Philemon 4-7 'Why on EARTH wouldn't young people want to go to church?'
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Philemon 4-7 'Why on EARTH wouldn't young people want to go to church?'

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These slides accompany the audio files found here: https://soundcloud.com/simon-bowkett-1/5-why-on-earth-wouldnt-young ...

These slides accompany the audio files found here: https://soundcloud.com/simon-bowkett-1/5-why-on-earth-wouldnt-young
and here:
https://soundcloud.com/simon-bowkett-1/philemon-6-7-sharing-your

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  • “Why WOULDN’T young people want to go to church?!”The question popped up in my Twitter feed.It came from one of the more traditional Strict Baptist Pastors of my early acquaintance …. I haven’t really heard from him in years … I think he’s still based in the UK somewhere, but the Twitter post left me wondering what world he’s living in.I was glad for his post because it got me thinking why would ANYBODY want to go to church, and why is it that they wouldn’t want to?I mean to say, my own REAL experience of churches I’ve attended … as a believer … leads me to think churches are not usually very hospitable or enjoyable or refreshing places to go to.Now if I’m in that situation, knowing roughly what is going to be a good church and what is going to be a dodgy one, picking carefully where I visit on a free Sunday evening, heaven help anyone else!Think about this yourself.When did you or I last think that THIS meeting of THIS church might be a good place to invite somebody?OK!Now ask yourself why?What actually ARE the reasons for that?OK – the preacher’s rubbish, I know.But apart from that?I think Paul is teaching us things here that might help us.Paul, describing the characteristics of the church meeting in Philemon’s own HOUSE in the city of Colossae in about 60 AD describes a setting that has different priorities and characteristics altogether from by far the majority of churches in Wales, perhaps including us, today.So, we’ve been looking at this tiny and rather unusual NT letter, Paul’s letter to Philemon, trying to work out what lies in through the Philemon shaped window that’s been opened for us onto the life of the early church.We learned last time of the emphasis in Paul’s letter to this house church located in Colossae on apostolic teams, seeking first the Kingdom of God and sometimes getting in trouble with the authorities, shared ministry, meeting in homes and being conditioned by (if not saturated with) grace.You see, it’s warm, homely, welcoming, inclusive, hospitable and full to the top there with Jesus.Grace is in the place.Taking last week’s insights further, Paul now opens a different window in the same wall … a window onto his own heart as a Christian leader elsewhere for this fellow believer (who Paul seems to have led to the Lord) living in a place Paul hasn’t visited.Paul lays bare his joy in Philemon, the things Paul really APPRECIATES in the guy, he lays bare his prayers for Philemon and what it is that motivates Paul to pray these prayers.It’s a great exposé of what Paul VALUES in another believer … and, you know, NOWHERE in that list does it say ‘cool’, ’learned’ or ‘famous’.Jesus is NOT going to say ‘well done, good and famous servant’, nor cool, nor learned nor even holy.Because it is faith that gets you put right with God …Good and FAITHFUL servant, and (in Philemon’s case) faithful in ways we don’t often appreciate.So when we hear Paul pray here we gain a better understanding of spiritual characteristics that were valued amongst the earliest followers of Christ, and what we do with that better understanding is that we reform OUR understanding of what is good and to be aspired to according to a Scripture pattern.So, firstly, how does Paul PRAY for Philemon?
  • Paul prays THANKFULLY, and he prays thankfully because he hears about two things that characterise Philemon (the Greek is singular), these two things that stimulated Paul’s thankfulness are Philemon’s:Love for all God’s holy peopleHis faith in the Lord Jesus.So here’s a question.What goes through your mind when you think of this church, when you think of your brothers and sisters here, of the leaders in this and other churches.The challenge from Paul’s prayer would be, are you THANKFUL?!If you are thankful for your brothers and sisters, who you meet with when you come to this church here, thenn there’s a CHANCCE that you might be able to bring others here.Just a chance.But if you don’t like it here you won’t do that.Is that a fair conclusion to draw?
  • So when Paul turns to Philemon to pray for him, it’s not anxiety that wells up in his heart.There are many on a Pastor’s heart that do that.You turn to pray for that particular person in the morning and feel a furrow spreading over your brow.It’s not that you don’t love them.No doubt you do.But they have allowed things or thoughts into their lives that aren’t good and that means your first thought in prayer is far from thanksgiving.They’ve wedded their hearts to some sin.They’ve not fed their souls … neglecting the means of God’s grace.They’ve made priorities of things that are trivial and so brought uselessness into their lives.But Paul’s prayers turn to Philemon and a smile spreads across his face … oh, he prays THANKFULLY for a man like Philemon.It’s not just that he likes PhilemonIt’s not that they’re natural friends and companionsIt’s not some impressionistic emotional attachment …
  • Paul’s thankful appreciation of Philemon comes for some real, concrete reasons.He gives thanks as he prays for Philemon.It’s not because he ought toNot because he wants to sound appreciativeHe can point to REASONS that his efforts at praying for Philemon hit an intervening wall of spontaneous THANKSGIVING!Those reasons are going to be important …
  • It’s because Philemon loves all God’s holy people.Now who would have thought that this would be such a big thing?Great preacher? … I’d have gone for that one.Big giver? … Some days that one might seem appealing.Great worship leader, dynamic evangelist, very cool … popular guy with the youth group?Paul picks out something FAR more significant.Philemon really LOVES God’s own people.Why is that significant?Because most people can’t BELIEVE that God loves them.They just don’t GET IT if you tell them God LIKES them!Most people can’t believe that God likes them, so they think we’re fantasising when we say that God LOVES them!You may have come here this morning even as a believer in the Lord Jesus, convinced of your sinfulness (quite right), humbled by this week’s failures (absolutely), slightly guilty, slightly crushed, slightly … cold?True.All true.But I was right the first time, it’s astonishing but God LIKES you … more than that, God passionately LOVES you.You find it hard to accept that?Perhaps you will.Until somebody who shares it can show some of God’s love to you.How (does Jesus say) will people KNOW, encounter the REALITY that we are actually disciple of Jesus?It will be REAL to those people if we have love one for another.(John 13:34-35)34 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love(A) for one another.”Why would people want to go to church if they thought it wasn’t for real … an awful lot of them truly believe this stuff we do here today is fantasy … unless somebody showed them how REAL it is?How will you do that? (says Jesus) …I’ll tell you, ‘by the love that you show to each other’.So when Paul prays for Philemon it is the God-honouring REALITY of this Christian man Paul gives thanks for.Here’s how the genuineness of Christianity drives out the false charge thrown at us that we’re fantasists …‘Oh, Hallelujah!’, says Paul.Philemon loves all God’s set apart people!He’s the real thing.Who wouldn’t be thankful praying for Philemon?!
  • And then (second, see? Who would have THOUGHT that?) there’s Philemon’s faith that He places in Jesus.Now think about it.Loving folks is a risky old business.It goes wrong.It can get expensive.It’s often a very thankless task.(Well, what would you expect?!)If you are going out on the limb of the risky business of manifesting God’s love just to HIS people (which is all that Paul is now talking about here) there will be times when it seems fruitless, thankless, unprofitable … sadly it often seems not really worthwhile.Which is where trusting the Lord Jesus and carrying on faithfully gets absolutely and utterly crucial.We don’t end up being the church that we should be, one that accurately represents Jesus, by loving the people that love us and giving up unless everything goes swimmingly.We end up being the church that we should be, one that accurately represents Jesus, by loving the people He calls us to and persisting faithfully when the results aren’t quite everything we were hoping for.Love … and then faith to persist in it when it seems humanly unreasonable to do so.People LONG that God’s grace should be represented to them like that … that IS the sort of church that you can bring all your friends to.Paul thanks God for Philemon because THOSE are the characteristics that his leadership stamps on this congregation.OK - so those are the things that give rise to the thankful tenor of Paul’s prayer … but WHAT does Paul pray thankfully for Philemon?
  • That’s the NIV.It’s not a great translation.Here’s the HSCB (you won’t necessarily have heard of that one but it’s supposed to be good so I’ve been using it for a few weeks and you don’t seem to have noticed!) – let’s check this one …
  • Now, I’ve left all those superscript letters in there so you can see that there are a LOT of footnotes in most translations for this one rather short verse in the Bible.One really good commentary (by David Pao) lists no less than four possible translations for just the first part of this verse, then gives no less than three detailed reasons why he prefers the fourth one!This is a surprisingly difficult little verse to unpack!I reckon two of these options might work … and mebbe you just have to decide which is best from the context!(Or mebbe not …)David Pao’s translation looks like this …
  • In this translation Paul is saying that Philemon is great at faith in the Lord Jesus and love for the saints … but prays that his partnership in the faith … the word is the word for fellowship or sharing … may spring into action or become effective.Well, to me that’s a bit odd because Paul’s just described to us how effective Philemon’s faith is in trusting the Lord Jesus and loving the saints.
  • So my understanding would be that Philemon has faith and love inside the fellowship, but needs to get out there and SHARE it not sit inside doing more Bible study if his understanding is to grow.It’s therefore becoming active in sharing the faith that Paul is praying for.The basic question is … does ‘sharing the faith’ mean sharing the faith with one another or with outsiders?Pao makes a lot of the verb being more likely to be in the active transitive sense rather than the active intransitive … ‘although certainty is not possible’The effect of that is to take what I’ve always seen as a verse about getting active about going out there and sharing your faith, so that when you see the faith take root in the lives of others you will have a fuller understanding of every good thing we have in Christ …To take that verse and turn it into a verse about having fellowship with other believers inside the church (sharing your faith with THEM) so that you will have a fuller understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.I reckon the former is more likely.David Pao reckons the latter is more likely.Context eventually has to decide … So either Paul is making a point about fellowship (which he will use to get Philemon to show fellowship to Onesimus and release him) OR Paul is saying that when you share your faith evangelistically with someone like Onesimus (as Paul has recently done) and they’re saved, THEN you get the sort of understanding of every good thing we have in Christ that should drive you in gratitude (Philemon) to free your new brother Onesimus and send him back to Paul in the glorious service of this great Gospel that has saved you both.I’m not sure, though, whether those two understandings are exclusive.If the love of God is going to be made known to people as we share our faith with them, that’s best done in a setting or a context where our love for one another is made tangible.It might best be done in a functional Christian community.What I tell you gets made real in the place where I show it you.You see, this word ἐπίγνωσις (so that you may have a FULL understanding … of everything good thing we have in Christ) is not a theoretical knowledge but a thorough, working understanding.It’s a practical, working, functional knowledge or understanding.Trust me, if you want to understand every good thing we have in Christ you’re much more likely to learn it OUTSIDE a library!Anyway, whether the intention is to pray for evangelism or fuller fellowship, the end result is to motivate Philemon on the basis of the greatness of the Gospel of grace so he’ll free his runaway slave … Onesimus.Just a couple of nitty gritty points, on this verse then …
  • Christian love is active not passiveAnd what it does is that it actively shares its faith.Did you think otherwise?!Paul is therefore praying that the reality of Philemon’s love … which may be a little bit pietistic, theoretical and sitting back … would become fundamentally more energetic!Get. Stuck. IN, Philemon!… to sharing your faith.
  • Κοινωνία – means fellowship in the sense of a co-operative body of people, and here what we seem to have is a more unusual use of the word which refers to sharing something around … in this case, ‘your faith’.Share your faith with one another as a Christian community and you put a working demonstration of its reality before those who currently see the Christian church as a bunch of deluded and ridiculous fantasists.It’s YOUR faith … you need to have it yourself.It’s shared actively.You will hear of Mark Driscoll’s controversial new book: ‘A Call to Resurgence’ in which (amongst more controversial things) he asks whether Christianity’s going to have a funeral or a future.In it he says this:“We’ve got work to do. There are lost people to reach, churches to plant, and nations to evangelize. Hell is hot, forever is a long time, and it’s our turn to stop making a dent and start making a difference. This is no time to trade in boots for flip-flops. The days are darker, which means our resolve must be stronger and our convictions clearer.”‘It’s our turn to stop making a dent and start making a difference’.That could well be a word for our times.We need to become (Paul’s word) ACTIVE/ energetic in sharing our faith … the moreso in our time …
  • And here’s the purpose Paul picks out for doing that here …If you want a practical, working knowledge and understanding of every good thing we have in Christ, you will see Him expounding that to you as He reshapes and remodels broken lives that are exposed to the preaching of the Gospel.It is preaching the Bible that changes people and expounds (in their changing faces) the good things we receive from this Jesus.
  • It is GOOD things we receive from this Jesus.Who’d have thought it?How does OUR church communicate that to ‘most people’?They think the OPPOSITE so they don’t want to come.OK … so that’s the score then.Paul starts praying for Philemon but runs into a wall of thanksgiving, for all of the reasons he’s listed.Once he gets over that wall, he prays that Philemon will become active in sharing his faith inside and outside the fellowship.(There’s practically to be no distinction between those two).So what’s in the purpose clause, what is the motivating reason that Paul says he’s got for all this?
  • The truth is you go with the stuff you rejoice in and that encourages your spirit.Are you happy here?Paul’s experience of Philemon’s fellowship left him joyful and encouraged.I long that should be your experience here among us.I agree there are times when people come along to church and you want them to be happy here, but they can’t be.I’m certainly not suggesting any of you should be candidates!But it happens and you’ve got to be ready for that.There are churches up and down this land – I spoke with a number of leaders last week around the land who are finding this – where people go but are doggedly not happy there.They are not supportive.They are not helpful.Their passive but effective opposition does not help the work but hinders it.How VERY different is Paul’s description of Philemon!Paul has great joy from this man that he mentors.Paul has great encouragement from this younger brother’s God – honouring love!(It’s GREAT when that happens!)More than that, Paul sees that the hearts (not just the bodies receiving Philemon’s house church hospitality) have been refreshed through the love and fellowship of Philemon.So, as we’ve said …
  • Why would that lead Paul to pray?Because Philemon’s for real and his love is the evidence … and Paul recognises here’s somewhere God is for real at work!Paul sees the evidence of the grace of God and is encouraged, rejoices and prays!
  • How do you know a Christian’s love (and faith)?Here Philemon has refreshed, the hearts, of the saints.Hospitality and community are things we possibly need to try to rediscover.
  • So – conclusion …Philemon’s got a good thing going on with the love of God as he expounds it in and through the missional community in that church at Colossae which meets in his home.Would you want to go there?Having gone there, would you want to be part of that?You see, we started with this question about why on earth young people wouldn’t want to go to what in our culture we might describe as a traditional sort of church.We might have all sorts of answers of our own to that question, but it’s no use to us at all if we spend our time concentrating on why on earth nobody’d want to go to someone else’s church.Why on earth would anyone be open to the idea of coming to OUR church, and having come here why on earth would they want to be part of it?More to the point, what sort of church do WE need to be to be like that?Last time:apostolic teams, seeking first the Kingdom of God and sometimes getting in trouble with the authorities, shared ministry, meeting in homes and being conditioned by (if not saturated with) graceThis time:Love for all the saints expressed in CHRISTIAN hospitality, refreshing not just the bodies by the hearts of the saintsFaith … actively, energetically, explicitly shared both in the Christian community and evangelistically outside of it(Community & evangelism)I know these are the characteristics and priorities Paul is reinforcing for Philemon and for Colossae.I know these are the emphases we need to be the sort of place OUR people will go to.I don’t know how to get there.I have some ideas.I think we’re just going to have to experiment.Experiments don’t always work, you know?To purpose these Biblical priorities for OUR people, will you be willing to experiment?

Philemon 4-7 'Why on EARTH wouldn't young people want to go to church?' Philemon 4-7 'Why on EARTH wouldn't young people want to go to church?' Presentation Transcript

  • Welcome to Grace! But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may 1 Peter 2:9
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • Introduction
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • Introduction • How Paul prays, v. 4 “I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus.” View slide
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • Introduction • How Paul prays, v. 4 – Thankfully View slide
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • Introduction • How Paul prays, v. 4 – Thankfully – BECAUSE …
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • Introduction • How Paul prays, v. 4 – Thankfully – BECAUSE … • Philemon’s love for all God’s holy people
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • Introduction • How Paul prays, v. 4 – Thankfully – BECAUSE … • Philemon’s love for all God’s holy people • Faith in the Lord Jesus τὴν πίςτιν ἣν ἔχεισ πρὸσ τὸν κύριον Ἰηςοῦν
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • Introduction • How Paul prays, v. 4-5 • What Paul prays, v. 6 “I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.”
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • Introduction • How Paul prays, v. 4-5 • What Paul prays, v. 6 “I pray that your participation in the faith may become effective(I) through knowing every good thing(J) that is in us[c] for the glory of Christ.”
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • Introduction • How Paul prays, v. 4-5 • What Paul prays, v. 6 “so that your partnership in the faith may become effective in gaining the knowledge of every good thing that is in us for Christ”
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • Introduction • How Paul prays, v. 4-5 • What Paul prays, v. 6 “I pray that you might BECOME ACTIVE ( ἐνεργὴσ γένηται) In the SHARING OF YOUR FAITH (ἡ κοινωνία τῆσ πίςτεώσ ςου) So that you might have a full understanding (ἐν ἐπιγνώςειπαντὸσ) Of every good thing we have in Christ” (ἀγαθοῦ τοῦ ἐν ἡμῖν εἰσ Χριςτόν)
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • Introduction • How Paul prays, v. 4-5 • What Paul prays, v. 6 “I pray that you might BECOME ACTIVE ( ἐνεργὴσ γένηται)
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • Introduction • How Paul prays, v. 4-5 • What Paul prays, v. 6 “I pray that you might BECOME ACTIVE ( ἐνεργὴσ γένηται) In the SHARING OF YOUR FAITH (ἡ κοινωνία τῆσ πίςτεώσ ςου)
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • Introduction • How Paul prays, v. 4-5 • What Paul prays, v. 6 “I pray that you might BECOME ACTIVE ( ἐνεργὴσ γένηται) In the SHARING OF YOUR FAITH (ἡ κοινωνία τῆσ πίςτεώσ ςου) So that you might have a full understanding (ἐν ἐπιγνώςειπαντὸσ)
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • Introduction • How Paul prays, v. 4-5 • What Paul prays, v. 6 “I pray that you might BECOME ACTIVE ( ἐνεργὴσ γένηται) In the SHARING OF YOUR FAITH (ἡ κοινωνία τῆσ πίςτεώσ ςου) So that you might have a full understanding (ἐν ἐπιγνώςειπαντὸσ) Of every good thing we have in Christ” (ἀγαθοῦ τοῦ ἐν ἡμῖν εἰσ Χριςτόν)
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • Introduction • How Paul prays, v. 4-5 • What Paul prays, v. 6 • Why Paul prays, v. 7 “For I have great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.”
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • • • • Introduction How Paul prays, v. 4-5 What Paul prays, v. 6 Why Paul prays, v. 7 – Paul’s encouraged by his love
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • • • • Introduction How Paul prays, v. 4-5 What Paul prays, v. 6 Why Paul prays, v. 7 – Paul’s encouraged by his love – Paul’s got joy from his love
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • • • • Introduction How Paul prays, v. 4-5 What Paul prays, v. 6 Why Paul prays, v. 7 – Paul’s encouraged by his love – Paul’s got joy from his love – What love? • Philemon refreshed the hearts of the saints
  • Philemon 1:4-7 • • • • • Introduction How Paul prays, v. 4-5 What Paul prays, v. 6 Why Paul prays, v. 7 Conclusion