Second Sunday of Advent
December 6, 2015
Philippians 1:3-11 | New Living Translation
Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News.God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.
I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.
I remember the first time I really read this passage. It was during my senior year of high school. As I recall, it was a scripture added to a graduation card. It also happened that I really liked the person who gave me the card – she was also graduating that year. I remember how many times I read that scripture over and over again.
Over the years, Paul’s letter to the Philippians has had a profound affect on me. This opening to the letter to the church at Philippi is special. Paul writes from the heart of the pastor or a missionary. This is Paul’s missionary letter to the Philippians – reporting what has been going on. I love how Paul writes, “I thank my God for you – every time I think of you.” He praises those to whom he is writing, “Thank you for being part of sharing the gospel.” Paul’s prayer is that they continue that until Christ returns (The Second Advent.) A much quoted verse says, “I pray that God would continue the work that he started in you, until Christ returns. Paul mentions this twice in this short passage.
It is an idea that we must be ready for the return of Christ – because he is coming. Just as I wrote on Wednesday about Revelation, Paul reminds us that we need to live in holiness until the return of Christ. That is part and parcel of what Paul is getting at when he prays that God will continue the work. Later on in the same letter Paul tells the Philippians to work our their salvation with fear and trembling. Yes, God does his work in saving us – but we must continue on. In chapter three, Paul tells us to press on toward the high calling of Christ. Christ’s love overflows in us and it is out of that overflow that we want to grow in Him – in wisdom and in understanding – to live pure and blameless lives (that is what it means to live in holiness.) Paul prays that we be filled with the fruit of our salvation – righteous character that can only be produced by Jesus Christ. This is how we prepare ourselves for his Second Advent.
Like I said at the beginning, this passage has had a profound effect on my life. In fact, it has been part of my resignation letter at several of the churches when we felt God was calling us to a new area of ministry. I still pray for each one of the churches that we pastored – that they would continue in the work of the ministry to bring people to a saving knowledge of Christ and to nurture them and grow them into disciples of Jesus Christ – that they to may live pure and blameless until Christ returns. I would hope this would be the prayer of any pastor as the day of Christ return nears.