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Prayer from Prison

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
April 20, 2022 12:01 am

Prayer from Prison

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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April 20, 2022 12:01 am

The Apostle Paul is known for his towering intellect, but the prayers he wrote from prison also reveal his great affection for God's people. Today, Steven Lawson considers the opening prayer in Philippians as a pattern for Christians to follow today.

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In Philippians chapter 1, the apostle Paul makes it clear that God is the one who began the good work of us is not a superficial work that lays on the outside of a person's life is down in the depths of the soul is down in the interior of a person's spirit. That's where God does his work in us. He says he will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus Paul's letter to the church at Philippi is known as the consumer to fully encourage the church there to rejoice in the Lord despite their circumstances when we consider Paul circumstances when he wrote this letter will us to say it carries a great deal of credibility is Dr. Steven Lawson. I want to take your Bible and turn with me again in the book of Philippians Philippians chapter 1, and I want to begin reading in verse three. My goal is to get through verse eight will see how we doing the apostle Paul writes I think my God in all my remembrance of you always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all always a Southerner. By the way you all in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now, 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, for it is only right for me to feel this way about you 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, for God is my witness, how I long for you with all the affection of Christ Jesus. This is one of four prison prayers that Paul wrote during this first Roman imprisonment and during this time of confinement in Rome. He wrote four prison epistles, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon in the first three of these are written to churches.

The last to an individual, and in these three prison epistles written to churches, there are four prison prayers. There's one in Ephesians 1, another in Ephesians 3 another in Philippians 1 right here and then in Colossians 1 and each of these prison prayers gives a remarkable insight into the heart of the apostle Paul. In fact, it really gives us insight into being a pattern for our prayer life. We would do well to emulate what we see here and what Paul expresses concerning his prayers for the Philippians. Now we know Paul had a towering intellect. We've already discussed that a man he was a brilliant theologian towering intellect teacher, author of 13 epistles. However, in these prison prayers.

We learn something more about Paul. We we discover the great heart that he had for people. The great affection that he had for God's people. There wasn't just a depth about him of brilliant intellect, but there was also a burette of him being open armed and putting his hit his arms around other believers and he was a great lover of people and that comes through loud and clear in this prison prayer. He tells them that he has them in his mind that he has them in his heart that he feels deeply for them and longs for them with the affections of Christ that that's a real and genuine assessment. As Paul writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

This is no exaggeration.

His heart is welded to these Philippians. So as look at this prison prayer in verses three through eight, it will extend really through verse 11. But time does not permit us to go that far, but I want to set several headings in front of you to help us walk through this prison prayer in the first is a thankful heart that's in verse three Paul had a very thankful heart. He begins by saying I think my God in all my remembrance of you.

That's an important distinction. He thanks God for them, knowing that it is God who is it work in them the verb. Thank is in the present tense, meaning I'm continually always thanking God for you and all of my remembrance of you, though they are separated by 800 miles. The distance from Rome to Philippi. Nevertheless, he has them in his mind and his remembrance.

We could put it this way. I just can't get you out of my mind not my thoughts are continually coming back to you. I can just see you in my minds responding to the gospel and I can see you in prayer and and and living for the Lord. Paul always had a thankful heart that this is a mark of someone who is filled with the spirit. They are always looking for the good in other people and Paul. For example, in Romans 118 says I thank my God for you all even says this to the Corinthians, the most carnal church they pushed the outer limits on how carnal can you be and actually be regenerate and and be saved.

And Paul says in first printing of 14 I thank my God always concerning you that that's a mark of someone who is under the governance of the Holy Spirit. He says the same to the Ephesians to the Colossians to the Thessalonians.

I don't need to read all of those cross-references. But here's the point.

If you want to emulate the greatest Christian who ever live be a thankful person, be one who sees what God is doing in the lives of others, despite their flaws, despite their weaknesses and affirm them by saying I thank God for you for what I see him doing in your life.

Second, not only a thankful heart, but a joyful spirit, we see that in verse four. The next verse he says always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you. Paul was just filled with joy when you know why was filled with joy the most thankful people are the most joyful people. If you need more joy than the more thankful and Paul was so thankful that his heart was just overflowing also with joy joy and thankfulness are twin sisters and vector Siamese twins that there just attached together, and wherever you find thankfulness, you will find joy.

He says let's look at this, always offering prayer that this tells us how important prayer was in the life of the apostle Paul now Paul was a doer.

Paul is a project man. Paul was missions oriented. Paul had goals and aims and ambitions for the Lord. Yet Amco was a make it happen man.

Nevertheless, he's always in prayer.

Always praying he says with joy. And this is the first mention of joy in the book of Philippians and he is saying that his heart is filled with gladness and jubilation as he prays for the Philippians, and let's remind yourself again. Paul is not in the policies and prison and yet he has more joy than what Caesar has, as he is in Caesar's palace. He says in my every prayer for you. So we see here what a joyful spirit. The apostle Paul had and that is a testimony to me that I need to strive to be more like Paul that the that the Lord would bear joy in my own heart as I serve him as a distinguishing mark of the Christian is joy now we come to verse five and the third heading.

I want to sit in front of you is a gospel focus. Paul was always measuring people and circumstances, in light of the gospel. He saw people is either those who were advancing the gospel are those who are in desperate need of the gospel either. In essence, you're a missionary are your mission field. One of the two, and is Paul thinks of the Philippians he is so joyful and so thankful because of their participation in the gospel. That's what excites Paul's hard for them there in the game. They're not up in the stands.

Just watching that there they're not on the bench visit there in the game with the Lord and their their life is counting for the gospel.

So in verse five he says in view of your participation in the gospel. The word participation here is the word is translated elsewhere in the New Testament fellowship and it means partnership or to share a common interest or a common enterprise together and what Paul is saying is is were in business together for the gospel and then we we are putting our shoulders to the same plow and we are pushing in the same direction and and that is to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ and he says they began this participation in the gospel. Notice he says from the first day the moment they were saved they were participating in the gospel the moment they believe the gospel, they became witnesses for the gospel that they became those who live for the gospel front from day one and then he adds, until now, so that was over 10 years ago when they first believed, and began to participate in the gospel and here really is the perseverance of the saints that they have continued to be faithful to God and to God's work. Over a decade and even to this very day.

They are spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ there in Philippi, so they had fellowship in the gospel. I do want to say this, there is no fellowship with someone else outside of the gospel. If someone doesn't believe the gospel. We have nothing in common.

Edit at any deep meaningful level. That's why believers should only marry another believer.

If you marry someone is not a believer, you have no capacity to have fellowship with them. Your like ships passing in the night. There is no common connection.

There's their friendship, which is more on the surface, but there is no fellowship at a deep level. All fellowship is in the gospel which is in the Lord Jesus Christ and is why church should be made up of members who are born again who know the Lord are not just looking for joiners in the church that they will delude the church and compromise the church were looking for bona fide believers, true followers of Christ. Those who have repented of their sins and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Now I can have fellowship with someone like that and so Paul rejoices in their gospel focus. That is, they've had participation fellowship in the gospel. I would dare say that we will have more fellowship as we are serving the gospel together than if we set out to try to have fellowship than if we met in fellowship all just ate a meal together we will have more fellowship as we are spreading the gospel together side-by-side of this leads us to verse six, a confident hope.

Paul had a positive hope and certain expectation regarding the future of these Philippians.

Notice what he says in verse six for I am confident of this very thing I like someone who is confident about spiritual realities and Paul is confident that he referring to God the father who is distinguished from Christ Jesus. At the end of the verse before I go any further I just want to say I'm sad to say I think the forgotten person of the Trinity has become God the father.

We have much focus on God the son, rightly so, we preach Christ and him crucified. There's much focus on the Holy Spirit in his ministries but unfortunately left over in the shadows of the corner of the room is God the father we've taken our eyes off of him.

We need to be reminded that everything is flowing from God the father is the one who sent Jesus Christ is the one who sent the Holy Spirit. God the father is the architect of the gospel of God the father is the one who justifies God the father is the one who elects God the father is the one who predestines God the father is the one who calls God the father is the one who glorifies and so we see here. I'm confident of this very thing, that he God the father, who began a good work in you that refers to two things that refers number one to sovereign regeneration that it was God the father who open Lydia's heart it was God the father who begin the work in the Philippian jailer's heart and in the second aspect is the granting of saving faith and Paul write about that in chapter 1 verse 29 in all of this is being directed by God the father. It may be carried out by the sun may be applied by the Holy Spirit, but directing it all is God the father. In fact we even saw in in in chapter chapter 1 verse verse two Grace to you and peace from whom, from God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ soon as he began a good work in you is not a superficial work that lays on the outside of a person's life is down in the depth of the soul is down in the interior of a person's spirit. That's where God does his work in us and he says he will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus to perfect it means to bring into full and final completion and he will see us all through to the very end. God always finishes what he starts. And God always finishes the good work in a person. He will carry them through all the way to the end.

None of us will ever fall from grace. None of us will ever fail to make it to the other side of Jordan we will all cross over into his presence. One day we who know the Lord.

We who are believers in Jesus Christ, Charles Haddon Spurgeon said that Noah fell down many times in the ark, but he never once fell out of the ark and we will trip and fall at times in this world with the Lord will never let go of us and he will uphold us all the way to the end and Paul says, I'm confident of this balls not just dogmatic about this. These bold dogmatic about this. He is confident that God will complete this all the way to the end. Now I want you to note last the fifth heading and affectionate love and Paul really just pulls back the veil and allows the Philippians to peer into his heart and soul and he just gushes out expressions of his affection and his love for the Philippians and how they must have their hearts must have melted as this was read to their congregation that that Paul would have such tender hearted sympathies and compassions for them. So number seven is this word is only right meaning only proper for me to feel this way again. Please note feel Paul was more than an intellectual. He also had deep emotions. This word feel actually means translated means to think, but in this context is really referring to the deep-seated preoccupation that Paul has for them in his mind that that factors down to his heart and he goes on to say that notice because I have you in my heart and a beautiful expression. Paul carries them with him wherever he goes in his heart he hit his heart is the mains. The mainspring of his inner life. It's the source of his whole life. Everything is flowing out of the heart.

Watch over your heart Solomon says, for from it flows the issues of life. So if you pull back the layers of Paul's psyche and you come to the very epicenter of his soul. There you see his love for the Lord, and there you see his love for the Philippians he see his love for other believers as well. But there's just a special place in his heart that the Philippians have a says, since both in my imprisonment, and in the confirmation of the gospel. You all are partakers of grace with me and what Paul means by that is I know your standing with me, though. Though I am about to stand trial before Caesar I know in your heart, your standing with me, though absent, physically you are present with me spiritually, you are partakers of grace with knee.

In my defense and confirmation of the gospel that that's how Paul sees his situation is an opportunity for a defense of the gospel is not about Paul. It's always about the gospel and about Christ. He wrap this up in verse eight. Is this for God is my witness and that that's Paul's way of stressing how sincere he is. As he says this how authentic and genuine what he is saying is is as if to say, always tell you the truth, but I just want to know God is my witness as I say this.

How I long for you all that this word long means to intensely yearn for a evenings to crave it needs to strongly desire something or someone. Paul just says almost like a magnet, drawing a piece of metal. My heart is just drawn to you and I long for you for you all help help open hearted. Paul was some people are easy to love. Quite frankly, and other people are a challenge to love and Paul just says I long for you all, whether you have been a blessing, or whether you've been a challenge that I love you all a says with the affection of Christ Jesus. In this word affection is a very specific word in the original Greek language and it actually means intestines bowels, spleen, and what Paul is saying is I love you from the very depths of my being, we would say in our culture. Love you with all my heart I love you from the depth of my soul. And sometimes we say something like I have a pit in my stomach and image is something that I feel deep down inside is like a pit in my stomach. That's the idea here with the word affection down in the intestines.

I mean in the bottom of my being. I have strong feelings for you but I have tender affections for you. He says what the affections of Christ Jesus when he says of Christ Jesus is referring to the source of these affections that it is the Lord himself who has poured out this affection into my heart for you and the more Paul was Jesus Christ, the more Paul's heart is enlarged for other people, the more his heart is enlarged for Christ, the more his heart is therefore enlarged for other people and he has for them.

The affections of Christ himself.

That is just flowing out of the depth of his being for them, just as I conclude this I think we can draw from this how necessary it is that we love the people that we serve other believers that without love. Our ministry is just rendered ineffective or just going through empty motions just cranking it out without love for others to Paul.

He said if I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Just a bunch of hot air. I am just annoys this going off. As I preach if I don't truly long for God's best for you. As I serve and minister to you and I would also add this really is one of the key components to having a contagious Christianity in your life that your influence and your witness is shed abroad as we are seen to have love for other people otherwise are just in it for ourselves right so may God enlarge your heart as he did calls for the Philippians and for us. For those who are in our church and in our circles of fellowship and friendship may love be the tip of the spear that leads the way as we reach out to others. May God bless us Paul's epistle of joy, encouraging us to love Jesus more so that our hearts can be enlarged brothers were glad you joined us today for Renewing Your Mind as we continue Dr. Lawson series rejoice in the Lord.

Paul's letter to the Philippians in 24 messages. Dr. Lawson covers every verse in this letter and would like to send you this six DVD set is give a donation of any about to leave your ministries when you call us at 800-435-4343 if you prefer you can give your gift and make your request online at Renewing Your Mind.will return to Dr. Lawson series tomorrow as he encourages us to increase our love. I hope you'll join us for Renewing Your Mind

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