Share This Episode
Renewing Your Mind R.C. Sproul Logo

A Letter of Joy

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
April 18, 2022 12:01 am

A Letter of Joy

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 1321 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

April 18, 2022 12:01 am

It was from prison that the Apostle Paul wrote, "Rejoice in the Lord always." Today, Steven Lawson begins his in-depth study of Paul's letter to the Philippians, revealing what it takes to have joy amid even the darkest circumstances.

Get the 'Rejoice in the Lord' DVD with Steven Lawson for Your Gift of Any Amount:

Don't forget to make your home for daily in-depth Bible study and Christian resources.

Connect with Skip Heitzig
Skip Heitzig
A New Beginning
Greg Laurie
Insight for Living
Chuck Swindoll
Clearview Today
Abidan Shah
Focus on the Family
Jim Daly
Grace To You
John MacArthur

If we're going to be moping and whining, please don't tell anyone you're a Christian, because that will be bad advertisement for the kingdom. There needs to be a sense in which we're not living under our circumstances. We are living above our circumstances, because we are seated with Christ in heavenly places.

But living above our circumstances isn't a matter of putting on a brave face or mustering up enough strength. So how do we do it? How do we follow the Apostle Paul's exhortation to rejoice in the Lord always? Welcome to Renewing Your Mind.

I'm Lee Webb. Paul wrote those words in his letter to the Philippians, and it's important to keep in mind his circumstances at the time. We're going to look at Philippians this week. It's Paul's letter of joy.

And to lead our study from his latest teaching series is Dr. Stephen Lawson. Well, in this first session, we begin our study of the book of Philippians, and I want to ask you a question. What comes to your mind when you think of the book of Philippians? Well, I'd be willing to say it's the word joy. This book just permeates with joy. In fact, the key verse in this book is Philippians 4, verse 4, in which Paul says, rejoice in the Lord always.

Again, I say rejoice. And this book is all about the supernatural joy that comes with those who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Now, there's a distinction we need to make between happiness and joy. Happiness is something that is dependent upon your happenings or your happenstance. You can hear the word happening and happiness.

They're almost virtually the same. And so, when your circumstances are good, you have happiness. Your football team wins. But when your circumstances go down, then your happiness evaporates and goes away. So, happiness is something that the world can give you.

It's something that your outward circumstances can give you. And happiness is conditional. Happiness is temporal. It's very elusive, and it's uncertain.

It can virtually change by the moment. But joy is entirely different. Joy is spiritual, and it comes from a spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a deep, abiding confidence and contentment in the Lord Himself.

It is not built upon our circumstances. It is rooted and grounded in our unchangeable relationship with Jesus Christ. So, joy is supernatural. It is the gift of God.

It comes down from the throne of grace. It is an out-of-this-world experience that we have in our heart. Joy is known only by believers, because joy is in the Lord Jesus Christ. Joy is lasting. Joy endures even when our circumstances are changing and when they're challenging. Joy is transcendent. It rises above the difficulties and the adversities that we face. No matter how difficult or disappointing our situation may be, joy remains because it is not dependent upon what's going on around us.

It's dependent upon what's happening inside of us where the Lord Jesus Christ is ruling and reigning. Joy is a major theme in the New Testament, a distinguishing mark, really, of Christianity, because believers are those who have joy. In the book of Philippians, rejoice is found nine times, and the word joy is found five times. So, a total of fourteen times in just four chapters, Paul makes mention of joy or rejoicing. Now, because joy is in the Lord, joy is something the world cannot give us.

Therefore, the world cannot take it away from us. It is found totally in the Lord. And perhaps just a picture of what joy looks like, it is by no coincidence that the first miracle that Jesus performed was turning water into wine. And the excitement and the gladness and the exuberance that surrounds a wedding, I think, is a picture of what's inside of our heart because the guilt of sin has been removed and because the Lord is in charge of what is taking place in our lives and that we rest in Him.

The first miracle was not performed at a funeral. It was performed at a wedding, and it was an indication of what we experience when the Lord changes our heart from what it was in sin to what it is now in Christ. So, Philippians is really the most unlikely book that we would expect to be talking about joy, and for two reasons.

And the first is it is written, this book, by the most unlikely author. Paul is the author, and he's the last person you would expect would be writing about joy at this time in his life. The year is 61 A.D., and Paul is not in a palace. He is in a prison. He is under house arrest, and he is in chains, held as a prisoner of the Roman government. He is chained to Praetorian guards day and night, not exactly the most favorable circumstances. He is held there for two long years, which is an eternity for a dynamic, active man like the Apostle Paul to be holed up in one room for two years. On top of that, he is awaiting his trial with Caesar, and as he will stand trial before Caesar, there is the possibility of the death sentence that will be brought upon his head so he does not know whether he will be spared or whether he will be sent to be executed.

He is cut off from all travel. He has always wanted to come to Rome, and Paul is in Rome right now imprisoned. He's always wanted to come to Rome, but not under these circumstances. He thought he would be preaching in the marketplace.

He thought he'd be preaching in one of the large arenas or the Colosseum. No, Paul, just the opposite. Paul is like a lion that's caged, and he is confined under house arrest.

Hardly what we would think would be conducive for joy. On top of that, as Paul is confined in this house, imprisoned, chained to the Roman guards, the other preachers in town are slandering Paul, and they are demeaning him. In fact, they're saying, well, no wonder he's in prison.

It's obviously God's punishment. It's obviously God's chastening of Paul, or he wouldn't be there, and so he is now the object of much verbal attack. So again, these circumstances would indicate that Paul would be the last person in the world to be writing about joy. And on top of that, he has just received news from the church in Philippi. He was the founding pastor on his second missionary journey.

You can read about it in Acts chapter 16, verses 12 through 40. And he's just received a report that has come from the church at Philippi. A man named Epaphroditus has brought him the report, and he has heard now that there are divisions and there are factions in the church at Philippi. This this church, he was really the closest to the church at Philippi. And to learn now that this church is threatened to be torn asunder is devastating and heartbreaking to the Apostle Paul. And so from a human perspective, Paul has every reason not to be joyful.

He's the last person in the world that we would expect would be writing a book that would be so full of joy. But not only is he the most unlikely author, the Philippians are the most unlikely recipients. Paul is telling these people to rejoice, and he is writing to this church in Philippi that is, as I've just said, suffering divisions and disunity. There is discord, and there is disharmony at the church in Philippi. Two prominent women in the church, Euodia and Syntyche, just cannot get along. And they are actually called out by name in chapter four, verse two, as being in disharmony with one another.

Well, you know what that means. If two women aren't getting along, that means two husbands aren't getting along. But more than that, two families are not getting along. And more than that, uncles and aunts and nephews and nieces, there's a split right down the middle in this church, and they are suffering for it. In fact, Paul has to say in chapter two, verse 14, stop grumbling and disputing among you.

All of that is just stirring the pot here in Philippi. And as Paul writes to this church, there are also false teachers who have come into this church. There are Judaizers who are trying to put the church back under the Mosaic law and saying that you have to keep the Mosaic law in order to be saved. You have to keep the Mosaic law, at least the ceremonial law, in order to be sanctified. In fact, they're saying you have to be circumcised.

The men had to be circumcised as adults in order to gain a right standing before God. And this is in the church that is a part of tearing the church apart. And on top of that, there are those who are libertarians, who have license morally. They think it doesn't matter if you obey God or not obey God. Hey, you're justified by grace.

You've got a free pass. It doesn't matter how you live your life. I mean, this church, is facing some very serious issues. On top of that, they are being persecuted for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

And we're not surprised to hear that, are we? Paul will say to Timothy, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. And the church in Philippi, which by the way was the first church that Paul founded in Europe. So, there is a clear relationship. So, there is a clash with the culture here in Philippi.

It was known as Little Rome because it was so connected to the Roman Empire. And because of that, as people are now being saved, it's predominantly Gentile and not Jewish as had been earlier the case with the churches that Paul has founded. There now is much opposition that the believers are facing. There's much resistance that is very real. So, as we look at this church in Philippi, they're the most unlikely recipients of a book about joy. The fact of the matter is, they're the ones who need it the most.

And so, we come to the last main heading, which is the most abundant supply. Despite the difficulties that Paul was facing as he's imprisoned in Rome, and despite the adversities that the church in Philippi was experiencing, they nevertheless could know the joy of the Lord Jesus Christ. The key verse, as I've already said, is Philippians 4, verse 4, rejoice in the Lord always.

Again, I say rejoice. Notice he says, rejoice in the Lord. All rejoicing is in the Lord.

And when he talks about the Lord, he's referring to the second person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ. All joy really comes from God the Father. It is mediated to us through and in the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is applied by the Holy Spirit. In fact, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, etc., Galatians 5, 22. But the point is that all joy is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is not one drop of joy outside of Jesus Christ.

There are oceans and oceans and galaxies of joy that Jesus himself has, that he mediates to us. Joy is found in knowing Jesus Christ. It is found in loving Jesus Christ. It is found in adoring Jesus Christ. It is found in living for Jesus Christ. It is found in serving Jesus Christ. It is found in obeying Jesus Christ. It is found in witnessing for Jesus Christ. It is found in testifying for Jesus Christ. Paul will say in Philippians 1, verse 21, for me to live is what? It's Christ. His whole life is Christ, and to die is gain.

Why would it be gain? Because he'll go be with Christ in his immediate presence. And so, no wonder Paul is experiencing such abundant joy, is experiencing such abundant joy, though he is confined in prison and though he is trapped there. He's not moping. He's not whining. He's not complaining.

He is rejoicing, and it is triumphant. It is a magnificent witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. And if we're going to be moping and whining, please don't tell anyone you're a Christian, because that will be bad advertisement for the kingdom. There needs to be a sense in which we're not living under our circumstances. We are living above our circumstances, because we are seated with Christ in heavenly places, Ephesians 2. And so, Paul will say in Philippians 1, verse 4, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you. They were trying to encourage Paul.

How strange. It's the prisoner who is encouraging them by this letter. In Philippians 1, verse 18, Paul says, I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice. You sense the determination within the heart of Paul to rejoice in the Lord. In Philippians 4, verse 1, Paul says, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown.

They are his joy, because he sees Christ in them. He saw them come to faith in Christ when Paul first went there in Acts chapter 16. Remember the Lord opened Lydia's heart, and she believed, and then her household believed? You remember the Philippian jailer came to faith in Christ that night, and then his whole household believed? And the next thing you know, there's a church plant right here in Philippi at the devil's doorstep. And so, as Paul reflects upon these believers in Philippi, he just refers to them as my joy.

You're my joy. And it wasn't so much them. It was what God had done in them. It is what Christ had done to make them trophies of His grace. And Paul, when he saw other believers, they were a joy to him, because he knew it was Christ who lived within them. And then in Philippians 4, in verse 10, Paul said, I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me.

There is no shortage of joy in Paul's heart, as he is imprisoned in Rome and chained to Roman soldiers. He is rejoicing in the Lord, which reminds me of Psalm 16 and verse 11, in which David writes, in your presence is fullness of joy. Would you like to have fullness of joy?

Would you like to have joy like a river filling and flooding your heart? Well, it's found in the presence of the Lord. And one day when we enter His immediate presence, the joy of heaven cannot even be explained. It will be joy unspeakable and full of glory, Peter writes. But even now in this life, we live our life corundeo, in the face of God, in the presence of God, and there is joy as we walk with the Lord and as we share a relationship with Him. So, what we're saying is, this joy that Paul writes about in the book of Philippians transcends our most difficult circumstances. This joy comes down from above, from the throne of grace. It is supernaturally deep, it is abundantly supplied, and it is freely given.

And it is freely given to believers. This joy is the very joy that Jesus Christ Himself experienced. And on the night before He was crucified, knowing full well what tomorrow meant for Him, Father, the hour has come, glorify the Son, that the Son may glorify You, knowing that He will be nailed to a cross the next day. Jesus still had joy in His heart. And in the upper room as He met with the disciples in John 15 verse 11, Jesus said, these words I have spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be made full. The very joy that Jesus had, not a joy like His, but the very joy that was bubbling up in the heart of Christ under the most difficult of circumstances, Jesus promised to His disciples, and you will have it in fullest measure. In fact, when we read the book of Hebrews in chapter 1, we learn that Jesus has been crowned with joy above all His fellows and companions, that He is the most joyful person in the universe, as He is seated at the right hand of God the Father. So, this joy is found in the Lord. This joy is found in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14, 17 talks about joy in the Holy Spirit. So, this joy is God's grace gift to every believer who puts their faith and trust in Him. So, let me ask you this question. Have you suffered somewhat?

We all have. Either you're suffering now or you've just come out of a time of suffering, or you're about to go into a time of suffering. The loss of a spouse, the loss of a parent, the loss of health, the loss of a job, loss of income, loss of an investment, these losses are real, and they bring real heartache. But it's in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death.

The valley of the shadow of death. It is in the midst of our most difficult times that we can still know the joy of the Lord. If you need to recover your joy, then Philippians is your book.

Your name is written all over this book. This is your book to bring to you the joy of the Lord. And so, as we begin this study of this important book, I invite you to open your mind and to open your heart to what the Lord will teach you so that He can enlarge your joy, and with that, be a dynamic witness for Jesus Christ. May the Lord give us this joy in fullest measure as we enjoy our relationship with Him. Well, even through trial and loss and pain, we are called to rejoice in the Lord. This is a challenging directive from the pages of Scripture, but Dr. Stephen Lawson put it in perspective for us. We find our joy in our vibrant relationship with Christ. Our focus this week on Renewing Your Mind is Dr. Lawson's latest teaching series, Rejoice in the Lord, Paul's Letter to the Philippians. In 24 messages, this verse-by-verse journey reveals how the joy of the Lord allows us to live faithfully. We'd like to send you this six-DVD set. Just contact us today with a donation of any amount.

You can call us at 800-435-4343, or if you prefer to make your request online, our web address is You know, our joy as Christians shines the brightest when we persevere through difficulties. Our allegiance to Jesus Christ will cost us in this world because the gospel turns the values of the world upside down. I say that because I want to call your attention to a conference we're hosting in Birmingham, Alabama this coming August, and the theme is Fools for Christ. We'll consider God's perfect wisdom in the gospel so that we can be better prepared to withstand opposition with courageous faith. I hope you'll make plans to join us.

To find out more and to register, just go to and click on the Events tab at the top of the page. You know, it's easy sometimes to skip over the opening salutations of Paul's letters, but there is great significance in the fact that he addresses this letter to the saints in Philippi. That means to all the believers who have burned their bridges behind them, and there's no longer an attachment to the world system, and now living as citizens of the kingdom of God. We'll learn more about that tomorrow as we continue our study of Philippians with Dr. Stephen Lawson. I hope you'll join us for Renewing Your Mind. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-30 12:04:28 / 2023-04-30 12:12:51 / 8

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime