Hello, welcome to to Gospel Home Brew, a resource from River City Spokane. May the word of God brew in you, so that we may stir it in others. Last week we trekked through Chapter 2 – 12 through 18 with Thomas, my pastor at the Emerson Garfield Gospel Home in Spokane. The teachings thus far have provided a central theme for Philippians, that is ‘The Christian Life,’ and today, we’ll discuss what it means to be a Christian. But first, a little about me.
My name is Fred Putzeys, and if you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, you probably recognize my voice. For the past few months, I’ve been the guy who chimes in at the beginning and end of each podcast, wishing you a good morning, afternoon, or evening, & encouraging you to share the podcast with your friends. My wife Lauren & I moved to Spokane about 7 months ago, and strangely enough, immediately plugged in to River City Spokane. I say this is strange for a few reasons; 1. I wasn’t raised in a church, so I’ve always been a little hesitant to become part of one, the furthest I’ve ever gotten was being a door greeter at a large church where nobody would know my name if I wasn’t wearing a name tag. 2. Because although we didn’t know it, we were moving in a just stones throw away from Thomas, who would shortly thereafter become my pastor, and my friend. Lauren and I moved to our home, and it turned out to be exactly what we needed. It had the room to capacitate the growing gospel home, and was in a neighborhood where we could learn what it is like to live in community with our church. It has taught me how to be a host, where in the past I would allow social anxiety to keep me from even having small get togethers in my home, to now meeting every Monday here in our home. And Lauren & I couldn’t see it any other way.
Being a Christian might seem easy to us at first, meeting and accepting Jesus as our Lord & Savior, basking in the perfect love, mercy, and grace that Christ gives us, developing a prayer life and coming to trust in God. But as we delve deeper into the Word we start seeing a deeper reality set in, we start seeing that becoming a Christian also means conforming ourselves to Christ Himself. This realization can be a daunting one, because how could we in one thousand lifetimes ever dream to be like Christ, let alone a single lifetime.
Yet the Word invites us to become more like Him…
… He who is Holy; He who is Love; He who is Perfect; He who is Good; through His Word, Jesus invites us to follow after Him, and therefore, become more like Him.
Are you still listening? Great! It means that what I’ve said hasn’t scared you off. Now, do not allow yourself to be disheartened by this invitation, for God created us for this very purpose! Let’s take a look: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2: 10). Let us think for a moment: if God created us to be his handiwork, then this is more than just a nice gesture of invitation, or some catchy, cliche phrase that we hang on our walls or post on our facebooks – it is our calling.
In the section of scripture that we are about to discuss, we will observe two men, two Kingdom-servants, who gave their lives to build the Kingdom of God: Timothy & Epaphroditus.
Starting with Timothy, let’s look at these two men, and what the Word says about them.
Philippians 2:19-24, please read with me.
“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he as served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.”
So, we know from earlier in the letter that Paul was in prison, and was not able to make it to Philippi, a church that he (through God’s preparation) planted & loved earnestly. He cared so much for their welfare that he wanted to send Timothy, whom he mentored, who was like his spiritual son, away from him and to Philippi. He mentioned that ’he too’ would be cheered by news of them, which is to say “Timothy coming to Philippi is cheerful news for you, and I cheer with you!”
But who was Timothy?
As far as I can tell, Timothy may have grown up without a father, and was raised by his mother and grandmother. He was ministered to and mentored by Paul, and would go on to travel with Paul to many regions around the Mediterranean Sea, including Philippi. Timothy allowed Paul to circumcise him just so he could effectively witness to Jews who would otherwise not accept him. Timothy would then go on to become an ordained minister, and live in Ephesus as a minister for the rest of his life.
Here’s a guy who came from humble origins. It seems to me that one of the marks of true humility is asking for, and accepting mentorship – and then, to take that a step further – allowing that mentor to have you – as Kerr would say it – “snipped,” in order to help others come to faith in Christ. Timothy wasn’t a proud man, he was a humble servant, and that’s precisely why Paul invited Timothy to follow after him.
Here are some the reasons why Timothy’s mentor was excited to send him to Philippi:
Paul commended Timothy for having genuine concern for the Philippian Church, and draws a distinction between Timothy and other Christians who would prioritize their own affairs before those of Christ. Paul said that like a son following in his father’s trade, Timothy had faithfully served alongside of him. Paul said that he had no one like Timothy, which is to say that their rhythm for mission was in-step with one another. Could you imagine if Paul said something like that about you?
Do you have a mentor?
Do you have someone in your life who is more spiritually mature in the faith than you, someone who desperately longs to see the Kingdom come, someone who is willing to suffer to serve, both others and the Kingdom? Do you have someone like this in your life?
If you do, what would your mentor say about you if they were sending you to help someone?
If you don’t, I challenge you to look around: is there someone like this in your community? Perhaps there is someone like this in your gospel home? Whoever this person is that you have just thought of, get to know them – build a friendship with them, ask them to mentor you. Finding a mentor is an essential step in our Jesus-journey.
Timothy’s mentor then states that he does hope to send him, but not quite yet. Enter Epaphroditus. We don’t know much about Epaphroditus – we don’t know if he performed any miracles, or planted any churches, or wrote any books. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be anything to suggest that he is anything more than a regular guy and a member of the Philippian church. We do, however, know that he said he would deliver the care package from the church to Paul. We also know that we have the book of Philippians now, because he brought it to them.
Before we go any further, let’s take a moment and read together what Paul wrote about Epaphroditus.
“I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.”
The more I look at this text, the more I am in awe about the impact that ordinary Christians have for the Kingdom, and about the impact that God has on the heart of a willing servant. Think about it, Epaphroditus left his work, his family, his home *just* to take Paul a care package. And on his journey, when Epaphroditus became gravely ill, his focus still wasn’t on himself, he was grieved that his loved ones back home heard he was sick, and perhaps was not able to carry out his mission. His identity wasn’t in his person, it was in his mission. This was a man who had an indestructible joy that came from Christ, a joy that manifested itself in him trying to live as Christ, and trying to give as Christ, even if that meant giving his life, which he put secondary to Paul’s receiving of a gift.
Now, in the grand scheme of things, Epaphroditus’ story seems small. God didn’t call Epaphroditus to be awesome, no, but look at the impact made by Epaphroditus simply because he was faithful to do what the Lord prepared for him to do. Even though at this point Ephaphroditus’ journey wasn’t as elaborate as Paul’s or Timothy’s, Paul refers to Epaphroditus as a co-worker and a fellow soldier – a brother. Paul encourages the greater Philippian community to welcome home their brother joyfully, and to recognize that Epaphroditus is a man of honor, a man who joyfully denied himself his due rights to serve and to suffer for his brother, Paul, for his brothers and sisters back home in Philippi, and ultimately, for his suffering-servant of a savior, Jesus, who gave his life to give life to all of mankind.
Timothy and Epaphroditus aren’t the heroes of this text, but these two men know the Hero – and no, it wasn’t Paul. These two men were saved by the Hero, the Hero who humbled Himself to be a servant because he was genuinely concerned for their welfare, the Hero who put their lives before His own in order to give them a gift while they, and the rest of mankind, were left dying in the metaphorical prison cells of their sin. These men weren’t extraordinary, they simply lived life in union with the Hero who is Extraordinary. These men were simply humble and faithful to their call – the call to be God’s handiwork in a dark and twisted world – and through their heroic acts of humility and obedience, the Hero used them, both then and now, to save the world through the building of the Kingdom and the preaching of the Word.
Jesus is a servant.
Paul was a servant.
Timothy was a servant.
Epaphroditus was a servant.
We have been created in the image of God to reflect God’s selfless-servant-image to the world.
The question is, who do you serve?
If you doubt your ability to serve, to disciple, to be discipled, to be junior-heroes like Timothy and Epaphroditus, let me assure you with this: Jesus works through the ordinary to do the extraordinary. Jesus does not require you to be perfect yourself; instead, Jesus invites you to place your faith in Him to walk the path he has prepared for you to walk, and for the humility – the willingness – to obey in the building of His Kingdom.
If you lack the faith, pray for faith. If you lack humility, p1ray for humility. If you are willing, but doubt your ability to walk this journey, pray to be filled with Kingdom-courage.
If the Lord can change my heart from being an isolationist to welcoming strangers into my home every week to learn His Word, I cannot begin to imagine what He will do with you if you are willing.
This is Fred Putzeys, and this week, let’s pray that we open our hearts to the roles we have been given by God.