Let's read our text, ...
For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Paul's words here are words of tender affection between him and the Philippians. The whole book of Philippians bleeds this theme of a tender relationship between the apostle Paul and those in Philippi. Paul wasn't writing to a strange church of which he knew little. No, Paul was writing to a church that he knew and that he loved and cared for deeply. And that's the sign of genuine ministry.
For my outline this morning, I have attempted to repeat three key statements of what Paul said to the Philippians. Each of these statements are a manifestation of his affection for those in Philippi. Here's the first statement:
I take this point straight from verse 7. Paul says, "I have you in my heart." Of course, that's not literal. But, we know what he means.
We use the same expression in our day and age. If someone has some sort of difficulty in their lives, like a difficult test in the morning, or a difficult meeting in the afternoon, or a serious surgery, or a trip to their hometown to bury one of their parents, their burdens can become our burdens. We can say to them later, "You have really been on my heart. How did it go?"
But, it doesn't have to be all negative. It can be positive as well. If your friend starts a new job, if your friend goes on a missions trip, if your friend receives a reward, if your friend has an important soccer match, you can easily say when you see them next time, "You have really been on my heart. How did it go?"
And in saying these things, you demonstrate that you care for your friend. You are concerned for them. If they are facing burdens, you are burdened. If they are rejoicing, you are rejoicing. To use my word this morning, you have an affection for them. It's as if your hearts are one!
That's exactly what Paul is saying here, "I have you in my heart" (verse 7). He says that they are on his mind. He's thinking about them. He's praying for them. And if you remember from last week (when we looked at verses 3-6), you will recall that Paul doesn't have the Philippians on his heart because things are going badly for them. Rather, things are going well for them and their relationship. Philippians 4:10 says, "I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me." They were able to send a financial gift to Paul to help him.
In fact, as Paul thinks back to his encounters with this church, Paul is filled with thankfulness. From day 1, they caught a vision for the gospel, not only for their own city, but also for Paul's ministry as he spread the gospel to other cities as well.
You yourselves also know Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone. For even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.
For these things, Paul was thankful and prayerful and joyful. Do you remember what he wrote in verses 3-6? He wrote, ...
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
When Paul remembered the Philippians, he was thankful and prayerful and joyful. God had begun His good work in them. Not only had they believed the gospel, but they were also partners with him in the gospel. They shared with him financially to see the gospel spread abroad. They labored with him in Philippi to see the gospel spread in their own city. God would eventually complete the work that He started in them. Such remembrance of God's work in the people stirred Paul's heart to thank the Lord.
Paul says, ...
For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all,
It is only right for me to be thankful and prayerful and joyful for all of you, because I have you in my heart. I have an affection for you.
I'm reminded of one of my favorite stories from church history. It's the story of John Fawcett. I have told this story to you on several occasions, so you may recognize it. But, it is so good that it bears repeating.
John Fawcett was born in 1740 to poor parents in England. At sixteen, he was converted to Christ through the ministry of George Whitefield. At 26 years of age, he accepted a call to pastor a small congregation in Wainsgate in Northern England. After seven years of ministry, he was at a crossroads. His family was getting bigger. His financial obligations were increasing. Yet, the small congregation of Wainsgate could only afford to pay him a meager salary.
It was then that Carter's Lane Baptist Church, a large and influential church in London, called him to succeed the well-known Dr. Gill as pastor of the church. His move to this church would only make sense. And so, he accepted the call.
The day came when John Fawcett, his wife and children were to head off to London. Their bags were packed and the wagons were loaded. The people of the church surrounded the wagons with tears of farewell.
At that point, Mrs. Fawcett broke down and said, "John, I cannot bear to leave. I know not how to go!" John Fawcett replied, "Nor can I." So, they quickly ordered the wagons to be unpacked, and their belongings moved back into their living quarters. The Fawcetts remained there at the church in Wainsgate for fifty years, serving the people they loved. 
Some time after John Fawcett and his wife decided to stay in Wainsgate, He wrote the words of his famous hymn, …
Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love!
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.
The hymn describes the sweetness of genuine Christian fellowship. Particularly in his case, he was sharing how sweet the tie is between a loved pastor and his loved congregation.
This is what we see in Paul and the Philippians. There is a mutual affection for each other. They had a heart for Paul and helped him financially in his trials. Paul had a heart for them and expressed it in this letter (verse 7).
This is the way that it ought to be with churches. Pastors should love their congregations, and congregations should love their pastors. When Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd" (John 10:11), he described the difference between the shepherd and the hired hand. The hired hand flees when he sees the wolf coming, because "he is not concerned about the sheep" (John 10:13). But the good shepherd knows his sheep (John 10:14). And the good shepherd will lay down his life for the sheep (John 10:15).
The sheep, in turn, will give all to the shepherd. Indeed, in many ways, John Fawcett laid down his life for the sheep of his fold. He didn't pursue the greener pastures elsewhere. And the sheep in his pasture loved him all their days. That's "genuine ministry."
This is what we see here in Philippians. Paul has the heart of a shepherd toward those in Philippi. He would sacrifice everything for them. He looks forward to the day when he would be with them (2:24). Sadly, it is too often the case that pastors don't love their congregations. But, they love their ministry.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones put his finger on the problem, when he wrote to fellow pastors, ...
"To love to preach is one thing, to love those to whom we preach quite another. The trouble with some of us is that we love preaching, but we are not always careful to make sure that we love the people to whom we are actually preaching. If you lack this element of compassion for the people you will also lack the pathos which is a very vital element in all true preaching. Our Lord looked out upon the multitude and "saw them as sheep without a shepherd," and was "filled with compassion." And if you know nothing of this you should not be in a pulpit, for this is certain to come out in your preaching. 
Pastors can easily love their positions of prominence. Like the Pharisees of old, they love sitting in the places of honor (Matthew 23:6). They love the respectful greetings (Matthew 23:7). They love their place in society. They love preaching. But, too easily, pastors can lose their focus. Pastors can love their position, rather than loving their people.
The title of John Piper's book to pastors says it well, "Brothers, We Are NOT Professionals." His idea is that pastors shouldn't think of themselves as CEO's of the church -- you know, those who get a master's degree to qualify them for the ministry, dress in suit and tie, to cast a certain image, read up on all of the leadership journals, and run the corporation called "the church."
In the book, he reminds pastors of their true position. He writes, ...
We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet. It is not the mentality of the slave of Christ. Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and heart of the Christian ministry. The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake. For there is no professional childlikeness (Matt. 18:3); there is no professional tenderheartedness (Eph. 4:32); there is no professional panting after God (Ps. 42:1).
The aims of our ministry are eternal and spiritual. They are not shared by any of the professions. It is precisely by the failure to see this that we are dying. 
In many churches across our land, there is a strong emphasis upon the pragmatics of ministry. Many ministries focus the majority of their attention upon how to build a bigger church. They say, "Let's get our auditorium to feel just right. Let's only play the music that the people like. Let's focus our worship services on having such a great experience that people will come back again next week. Let's give practical, 'how to' sorts of messages. Let's manage our volunteers just right. Let's do all that we can do to grow big."
Now, it's not that we don't try to do any of those things. They are all well and good, in and of themselves. But, such things can become the major focus of the church.
I was talking this week with a friend of mine who is on the pastoral staff of a large church. My guess is that something like 1,500 people attend the service each week. He told me that he loves the senior pastor and the executive pastor and has a great relationship with them. He believes that they are godly men, wanting to do right. But, they are driving the church toward numbers, wanting more and more people to come.
Again, there's nothing necessarily wrong with this. But, when it becomes your focus, you can easily get off track.
Here at Rock Valley Bible Church, we will always place the gospel front and center. We will always "rejoice in the gospel." Pragmatics will always take a back-seat to the gospel. In the case of my friend, the pastoral staff is required to attend one conference each year together. He said that at the conference, very little is taught from the Bible. Rather, it is all about how to grow a bigger church.
All this to say that many today have lost their way in the ministry. Many pastors today view the ministry as their trade. They see their churches as their path up the corporate ladder. Up they go from smaller church to larger church to even larger church, as if their goal in life is to pastor the largest congregation they can reach.
Paul knew nothing of such a "professional ministry." He didn't minister to people because of some paycheck. He didn't see people as an organization that must accomplish its goals and grow bigger and stronger. Instead, he saw the church, as his own heart. I have you in my heart (verse 7a) is what he says.
Such heart affection is at the core of all genuine Christian ministry.
Let's transition to my second point. Genuine Christian ministry says, ...
Look at the second half of verse 7, ...
... both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me (1:7).
First, Paul gives a brief biographical sketch of his life. Imprisonment. Defense. And confirmation of the gospel. And then, at the end of verse 7, we see Paul saying this, ...
... You all are partakers of grace with me.
In other words, God's grace has come upon you, just as it has come upon me. You have stood with me through thick and thin.
Paul says, "When I was in prison (verse 7), you were with me. When I was defending the gospel (verse 7), you were with me. When the gospel was confirmed (verse 7), you stood with me." You were never ashamed of my chains. You were never ashamed of me, a prisoner. Instead, you stood with me. You have even sent a financial gift to help me." This is the very thing that knit their hearts together.
You sacrificed for me. I sacrificed for you. That's genuine ministry -- mutual sacrifice and care for one another, even when times were difficult.
And know that it's not easy. Paul wrote to Timothy, "Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord of or me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God" (2 Tim. 1:8). Why did Paul write these things? Because many were ashamed at Paul, the prisoner. And many are ashamed at the suffering of the Messiah.
But, this is what ministry is about. It's about hardship and toil. It's about preaching and proclaiming and defending the gospel, even if it ends in prison. It's about knowing the grace of God through those things.
I want for you to notice three words here: 1. Imprisonment (for the gospel). 2. Defense (of the gospel). 3. Confirmation (of the gospel).
1. Imprisonment for the gospel
Paul's path to prison came through the preaching of the gospel. If you are familiar with the latter portion of the book of Acts, then you know that Paul rushed back from his third missionary journey to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem (Acts 21). I think that he wanted to come back, because Jews from all over the known world would be there, and it would be a great opportunity for the spread of the gospel. He wanted to spread the news of the coming of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.
However, shortly after he arrived in Jerusalem, he was seized in the temple. It was Jews from Asia, where Paul had been preaching the gospel, who cried out, "Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere (1) against our people and (2) [against] the Law and (3) [against] this place; And besides he has even (4) brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place" (Acts 21:28). This was a partial truth at best. (1) Paul never spoke against the Jewish people, unless they were hard of heart and refused to believe in their Messiah. (2) Paul never spoke against the Law, unless he encountered those who sought to achieve their righteousness through the keeping the law, something which only Christ could accomplish for them. (3) Paul never spoke against the temple, unless people didn't understand that the sacrifices in the temple were merely pictures of the ultimate sacrifice, which took place when Jesus hung on the tree to die for our sins. (4) Paul never "brought Greeks into the temple" (Acts 21:28). That just wasn't true. Paul, being a righteous Jew, would never have done such a thing as that. But such an accusation would surely stir the hearts of the Jewish people to jealousy. Such an accusation would surely see him arrested.
And that's what took place. He was arrested and thrown into prison.
But, fundamentally, Paul was thrown into prison because Jews hated the gospel that he preached during his missionary journeys to places like Philippi. The Jews hated the message that Paul brought. To those in Philippi, Paul preached, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31). He didn't say, "Keep the law and you will be saved." He didn't say, "Be sure to go to Jerusalem and present your sacrifices in the temple and you will be saved." On the contrary, he said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, in your long awaited Messiah, and you will be saved from your sins. The path to righteousness with God comes through faith in him."
To those in Thessalonica, Paul preached, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ" (Acts 17:3). In Corinth, he came, "solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ" (Acts 18:5). "But when [the Jews] resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, 'Your blood be on your heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles'" (Acts 18:6). And so, Paul spent 18 months proclaiming the gospel to the Gentiles in Corinth.
2. Defense (of the gospel).
Upon his return to Jerusalem, the Jews had him imprisoned. Thus began his "defense of the gospel." As he was being dragged into prison, Paul was able to quiet the crowd enough to give his defense to the Jews who were rioting against him (Acts 21:35-36). You can read all about it in Acts 22. He basically shared his testimony, on how Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus (Acts 22:8), and how He commissioned him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21).
That didn't go well. He was still imprisoned. The next day, Paul appeared before the Jewish council of leaders, to whom he gave his defense (Acts 23). That didn't go very well either. To save his life from some Jews who pledged to kill him before they ate or drank anything, he was moved to Caesarea, where he appeared before the Roman governor, Felix. He gave his defense before him (you can read it in Acts 24).
3. Confirmation (of the gospel).
Acts 25 tells of his defense against Festus, another Roman official. Acts 26 tells of his defense against Agrippa, the king. All of the Roman officials were confused about Paul. He seemed to be dealing in the realm of fine points of religious matters -- matters which only pertain to the Jews, not to Roman law. In fact, at one point, Agrippa's judgment of Paul is that he "is not doing anything worthy of death or imprisonment" (Acts 26:31). In many ways, this was his "confirmation of the gospel."
When King Agrippa's final judgment came. It was a declaration of innocence. Yet, because he appealed to Caesar, he was sent to Rome (Acts 26:32), as a prisoner to appear before Caesar. That's where we find him when writing this letter of Philippians. But, even in prison, Paul didn't stop preaching.
Returning again to Philippians, Paul will say, "Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else" (Philippians 1:12-13).
Not only was the gospel made known in Rome, it reached Caesar's household. And do you know what happened? Many of them believed. Turn over to chapter 4, right at the end. Paul is closing up his letter with these words, "Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household." (Philippians 4:21-22). Paul's gospel was confirmed. He had reached Rome, and many of Caesar's household believed.
So, there it is in Philippians 1:7. 1. His imprisonment for the gospel. 2. His defense of the gospel. 3. His confirmation of the gospel. But why does Paul share all of this? Because the Philippians are fellow sharers in the grace of God with him.
He said, We share God's grace (verse 7b). And that's what genuine ministry is about. It's about seeing God work, both in a pastor and in the people. It's about experiencing God's grace together.
Let's turn to our third point. Genuine Christian Ministry says, ...
In verse 7, Paul writes, "I have you in my heart." Look at verse 8, ...
For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Notice the words of affection. Paul, "longed" for the Philippians. Or, as the ESV puts it, "I yearn for you all." Later in the verse we see the word, "affection." "I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus."
We are talking deep-seated affection and care for each other. This is Paul's view of ministry. And it's not only in Philippians that we see such expressions of love and care. To those in Thessalonica, Paul wrote, ...
1 Thessalonians 2:8-12
Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
And who can forget the tender scene with the Ephesian elders at Miletus.
Acts 20:18-21, 24, 31-32
You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.
Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
After such words, they all knelt down and prayed together (Acts 20:36). Then, they wept aloud and embraced Paul and repeatedly kissed him as a sign of affection for him (Acts 20:37).
This is the only thing that Paul knew about ministry. He only knew of a ministry that cared deeply for others, and that poured itself out for others, in love.
In chapter 2, when he commends Timothy, he says, ...
But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father. Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me; and I trust in the Lord that I myself also will be coming shortly.
In other words, as he wrote these things, he wanted to send Timothy, because he was unlike so many others. Most people (verse 21) "seek after their own interests." But, Timothy is different. He will "genuinely be concerned for your welfare" (verse 20).
And that's what Paul is saying in verses 7 and 8, "I have an affection and a love for you, and I want the best for you." I want to send Timothy to you. He is my best (verse 20, 22). I want to send him soon (verse 23). If and when I get released from prison, I hope to come and see you as well (verse 24), because I have great affection for you."
This is how it ought to be with a pastor and people. Sadly, this isn't always the case. I have another pastor friend of mine who knows little love for the people of his congregation. He's doing a fine job preaching. He's doing a fine job shepherding his people. But, one thing he lacks. He lacks a genuine love for the people.
After pastoring the church for several years, I asked him about his friends. I said, "Tell me about your friends in the congregation. Who do you hang out with? Who do you have over when you want to enjoy yourself? Who are your friends?" Sadly, he told me that he didn't have any friends in his congregation.
When he told me this, several thoughts came into my mind. First of all, how sad it is. He has become a professional at his church. He's at the church building, keeping his office hours. He's diligently preparing and preaching good sermons. He's administrating the church effectively. He's performing the marriages and funerals and conducting the baptism services. But it's all a job to him. In many ways, he is a professional.
Now, in many ways, that's a gross over-simplification. And in many ways, that's not a fair assessment. Certainly, he cares for the people of the church. He's not hard-hearted. To be sure, he has some friends. But, he doesn't have any close friends in the church. How sad it is.
The second thought that came into my mind is this: how different his ministry is than mine. I have a deep affection for all of you. You all make up my social circles. When I hang out with friends, I often hang out with you. When I want to enjoy myself, I have you all over to my house. You all are my friends.
It's because church isn't a job for me. Now, certainly, I labor. Certainly, shepherding all of you is work. And it takes time and it takes energy. But, I don't engage myself in your lives because I have to. I engage myself in your lives because I want to. There's no other place I would rather be than to give myself to all of you and see you grow in Christ.
In fact, I need to work very hard to have friends outside of this church, because my life is so wrapped up in your lives. I have to work hard to find those who don't know Christ, whom I can befriend, and with whom I can share Jesus and my life. I can say verse 8, ...
For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
In many ways, I consider you to be our giant family. I care for all of you. I know that you all care for me.
Recently, this has come into focus in our lives. As most all of you know, our oldest daughter was engaged to be married. But, last Sunday afternoon, she broke the engagement. It has been a very trying time for us. It has been a very difficult time for us, as we have sought to counsel her and shepherd her through the process.
Many of you have cared for my daughter like she was part of your family. You have given us insight into their relationship. We have sought your counsel in the situation, and it has proven most helpful. You have prayed for us, when we didn't even know it. You have helped bring clarity to the situation because you care for us. You have an affection for the Brandon family. For this, we are grateful. We have an affection for you.
I'm thankful that we, at Rock Valley Bible Church, are seeking to do life together. I'm not the hired gun, doing ministry for you. I'm part of the family, and we are doing life together.
Indeed, Psalm 133:1 is being realized in our congregation, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!" (Psalm 133:1). I am thankful to the LORD for His work among us. May the Lord preserve the unity of our body.
While I'm on this topic, let me say one last thing. It was very interesting this week to speak with my friend, who is on the pastoral staff of a large church. I shared with him the story of my daughter and her situation. I told him how a little over a month ago, Yvonne emailed our friend, whose husband is the senior pastor of a larger church than ours. I'm guessing that there are some 750 people? Anyhow, Yvonne emailed her, seeking some counsel about things. I think that it was just this past week that she finally emailed back. Her life is so full of relationships that she is so stretched, that it took her a month and a half to get back to Yvonne.
And we reflected upon how different our pastoring relationships are. Oh, we are stretched thin. But not too thin that we don't have time for others. And I'm thankful for that opportunity.
And I told my friend that our church may not be the biggest church on the block, but we are very much enjoying our time doing life with all of you. He affirmed everything that I said. He affirmed the life that we are living. He said, "The grass isn't greener on the other side" (i.e. having a large church). He said, "You are very blessed to be committing your life to a small group of people. Enjoy it." And that's what we intend to do. We have a great affection for all of you.
I do believe that we have an affectionate ministry here at Rock Valley Bible Church. Because, I can say with Paul: I have you in my heart (verse 7a), You are partakers of grace with me (verse 7b), and I long for you (verse 8).
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on
October 6, 2013 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.