Neutralizing the Threat

by | Jan 7, 2024 | Podcast, Sermons

Information about this sermon:

Preacher: Pastor David Ball

Scripture: Philippians 1:1-11

The major theme of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is the encouragement to continue advancing the Gospel mission. The Philippian church faced internal and external threats, which gave birth to fear, self-centeredness, and pride, threatening their ability to live on mission for Jesus. Paul’s request to God was that He would give them love for one another, a desire for what is right, and a filling of the righteousness that comes only from Jesus. Life on mission for Jesus is difficult and full of external and internal threats to our lives. Paul’s prayer for the Philippians is the same for us today and comes with the assurance that the same God who brought us to Jesus will see us through to very end of our mission.


Well again good morning and so or golly

again good

evening you know I know you probably all have a favorite uh Christmas movie and uh one of my favorites is uh Christmas vacation I might not supposed to admit that um but uh one of my my favorite scenes in in Christmas Vacation is when uh uh you know Clark Griswald has worked so hard because he just wants the perfect joyful Christmas for his family and for everyone to be happy and he’s he’s put up the thousands and thousands of light and he P calls everybody out to the yard uh and he gets them all to do the the drum roll right and he picks up the uh the two ends of the the extension cord and then uh he says joy to the world and nothing right nothing happens nothing happens and uh if you if you’ve seen it you know from there uh he gets fairly disappointed and and frustrated and uh even eventually angry right uh and uh you know I was thinking about that in our talking about this passage tonight and and the main idea that we’re looking at is the joy of Christmas and I think it’s also something we have to consider and that scene kind of brings it out uh sometimes Joy can leave us disappointed can it sometimes it can leave us frustrated sometimes it can even leave us a a little bit angry especially when it’s just Joy to the world but that’s not what we’re here for tonight we’re not here just to celebrate Joy to the World we’re here tonight to celebrate Joy to the World the Lord Has Come

and that difference makes all the difference in our lives because tonight’s the night that that we celebrate uh the Fulfillment of the deepest longing of our hearts for real true and Lasting joy we celebrate the good news that is of great joy that’s for all the people it’s for you and it’s for me that Jesus has come into the world and he’s come to save us and he came came because Jesus loves us he came because God wants to be with you and he wants to be with me and so Jesus the son of God he put on flesh and he came Among Us and because he came our deepest Longing For Joy can be fulfilled in him but before I think we we we talk about Joy anymore I think we need to understand exactly what Joy is or maybe in this case what what Joy isn’t because in our culture I think we’ve got a misconception about what Joy really is we tend to think of joy as something more akin to happiness you know that warm and fuzzy feeling we get uh that uh when things are going our way and uh and the things that are going the way that we want want them to and don’t get me wrong happiness is good happiness is is important we all want to be to be happy and the truth is as as a culture we’re obsessed with happiness we’re obsessed with it there’s a whole industry a billion dollar industry out there that revolves around our need and desire and longing to be happy the self-help industry it exploded in the past 20 years absolutely explo exploded and it revolves around the secrets right the secrets to finding a joyful happy life if you follow these this rule of life life if you do these things uh then you’ll find in the end joy and happiness and uh and fulfillment as I said this industry is absolutely uh exploded it’s grown and it’s grown and yet the more self-help that’s out there the more and more happiness and joy seems to absolutely elude us it’s here for a moment it’s here for a moment and then it’s gone in an instant and so we start again new on our quest for happiness right and and contentment we work on ourselves we work on our relationships we look for for different jobs whatever we can do we look for that next toy that next thing that next project that’s going to that’s going to fulfill us it’s going to give us some sense of joy that our hearts are are longing for maybe it’s a job that’s going to give us the freedom to be able to do all the things that we want to do uh maybe we look for a new romantic partner because the one we’re with no longer fulfills us the way that we want to be fulfilled but all that becomes is a NeverEnding roller coaster ride because happiness is just here for a moment and then seemingly it’s gone just as soon as it had come somewhere along the line the Joy’s gotten all connected and wrapped up in in our idea of happiness and in our culture the two words just get used synonymously really but what if Joy is something far deeper and far more significant than just our emotional experience of Happiness what if Joy is actually the thing that we’re really longing for in our heart of hearts but that it’s something that can’t actually be achieved it’s not something that we can work towards and earn what if Joy is just the thing that’s actually pointing us to the place where true contentment can be found what if all the these longings for joy and these little things we go after are just signposts that are that are pointing us to where Joy truly

exists instead of being found in the next relationship or the next exercise routine or health plan or possession what if Joy is something that has come to you and all you have to do this Christmas is unwrap it and receive it into your our hearts you know we get these glimpses I think of Joy along the way these signposts right uh the but they’re only just pointing us to the real thing the real thing over 2,000 years ago there was a a a group of Shepherds that we just read about they were going about their their daily lives right they were doing their job uh they were just watching over their flocks at night uh it was uh it was just like any other night really at least when they set out uh they were at work tending there protecting their flocks right they’re just doing their jobs living their lives but on this particular night it was different something unexpected happened they encountered a messenger of God and understandingly they were filled with fear you know wolves or thieves or lions or whatever else might have been coming to threaten the Sheep well they were expecting that but they weren’t expecting this Joy kind of works that way and Our Lives real Joy it can hit us unexpectedly but like those who’d encountered Messengers throughout the of God throughout the the scriptures they were filled with fear and understandably but the messenger of God said to them fear not for behold I bring you good news that’s of great joy that will be for all the people for unto you is Born This Day in the city of David a savior who is Christ Christ the lord good news of great joy that’s for all the people that was the message God gave to these regular ordinary Shepherds 2,000 years ago who are going about their normal lives this is the message that he interrupted their lives with and tonight the message that God wants to interrupt our lives with over 2,000 years later it’s the same it’s good news it’s of great joy it’s for you and it’s for me but let’s break this down to just a little bit first of all the angel calls it good news well what exactly does that mean well let’s think about it for just a minute what’s the best news that you’ve ever received can you think of a moment can you think of a time where you got some message that was truly good news in your life maybe it was when uh he or she said I do uh maybe it was when that uh when that little stick said pregnant maybe it was when the doctor said no cancer that’s some pretty good news right what’s the best news that that you’ve ever received there’s nothing quite like getting good news in our lives but but what did the angel of the Lord mean when he said I bring you good news well the word the angel used is the same work that uh word that the the emperor Roman emperors used for proclaiming a message of their own Triumph and victory in battle and so they’d Proclaim they’d send a message to the local criers in the town uh who would go out with this message into the into the town center and proclaim the good news of The Emperor’s Triumph and his victory and that he was coming in great Pomp and Circumstance to to ride through their City to show off all of his glory and all of his achievements and God used this word very much on purpose to announce the birth of his son into the world because the birth announcements was a was a proclamation of Victory it was a proclamation of Triumph only it wasn’t a a military Triumph it was so much bigger than that it was a cosmic Triumph it was a victory over all of space and time a triumph over good and evil it was the beginning of God’s victory over our sin his triumph over death itself his defeat of the prince of this world of Satan but this good news Proclamation Proclamation wasn’t just God’s way of taking a Victory lap like the the Roman emperors were doing this good news Proclamation was the announcing the announcement of God that he had had come to share his Triumph with us he had come to share this news with us he was coming to share his glory with us this was incredibly personal incredibly relational that his victory in Jesus wasn’t just his own Triumph it was not just for his own Glory God’s Victory he came to share with us for those who receive this newborn king God’s Triumph will be their Triumph that’s what the good news is but it’s not only good news of God’s triumph over sin and death and the devil the messenger of God proclaimed to those Shepherds and to us this morning that Jesus’s birth was good news that was of great joy well how is Jesus’s birth have anything to do with our experience of Joy today because let’s be honest life life’s hard isn’t it life life’s full of disappointments there there’s lots to be frustrated about and to be unhappy about we’ve all experienced suffering and pain we’ve experienced loneliness rejection heartache and loss you know especially this time of year it can be it can be crushing absolutely crushing sometimes it can be really hard to find anything worth being joyful about can it so how’s this coming of Jesus into the world uh of great joy for me and for you here and now tonight you know as I said earlier we’ve got to make this distinction between uh between happiness and joy happiness is that feeling of pleasure when things are going the way we want them to go in life when everything’s going the way we want it to but but joy is different Joy is deeper than happiness joy is something more akin to fulfillment and contentment than it is to any of our feelings in any one given time about happiness the word that we translate it’s Joy In this passage it most literally means the awareness of God’s grace in your life the awareness of God’s grace in your life Joy is realizing that God’s Grace has come near to you

that he’s come to you you know joy in that sense is not a thing in and of itself to be attained actually but rather Joy is something that we can only receive it’s a gift it’s the byproduct of God’s grace when it’s at work in our lives when he comes happiness is something that in many ways is within our control we don’t do a great job of it but it’s within our control right we can we can work hard to try to to get everything and the just the right way to where we can experience a little happiness in our lives but joy that’s not something we can attain at all real contentment and fulfillment in life we can’t control that we can only receive it when we become aware that God’s grace is with us that it’s near us that he hasn’t abandoned us that God wants and longs to be near to us it’s God’s desire to be near to you tonight and every day is that how you think about God do do you think about God as being a God who wants to be with you who wants to be near to you or do you think that if God exists at all maybe he’s just a being who at best tolerates you and uh and at worse is just annoyed by your

presence well if Christmas makes anything clear to us it’s this that the god of the universe longs to be with us and that he’d give up everything to be near to

you he longs to be close to you so much that he was willing to give his only son to come into this world to save us that’s how much he loves you and wants to be with you just imagine that for a

minute God wants to be near you right now to despite how you may have behaved today despite how angry you may have gotten with your family already uh or frustrated with with the people around you God loves you and he wants to be near you and he proved that and coming into this world putting on flesh and coming Among Us and when God comes near you and we receive him into our lives it’s there that and there only that true Joy can be found because there’s joy in the presence of God what psalm 16 tells us it proclaims that in the presence of the Lord is there is fullness of joy and then in Psalm 43 it declares that when we go to the Lord we find there exceeding Joy the reason why we experience Joy when we come to the Lord is because what the scriptures are telling us is that God is Joy it’s who he is that’s a another mind-blowing concept isn’t it maybe a total paradigm shift for you that God is joyful God’s joyful you know I think most of us think of God probably is being pretty serious pretty pretty serious about the business he’s at right and probably pretty Stern about it uh because he takes it seriously and if you take something seriously then you have to be Stern or maybe it’s even worse than that maybe he’s just a full of Wrath and indignation ready to judge you at every every moment and ready to punish you as you so deserve it but the P the P the scriptures paint a picture of a joyful God a god with who within himself within the Holy Trinity is full of joy and relationship with one another he’s a god of joy and so when we when God comes into our lives Joy is the product it overflows his Joy overflows into our lives we see it in the scriptures and the gospels when people especially encounter the Risen Jesus in all those cases they are filled with rejoicing that’s the reaction that’s the response it’s Joy it’s not fear in the end it’s it it’s not one where they feel ashamed of themselves encountering the Living God is to be filled with his Joy friends this is why we’re always seeking joy in our lives this is why there’s this void that exists in all of us in our hearts in our lives that we’re desperately trying to fill we’re doing the best we can to try to fill that void of Joy through our achievements and our relationships maybe it’s through our possessions so that we might just get a glimpse of it and experience just a little bit of it at least for just a moment get that momentary sense of an experience of happiness maybe because of the the promotion at work or the raise we got at the end of the year or a momentary sense of Happiness from that new boat that we bought or the that dream vacation that we we finally went on right but eventually doesn’t the thrill of that wear off inevitably it does you’ve experienced that right it wears off and that deep Longing For Joy returns you know for me around the house I’m always I’m always looking for a project you know I have this need for a project to do something to build something to fix something to do because I I need to fill something in my life and so I’ve got a project going on right now it’s a uh we’re we’re getting we have chickens and we need a bigger hin house and so I’m building a hen house uh and I’m absolutely obsessed with it there’s something within me that uh uh that I just can’t wait to finish it but you know what’s going to happen I’m going to be so happy when I finally finish it but the next day I’m going to want to do another one because it’s not going to be enough it’s not going to have really fulfilled me it’s not going to be left me really content I’m going to need the next that next moment of Joy some something to do something way to try to achieve it the reason we’re left empty by all these things that the world has to offer all the things that we attempt to fill that that emptiness of void that void of emptiness within us is because we are created by the god God of Joy himself we were created to be in his presence and to be in a relationship with him that his Joy might always fill us and fulfill Our Lives everything else we attempt to fill our lives with it’s just a counterfeit joy and counterfeit Joy does nothing but fill us for a moment and then leave us completely bankrupt in the end Christmas though is the good news that’s of great joy because Jesus has come into the world to be near to us he’s come to fill our lives with real true authentic Joy because he is the presence of God he’s come to fill us with a joy that remains forever Jesus said it this way in in John’s gospel in John 15 he said that he came so that that his Joy may be in you and that your joy may be full Jesus the son of God has brought the joy of God into this world and into our lives will we always be happy no we won’t but will we always have joy because Christ is with us even in the midst of our own suffering and pain absolutely yes you djer bon Hofer was a a German pastor and theologian during World War II many of you probably know of him or have read some of his his writings uh he was placed in prison uh by the Nazis because he spoke out against the evil regime at even at a time when uh many Christian churches just turned a blind eye to what was what was going on uh Bon Hofer was suffering in prison and he was getting messages every day of loved ones brothers and sisters family members friends dear friends who were being killed by the Nazis and in one of his last letters that he ever wrote from prison before uh he was going to death

himself Bon offer wrote to his friends about the joy that he found in Jesus this is what he wrote he goes this Joy which no one shall take from us belongs not only to those who have been called home meaning those who have died or now experienced the fullness of the presence of God and his joy in their lives but he says it also belongs to us who are alive we are one with them in this Joy but never in Melancholy how are we going to be able to help those who have become joyless and discouraged if we ourselves are not borne Along by courage and joy but by this I don’t mean anything contrived or or forced but something that’s bestowed and free Joy abides with God and it comes down from God and it Embraces spirit and soul and body and where this Joy has seized a person there it spreads there it carries one away there it bursts open closed doors the joy of God has gone through the poverty of the manger and the agony of the cross that is why it’s invincible and it’s irrefutable it does not deny anguish when it’s there but finds God in right in the midst of it in fact precisely there it does not deny grave sin but it finds forgiveness precisely in this way it looks death straight in the eye but it finds life within it how could a man who’s living in prison condemned to die still find joy in this world and in his life How could a man who knew the death was imminent find Joy he found it not because he had worked hard at it or followed the right self-help book so that he could achieve it attain some higher plane of being where Joy exists he could experience even in the midst of his own suffering in his own pain because he had opened the gift of God’s grace in his life and he had found found true joy in the presence of God through Christ friends this is the good news that is of great joy it’s the gift of God’s grace for you and for me that God’s joy has come that he has come and he’s come to be near to you and he’s come to be near to me so the question this Christmas is this will you open the gift will you receive the grace of God and his son Jesus Christ for you and will you know for yourself this Christmas the joy that only comes from the presence of God

[Music] Amen


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