For Abounding Love (Prayer series #4)
Jason White



If God wants His church to love one another with unselfish and abounding love, how do we grow in such love? Paul’s prayer in the opening of his letter to the Philippian church shows us the answer. Paul prayed for the believers in Philippi that God would grow their love; that their love would abundantly overflow in knowledge and depth of insight.






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I hope that you'll be here beginning this Wednesday at six o'clock, to be able to pray with one another and for one another. Now as we prepare for that, I'll do want to remind you how not to pray for each other though, I was reminded about this through a song that came out several years ago, a country singer named Jaron. Jaron Lowenstein, and he wrote a song and sang a song called, I pray for you. Now, I want to read the lyrics to you it says I haven't been to church since I don't remember when things were going great till they fell apart again. So I listened to the preacher as he told me what to do. He said, You can't go hate and others who have done wrong to you. Sometimes we get angry, but we must not condemn. Let the good Lord do his job. You just pray for them. I pray your brakes go out running down a hill. I pray a flowerpot falls from a windowsill and knocks you in the head like I'd like to, I pray your birthday comes and nobody calls I pray you're flying high. When your engine stalls, I pray all your dreams never come true. Just know wherever you are. Honey, I pray for you. This is how we will not be praying for each other on Wednesday night. Although, honestly, I think it's how we'd like to pray for some people every now and then. Right? I mean it, it can be hard to love other people. It can be hard to get along with other people, that can be a difficult thing. As a matter of fact, I asked you to turn to the book of Philippians. And when Paul was writing this letter, there were some people in that church who weren't really getting along. They may have been wanting to pray the exact same kind of prayers and thoughts that we just read. And we're laughing about here because there was a disagreement between some people in the church. As a matter of fact, it was such a big disagreement was causing such harm in the church that the apostle Paul even called him out. He writes out their names in a letter, which he doesn't do very often in urges them and pleads with them to get along because they were grumbling and arguing and it was causing some divisions in the church. And Paul was writing to unify them back together and encourage them to love each other he called them out with in regards to selfish ambition, you'll see this in chapter two. Yeah, he calls them out for vain conceit, or what can be translated empty glory. And so there's this selfish ambition where people are looking out for their own selves, their own preferences, their own priorities, what's best for them in the church. They're chasing after their glory, which Paul says is empty. By the way, it's a vain pursuit of that because all glory and honor will only go to one person on that final day. But this is effect affecting the church in such a deep way, that Paul's writing to them to clear some of this stuff up. And he opens up this letter before he dives into all of that with a prayer. We've been looking again for several weeks at various prayers that we see in the New Testament, a lot of them have been what Paul has wrote in two different churches. Well, the same kind of thing Paul writes out a prayer of what it is that he has been praying for this church at Philippi. Look, I opens it up when he says this in verse nine of chapter one, and this is my prayer, that you your love may abound more and more, some translations say still more and more, we're going to go slowly and just kind of dissect each part of this. This is the very heart of what it is that Paul is praying for them, that their love for each other will abound more and more. Now, some of you will go Jason, where does it say that he's talking about their love for each other? And that's a good question, because he doesn't specifically say that here. We don't know exactly what love Paul is referring to in the statement. But again, if you go back and read the entire letter, you read it in context, it's no doubt that Paul is writing about this love because of all those things that I just mentioned to you that were going on in the church that he's going to write about later. So his prayer is that God would grow their love for each other and it would about I mean, he's not praying for like a little bit of more of love that word about their means to be present over abundantly, like super abundantly it's the picture of taking a pitcher of water and and having a cup and you beginning to pour the water in the cup but you don't you don't stop when it gets to the very top you just keep pouring and it begins to what overflow Right, it's a bounding at that point. This is what Paul is praying that that love would would overflow super abundantly and just be present in the way that they're doing relationships with each other. But what kind of love is Paul praying for here? Is he praying for a feeling kind of love, like he hoped, some emerge, emotions will get stirred up and they'll just have some, some warm fuzzies for each other. It's not the kind of love that he's talking about. The word that he uses there is agape, it's agape love that he's talking about. Many of you are familiar with agape love, especially if you've been to church for any length of time and done any studying through it. It's a self sacrificial kind of love. Gordon Fee and his commentary on Philippians talks about it this way, agape love is love in the sense of placing high value on a person which expresses itself in actively seeking the benefit of the one so loved. It's a love, it's actively seeking the benefit of the person you are loving, and it's self sacrificing, when you're loving them in that way, one of the best examples of agape love that I can kind of bring before you just to again, get the picture in your mind is of Robert McQuilkin, some of you know his name. Dr. McQuilkin was the president of Columbia Bible college when his wife developed Alzheimer's. And it just got worse and worse. And it grew to the point where, where it was pretty terrible. And she was terrified to even be without him. And whenever he would leave, it just wouldn't go well. And so many of his friends and his colleagues tried to talk him into putting her into an institution. But instead, he's stepped down eight years short of retirement, to stay home and take care of her full time. And I want you to hear how he describes this decision. In this video, look at what he has, I haven't in my life, experienced easy decision making on major decisions. But one of the simplest and clearest decisions I've had to make is this one. Because circumstances dictated it. Muriel, now, in the last couple of months, seems to be almost happy when with me, and almost never happy when not with me. In fact, she seems to feel trapped, become very fearful, sometimes almost terror. And when she can't get to me, there can be anger. She's in distress. But when I'm with her, she's happy and contented. And so I must be with her at all times. And you see, it's not only that I promised in sickness and in health, till death do us part. And I'm a man and I work. But as I have said, I don't know where this group but I've said publicly, it's the only fair thing. She sacrificed for me for 40 years to make my life possible. So if I cared for 40 years, I'd still be in debt. However, there's much more, it's not that I have to say that I get to. I love her very dearly. And you can tell it's not easy to talk about the light. It's a great, wonderful person that's a got a love, of self sacrificing kind of love one that is for the benefit of someone else. But a sacrifices have to be made to love and care for someone in that particular way. And this is the type of love that Paul is talking about not necessarily just between a husband and a wife. He's saying this to the church. Just the type of love that he's praying will happen in the way that friends will treat each other in a way that brothers and sisters in Christ will treat each other that their love the self sacrificing love, will abound that you'll see those kinds of things happening over and over and over again, in the relationships that people have within the church. So this is what Paul is praying and the kind of love that will help establish the unity that he's trying to restore. We even talked about that last week we've dissected Jesus's prayer on unity. And in John 17, that because of the union that he established between us and Him, through His finished work on the cross, there's an expression of unity that we live in the unity that he's established for us in Paul's writing to establish this unity. And in a way, he's saying, that happens through agape love. That happens when we self sacrifice when we don't pursue our own preferences and our own interests, but the interest of others and we serve them in a way that benefits them and blesses them and for what's good for the entire church. Right. So this is what Paul is, is praying here. But next, he begins to talk about and pray about how that agape love how that self sacrificing love, will actually get developed liquid he goes on to say. So again, and this is my prayer that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. In other words, Paul's saying that this self sacrificing love for into a bound more, what's needed is more knowledge, number one, and number two more depth of insight. Well, again, what's Paul talking about here? Let's dig a little deeper into these things. Let's talk about this knowledge. What kind of knowledge is Paul talking about here? We doesn't again, say right here, but we can use context to be able to try to figure it out. And just two chapters later, if you were to flip over a few pages to Philippians chapter three, you would see that the apostle Paul begins to talk about a time in his own life in his former life, when he was trying to find real life, through religion, through his pedigree, right? And then he begins to say this right after saying those things, a chapter three, verse seven, but whatever were gains to me, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more I consider everything is lost, because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things, I consider the garbage that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but from that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith, I want to know Christ, yes, to know the power of his resurrection. The highest aim of Paul's life was to know to experience the living Christ in him, and through him the power of his resurrection, that he can experience in that union that he has, and that gets expressed through him. And so he wanted to know Him more and more deeply, more and more about who he is more and more about how he works through him and that power, that resurrection power worked through him. And so what Paul is praying in chapter one, verse nine, we go back to that is for their self sacrificial love to grow first and foremost, through their knowledge of Christ, Christ in them, and their knowledge of Christ through them. Why? Because Paul knows that the more knowledge of Christ grows, the more their love for each other will grow. Paul, Paul would even go on and explain that and use it as an example in giving them more knowledge about Christ. I mentioned to you chapter two, where he talked about the selfish ambition and, and vain conceit. And then he says, so don't do anything out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but value others above yourselves not looking out to your own interest, but to the interest of others. And then he gives them an example in the example is knowledge and awareness of Christ in the way that he loved people. Look what he goes on to say, first five, in your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, here's your knowledge about Christ Jesus, who being in very nature, God did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage. Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross you talk about agape love, a self sacrificing kind of love for the God of the universe, to make himself nothing to take on the very nature of a servant, to be humbled by becoming obedient on a death on death, on a cross, to death on a cross, in why all for the benefit of others, all for the benefit of us. It's a sacrificial kind of love. In other words, Paul was growing their knowledge of Jesus in order to grow their love for each other. Because agape love is the type of love that Jesus has for us. He is love, right? It's a self sacrificing kind of love. And Paul knows that if Philippians grow in their understanding of this being the kind of love of Jesus, and Jesus now dwells in them, and wants to work through them, then that's the kind of love that's going to get expressed, to look for that kind of activity that he'll want to express through them. So again, knowledge of Jesus in them, and through them will multiply their love because Jesus is agape love. And that's what he's praying for, is this agape love to be expressed. But it wasn't just knowledge. Remember, Paul's also praying for depth of insight? What exactly does that mean? Why is Paul praying for them to have depth of insight, I read a number of commentaries this week, my favorite was what GW Hansen says about this, and I couldn't say it any better. So I'm just going to read what he wrote in his commentary about this. He says, Without insight, love does not know how to express itself with actions and words that are appropriate to each situation of life. Often love asks the question, I desire to love these people with such great needs. But what should I say and do to meet their needs? Only by insight, does love have the direction to act wisely in ways that are that give healing, joy and life to those who are loved. So Paul knows that if their knowledge of Christ and his self sacrificing love grows, and you combine that with insight, the practical understanding of how best to meet the people's needs around you, then that's when their agape love for each other is going to begin to abound and abound, and you're going to visibly begin to see those kinds of results. So Paul is praying for more knowledge, Jesus Christ in His agape love in them, and through them a depth of insight so that they'll be able to see the very practical needs and ways to express that godly, self sacrificing love. When that happens, pulse goes on and says in verse 10, that when or let me read the whole thing, again, that your love may abound more and more and knowledge and depth of insight, verse 10, so that here's what's going to happen, you will be able to discern what is best, certainly make sense, right? With everything that we just talked about. If you begin to have insight, then you're going to be able to discern the best way to agape love someone and each and every moment. He's going to help you discern that he's living in you and guiding your mind and your thoughts and ways to see things with clarity to best know how to serve people. In those moments. Paul says something else is going to happen though, as he continues his prayer, he doesn't say just say, so that you may be able to discern what is best, but he also says, and so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ sweat, he goes on to say in verse 10, the word pure here means sincere. The word pure means sincere to do things without mixed motives. So you could love someone, but have mixed motives for why it is that you are loving them, it's possible to serve someone to meet someone's needs, but not do it in a self sacrificing kind of way. But do it in a self serving kind of way. Right? I mean, I could go home and I could begin to wash all of the dishes, and I could dry the dishes, and I could put the dishes up and I could do all of the laundry and I could sweep and I could mop and I could make the beds and I could do everything to help serve my wife, but she could come to me and go, What is it that you want? I can say, well, I want a new bass boat. Right? And of course, you'd say, well, you got it honey, right now. But um, but I mean, I could be doing that. And she could pick up on that, right? I know, you're not doing this to just serve me you want something? Right? What is it that you want? What's the real reason you are doing this? So we can do that in all kinds of different situations with people. Sometimes we can do it in a way where we're just trying to people please because not so that they'll be pleased again, and it really served them but because of what it brings us when they're pleased with what it is that we did for them right? So if I people please you and I love you and serve you in some way. You compliment me back. And then you're going on and on about how great of a person I am. Because I serve you in that way, then I am taking from you, I'm using the way that I serve you to get something out of you. Because I needed to justify myself, I needed to make sure that other people know that that's the kind of person I am one who just serves and loves other people so well, right? See, it's not sincere. It's not a sincere love. It's a self serving kind of love in those ways. But Paul knows that when you grow in your knowledge of Christ, and His agape love, and you have depth of insight, and then you discern how to best love others, then you're going to be loving others, sincerely. And without mixed motives, because it's coming from him, it's being directed by him. What about this word blameless, blameless here means not to offend someone to be without a fence. So if you love someone in sincerely or with mixed motives, that's going to be offensive to them. It offends others, when you love them in such a way where you're trying to do it for your own benefit, or get something out of them. That is an offensive kind of love. So once again, Paul saying when our knowledge of Christ grows, when we begin to have insight, we will be able to discern what is the best way to sacrificially love others, and that they that love, they will receive it in a sincere, sincere then or pure way. And it will be without offense. And it'll be that way, primarily because it was Jesus, it was coming from him. And he's the one who would have produced it through them or through us in these ways, which is what he gets to last in his prayer, beginning of verse 11. I'll go back again, just to put it all together. And this is my prayer, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. Why, so that you may be able to discern what is best and maybe pure and blameless for the day of Christ filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through all your hard work and effort. Through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God, we talked about this all the time, Jesus is the one who produces the fruit. He's the vine that produces it, we're the branches that just bear the fruit. And Paul is picturing them as he's writing to them standing before Jesus, on the ultimate final day. And he's picturing them standing before Jesus with with all this visible fruit, all this stuff on display, that it's fruit that he produced, in them and through them. Look Jesus at what you did in us and through us. Look at all the sincere love. And without mixed motives, the Agape love that you produce through us, it's just overflowing Jesus praise glory and honor to you. Right, so he's picturing this. And so this prayer is about how to make sure that ends up happening. He's picturing his friends, his brothers and sisters in Christ, He wants that to be true of them. He doesn't want them walking in their flesh. He doesn't want them trying to be about doing their own things and serving people in manipulating ways and all the stuff that isn't going to produce sincere fruit that Jesus is gonna receive glory and honor in. He wants it to be pure and sincere and truly serving others. So he's praying for this to happen. And in order for that to happen on that day, they've got to gain the knowledge of Jesus Christ and more of an awareness and understanding of his agape love for them, and that he wants to express through them to grow in their self sacrificial love for each other, to have insight to see how it best applies to meet people's needs. And as that happens, they'll begin to discern what is the best way to love and serve people in each moment. And then this pure and sincere love without mixed motives will come pouring out the cup overflowing from them with visible fruits, a manifestation of God's agape love that he already put in us that overflows now out into the lives of others. This is Paul's prayer for the Philippians that he writes out and wants to make sure that he knows this is what he is asking God to do in their lives. But as we've said, each and every single week, this isn't really just a prayer for the Philippians This is a prayer for you. It's a prayer for me. It's a prayer for us that our love as the church will today abound more and more than our knowledge of Christ in us and through us will grow that will have depth of insight and discern the best way to sacrificially love. have others the other people that are sitting in the same room as you are, that will have depth of insight and discern the best way and that Jesus will produce a sincere and blameless love through us that will overflow into the lives of other people here, this is a prayer for ourselves. This is a prayer for each other. And one that we want God to move in and work in as he unifies us, together and expresses his love through us to each other. And so this is a prayer that we could pray even right now, in this moment, I'm going to pray Paul's prayer over us as we close. And then we'll enter into a time as we've done each and every single week throughout this series, where you have the opportunity to pray, however, the Spirit is leading you during this time. And then I'll come back and close us and we'll have a time of invitation. Together. Would you close your eyes and bow your heads as we enter into this time of prayer? Together? Lord, I pray that our love will abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that we will be able to discern what is best and that our love will be pure, that our love will be sincere that our love will be without a fence. And I pray that we will be filled with all the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, and that he will receive all the glory and all the honor in all the praise for what he does in us and through us as colonial hills. Father, we pray this in his name and we pray that you will continue to guide our hearts and minds as we each individually continue to pray together in this moment.