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Practice These Things

Intro: Phil 4:8-9 –Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

  • The apostle calls on the Christians in Philippi to discipline their minds. There are so many things to think and contemplate in the world. The Christian must focus his thinking on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise.
  • But the pathway to true joy, peace and contentment in life is not just about thinking. It is also about doing. So Paul does not leave the admonition here in the abstract, because godly thinking cannot be divorced from godly behavior. What we would notice is that the right thought preceded and polices the right behavior. So Paul begins with “think on these things (4:8), and then moves to “practice these things” (4:9) One is incomplete without the other.
  • Our focus this morning is on the understanding and application of 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
  1. “Those things” – In the original language, v. 9 begins with the word ha (which, what). This pronoun points to the noun “things”, but there is some discussion as to what things. Is Paul looking back to the things of vs. 8 (think on these things), or more generally to all the things they had received from Paul? Although certainly Paul wanted them to put into practice all that he had taught them, the context focuses on the things of v. 8 (what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, or good report, virtuous and praiseworthy) on which they were to meditate. Therefore v. 9 confirms to us that the apostle is calling on them (and us) to put our minds in the words of God (apostolic doctrine) to find what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, or good report, virtuous and praiseworthy. How did they know what was true, honorable, etc? Paul uses 4 distinct words. Some contend that the appearance of the word kai (both) at the beginning of v. 9 indicates that these 4 terms are to be viewed in 2 pairs of related words…things that werelearned &received; heard& seen. We will consider them individually.
  2. Learned translates a form of the verb manthano, which is related to the noun mathetes (math-ay-tes’) which means a disciple. The word means to learn (in any way) to understand. This term refers to teaching, learning, being instructedas a disciple. Paul is referring here to what they (the Philippians) had learned from him. In Paul’s extended ministry at Philippi, he had, no doubt, taught them many things concerning the kingdom of God. It was Paul’s mission to teach, both publicly and house to house. (Acts 20:20).Paul told Timothy, “You followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance” (2 Tim 3:10). Before the completion of the New Testament, such teaching was vital.
  3. Received is the Greek word paralambano (par-al-am-ban’-o) – to receive near, i.e. associate with oneself. figuratively, to learn. It is sometimes used in the New Testament as a technical term for God’s revelation
  • 1 Cor 11:23For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you:
  • 1 Cor 15:1 – Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, … 3-4 – For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures;
  • Gal 1:9 – 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
  • To the Thessalonians Paul wrote, “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, (1 Thess 2:13). The Philippians had received the truth of God through the superintendence of the Holy Spirit in the teaching of Paul.
  1. HeardThe word here is akouo (ak-oo’-o); a primary verb that means to hear (in various senses)- give audience, or come to the ears. The word heard adds another dimension to Paul’s discussion. He has already covered what he taught the Philippians as God revealed it to him. Here Paul alluded to what the Philippians had heard about him from other people. Paul’s reputation was an important element of his ministry. What had they heard about Paul? The apostle calls on them to imitate the godly virtue that the apostle had become known for.
  2. Seenthis common term, eido(i’- do)takes two directions: It can refer to physical sight (seeing things with the eyes). But most often it is translated by the English word know and means to perceiveor be fully aware of something or someone. (I know how to be content; I know whom I have believed) Paul had lived among these Christians and they had personally and physically seen him. They witnessed how he had been willing to suffer for Christ. Phil 1:28-30And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. 29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me. But we might also recognize that these Christians had not only seen Paul with their eyes, but they knew him. They knew things about Paul that were clear evidence of his character and faith. They could trust what he said, because they knew (had seen) how he lived. Paul told Timothy…2 Tim 3:14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing (eido) from whom you learned it… He goes on to say, you learned it from the scriptures.
  3. These Things PracticeWhat were they to do with the things they had learned & received; heard and seen in Paul? They were to put them into practice. Some translations just say “do” them.
  4. Practice [prasso – pras’-so); to perform repeatedly or habitually… refers to repetition or continuous action. The English word can have the same connotation. We speak of a lawyer or a doctor as having a practice, which means that he continues to offer the same service or perform the same routine.
  5. The things that these Christians had learned and received from Paul denoted and demanded a way of living, not just occasional or sporadic acts of compliance. It is interesting to note that before the disciples were called Christians in Antioch, the followers of Jesus were known as “those of the Way” When Saul of Tarsus sought to kill Christians, Luke tells us that he “asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.(Acts 9:2). Later after this Saul became Paul, the apostle he encountered those in Ephesus who were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude (Acts 19:9); “And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way.(Acts 19:23)Maybe it would be helpful if we referred to ourselves as “those of the way”. We need to remind ourselves that our commitment is to practice the things we have learned and received.

III. Imitate Me… Paul unashamedly encouraged others to imitate his life.

  • 1 Cor. 4:16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
  • 1 Cor. 11:1Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
  • Earlier he told these Philippian Christians…Phil 3:17 – Brethren, join in following my example…
  1. Have you ever openly and consciously encouraged another person to imitate you? Have you ever told someone in so many words, “If you want to be pleasing to God, follow my example”? We might shy away from this approach. We might even cringe when we hear Paul say it. I do not think I have every said those words – not in the straight forward language Paul uses. Why not? I can think of two reasons:
  2. Because I am not an apostle like Paul. The apostles of Christ received the revelation of the full truth through the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Because they were the divinely chosen ambassadors of Christ, the church in the N.T. relied upon the authoritative words and the example of the apostles to establish doctrine and practice. The Lord willing, we will consider the importance and place of apostolic teaching in our lesson tonight. So, Paul, and the other apostles, were uniquely qualified to call on others to follow their example.
  3. Because I am very aware of my failures.The second reason I would shy away from calling on others to follow my example is because I fail. I am not like Paul is so many ways (I fail to measure up to his passion for God, his willingness to suffer and count everything as refuse for Christ; his joy in the face of suffering; his contentment; his love for the lost, etc…) We mighty all make this same assessment of our life, and attribute this to being humble. It is a humble assessment, but only in as much as humility is the acceptance and honest confession of what is actually true.
  4. But the more important and pertinent question in our study today might be “does God expect me to present my life as an example to others?We might be too quick to assume that Paul pointed to himself as an example just because he was an apostle.
  • Consider again Paul’s words in Phil 3:17 –Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. (ESV)
  • 1 Timothy 4:12Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (ESV)
  • There were others whose lives were also exemplary and worthy of imitation. In fact, the entire New Testament teaches us that our lives were designed to be observed by others (city set on a hill) and intended to bear witness to an unbelieving world.
  • Hebrews 13:7Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
  1. If we are hesitant to point to our own lives as examples to follow, could it be that we are not what God expects of us, and WE KNOW IT?
  2. IV. Imitate Me as I Imitate ChristThis is the qualifier, isn’t it? If I am following Christ, then I can humbly and honestly ask others to follow me. This is precisely Paul’s admonition in 1 Cor. 11:1. Paul was not just a qualified example because he was an apostle. He was traveling the Way and was walking in continuing obedience to Christ.
  3. This does not propose in any way that I have any authority or power toward my own salvation or the salvation of others. It does not suggest that I am, or could ever be, an authority in any sense. Jesus is the only One in the lead. He alone is the authority to be obeyed.
  4. But I have a serious responsibility to qualify my life to be an example to others. God expects me to walk worthy of the calling with which I was called (Eph 4:1), and humbly point others to Jesus.

Conclusion: If another person followed you, where would he end up? [Here’s the catch, someone, most assuredly, is following you.] Are you following Christ?

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