to saying, “being filled.” The Philippians are “being filled?” Well, by whom? The answer to that is God. God is filling them with fruit. Salvation is all of grace. We can be a bit more specific that that, though. The NT speaks of the “filling of the Holy Spirit” and the Bible speaks of the “fruit of the Holy Spirit.” When you apply these two ideas, you get the Spirit filling us with fruit. That’s the idea here. The Philippians are filled with the fruit of the Spirit.
Fruit of Righteousness
Now this notion of “fruit of righteousness”—what’s it mean? This notion of “fruit” is an agricultural metaphor. We have many farmers here. They understand this metaphor. When you go to inspect a crop, you want to see its “fruit,” you want high crop yield. You don’t want your crop to fail, to not give forth “fruit.” The value of a crop is seen in its fruit, in its yield, in its quality.
The Bible analyzes our spiritual lives like a farmer analyzes his crop. Just as a farmer wants to see his crop give forth great yield, so also God wants our lives to bear great fruit for him. “Fruit” is the value that our lives produce for God. “Fruit” is the evidence of a changed life. When God saves us, our lives are changed. That change that God brings about in us is valuable. God produce in us holiness and good works. This holiness and good works are what the Bible means when it refers to “fruit.”
Paul specifies here a certain type of fruit—“a fruit of righteousness.” How are we to understand this “of?” I take what Paul is saying here is that the fruit is itself righteous behavior. The fruit is the righteousness. The fruit is upright, moral, righteous behavior. This fruit that the Holy Spirit fills us with is righteous behavior.
This “fruit of righteousness” comes “through Jesus Christ.” What Paul is saying here is that the fruit that we produce, the righteousness that our live brings forth for God, your holiness and good works, your sanctification is by grace alone. It comes through Jesus Christ. It doesn’t come through us. The fruit that you produce for God is not of your own doing, it is the gift of God.
To explore this idea, let’s turn to John 15. We will read from v. 1 to 5.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide zin me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Jesus is telling us what Paul is telling us. Paul says that our fruit, our sanctification comes through Jesus Christ. That is what Jesus says. Specifically, vv. 4 and 5. Our fruit comes from Jesus, and without Jesus we have nothing, we have no fruit, we have no sanctification.
The Future Manifestation of Love
That is what Paul wants to see in the Philippians during the present time. He wants this discerning love to abound in a way that they are filled by the Holy Spirit with the fruit of righteousness, with holiness and good deeds, which only comes through the grace of Jesus Christ. He wants this abounding love to manifest itself that way.
He also wants the love to manifest itself in another way. But this “other” way is future oriented. We already briefly touched upon this. We get this in the second part of v. 10. Turn with me there, Phil 1:10.
and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ
Day of Christ
The timing of this is future. Paul wants the Philippians to have a love that leads them to be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. This “day” of Christ is future. This is a reference to the final day of salvation for the Christian. I’d encourage you to read this week’s “From Pulpit and Paper” to better understand this idea.
While this final day, the day of Christ, will be a day of salvation, it will also be a day of accountability for the Christian. When Jesus returns, we will be saved by him, but we also will be judged by him. He will inspect our fruit to see if its legitimate. He will sift us through to see if our lives were used for his glory. It will be a time of accountability.
In seminary, one of my Greek professors who is a great man would say on test days, “Accountability time.” These tests were intended to keep us accountable. They were used to determined whether we were actually learning the material or not. It’s one thing to go to class and go through the motions. It’s another thing to learn the material. Our professor wanted us to learn the material. The tests were used to determine the degree to which we had actually applied ourselves in the class.
That’s how the “day of Christ” will be for the Christian. It will be a time of testing, accountability, and inspection. Christ, with his all-seeing eye, will declare his verdict of our lives. He will give the final and true interpretation of our lives. This life is our time of testing, and Jesus is the one who will give us the grade.
In light of this time of approaching accountability for the Philippians, he wants them to prepare themselves. He wants love to have its effect in their so that they are “pure” and “blameless” when Christ inspects them.
By “pure,” Paul is referring to moral purity. Paul wants love to result in the moral purity of the Philippians.
Morally purity is a very powerful and compelling concept. We see this desire for moral purity in our culture in the overwhelming desire for women to wear white wedding dresses. The rationale for the color white is rooted in the idea of virginity. A virgin is a morally pure woman, a woman who is not stained by the fifth of sexual immorality.
The Bible often speaks of sin in terms of filth. Sin makes us dirty. It pollutes us. It defiles us. It brings upon us shame. Christ redeems us from this, though. When we are saved, Jesus washes us, he cleanses us, he regenerates us. This is part of the power of the gospel. Though we were once sick with sin, dirty, shamed, and filthy, Christ has cleansed us with his blood. And when he saves us, he produces his fruit in us.
Part of this fruit is abstaining from the sin that makes us filthy, dirty, and soiled. Basic to Christianity is the idea of repentance. Christians are those who avoid sin. We don’t enjoy sin. Sin dishonors God and were therefore avoid it.
Paul wants the Philippians to avoid sin. This avoidance of sin will lead them to be pure on the day of Christ. Like a pure bride on her wedding day, Paul wants the Philippians to be morally pure, to have a pure, undefiled conscience for the day when Jesus Christ returns. He wants this abounding love with all knowledge and discernment to result in their moral purity, their abstaining from sin.
Along with being pure, Paul wants the abounding love that he prays for to result in “blamelessness” of the Philippians. These ideas of purity and blamelessness contrast and yet compliment one another. Sin makes us dirty. Purity refers to this lack of dirtiness. Sin also makes us guilty. Sin makes us “blameworthy.”
There are many Christians who bear blame for wrongdoing. Although this guilt is forgiven by Christ, their conscience accuses them. To be “blameless” on the last day means that we will have no guilt of wrongdoing upon our conscience. It means that the live that we lived here on earth did not cause others to sin, we lived godly, upright, and righteous lives, and thus we have no guilt on our conscience. It means that our conscience is free from wrongdoing and we are at peace with the way that we’ve lived our lives.
Paul wants love to have this impact upon the Philippians—he wants the Philippians to bear forth fruit in this life so that when Christ returns and holds them accountable, they will have not a dirty or guilty conscience. They will be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.
The Ultimate Goal of Love
With our last point, we will bring this whole prayer to a close. For the past 5 weeks now, we have been exploring Paul’s prayer in Phil 1. It has been very edifying for me to explore this prayer with you. Now we examine the last statement that Paul makes. What does he say to conclude his prayer? What do we say to conclude this study of Paul’s prayer? Look at the very end of v. 11. What does Paul say there?
To the glory and praise of God.
What prayer really for? What’s this life really about? Why were you created? What is the chief end of man? All of those questions are answered in this tiny yet massively important prepositional phrase—“to the glory and praise of God.”
This is how Paul concludes his prayer. He wants God the Father to be glorified. He wants the love that he prays for the Philippians to result in the glory and praise of the Father. To God alone be the glory, is Paul’s cry.
Jesus himself tells us to pray with this goal in mind. Turn with me to Matt 6:7. This passage is about the Lord’s prayer. Notice what Jesus says here. I will read through v. 10.
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. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Notice specifically v. 9. Jesus wants the Father’s name to be “hallowed.” This simply means that Jesus wants the Father’s name to be honored. He wants the Father to be exalted, praised, and glorified. This is the same idea that Paul prays. The way Paul ends his prayer—“to the glory and praise of God”—is how Jesus begins his prayer—“Our Father, hallowed be your name.” Prayer specifically and life in general is about honoring God. It’s about honoring his name, praising him, ascribing glory to him. That’s Paul’s final word. His imprisonment, his prayers, his desire for spiritual growth for the Philippians is to that end—for the praise and glory of God the Father.
This morning, as I close, I would like to hone in on two point of application for us.
The first point is this. Both the Christian and the non-Christian must plan for eternity right now. For the non-Christians, you must stop saying “I’ll get right with God later in life.” This is a common tendency for non-Christians. They know that their lives aren’t right but they don’t care enough about this issue to address it right now. Non-Christian, you must repent right now. Not later. No tomorrow. Now. There are somethings in life that are so important, so consequential that you must plan right now. Today is the day of salvation. For the Christian, you must stop putting off the right things that you know you need to do. Specifically, if you owe someone an apology, apologize right now. Make amends with others right now. Don’t die in a state of blame, Christian. The clock is ticking. It stops for none of us. Life goes by and it goes by quick. Judgment is coming. Stop procrastinating. Start planning now. Start planning right now for judgment day.
Second, this point is related to the first. How do we plan right now for the day of Christ? In some classes, professors pass out pre-tests. These pre-tests are supposed to get us prepared for the real test. In Christianity, what are the pre-tests we can take to get ready for the real test? It’s this: the conscience. The conscience. The conscience can be dirty and guilty, or it can be pure and blameless. That’s the pre-test. Right now you can determine whether you are dirty and guilty, or pure and blameless. Ask your conscience this question: Am I dirty and guilty or pure and blameless? That’s the pre-test. Ask yourself that question every day. If you pass that pre-test in accordance with God’s word today, you will be ready for the main test—the second coming of Christ. Make it your aim to have a pure and blameless conscience.