This Sunday our head pastor at Berean revealed that we would be going through Philippians for the next few months. It’s pretty exciting to get a taste of the book, a message of building a biblical unity through the power and joy found in Christ.
So why is this post called “Philippians Galore”? Recently Soldiers, the male fellowship for high schoolers back in Sacramento, went through the book. I think I still have my notes from when I gave the study in a really old notebook somewhere. More recently, Pastor Joe at my church back home (Chinese Grace Bible Church), is going through Philippians right now. After 9 months with a couple of breaks, he’s midway through chapter 2. Though I wasn’t there to hear all of them, his messages on being of one mind and the church unity were very encouraging to me. I just listened to his four-part series on Philippians 2:5-11 titled “The Supreme Servant” which was incredible to say the least. Anyone with a bit of time and a computer that works Real Player should listen. To hear about the miracle of the incarnation and the power behind the Ascension helped me understand the absurdity and humility of Christ to become a servant. Based on this premise, Pastor Joe declared, “We cannot repeat His death but we can imitate His life.” Christ’s service to others reached it’s apex on the cross; “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Romans 5:7 says that one would hardly die for a righteous or good man and yet Christ died for those who are the polar opposite of His nature. No wonder Christ is the supreme servant to whose image we must conform!
When I think of biblical unity as Pastor Peter described this past Sunday, I can’t help but remember this conversation. Pastor Peter made it a point to say that the unity of the church extends beyond the buildings of UT but to the scope of the universal church. This is a conversation between Charles Simeon and John Wesley, though I’m not entirely sure whether this is fact or fictitious in nature.
Charles Simeon: Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?
John Wesley: Yes, I do indeed.
Charles Simeon: And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?
John Wesley: Yes, solely through Christ.
Charles Simeon: But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?
John Wesley: No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.
Charles Simeon: Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?
John Wesley: No.
Charles Simeon: What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?
John Wesley: Yes, altogether.
Charles Simeon: And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?
John Wesley: Yes, I have no hope but in Him.
Charles Simeon: Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree.
Unfortunately for me, the preaching on a book that calls us to be unified might end up challenging my somewhat analytical character. I will admittedly confess that it will be difficult to not compare messages from Pastor Peter and Pastor Joe. The preaching style is similar by declared method but carried out very differently while assuming the pulpit. I need to assume a posture that recognizes that both men are servants in the house of the Son and are divinely supplementing my understanding of His Word. I am looking forward to how God will use the preaching at Berean to move us to greater unity while I always love hearing how people are responding to it back home.