Memphis Belle

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Philemon

 

“Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in thy house: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus Christ, and toward all saints; that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother. Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels: whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto in in my bonds of the gospel: but without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly. For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord? If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides. Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord. Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say. But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you. There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”

 

“I say it every week, it’s a blessing that you’d consider fellowshipping with us this morning, we are a body of Christ. So it’s a blessing. Mark on your calendar July 4th, it’s probably marked on your calendar, but if you don’t have the evening planned out you’re welcome to come here, we’re going to have a concert that night. Friday I was contacted by Joe Pascowich and he was just wondering if we’d like to have Chuck Gerard with us that evening. Chuck Gerard is a guy who goes way back with Calvary Chapel to the early days, so we need to spend some time with some of the folks and with one particular gentleman that’s seen some amazing history of what God did in southern California. [To read some of that history, see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/smith.htm] But also he was part of the band that loves song, and was one of the early Christian music bands. So, it’ll be a neat time of fellowship, so you’re welcome to be part of that. Mark it on your calendar if you haven’t already planned out your day. And if you have, that’s ok too. But I just thought I’d mention that to you, it’ll be in the bulletin next week. Let’s say a word of prayer together, we’re going to be studying the Book of Philemon together this morning, so let’s say a word of prayer. ‘Father, as a nation we’ve put this day aside to celebrate fatherhood, but how much more it means to me and to those of us here, as we have learned to see you and commune with you our heavenly Father. You’re the best Dad we could ever have. I just thank you Lord. I would pray as we begin this study, for those that maybe you’ve had a childhood that well maybe dad wasn’t much of a dad, maybe you didn’t have a dad at all. But as they spend time at your feet, as our heavenly Father, that you’d bless them and maybe heal some hearts that need to be healed even now Lord. As we come to your Word, we are thankful for truth, the power of truth. We ask in the power of your Holy Spirit you’d speak to us Lord, in Jesus name, amen.’

 

I had the privilege of going with the guys this last couple days up into Maine as we were in some boats and went down the Kennebunk River, did some whitewater rafting, and a time of fellowship and Bible study too. One particular man, I won’t mention his name because I don’t want to put him on the spot in any way, but just a real brother, I was concerned for him at one point in time. And I’ll tell you his story, I won’t tell you my story, of fear and fright of near-death experiences. But I’ll tell you his anyway. [laughter] One particular time, four of us were in one boat and our guide didn’t tell us that we were sneaking up on this one little tricky point, and somebody lost their balance and went over, and when they went over they grabbed somebody else, and they went over, they grabbed somebody else, and they went over, and right down the line, and eventually me in the front I went with them, and we all went over into the rapids, and you drink a lot of water when you go in the rapids you know. And I was there, and got my orientation, takes a moment as you’re bouncing around through the rapids to get your orientation, and I noticed this one particular gentleman, understanding he can’t swim. Here he is in a rapid. That can be a terrifying experience. And I could tell, just looking at him, he was a bit terrified. So I immediately went over and tried to remind him of some of the basic rules, ‘You’re got a lifejacket on, you’re not gonna sink, keep your toes ahead and your body pointing downstream and just be alert, you’re gonna make it, you’ll be ok,’ and I kept telling him that. But he definitely had a sense of fear, as you would expect, not being able to swim, even though he had a lifejacket on and going down through these rapids. And we just sang a song that God has said to us through his Word, and we just reflected on that and worshipped, ‘It is done, that God has done it on the cross.’ And as we were driving and a few of us were talking, a couple of the men, even recently in the last year or two had some real struggles with their marriages, family situations, but they were telling testimonies of when God moved in, and the power of God just turned the family around. You know, it is done, the power of God is there. That’s what that song means, it is done. That when Christ died and was buried and rose to life [on the third day]], that death was done, was destroyed, and just the bondage of our flesh, just the power of God was now available to you and I, that it was done. And just to realize the power of God, and some of the things we’re going to look at this morning. I pray the Lord would just reveal to us what he desires to do in our lives, and I decided to take this Father’s Day and do a Father’s Day message. Sometimes I like to just teach through the text we’re in, but I believe so much that the families in America, our families in the Church need to hear about the power of God, because we need the power of God in our families for sure. And it is done. You know, Paul is a tremendous example of a godly man. And just a beautiful example. Unfortunately, maybe you could say, we don’t have the opportunity to watch Paul with a wife and children, we aren’t given that opportunity. But there’s no doubt in my mind, if there was a Mrs. Paul and little Pauls, we could go and talk to them, they would just tell us about his example, and Paul and just the way he impacted their lives. So we don’t have that opportunity, but I’m confident that just the man he was, if he had a wife, she’d be one of the most loved wives there ever was. If he had children they’d be some of the most loved and respected children that there ever would be, because of just the man he was. I’ve titled todays study, ‘Paul, A Spiritual Dad.’ We don’t have the opportunity to see him with a wife and with children, but we do see his view, his attitude towards some of the relationships that he had, and there’s no doubt he was a spiritual father to many. And the way he treated others, just this tremendous love and respect and just encouragement, there’s no doubt he would have brought that into his marriage and into his home if had a home for us to look upon. So today as we go through this letter of Philemon we’re going to study Paul, this spiritual dad, and use that as an opportunity to consider what God wants to do and can do in us as fathers here this morning. But also I could say this to the mothers and to those of us that are even single. But what a beautiful example we have to study, so have we said the prayer already? We have said a prayer, we won’t say another one.

 

Background Of The Letter To Philemon

 

But let’s read verse 1, in Philemon, “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in thy house:” (verses 1-2) Paul here is accompanied again with his little protégé, his spiritual brother Timothy, and he writes this letter. He’s probably writing from Rome, and he’s probably in prison, as we studied the letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul was writing from prison [the Mamertine Prison, this is the last of Paul’s Prison Epistles, so he probably never made it to Colossi to visit Philemon] to the church that was there, and it’s probably the case here too, that he’s writing from Rome in prison. And he’s writing to this guy Philemon. Now Philemon is a brother, he’s a believer, and he lives in Colossi. And as you read there in those verses, he has a church that meets in his home, and it’s quite possible that he’s a convert from one of Paul’s earlier journeys, when Paul went there to establish through the Holy Spirit the church there in Colossi. Philemon was a man that came to Christ, and now has a church that meets in his home. So he’s writing to this brother. As you read there in those verses, also, he addresses Philemon, but he also addresses Apphia and Archippus. Now we don’t know anything about Apphia. We know a little bit more from other letters about Archippus. But it’s believed by many commentators that Apphia is the wife of Philemon, while we do not know that for sure. And Archippus could potentially be a son of the two of them. So he’s addressing potentially, we don’t know for sure, but potentially addressing an entire family. And that tells me a little bit, because Paul was one that saw a quality in all and value in all, he didn’t put a man above a woman or adults above children, he loved all, that God sees all equally and loves all. And here he’s addressing the letter predominantly to Philemon as we read on, but he’s potentially making a point to respect a wife and give a greeting to her and the children also. And that’s always an important thing to note, as we see Paul there, and how he viewed others. But he’s writing this letter to Philemon, Philemon it’s important to note too, he’s probably a wealthy man, and he’s a slave-owner. And as we’ve studied in the past, Rome at this time had many slaves, maybe half the population were slaves, millions and millions of folks were slaves during this Roman Empire. And Philemon happens to be a slave-owner, a master of slaves. And as I’ve noted in the past, the Gospel is for the individual, and not so much are we told about the nation and things like that, but the Gospel was written to you and I in the cultures and societies that we find ourselves in, and it’s written to us to give us life and to show us how to exist in that culture. And it just so happened in the Roman culture there was slavery. So within the context of that, Paul then shows us how to reflect Christ, in the context of that. So, Philemon is a guy that has had some slaves. And he’s had this one particular guy named Onesimus. Onesimus was not a believer, and evidently was a rebellious guy and he decided to hit the road one day, and I don’t know how he did it, we aren’t told, but he ran away from his master Philemon. And it’s possible that he left with more than the shirt on his back, because as you read the context of certain things it’s quite possible, many believe that he probably took some things with him when he left. And he went to probably a city, maybe Rome, and has been hiding out, leading just a life where he’s been you know inconspicuous and just in hiding, as he’s run away from his master. The crime of running away from your master, and possibly stealing some things, the punishment for that in the Roman Empire was pretty severe, potentially even death. So this guy was probably hanging out pretty low as he ran away. But Paul has an encounter with Onesimus and he’s going to have this letter delivered by Onesimus to Philemon.

 

Paul, A Prisoner Of Christ, A Brother, A Beloved Friend, A Fellowlabourer, A Fellowsoldier

 

So it’s a real interesting situation, just the power of God. Here you see a very tense situation between two individuals, a slave that’s run away in the Roman Empire, and now the power of God in bringing these two individuals face to face, and what God’s going to do is really tremendous. So as we sang this song “It Is Done,” the power of God is the power of God. And God wants to work in your situation, whatever it might be. And if it’s a situation with relationships, the power of God is the power of God, and he can do a tremendous thing, as we will read in this letter here, as we see. We’ll Paul, just in those two verses that we read, I see a lot about Paul in those verses, because he refers to himself as a prisoner of Christ. And then you can allude to, just the way he sees his relationships as he talks about some of these individuals here in those first two verses, he views himself as “a brother,” as he refers to brothers [in Christ] of his, he sees himself as “a beloved friend” as he refers to others as being a beloved friend. He sees himself as “a fellowlabourer” and “a fellow-soldier.” That tells me a lot about his heart, about how he viewed other folks around him, especially those within the Church [Body of Christ]. But this first verse, if you don’t hear anything this morning, if you hear just one thing, let the Holy Spirit speak to you again through this first verse, because it says so much. And I’ve taught on this once before, and the Lord has led me to exhort us once more. But he says “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ,” a prisoner of Christ. He refers to himself not as a prisoner of Rome, but a prisoner of Christ, and that the truth of that reality would be internalized in our lives. That it would effect our lives so much, and it would truly revolutionize our families and our relationships. That if we understood and internalized what Paul is saying when he says “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ,”

 

A Burden For Families

 

I was speaking to Joe Pascowich on Friday morning as we were talking, he called me about this Chuck Gerard concert. And as we were getting off the phone, just before, I said “Hey Joe, is there any way we can be in prayer for you?” And he said, “Steve, yea, you can pray for me related to the things we were talking about down in Sandy Cove when we were at the pastor’s conference.” And when we were down there I was just sharing my heart with him, as I have been here now a few years, and the Lord has been working on my heart the last few months and putting a greater burden on my heart for families. Our vision is win, disciple, send”. But I’m learning that discipleship is a little different than when I came here. But there’s such a great need for the power of God in families in America. As I’ve quoted before, one gentleman said that by the year 2008 there’s not going to be any families left at the rate we’re going in America [didn’t pan out that way, it’s 2014 and there’s still a lot of them around. But many of them are very dysfunctional]. And one of the greatest needs that we have, obviously is the Gospel, but is for the power of God to come in and heal families and marriages and relationships between parents and children, and to set things in order. Well I was sharing with that subject with Joe Pascowich at Sandy Cove, I said “I’m just more burdened for families, I don’t know what to do, but God is showing me we need to really begin to orientate the church more towards families, I don’t know what that means,” and I was talking to him, and he said to me in Sandy Cove, he says, “You know, the Lord is showing me the same thing, and here’s some of the things we’ve begun to do in our church, to begin to really focus on this need to families.” So, that was our conversation. And when we were talking Friday on the phone he alluded to that, he said, “Hey, you know, per our conversation in Sandy Cove, please pray for me, because there’s some families in our church right now that are just hurting, and I’m grieved, and I don’t know what to do. So please pray for me, that God would give me wisdom.” And I said, “You know, I can relate.” And as we were talking a little bit more, I said, “You know, I’m going to do a Father’s Day message this Sunday, sometimes I just like to go through the text we’re in, but I’m going to stop, because it’s an opportunity again for God to speak to families as we go through his Word.” He says, “You know, I’ve decided to do the same thing. I was going to do what you were going to do, but I’m going to stop, and just speak to dads for a Sunday.” And I said, “You know, I’m going to do the letter of Philemon, and you know what really stands out to me is this first verse, a prisoner of Christ Jesus,” and I began to share with him. You know, if we would just learn what that means it would revolutionize our homes.

The Problem Of Selfishness

 

And I said, “The main problem I see from my little understanding, is selfishness.” He says, “Steve, an hour ago, before I called you I was praying and seeking the Lord, and I wrote on a piece of paper ‘the main problem with families is selfishness.’ And the Lord was just confirming that he wanted to speak to us about this thing about selfishness. We are naturally selfish, we naturally live by the flesh, you know, that’s where we’ve come from. But you see Jesus Christ went to a cross, and he was buried, and he was raised to life so that bondage to that old man would be broken. I was a slave to my flesh, and I am no longer a slave to my flesh, I’ve been set free. Now I can be a slave to God, I can be a prisoner of Christ and do the will of God. And when Paul says “I’m a prisoner of Jesus Christ,” he’s saying that I seek to live a life that’s to do the will of the Father, therefore it’s not a selfish life, I don’t live to fulfill my selfish desires, I live to do the will of God. And if the husbands and the dads and the moms and the wives, if we would learn to do that, to be prisoners of Christ in our daily walk with God, it would so greatly transform our homes and our families. I believe, as I was just praying, I said, “You know,” I was seeking the Lord, I said, “Wow, the husbands can be so selfish.” And to me, in my eyes, and God maybe has a different opinion, it seems that husbands are more selfish than wives, and dads are more selfish than moms. Women just tend to give more freely, and guys tend to want to do their own thing, often at the cost and detriment of their marriage, and a detriment to their children, and the example they are to the children. And in some cases, some men can even be selfish in a way of serving God and letting the family suffer, as they have a selfish driven desire to serve God and forget the responsibility to their wives and their children. Well, Paul says, ‘I’m a prisoner of Christ Jesus, my will and my desire has become to do the will of the Father regardless.’ And sometimes the will of God, as you read about a master and a slave, sometimes it’s kind of hard to swallow. And sometimes even in the context of a husband and wife, or parent and a child, it’s kind of hard to swallow, the will of God, what God desires. But truth is power. Truth brings healing, truth brings life. And that’s what God desires to do in our lives, is to bring us to conform to his will and to his truth, and it brings power, it brings life. Sometimes we want to go on a different road, and it’s motivated by selfishness, and we think it’s a better road. But sometimes we miss out on life as a result. But Paul says, ‘I’m a prisoner of Christ Jesus, so therefore I’m going to do the will of God, I’m going to do his will and his desire.’ Well one way to stop our selfish behavior, dads and husbands, speaking to moms and wives in there too, is that you and I realize that it’s done, Jesus rose from the dead, I’m no longer bound to my old nature, I don’t have to just fulfill the selfish desires, I now have the power to do the will of God, and to go forward in the will of God. When you and I realize what our calling is, and the hope of our calling in what God has done in our lives, and that we’re set free, free from the flesh, and we can now do his will by his power. It’s the good life to do the will of God, it’s the good life, it’s the best life you could possibly live, to do his will, to experience him as you do that. God’s will as we know from Ephesians is for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. That’s God’s will for the husbands here. That’s washing the wife with the Word of God, your wife, that’s laying your life down for your wife, and to live in such a way you build up your children and you love your kids and build them up in the truth. That’s God’s will, that you do that. That’s his Word, we know it. God’s will for the husbands here is sacrificial love for your family. Sometimes we in ministries, we say it’s really a selfish thing, but for the sake of ministry we sacrifice our families, but God is not calling you to sacrifice your families. God is calling you to sacrifice yourself for your family, and in ministry as he desires. Sometimes that’s quite a challenge. I remember when I was driving with Frank Epilleto last year down to Connecticut, having been a pastor of a few churches and having led the Bible college there in Austria I just wanted to use the opportunity to learn from him, and one thing I was burdened about ‘How do you juggle life?’ I’ve talked about this, but how do you juggle marriage and children and job and ministry, oh boy, it seems it’s hard to do it. And he told me, his answer to me, he says, “Steve, it’s a life of sacrifice, it’s how you do it, meaning you sacrifice yourself, your desires, you’re still to love your wife, you’re still to meet the needs of your wife. Maybe there’s more on your plate, but that doesn’t mean you stop loving your wife, and meeting the need there, you still do it. But now you’re going to have to sleep a little less if that’s what God requires, or watch a little less football, or play a little bit less golf so you can meet that need, it’s a responsibility you have. And it’s your responsibility to love your children and to build them up in Christ and spend time with them and to love them. And hey, if you have to cut away your other things to do that, you’ve got to do it.” But sometimes men can be very selfish. I’m not speaking to anyone directly, trying to make anyone feel guilty, just truth though gives life. And if you’re being a selfish man, man, your wife is suffering and your children are suffering as a result. You let go, you lay down your life for them. That’s what you do. Prisoner of Christ is what Paul said he was, and man it’s just powerful to be a prisoner of Christ and to do the will of God and to see the fruit of that in your home. And I know the little I do for my wife, the little sacrificing, man she just blesses me back. It’s what she needs, she needs to know that I love her and I show it by thinking about her and putting her as a priority. And my children, it’s just the good life, a prisoner of Christ. My prayer, I hope it’s your prayer, we pray it together this morning, is that we would learn the beauty of being a prisoner of Christ, ‘God, what is your will? God help me do your will. I have the power to do it because you sent your Son, he died on the cross and he rose to life, so the power’s there to do it.’ So if you’re going through those rapids and struggling in your home, feeling like you’re drowning, you know there’s hope man, you’ve got the life-vest on, you’re not going to go under, there’s power man. Just as I talked to some of those men, where God came in at dark hours. In a couple particular cases God did an amazing thing, where in one swipe he put a couple families right back together, got them right on line. And when it looked like where some were in a really bad place, God can do that. God can do that, it is done, it’s finished, man. The work has been completed, we just need to respond in obedience.

 

Men Tend To Withdraw, Isolate Themselves In A Relationship When Facing Problems---We Need To Be Brothers Toward Each Other

 

Well Paul also, first himself a prisoner of Christ, you also see him as a brother and a friend. That’s just his heart with other relationships, a brother, a friend. And as I read that I thought I would just for a moment make one comment, because of some of my experiences and things that I’ve seen. You know, in some cases I think it’s maybe the male nature, but in some cases guys like to withdraw themselves. You know, sometimes men tend to be more of a loner than women. You find in many cases where a man is maybe shy in his personality or meek or timid, so as a result he withdraws himself, and doesn’t have a lot of friendships, doesn’t open up much. But that’s not Paul, Paul is a man that opens up, man, has brothers and friends. And in some cases Proverbs 18 says ‘a man who isolates himself, seeks his own desire.’ Often the isolation is rooted in selfishness, not wanting to open up, not wanting to be a gift to others, easier to just be on your own and withdraw yourself. Proverbs says ‘a man who isolates himself seeks his own desire, he rages against all wise judgment.’ But Paul’s godly example is that of being a man that has brothers and friendships, and it’s good for your family as a husband, as a dad, to have some brothers, man. To be an example of that to your kids, to have close brothers, friends in your life. And that you’d just have beloved friends that are dear to you. If you’re not showing that example, they’re not going to have that blessing. What a great blessing to have friends, I mean, there’s only a few things we can take with us when we go to heaven [into the kingdom of heaven]. Which is good, a lot of it we can’t take with us, praise the Lord, but when we get to go we get to take some folks with us, some of our friends, they’re eternal. And what a blessing to have friends. So, Paul, prisoner of Christ, a beloved brother, a beloved friend…

 

We’re To Be Fellowlabourers And Fellowsoldiers

 

But also he says “a fellowlabourer and a fellow-soldier.” You know I read that and I see that Paul trusts people, has just a sweet camaraderie with his friends that soldiers would have, and labourers would have, true labourers. [Comment: fellow-soldiers and fellowlabourers go through a lot together, shared painful experiences.] And Paul wasn’t into this competitive spirit, and I mentioned that too, I just thought of that as I was studying, you know, men often get wrapped up into a competitive spirit, and sometimes the home can suffer from that. You begin to feel ripped off and frustrated if someone’s doing better than you. But what a beautiful, beautiful life to just rejoice as others get blessed and do better and excel and to just see the Kingdom of God advancing and just rejoice in that. And Paul was like that, he had beloved labourers, co-labourers and fellow-soldiers, that was his heart, not a competitive thing, but just rejoicing in the Work of God.

 

With Grace Comes Peace

 

Verse 3, “Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Man do we ever get reminded of that as we study the Word. Especially with Paul, he just says that so many times. God is saying to you once more this morning, Grace to you, grace to you, wherever you’re at man, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Your family needs to understand that, the abundant grace of God. Your wife, your kids need to understand the abundant grace of God, abundant mercy of God, and with that, tremendous peace. As we walk in his grace and walk in his peace, our home is just transformed with joy, knowing the grace and peace of God. As you understand his grace, that sure you’re a sinner, sure you’re a failure, we all are, but as you understand his grace, you just rest in his grace. And with that comes incredible peace. And then you look at others a little bit more different, you’re more likely to extend grace. And man what a gracious home, what a beautiful home, just to extend grace, to your kids and to your wife, one to another. With that comes tremendous peace.

 

Paul Thanks God For Philemon’s Love, Faith and Witness---Be An Example Of That

 

Verses 4-7, “I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication [sharing] of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels [hearts] of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.” Paul starts this section as he does in a lot of his letters, he says ‘I pray for you always,’ I was listening to a tape recently as I’m preparing for some ministry classes in our church, listening to Chuck Smith, on Tuesday nights he had studies on just a minister, what a minister is. And one thing he said, is one of the most important things of a minister, the most important part of their life to do is that of prayer. Prayer is just such a great part of our lives, and should be a great part of our lives. In fact Chuck Smith, I’ll put it into my words, but he said, ‘When we get to heaven [into the kingdom of heaven for some], we’re going to wish that we had prayed more.’ When we see the parts and the plan of God it had and the purposes of God, prayer, we’re going to wish we were just on our knees so much more, praying and praying and praying. And Paul understood that, and he prayed and he prayed. Just, in faith, as you see there, and thanksgiving, that’s just a prayer of faith and knowing that God is powerful and he can work. And sometimes you’re out in the rapids and things are pretty hard, you know, in the family and the situation, but man can you pray then, and call out to God, and he hears your prayers. And you can do incredible, incredible things. Be reminded of that this morning, Paul was an effective instrument of prayer, always praying for those that were dear to him, his spiritual family, just praying and praying and praying. I’d love to have had Paul praying for me, just sweet. In some cases I guess we do as we read through the Scriptures, he prayed for the Church in general, so we are recipients of some of that. But as you read in verses 5, 6 and 7, he thanks God as he is writing here to Philemon and he’s been praying for Philemon, but he thanks God as he hears about his love and about his faith and his witness. And Paul had a high regard for love. He had a high regard for faith. He had a high regard for witness and evangelism. And a godly man, is a man that just has a high regard for people around you, your wife, your children, see that you have a high regard for love, man. Love for you is just something that you cherish, and to live by love, and to sacrifice for love. And faith, a life of faith, he had a high regard for faith, faith toward Christ, love towards Christ, love towards others, and also in just witness and evangelism, you see that right there as he just thanks God this man has been full of love and faith and effective in witness, due to the great things that God has done in his life. Well, does your life today reveal [reflect] that you have a high regard for faith, and love, and witness? Can your children in your life see that you have a high regard for faith and love and witness and evangelism? Do you desire that your children will have the same attitude and high regard for faith and love and witness? If you desire that, then you need to be an example of that, because if you’re living it before them they’re going to be following in your steps. If you’re not living it, don’t have a high value for faith or witness or love, then it’s a good chance your children won’t either.

 

The Tenderness Of Paul Toward Philemon And Onesimus

 

Verse 8, “Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin [command] thee that which is convenient, yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels [that is, my own heart]: whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered in the bonds of the gospel: but without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly. For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him forever; not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?” (verses 8-16) You know, Paul starts this section, and you just see a very tender man. He says ‘You know, I’ve been in the Lord awhile, the Lord’s done a lot of work in my life, and I think it’s evident to the church, and based on that you would say that I have potentially the authority to really just command and demand that you get in line here and do what’s right here in this situation.’ But he says ‘I could do that I guess you could say, but for love’s sake I’m not going to do that, I’m not going to demand and command, but I’m going to appeal to you, try to instruct you, try to encourage you to do what is right.’ And you can just see in Paul’s nature not a man that would bang his fist on the table, you know, not a Pharisee or something. But when he worked with his people, man, he just loved them. He was stern when it came to obeying God’s Word, but he didn’t beat his fist and yell and scream. He desired to encourage them and to get them to do right, but he did it tenderly and with compassion. And you know, I’m learning in my first three years of being a dad that when I yell and scream at my son, it doesn’t achieve a whole lot. If I demand and command, you know that type of real harsh attitude, what I find is that it just frustrates my little boy. He starts to do it right back at me. He’s very sensitive to that. If my wife or I just begin to raise our voice a little bit toward each other, he’s sensitive towards that and he starts raising his voice. And Paul wouldn’t be a, if we could see him with his kids and his wife, he wouldn’t be yelling and screaming, he’d be tender. I’m learning already in the first few years of parenting that you know those times of discipline are great times for instruction, if you tackle them tenderly, with exhortation, with sternness but not flying off the handle, but just encouraging and loving and use it as a time of instructing. Sometimes that method is a little more time consuming and requires a little bit more of the power of God in my life to hold back the frustration, and to catch my breath. But you know, what a beautiful example to your child, if they see a tender father, a tender mother, just trying to ‘All right, you’re out of line, you know there’s consequences to that, but you know this is why we do these things, and this is why you shouldn’t do that,’ and just take a moment to pray with them, and if there are consequences you go down that road of consequences. But to fly off the handle and to yell and scream, you’re just going to make little disciples that do the same thing. Children that grow up in that environment of yelling and screaming are going to yell and scream, yell and scream and beat their fists. And Paul was not a guy that demanded and commanded, he was very tender. And you and I through the power of God can do the same, and make just disciples, little people that grow up to be very tender people, very gentle and very respectful of others, rather than commanding and demanding. Verse 10 we begin to really see the thrust of why Paul has written this letter, as I explained earlier. But he’s making an appeal for Onesimus, Onesimus has run away, probably taken some things too with him, and the penalty of going back would be quite severe, so he’s been hiding out. But he’s crossed paths with this guy Paul, and it’s really impacted his life, to such a degree that he becomes a Christian. Now as a Christian he’s sensitive to the Spirit, now the Word of God begins to grip him very much, as he thinks back on what he’s done and where he’s at. He’s done wrong to his master, and the Word of God just begins to grip his heart.

 

Better To Have Turmoil On The Outside Than To Have Turmoil On The Inside

 

You know Paul shares with us God’s will in that matter, for Onesimus, Ephesians 6, ‘Bondservants,’ that’s slaves, ‘be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling and sincerity of heart, as to Christ. Not with eye-service as men-pleasers, but as bond-servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with good will doing service as to the Lord, and not to men. So that whatever good anyone does he’ll receive the same from the Lord, whether he’s a slave or free.’ Paul says the same thing in 1st Timothy 6, ‘Let as many bondservants and slaves as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, so that the name of God and his doctrine may not be blasphemed, and those who have been believing masters, let them not despise them because they’re brethren, but rather serve them, because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. Teach and exhort these things.’ So Paul says, ‘Slaves, do the will of God, the will of God is for you to love your master and serve him, even though it might seem kind of harsh, but in the context of everything it’s going to bring the greatest glory to God and bring other souls to Christ. So love your master, honour your master. If he’s a Christian master, all the more honour him as one that’s going to benefit from your services.’ Now that would be really harsh, especially for Onesimus before he came to Christ. But now he’s come to Christ, and these truths of God, the power of God and the Word are just gripping his heart as he has to wrestle with these issues. Even though in his flesh this is the last thing he wants to do, especially if there’s severe consequences in going back. But God says honour your master, he’s dishonoured him, and God’s saying ‘Go back to your master and make things right.’ You know I was listening to Mike’s radio program and just recently when I was listening to him, he was reading a letter from prisoner in New Hampshire, and when he read this letter I said “Wow, I think I know this guy,” so I really tuned in and listened closely. I remember when I was in San Diego and was teaching a Bible study, I believe this gentleman that Mike, didn’t give his name, but I believe he attended our Bible study a little bit, and I had spent some more time with him at other times. But this one particular guy, I got to know him, he began to share with me how years before he had committed a crime in New Hampshire, it was a drug crime, and he wasn’t a Christian and hit the high-road, went to California and started to hide out in a big church, figuring no one would find him in a big church. But the Lord saw everywhere he went, you know, like Jonah. So the Lord knew he was there. And hanging out at Horizon San Diego and hiding from the State of New Hampshire and the authorities, well he heard the Word of God, and eventually came to Christ. And now when he came to Christ, the Word of God began to grip his heart. Now I met him in that process, when he was struggling with having committed a crime in New Hampshire and having ran from the law. And he was telling me, he said “You know,” and I was considering coming to New England at the time, “I probably am going to go back to New England myself and kind of face these charges.” And I saw him just a couple years ago, I went back to a conference, and at that time he had already started the process where he was going to go back to New Hampshire. Well Mike was reading this letter just a couple weeks ago on his radio program there to his church in San Diego, and evidently this man had gone back and turned himself in and got a ten-year prison sentence. And he was a godly man, turned out to be a real servant there at the ministry in San Diego. But he had broken the law, had run away and now coming to Christ, and the truth had just gripped him, ‘Like wow, it’s not right what I did, I broke the law, and I gotta give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, what do I do?’ And for a long time he wrestled with that, and finally he said “I’ve gotta go back and face Caesar.” And it was a pretty severe punishment that he got, when I heard ten years in prison I was surprised that he got ten years in prison. But you know God’s grace was at work, because Mike kind of chuckled when he read it, but this man when he was first assigned to a prison cell, and was writing this letter, he said “Mike, you won’t believe this,” this letter was addressed to Mike, he says, “my cell-mate is a member of Horizon New Hampshire.” And evidently this other guy committed a crime from another Horizon or something, not a lot of Horizon’s around, but this guy from San Diego went to prison in New Hampshire, and had to go to jail with somebody else from Horizon, from Horizon, New Hampshire, so Mike got a chuckle out of that. But just the grace of God that he had a Christian cell-mate while he was in prison, at least at that time. And I’d beware, there’s guys who go to jail from Horizon [laughter]. You know, that’s just one of those things, that we all come from our backgrounds, and sometimes we need to face Caesar for our past. [This sermon was given 20th June 1999, so he’s out of jail now.] Well, Onesimus has had that challenging situation, Paul has been working in his life. He’s crossed the path of Paul, he’s come to Christ, and now he’s like ‘I gotta go back and meet my master.’ But Paul, Paul is going to work for him here and prepare the way. You know, obeying God’s Word at times, at times can seem extreme and harsh, based on certain situations. At times we try to reason away God’s Word and his will, saying, ‘You know, well based on this extreme condition here, I don’t think I have to do what God’s Word says here, because this is pretty extreme. It’s going to result in a lot of discomfort.’ But I believe, better to have turmoil on the outside than turmoil on the inside. Better to struggle with your situation than to have a clouded conscience before the Lord. But to have a clear conscience before God, that you’ve done the right thing, man peace within the heart is the sweetest peace you can ever have. And so, obeying God’s Word can be harsh. And I know there’s some times and situations man where we’ve got to go back and face the master or whatever it might be. God will lead us when we need to do that. But I tell you the sweetest peace is peace of heart.

 

Paul’s Play On Words, The Power Of God Demonstrated

 

Well, understanding Onesimus’ situation, Paul now begins to just say ‘Hey, Philemon, understand the situation, I appeal to you for Onesimus, he’s a son of mine, even though I’ve begotten him in chains, but I’m sending him back to you. Receive him as my own heart,’ I mean, that’s his heart towards this spiritual son of his. He says ‘Receive him as my own heart.’ I mean, that’s just his heart towards Onesimus, he loved him so much he said ‘Receive him as my own heart.’ And maybe, well, I guess to ask you a question, do your children feel that way, as a dad here this morning, or maybe a mom, can they say that, you know, that they’re just your heart? Do you love your children so much that they can say that? You know, I’m just dear to my mom and dear to my dad. But Paul said to Philemon, ‘Receive Onesimus as my own heart,’ and says that to him. Onesimus literally means “profitable,” it means “useful.” So Paul has kind of a word-game here, he says ‘I appeal to you,’ Onesimus means “useful,” ‘I appeal to you about my son “useful” who was once not useful to you, whose now useful to you.’ He kind of does a word-game, and they do that sometimes to make a point, he says ‘I appeal to you about my son “profitable” who was one unprofitable to you, whose now profitable to you,’ and that’s just the power of God, what God has done in this man’s life. He’s taken him from being unprofitable, and just by the grace and power of God, and we all need to understand what God can do, and he’s now made him profitable to him. And all that happened while Paul was in chains. You know, some of us here this morning, you know, God has brought children into your life, has brought a wife or a husband into your life, and it’s a very challenging situation, all the factors when you bring them in. It’s hard, in a sense you’re like Paul in a jail cell, you’ve got just hard things in life going on. But you know, even with chains, you know, Paul could have brought all this attention to himself, kind of consumed others and brought them in, ‘hey, I’ve got these hard things going on,’ but he didn’t do that, he focused on others, and even led men to Christ. He focused on others, and even led men to Christ. [Comment: the Praetorian guards that guarded Paul weren’t even safe from the possibility of being drawn to conversion by being chained to Paul, as many in Caesar’s household, of which the Praetorian Guard were a part of, had become believers. It almost seemed the more Satan tried to bind and stop Paul, the more powerful God got within the life of Paul, letting the power of his glorious Gospel shine out through Paul more and more powerfully.] He even knew this guy, now he had a responsibility to him and even begins to prepare the way for him and defend him, and he was just a man who was giving, even when he was in a very tough situation for himself. And you might be a dad, a husband or a mom, wife and just in a tough situation, hard to be a wife, hard to be a dad. But you know, prisoner of Christ, power of God, it is done. Let God work through you. Let him work through you, get your eyes and heart upon him and just experience his grace and his power. God can still use you in that situation, and God does in this man Onesimus who really goes through a change he really didn’t expect.

 

Paul Says ‘Receive Onesimus As You Would Receive Me’

 

Well as Paul continues to plead for him, as you read there in those verses, he says, ‘he’s no longer a slave, he was a slave, but he’s come here, escaped, and God has just amazingly done this work in his life, and now he’s even a brother to you, so receive him.’ And now we read in the last part of the section, he says, verse 17, “If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides. Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels [heart] in the Lord. Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say. But withal [meanwhile] prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you. There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.” (verses 17-25) We really see in these verses a man that sees his responsibility. Even though he’s in chains he sees his responsibility to this man, sees his responsibility as a spiritual dad to him, and he says to Philemon as writes this letter, he says ‘You know, Onesimus has possibly stolen some things, there’s maybe a penalty for that, he’s done wrong, he’s run away.’ He says, ‘I want you to look at me, and see me rather than seeing him when he comes. Receive him as you would receive me. If he’s done any wrong, I’m willing to bear the brunt of that and take that to my own account. If he owes you a lot of money, I’ll pay that bill. If he’s committed crimes and there’s certain things that need to be resolved, I’ll take care of it. Receive him as you would me.’ You know as I read that I was thinking of that little adage that we say, there are exceptions to this, but there’s a lot of truth to that, “The child is a product of his home.” A child is a product of his home, of course we throw in the grace of God and the power of God, but a child is a product of his home and we have a tremendous responsibility as a mom and dad in raising our children. And that we do give account to God for what they become or how they work out in life. You know, ultimately they do have their own will and there are exceptions, I realize that. But so many times I think moms and dads are trying to put the blame on something else, when really the blame is really centered on them. God sees when a mom and dad have failed as a mom and dad. And Paul understood his responsibility here, and you just see that in those words to this spiritual son, as he says ‘if he’s done wrong, put it on my account, I’ll bear the brunt of that.’ And you know, moms and dads, especially dads, you have a great responsibility, and the more we realize that responsibility, and the more you realize the power of God and what God can achieve through you, as you pray and as you love your children and you love your wife, the more you’re going to see God transform your home. But many, many times the behaviors of our children are things they’ve learned from us. The behaviors of our children are the way they are because they haven’t gotten something from us that they should have gotten, we’ve been too busy or not interested. We do give an account. Well Paul knew that, and he concludes this letter and he says, ‘I’ll repay anything.’ And then you see in those verses, it’s pretty clear that Paul and Philemon have met before, because he says ‘Philemon, if you remember, you owe me,’ he probably led him to the Lord. So he says, ‘You owe me, he owes you, so I owe you, it all works out, just receive him in love.’ He prepares the way, he really looks out for Onesimus. And I would presume that, verse 20 Paul’s pretty confident, he says, “Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels [heart] in the Lord.” ‘I know you’re going to do the right thing and take him in,’ and that’s amazing that God can do that. I mean, a slave that’s run away, now that’s really facing the death-penalty, and Christ, God can take those two and put them together again, and bring healing in that relationship. That’s the power of God, that’s what took place on the cross. Yes, we were forgiven of our sin, but also the power of God has also come to give us life and to set us free, and to work in our lives and the lives of those around us. So Paul then concludes this letter and says, ‘I’m going to come visit you guys, and so prepare a room for me.’ But what an example. We can’t look at Paul and see his wife, we can’t go interview his wife or do a Bible study on Paul’s wife or on his children, but no doubt, no doubt, the man he was, man he’s still an example to us of what a husband should be, a father should be, even a mom and a wife, a godly person. I have just have given you guys a simple Bible study, but I know I’ve read the Word of God, and God’s Word goes out, and I’ll just say to you guys again, man, God is a God of power. He’s a God that gives life, and his Word is truth, his Word brings healing, his Word brings life. And God desires to do that in your lives, he just desires to do it, and there’s so much power in realizing that you are a prisoner now of Christ, you’re not a prisoner anymore of your flesh, you’ve been set free, and now you can do the right thing in the power of God. I encourage you guys to consider the power of God and what he wants to do in your life. Let’s close in prayer…[transcript of a connective expository sermon on the Letter of Philemon, verses 1-25, given by a pastor somewhere in New England]

 

related links:

 

For a series on how to make a marriage work, showing the complementary differences between men and women in a relationship, see, http://www.HOWMARRIAGEWORKS.COM

 

To read about the history of how the Calvary Chapel revival got started, see,

http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/smith.htm

 

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