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July 27, 2021 4:00 am
When someone is in a position of authority is not an appropriate for them to make demands on others today on Truth for Life. Alastair beg explains why the apostle Paul chose to make a request instead of a demand when it came time to reunite Philemon with his runaway servant. I invite you to turn to your New Testament and Philemon is a tiny letter that you will find nestled in between Titus and Hebrews Philemon, and verse eight. Therefore, although in Christ, I could be bold in order you to do what you want to do it. I appeal to you on the basis of law. I then asked Paul an old man now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I appeal to you for my son on SMS who became my son while I was in chains, formerly he was useless to, but now he has become useful both to you and to me I'm sending him who is my very heart back to you. I would've liked to keep them with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel but I did not want to do anything without your consent so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced. Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have them back for good. No longer is a slave, but better than a slave is a dear brother. He is very dear to me. But even dearer to you both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.
Amen. I want you to notice. First of all, the tone and tenor of the appeal that Paul is making.
Let me give you an overview other than that will work our way down through the verses.
His tone is humble.
It is earnest and it is in terms of genuine endearment. Indeed he makes this appeal. In a way that is frankly very difficult to resist. He points to the fact that he's appealing not on the basis of a demand, but he is making a request that request.
In verse nine is on the basis of rank or authority, but of love in verse 12, it is clear that it is heartfelt. In verse 13 that it is selfless and in verse 15 that it recognizes God's providence in the circumstances as they are unfolding so you have this sense of Paul's genuine affection and sincere care for those to whom he writes, and particularly for the one, of whom he writes, and on whose part he is making this appeal.
Spurgeon when he gave the lectures to his students many years ago reminded them that when they went into pastoral ministry.
They should make sure that they didn't forget that. More flies are caught by a jar of honey than by a part of vinegar and he was pointing out that genuine warmth and affection and friendliness on the part of the minister will be of far greater good than I kind of do your insensitivity that looks as though the man has been sucking on something rather distasteful, and his face has been giving an indication of just how difficult it is been for him. There is every danger for young ministers in particular to drive their people rather than to lead their people. I recognize it.
In reviewing the years in which I've had the privilege of being a pastor and I also recognize that old habits die hard, and therefore that in turning to this particular little letter and recognizing the way in which Paul does what he does. It is a forcible reminder to check our lives and our ministries and our approach to people against the plumb line of the Bible.
It is a relatively easy thing to drive people on to go with them to prod them. It is a far more difficult and demanding thing to lead them by way of example to encourage them by tenderness and by kindness and those who know me best known my own struggles in this area. Indeed, sometimes when I've been driving the car of old when my children were there. If I perhaps reflected on something or said something about a situation and it hasn't been altogether positive after I have finished my little statement there would be a pause and then a voice from the back seat for my son when he would say. And that's another kind word from your pastor and people ask all the time. How do you do what you do and keep an even keel, and so on.
Well he is he is one of my even keel members and very them at a very important one at that. While look at it here. His entreaty in verse eight, is not on the strength of his apostolic authority which gave him the ability to be bold and to issue an order. This is not high mindedness on the part of Paul is an acknowledgment of his place in the purposes of God. We have no apostles today.
The apostles were a small group of individuals who had a site of the risen Christ, who were commissioned by to their responsibilities. Apostolic authority now no longer resides in an individual but resides in the Scriptures themselves, and it is to the Scriptures that we look for our authority, that which the apostles under the direction of God spirit wrote down has been preserved for us by God spirit in our Bibles and it is to the Bible alone that we look as our sole authority in all matters of faith and practice.
Paul however, possessing that apostolic authority chooses not to use it as the basis of his appeal so he says instead of doing what he had every right to do rather, he appeals on the basis of law. I appeal to you on the basis of love. Again this is not something sentimental and squishy and rather, that is to recognize what it means to be a Christian and Philemon, who is described in his opening introduction as our dear friend, which is just one word in Greek.
I got pathos this dear friend Philemon is now being asked on the basis of the love of Jesus which is come to fill his life to operate out of that resource and to respond on the basis of love Judy is an essential part of Christian living is not wrong, but it is ultimately inadequate as a motivating factor in both in our service of Christ and in our response to one another love is absolutely foundational so he says I appeal to you in the basis of love verse nine.
I then asked Paul look at how he describes himself an old man now also a prisoner of Jesus do something nice for this old man. He says now if Paul was about 60 years is estimated by historians. He's not really very old busy at least. Many others are saying oh no, he's not all that tall and five IUs middle-aged at 60 is a new therapy, and so on.
Well we can get ourselves or we like, but he was of a certain age but given the nature of his life and all that he had been through 16 years for Paul was different from 60 years of ease in the lives of others, so he may well feel himself to be older than he actually is and so takes that designation.
That is also just a chance that the word which is used here which is so close to the word for ambassador is providing Paul with the ability to say I'm actually an ambassador for Jesus and yet at the same time, a prisoner for Jesus. Whether it is one of the other is not really germane to the issue. The fact is, he makes his appeal in a way that is truthful and in the way that is tactful and it takes until verse 10, before he actually identifies the one who is the focus of this letter. I appeal to you for my son an SMS is the first time an SMS has been mentioned while you say was he holding back the name so as to build his case because this will take the wind out of the sails of Philemon.
After all, Philemon has been the master of Vanessa must an SMS is made a run for it probably taken away some of his master's possessions. Now Philemon is to hear news of him and is actually approached in order that he might taken back as a brother in Christ, and of course if you think about it. Presumably the letter arrived simultaneously with to check us and without an SMS and so Philemon would actually know that it was about in this. Unless, of course, and estimates hidden behind the building. You know that he arrived and a certificate. Why don't you go in and read the letter I'll hide behind the barn and then you come out and see how it goes with Philemon in the discard so it's okay to come in is always a possibility highly unlikely. I agree, but what a striking thing for Philemon to be confronted with the fact that this runaway slave an SMS has actually become a Christian in his absence and look at what Paul says that he's become my son while I was in chains. The paraphrase reads as follows. I've become a father, though I have been under lock and key, and the child's name is an SMS what is the meaning is become a father does he mean that he has produced a Christian is aware that he was able to make an SMS become a Christian, no, no individual is able to transfer that to another the grace of God doesn't pass through human genes.
If that were sold, and we would just below the pass it on to our children we would be able to present upon our spouse, we would be able to make sure that it was true of our siblings and so on.
No Paul understood perfectly that all of the power in seeing somebody born again of God spirit is a power which belongs to God and the instrumentality in this case if you like the conduit was none other than Paul himself. Unless we are clear about this. We will very quickly go wrong in seeking to see unbelieving people become the committed followers of Jesus Christ.
We are asking God to bring men and women to himself. He chooses in his purposes to give us all funnel part in that, but all we are our voices. All we are fingers pointing and Paul was clear on that. He says what, after all, when he writes into foursquare in first Corinthians 1.
After all, is Paul what, after all, is a Paulus or Cephas only servants, through whom you came to believe that was the instrumentality whereby they had come to faith. And this notion of becoming a father in the gospel is his privilege and relationship to an SMS. It is a reminder is ignored of the fact that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation the old is gone and the new has come. And it is this that he is affirming for Philemon. He has become my son while I was in chains and look at verse 11 formerly, he was useless to you, but now he is become useful both to you and to me. In other words, what you need to know Philemon is that an SMS is not the old, and estimates and not sending back to you there and estimates who stole your stuff and ran away. I'm sending back to you. I knew an SMS. I don't like Smith's, this this is what it means to be in Christ by nature. The Bible says that we are not anywhere close to Jesus. Despite our superficial interest in him our knowledge off of him. Our awareness of truth in the Bible by our nature. We are blind to the truth that is conveyed in Jesus when actually dead in our trespasses and in our sins. We are absolutely unacceptable before the gate of heaven and we are absolutely unable to do anything to rectify those circumstances. So unless the gospel is the good news of Jesus doing something for us what we are unable to do for ourselves. It cannot be good news or tall but that is it that the righteousness of Jesus is credited to the account of the sinner on the basis of the fact of the penalty Jew to the center has been borne by Jesus on the cross and somewhere in the context of Rome.
Paul, who had discovered this for himself had declared it to an SMS he would have said clearly to an estimate. Do you understand that you are problem an SMS is not that you are estranged from Philemon your problem. An SMS is that you are estranged from the living God who made you, and I was estranged from the living God to an SMS and I hated Jesus and I hated anybody who said anything about Jesus well says Vanessa must why and how have you changed oh, says Paul, I have to tell you that when I wasn't looking for him. He came looking for me and on a day when I was most of Paul and in the brightness of the noonday sun. There was a light that shone brighter than all of that and did a great moment in time.
I understood who Jesus was and what he had done on the cross and how he was alive from the dead, and how he redeemed me is that your story this morning is that your testimony to faith in Jesus, will you, would you be able to come and say I once was blind but now I see I once was absolutely useless and God in his grace has made me useful and if not today is the day to bow before God's amazing grace and goodness. Thank him for providing for you a Savior and Jesus casting yourself upon his mercy I'm sending him back to you. Formerly, he was useless but now he has become useful.
The pond this is terrific because an SMS. The name and SMS means useful in the irony was the fellow with a name useful was useless. So anyway when he would say to his wife wears useful and and Philemon's wife Appia would say I don't know where he is.
He would say you know what useful is useless and his uselessness had been made, most obvious in his rebellion, and in his runaway and now he gets a letter from Paul seeing an SMS is black with tinted because it's not the same anastomosis. It's a new an SMS if any man or woman is in Christ, they are new creations.
The old is gone, the new has come. Not the attachment of religious exercises from the outside needs for the transformation of God's grace on the inside, thereby working its way out through every element of life and it is because of that, that Christianity knows nothing of hopeless cases that are two reasons why people stay away from Jesus as our Savior on the cross. One, because they think they're too good to meet him and to because they think they're so bad that he could never cope with the and in this room right now. Those who are not in Christ are apart from Jesus on the strength of one of those two things and here's the wonderful thing. Unlike every other religion in the world which either creates in our minds Friday whereby we are doing everything we should or despair whereby we cannot do what we think we ought to do.
Christianity deals with both our pride and our despair. What is the standard for entry. Absolute perfection. Okay, how do you feel you're doing on that basis exactly was never anybody who God's law in its totality.
Yes one, namely Jesus. So unless I am placed into Jesus and credited with all that he has done in the keeping of God's law. I have no place before to the person who feels himself in absolute or herself an absolute total despair and ignominy. We look up there upon that cross bearing shamans scoffing rude in the sinner's place condemned, he stood taking all of the punishment that my sin deserves so that I might be accepted for the father. All of this is wrapped up in what is happened to anastomosis people might have said about our Vanessa Messiah. When they went for the shopping reset. I believe a Philemon slave is buzzed off all yes yes either way now apparently to some of his stuff.
Maybe they went to the say. Maybe they went to the church, and Philemon's house and he said well he was always a bad agony without an SMS character.
Funny that his nation would be funny would be called an SMS you know because he frankly was useless when he was here and he is useless now that is gone.
How how could he ever come back useful. I don't have time this morning to read her stories out of pastoral ministry where I can tell you about guys who couldn't hardly read, write, or do arithmetic who are then the starting point of the total transformation of their lives was the discovery of Jesus as a friend and Savior and those who apparently couldn't complete high school went on, not only to graduate from college, but to do postgraduate degrees in theology and are now successful and erudite pastors today, but it all started, not as a result of a college course, but it all started as a result of acknowledging that they were absolutely useless and they needed someone, namely Jesus to come and change them from the inside out. That is what has happened to anastomosis and that is what must happen to each one of the acknowledgment of our need for forgiveness and her need to be transformed. That is the first step in making us useful in God's service from today's message on Truth for Life with Alister big if you listen to Truth for Life regularly you know that our passion here is to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance in the different Alister's teaching. We put a lot of time and thought into the books we recommend to you each month.
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