Philippians is about Christ in our life, Christ as our goal, Christ as our strength, and joy through suffering. It was written during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, about thirty years after Christ’s ascension.

You may be wondering why I chose Philippians to be one of the two teaching series where we use a more expository method to work our way through the book. Since my first reading of Philippians, now many years ago, I have always loved this particular letter. When I read it I sense Paul’s joy, and now, as your pastor – his joy and love for the church is something I aspire to emulate.

This letter talks about things that are close to me, not the least of which is the gospel itself. It also reflects something that is near and dear to me, the love of the local church. The Philippians Christians were not perfect, but they did serve a perfect God. Paul loved them, gave praise for them, but wanted more for them.

In chapter one of Philippians, we see that Paul’s obstacles in ministry did not diminish his love for the church. In chapter 1, verses 3-6, we see that Paul continued to have the church in his thoughts. In verses 7-8, we see that Paul continued to have the church in his heart. In verses 9-11, we see that Paul continued to have the church in his prayers.

Philippians teaches me that even in our bleakest days of ministry, we must never lose our love for the local church. Paul didn’t. Even chained to Roman soldiers while sitting in a dungeon, his love for the church was still clear, Paul, who is suffering in prison, pleads with the Philippians: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (verse 6). Paul is also an optimist. Paul is convinced in God’s ability to work powerfully and effectively within individual people, and within the church. And he is convinced that God’s work will be accomplished.

Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago says. “when the love of God flows through us to others in our church family, masks come off, conversations get deep, hearts get vulnerable, lives are shared, accountability is invited and tenderness grows. In a church where this kind of love abounds, people become like brothers and sisters. They gather to share from their hearts on the deepest levels. They walk compassionately with each other through life’s problems and pain. Churches where members tap into this source of love are happy, joyful places.”

That is the church we strive for at Northstar and another reason I chose Philippians as the book for this series. Working hard to be the kind of church where we can find Jesus and then experience abundant, joyful life.

Today, we are a pretty good church, maybe not always and in every circumstance, but certainly on most days. That is a reflection of God’s grace and the faithful commitment of our members and regular attenders. And as I was preparing this series, I too was “thanking my God in all my remembrance of you.” And like Paul, I want more for all of us as we serve Him faithfully here.

My prayer matches what Paul said in Philippians 1:10 (MSG) “that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.”

Questions:
1. How do you define love for the church?
2. Who is God calling you to love?
3. How well do you keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to demonstrate love to people you meet at work, at church, or in your neighborhood?
4. Is joy a necessary component of loving the church?
5. Pray for the church that God will continue to bless our ministries. Pray for the church leadership. And pray that God will show you where you can serve in the church.