************ Sermon on Philippians 4:9 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on April 24, 2005

Philippians 4:1-9
Philippians 4:9
"Learning ... Believing ... Living"
Christian Education Sunday

"Learning ... Believing ... Living." That is our theme this Christian Education Sunday. We learn by watching, says Paul. We believe it. And we live it.

Last weekend we had our annual Rotary auction. One woman helping me with the data-entry said: "Don't tell me how to do it. Show me." Most people are that way. So, the baseball coach shows his players how to field a ball. The basketball coach demonstrates dribbling the ball up and down the court.

Good teachers also teach by example. English students watch as their teacher diagrams a sentence. Chemistry students gather around as their teacher demonstrates how to mix or not mix certain chemicals. Piano students watch as their teachers shows them where to put their fingers or how to play a difficult piece.

Jesus taught by example. He welcomed little children to His lap to show that we have to be like them to inherit heaven. He calmly scratched in the dust while an angry crowd plotted the stoning of a woman caught in sin. He touched the lives of the sick, the poor, the sinful, and the weary in full view of His disciples. He gave the greatest example of love when He died on the cross, lifted above a sin-filled world as a sacrifice for our sins.

"Learning ... Believing ... Living." Christian teachers know the power of teaching by example; they've decided to model their lives after Jesus' perfect example. They not only demonstrate how to dribble a basketball, diagram a sentence, or play the piano, they also show their students how to live by their example. Christian teachers take the words of Paul seriously:
(Phil 4:9) Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice.

It isn't only Christian teachers who know the power of teaching by example. Parents know this too. Our children learn more from what parents do than from what parents say. Church leaders know the importance of example too: those who are elders and deacons and Church School teachers and Bible Study leaders need to be an example to those in their spiritual care.

It isn't only children who watch. Those who hate the Lord Jesus and His church are looking for ammunition to fire against us; they are watching us. Those who are searching for meaning or help in life are checking us out; what we say and do will either attract or repel them. Those who are dissatisfied with their religion or faith are looking us over; they want to see if we walk the talk.

On this Christian Education Sunday I want to look with you at what Paul says about "Learning ... Believing ... Living."

I Whatsoever ...
A Paul wants the church at Philippi and by extension parents, church leaders, and Christian teachers to put into practice certain things. He uses four words to describe what he expects.

First, says Paul, put into practice whatever you have learned from me. Paul is talking here about his teaching. Paul taught many things:
-doctrine - salvation by grace through faith, baptism, Trinity, resurrection, second coming, original sin, the human and divine natures of Christ, the image of God in man
-lifestyle - the importance of living holy and clean lives, living as daytime rather than nighttime people, obeying the law, presenting yourself as a holy sacrifice to the Lord
-liturgy - how to conduct worship, use of members' gifts, prayer, how to celebrate the sacraments, the importance of giving to the Lord and His work
-church order - qualifications for those in church office, the need for order in the church, church discipline, missions
In all his teaching Paul had one over-riding concern the glory of God. What Paul taught and how he taught was designed to bring glory to God.

B Second, says Paul, put into practice whatever you have received from me. The word for "receive" is a technical term for the receiving of an authoritative tradition handed down from Church leaders. Paul taught the churches he established the tradition of the apostles the stories of Jesus' birth, temptation, baptism, miracles, teachings, death, and resurrection. Don't forget, Paul writes this in the time before the formation of the New Testament. The only way for the members to hear and learn these traditions is from Paul and the other Apostles.

C Third, says Paul, put into practice whatever you have heard from me. Paul is talking about his preaching. We know that preaching: the Gospel. The Gospel, of course, focuses on Jesus Christ. Paul preached Christ Jesus.

Paul preached the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul preached how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures and how he and the other apostles are witnesses to this. Paul preached the forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Spirit to those who, by grace, believe in Jesus. Paul preached that the Gospel of Jesus demands a response of repentance and faith.

D Fourth, says Paul, put into practice whatever you have seen in me. Paul is talking about himself his life, his lifestyle, his attitude, his character, his outlook.

Paul is aware that all eyes are on him. He knows that people are watching him either to imitate or to criticize. For this reason, he tries by the power of Christ to live a life that is pleasing to God. Paul knows that bad examples are to be found everywhere; he knows that everywhere you look you can see
(Gal 5:19-21) ... sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; (20) idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions (21) and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
By way of contrast, Paul tried to fill his life with:
(Phil 4:8) ... whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy ...

E On this Christian Education Sunday, let's tie all of this in with Christian Education and Christian teachers. In a Christian School students are taught and directed to live for God and His glory. Students will hear and learn the stories of the faith. Students will hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ each and every single day in opening and closing devotions, chapels, and Bible Class. And, students see teachers who model Christ rather than various alternative lifestyles, teachers who are devoted to God rather than a paycheck. At a Christian school, this is not rejected but accepted and even expected. "Learning ... Believing ... Living."

II Two Qualifications
A At first glance, it appears rather presumptuous and egotistical on Paul's part to set up, without apology, his own teaching and character and conduct as the standard for others to live up to:
(Phil 4:9) Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice.

Who among us would dare to set ourselves up on such a pedestal? I, for one, am hesitant to tell you to imitate me because of my sin and shortcomings and failings.

This reminds me of what I told you before about Pierre Elliott Trudeau a former Prime Minister of Canada. He loved dispensing colorful advice to reporters and voters. A reporter challenged him one day when he noticed the Prime Minister said one thing and did another. Trudeau's response: "Do as I say, not as I do."

Paul abhors this kind of approach. He insists that word and deed go together. He insists that what you do backs up what you say. He tells you to walk the talk.
Topic: Hypocrisy
Index: 2994-2995
Date: 9/1988.26

A number of years ago, the Hollywood branch of the American Cancer Society decided to hold a benefit night in conjunction with a professional tennis tournament. It turned out to be embarrassing for them, however, when they learned that a major tobacco company was sponsoring the competition. Officials of the society found out too late that they had committed themselves to selling 500 tickets to an event that was named after a well-known brand of cigarettes. The publicity sent out by the Hollywood chapter portrayed a young woman with a tennis racket in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
This reminds me of Christians who, while trying to live for the Lord and speak in His behalf, frustrate their own purposes and bring reproach to Christ's cause by making commitments to the wrong causes or things.

B So how can Paul get away with setting up his character and conduct as the standard of behavior for others?

We need to keep two things in mind. First, we need to remember what Paul says in his first letter to Corinth. There Paul writes,
(1Cor 11:1) Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
Paul doesn't want us to imitate everything in his life. He wants us to imitate him in so far as he has thought, worked, served, and ruled in the spirit of Christ. He wants us to imitate him in so far as his teaching, tradition, preaching, and life is a reflection of Christ Himself.

The second thing we need to keep in mind is that Paul was speaking as an Apostle. He was speaking as one of the custodians of the Gospel in the days before the New Testament was composed and accepted as authoritative Scripture. The authority and teaching and life of Christ was embodied in his life and teaching. Before the teachings and traditions were committed to writing they were learned, received, heard, and seen in the apostles.

C Christian teachers, like Paul, teach by example. With parents and leaders in the church they should be able to say to those under them,
(Phil 4:9) Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice.
"Learning ... Believing ... Living."

Permit me to make an observation. I have noticed over the years that what counts with children and youth is not content but conduct. Long after children have forgotten how to factor an equation they do remember how you have reflected Christ or how you used a bad word or how you lost your temper. For instance, the students of the teacher in Tulare who had sex with her students what do you think they will remember? Her sexual acts will be remembered long after her classroom instruction has been forgotten.

III Practice
We want our children and youth to learn, to get good grades, to be successful, to be prepared for college. But Paul reminds us in our text that there is something far more important.
(Phil 4:9) Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice.
"Learning ... Believing ... Living."

Did you catch the last word? Practice. Paul calls for practice. There are two Greek verbs Paul could have used here. The first is the verb for "to do" which refers to a single act. The second, which he uses here, is a verb which means repetitious and continuous action, a way of life.

We say someone practices the piano, or they practice tennis, or they have baseball practice. That's using the word in the sense of working on something to learn it. The key is repetitious and continuous action.

We also say that a lawyer or a doctor has a practice. By that we mean a way of life. It is his or normal routine to live as a lawyer or doctor.

Paul is saying your practice, your lifestyle, is to be like Paul who is like Christ. This should be your pattern of life. This should be the goal of Christian teachers, parents, and leaders in the church to make those under them into practitioners of the Christian faith. It is supposed to be something they do over and over and over and over again until it becomes part of their being, their daily habit.

This doesn't happen overnight. It requires practice. It requires the home, the church, and the school working together all reinforcing the same message, all showing our children and youth how to put their faith into practice. "Learning ... Believing ... Living."

"Learning ... Believing ... Living." We learn by watching, says Paul. We believe it. And we live it.

In the Christian School our children and youth learn and receive and hear and see what it means to live the Christian life. They are being prepared to put their faith into practice.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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