Joy can make even the most confining places into places of possibility. But how do we live in a way that doesn't let the disappointments and limitations of our lives define us?
All right. What a blessing to be able to share this time together with all of you, wherever you are near or far I like to say. I’m just glad that we’re connected right now. Some of you are here in the San Francisco Bay Area, others of you in other parts of the nation, and some of you I know are in other parts of the world. We’re together right now. What a blessing to be able to share this time, having church online. If you are joining us for the first time, I’m Pastor Terry, I’m the Lead Pastor here at Cornerstone Church
in San Francisco. And I’m so happy you’re with us. Our series is called Abound, it’s our desire that we have, uh, well, you know what, that we would live a life that’s filled with goodness and grace, and that we would flourish and overflow. That our faith would be filled with color. It would be alive. Yes. We would have bound more and more in the love of Jesus.
You know, I want to talk about though, uh, the idea of joy and what I’m calling the High Bar of Authenticity. And we’re going to be looking back again, once more here at the first chapter of the book of Philippians, this wonderful letter that Paul wrote to the church of Philippi that so much connects with us today, as we seek also to follow Jesus.
But let me just pray, Lord, I ask for Your blessing over our time. Let Your words be alive in us. Speak to us. I pray, fill us with Your joy. I know these are not always easy times for some of us. They’ve been very complicated and we understand that sometimes our biggest challenge is with our own thinking patterns, our anxious thoughts and our fears that would bind us.
But we welcome You in. Lord, we welcome You in, even to the situations that may not even be good. We believe that You can bring good. The places where we would be discouraged or depressed, beaten down. We feel a little disheartened. I ask that You would fill us with Your joy, for the joy of the Lord is our strength.
That is my prayer in Jesus’ name. Let’s just jump right in here. The epistle is writing. For God is my witness. Verse eight. How I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more with knowledge and all discernment. That’s our key verse for the year. That we may abound in His love. But he goes on to say in verse ten, so that you may approve what is excellent.
And so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness, the quality of rightness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and the praise of God. You know just sit with the idea of the fruit of righteous. That comes through Jesus. We’re talking about the real impact of His presence at work, in our lives. That it would show up in tangible ways that we would be able to identify the fruit or the impact or the effect of the light of Jesus, that is working inside of us. And His love that is causing things to abound and grow that we thought could never grow in us.
But it’s happening. It’s the miracle. It’s the life of Jesus. And I think about a tree, I think about a tree in my mind’s eye that is just filled with fruit, just filled. It’s just got its color everywhere because of that fruit. And I think that’s what God wants to do in us. And how does that show up? I mean, that’s what we’ve been talking about.
Well, one of the ways we’re told here that it shows up is in our joy. In fact joy is one of the key themes of the book of Philippians. If you were to ask me what this book gives us, how, how really God has used this apostle. It really is as a vehicle of bringing joy. Uh, I, I think that what we’re talking about here is our overall attitude towards ah life.
Cause we’re always going to have reasons to, like I mentioned, to be dismayed or disheartened. You know, life has setbacks. It has disappointments. Things, don’t go always, as we were hoping. Something that maybe we were hoping for, doesn’t come through for us. That’s part of life. But the Lord wants us still to have His joy, even when we’re having a kind of, you know, time in our life,
that is not good. I mean, think about how things: we have ups and downs. And sometimes in those low places, it can be hard to stay encouraged. And yet that’s where the joy of the Lord is so important. That’s where His love a- bounding shows up. I remember something that a writer that I admire, a Christian thinker that I admire, named Richard Foster.
Uh, he, you know, he actually has written a lot on what we call the disciplines of the Christian life. The practices that have been implemented historically by believers over centuries that can produce a flow of life in us. And Richard Foster, who has written a, you know, one of his most famous books probably called the Celebration of Discipline, and he talks about it.
So this is not a man who’s a lightweight, he, he talks about what it means to be committed and how to live, uh, and in restraint as a way of releasing things that God would want to plant into our lives. But look what he says here. I just think that, you know this man who has no lightweight look what he says. He says joy, not grit, is the hallmark of holy obedience.
Joy, not grit, is the hallmark of holy obedience. We need to be lighthearted in what we do to avoid taking ourselves too seriously. It is a cheerful revolt against self and pride. And I think what he was getting at there was when we start to try too hard or we’re being so rigorous that we’re not happy,
there’s no joy in us, we’re missing something. You know, following Jesus is not about just, you know, gritting our teeth and getting through it. You know, fighting our way out. There are times I know, we’re going to have to contend. We talk about taking up the cross. I get all of that. It’s true. There’s a part of our life with Jesus that involves the enduring hardship,
no question about it. But there’s also a sense that even in those places, God wants to fill us, maybe even, maybe even more so with His joy. And He doesn’t want us to ever get our eyes off of Him, too much on ourselves. I think sometimes some of us, I know we’re, we’re maybe a little too soft on ourselves, but there are other times where I think we’re, we’re actually too hard on ourselves and we’re not allowing the Lord to fill us with His joy.
And sometimes, it’s our pride that God’s trying to get at. Like he’s, he’s mentioning sometimes joy is that cheerful, revolt against self and our pride. And there are times where the Lord wants us to just let some things go. That actually humility, is going to involve surrendering our sense that we, we need to do this, but actually trusting that the Lord is going to help us. That see that,
and to joyfully cooperate with Him in the process. Even when we find ourselves experiencing setbacks. So I just think joy is just an absolute hallmark, like you said of holy holy obedience. I mean, it’s something that the Lord wants us. He says, I want your joy to be full. I mean, it’s just that the Lord, He was, He was joyful.
The Lord was joyful. And when we abound in Christ, we are going to have a part of His spirit at work in us. And, joy is a fruit of the, part of the fruit of spirit. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s what happens when we walk with Him. Now, I remember years ago and now it’s been a few decades actually, when I was having a discussion with my grandfather, my mentor in the faith. Uh, and he was telling me stories about this evangelist that he had been affected by.
And he told me his name. He said his name was Billy Sunday. And, uh, you know, I, I came to find out that Billy Sunday was a former baseball player who had become actually a great evangelist in the early 20th century. And I think I mentioned my grandfather used to talk about him all the time. He said he was animated and alive, and he, that he almost had this frenetic delivery. And he made an impression on my grandfather.
I mean, and by the way, I mean, can there be, a better name for a minister than Billy Sunday? I mean, you got to admit Billy Sunday. It was almost like that was your destiny, my friend. You know, but Billy Sunday said this about joy. I still think it speaks today. He says, look, “if you have no joy, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere.”
Whoa. If you have no joy, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere. Why? Because joy is a by-product of staying close to Jesus and it doesn’t mean we all have the same personalities. I totally get that. Some of us are more up by nature, some of us are more mellow by nature, some of us are more serious by nature.
Some of us are a little bit, you know, well, we’re more melancholy, but it doesn’t mean that we should be devoid of joy. Because joy can make even the confining places of life, places of possibility. You heard what I said. Remember it was, it was really out of Paul’s confinement that we are given these words that we were given this epistle.
Can you hear me when I say this loved ones. There are songs for us to sing in the prison places. There are words for us to write in the empty spaces. And this is one of the keys to the abounding life. Another way that it shows up though, the abounding life of love in Christ, it shows up in joy yes, but the apostle Paul is also getting at something here
when he talks about pure and sincere faith. It also shows up in what I’m going to call a genuine high bar authenticity, a genuine high bar authenticity. And again, this goes back to what the apostle was appealing to. And we talk a lot about this last week, about what it means to be a sunshine people. A people who, are are pure and sincere. You know, we talked about how they would take a piece of merchandise and, and expose it to the sunlight, to be able to assess the true condition.
And, you know, I think that that God wants us to be a people who I call it, the sunshine people who can hold up to scrutiny cause we’re, we’re real deal. And this is who we are. And I’m not talking about perfection because honestly, none of us are ever going to get that. We’re not. We know it. You know, it and I know it. All of us, the best of us, whoever we are, I don’t know.
But we’re all going to struggle with something at some time. There’s no such thing as getting this all together all the time. I mean, that’s Jesus. We want to be more like Jesus but we can’t deny the fact that there’s contradictions and things that we have from our past that are impacting us in our present, or, you know, how easy it is for us to drift into unhealthy places and spaces and ways of thinking.
You know, we are so easily drawn into addictions. I mean, there’s a broken part of our nature, even though we’ve been touched by the reality of Jesus, we, we know there are things in us that can be improved. There are times where it’s not just the words that we say, but the words that we don’t say, it’s not just the things that we do is the things that we don’t do.
If the Lord were to hold us to a standard of perfection, none of us would ever make it never, ever. And yet that being true, I think that is important for us to ask ourselves, are, are we essentially, and increasingly, what, you know, who we seem to be. You know, in other words, is there something genuine and real that’s inside of us that is showing up externally and that there’s not a disconnect there are we striving, contending to be what the Lord would have us to be?
Are we striving to ground our identity in Him, flaws and all, flaws and all. Desiring to grow as a people who genuinely love the Lord and who are living that love out into the dailiness of our lives. And challenging ourselves to allow the Lord to help us become better and to improve in our relationships in our, the quality of our character, into the goodness of our life, to our response patterns, learning how to, how to grow past areas, where we have experienced,
you know, setback before. And, and we know we’re vulnerable. I talk about those kryptonite places, those blind spots, sometimes that maybe we are aware of, and we know how, how weak we are, but sometimes we don’t even see it when it’s starting to happen inside of us till it’s a little bit too late, we mess up.
But, I guess what we’re talking about here is that we are to be a people who are pursuing a genuine, authentic life of faith. Yeah, you heard me. A genuine, authentic life of faith seeking to be neither hypocritical, but listen, nor are we settling for the low bar authenticity. Like, we’re not, okay. Where, what is the low bar authenticity?
What am I talking about in contrast to high bar authenticity? I mean, you know, high bar authenticity has to do with trying to pursue something that the Lord is calling us towards that it’s going to not be easy, but we know, like we’re not, we’re not, we’re not pretending we’re better than we are, but we’re not
trying to excuse ourselves from wanting to improve and grow. Low bar authenticity is when we waved the white flag and just kind of surrender to our sin or addictions or our passive commitment to Jesus and the church community, because, and I’ve heard how many times have I heard this? I don’t want to be hypocrite.
So, you know, I don’t want to pretend to be something I’m not, right? And I’ve even heard people say, I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna be hypocrite so I stopped coming to church. Right? And, and they’re almost implying that, you know, when I get the, I know that I’m doing something that’s probably not good, so I’m not ready to let go of that.
And I don’t want to be a fake person, but you know, if down the line, this thing doesn’t work out, and, uh, I feel like I, if I were to go to church, I wouldn’t be a hypocrite, then, you know, you might see me again. And I’m going, wow, how is that, that level. I go, I appreciate your desire to be an authentic person and how you don’t want to be a hypocrite, but how, how, how is that good?
And another thing I would say to someone, sometimes people say to me, well, you know, I just need to get my act together before I come to church, come back to church. And I say to them, no, no, no, no, no. You don’t need to have your act together to come to the Lord’s house. You come to the Lord’s house to help get your act together.
I mean, come on. It’s exactly the opposite. That’s what we’re all trying to do, we’re not perfect. We’re all working to grow in grace. So the goal is to up our game in Christ, with the help of Christ. To not give into our, our lower angels and stop, or those inner demons, you know, whatever those things are, right.
And stop pursuing what is best because we don’t want to be a hypocrite. Let’s not use that as an excuse to settle for mediocrity or worse. You know, let’s come on, come on. Let’s aim higher. Let’s pursue better. Let’s instead seek to be authentic, real deal believers, abounding in faith, surrendered to grace. So in dish, in addition to, to, you know, the bounty of life showing up in our joy, let it also show up in what we are calling high bar authenticity. That we are,
we are stretching ourselves. We are relying on God’s grace. We’re not settling. We’re not using things as an excuse to pull away. We’re going for what God has for us. And another way in which the abounding life of love and Christ shows up, talked about joy. Paul was talking about that joy. Talked about high bar authenticity.
But it also shows up in our chosen response to disappointment, setback and limitation. Because it’s really important to remember the context of these words. I mean, they were written by the apostle Paul, when he is in a place of confinement in Rome, under house arrest. That’s important because you know, and the other thing that’s happening here, and it’s going to show up in a minute when we read it, is that he’s being, he, he he’s being criticized and, and he is limited in his capacity to defend himself from these false allegations.
I mean, he sees people taking advantage of his situation to advance their own agenda. And it just, oh man, for the kind of person he was to not be able to go back there and defend himself, it was really hard. It’s sorta like, and I think we can relate to that. There some things that we wish we could address sometimes but we find ourselves,
so, so diminished in our situation that we are, we, we really can’t. Like we were in a weakened position. And so there were a lot of reasons, uh, why he could have been discouraged. I hope we understand that. He was confined. He was being attacked. His reputation was being, uh, undermined. There were people who were referring to his situation as a rationale for disregarding his words, because after all look at him. And he couldn’t be there to confront them or defend himself to people who he had helped influence for Jesus.
In other words, like I said, there were a lot of reasons to be discouraged, but watch how he models pursuing the abounding life and implementing the principles we’ve been sitting with. Let’s learn from them ourselves, but let’s read this. He says, “I want you to know brothers, we would say brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,
I know it doesn’t seem that way, but it really has, so that it has become, listen, so it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and all the rest of the people around me here, that, that my imprisonment is actually for Christ. And I want you to know that as well. And most of the brothers having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment are actually much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
I mean, they’re stepping up. So what is he doing? He’s focusing on the positive. He’s seeing the blessing that’s kind of in disguise that others may be missing. And he’s also, I think, strengthening himself in his resolve. He’s saying essentially, look, God is using this constraint for good. One, the message is spreading and he’s writing it down,
right. The message is spreading. And that’s what I live for, I live for the message of Jesus to be spread. And even now is spreading here in Rome it’s spreading in the place that I most wanted to go. And it’s still working in places where I’ve been able to plant it. Like, like, like he was saying, like with you, my, my friends and brothers and sisters in Philippi, and he says, some of you are stepping up.
And this is another way that God is using my confinement because some of you are stepping up and you’re developing and you’re moving forward in leadership and you’re taking on responsibility and you’re being courageous. And you’re speaking words like you’ve never spoken before. Now, it’s true, he says some are doing it out of mixed motives.
I can’t deny that. I can’t deny that that’s happening as well. That there are some who are doing this out of unhealthy motives, but not all. Look what he says here. Verse fifteen, “some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter they do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, but thinking really, honestly, just how to undermine me.
How to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then?” You know, how am I going to deal with that? He says “only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth Christ is proclaimed, I rejoice in that. And in that I rejoice.” Yes. And you can hear like, just doing, pushing even further. Yes, I will re- joice.
He’s just strengthening himself in the joy of the Lord. And do we see, you know, and, and he’s focusing on the good that is coming from what is not good. You know, he’s modeling what that, you know, when it, when it comes to the abounding life, it’s going to be something that we have to really make a decision that we want to commit ourselves to. Especially when things are unfair or hard. You know, you look, undeterred by life’s complications and his disappointment with people,
he focused on the positive instead of the negative. And there’s a great, great truth for us right there. I mean, we just really need to sit with that. Because there are going to be times when we’re going to have a lot of things that aren’t working right. And we’re going to have complications and, and it’s not always going to be going great.
And then there are going to be other times we’re going to have disappointments with people and our issues are more relational. So sometimes it has to do with our life, our health, our finances, what work, uh, just our own mental wellbeing, emotional health sometimes has to do with our physical health, but other times it has to do with people.
And just that the tension points, uh just the mess that we can make sometimes. And what he’s doing is he’s focusing on the positive and not on the negative in Christ. And it’s a secret to a bounty. It’s a great example. Cause he really could have dropped into the negative. But he put the accent on the good news more than on the bad news.
And I mean, literally on The Good News, right? The Gospel, The Good News, instead of the bad news. And you know, at, at, at its core, if you look at what his largest struggle with, besides the fact that he was dealing with the confinement component, his big issue here really was with people. And I think we can relate to that because you know, some of these people were actually thorns in his side.
They almost, they almost took a perverse pleasure in hitting him while he was down. And he said, you know, they preach Jesus, but they also feel compelled. So it’s not like these were unbelievers, but they were people who were just trying to undermine Paul. And he says they almost delight in the, in diminishing me.
Partly, they do it out of envy, but also some of them, you know, see me as a rival for power and they just, they just want to assert themselves. So the best way to do that is to put me down and he goes, it’s, it’s a, you know, and again, I think this is a real thing. I think some of us can relate to this maybe at work, maybe in our friendship or relational circles.
I don’t know. I, you know, I, I realized that we’re all different. But, you know, we, in these places where we’re disappointed with people or feeling like people are working against us in some way, it could be in our own family. I know, I think we need to watch our heart. I love what the apostle is doing here. He’s just getting his heart in the right place. Because when people are undermining us or working against, this is very easy to get negative, isn’t it? I’ve known that feeling.
And to allow the unfairness and the offense that we are experiencing to become the dominant story. And we just need to surrender that to Christ lest it consume us. And that’s what I sense Paul is doing here. He’s not denying, but he’s not letting it define him. So let’s say this it’s not denying, but not letting it be defining, when these things are happening to you.
And it doesn’t mean we don’t, we’re not devoid of responsibility or that we haven’t had a part to play. But the fact is there are some times where we’re, we’re just going to have to deal with it and not let it defeat us. So we can’t deny, but we don’t want it to define us. He’s making sure the apostle is that the dominant story is the faithfulness of God in Christ, that, that his dominant story is the faithfulness of God in Christ.
It’s not what they’re doing. It’s not who’s letting him down or why he’s not freed up, you know, he’s, it’s about the faithfulness of God. And, and because of that, I think we can see it. He ends that, you know, he’s going to, he ends it that eighteenth verse there, what we see so clearly here, is the choice to rejoice. The choice to rejoice.
And that brings us all the way back to the joy, doesn’t it? What does he say in verse eighteen? What then? Oh yeah, we read it earlier. I want to read it one more time. “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice.” I will rejoice. It’s almost like he’s trying to reinforce it, convince himself. Because there’s a part of him maybe that doesn’t want to do it or is having a hard time doing so he says yes,
and that I will rejoice. Yes. And I will rejoice. You see that? You see that? That’s what I’m doing. He’s planting his flag. He’s planting his father, his flag, rejoice in the Lord always. The scriptures teach us, and again, I say rejoice. Why? Because the Lord is good. And He is with us. The Lord is good.
And He is with us. And His faithfulness is to be our dominant story. So I have something more to share on the other side. I do want to remind us before we share a song, which is just going to get right into connecting with what we’ve all been sitting with here. I do remind all of you about our time of giving,
I get to do this. I really do. And I believe how we give is a reflection of what is most important to us. And certainly if we are a follower of Jesus, and if we feel called to a church community, then it becomes, part of our joyful way of honoring the Lord in our tithes, in our tenth and in our offerings. So remember, you can give by sending it in, you can give online, you can give through the app, just, you know, if you don’t have that, download it, enable notifications.
You can give directly through the app. That’s what I do. But like, I always say, let us first give our heart, our joyful hearts with high bar authenticity. Yes. In Jesus name.
So here we go.