Outrageous, Contagious Joy
February 23, 2007
There’s a pool, and the pool has two ends. You’ve got a shallow end and a deep end. The shallow end is the end of the pool where most people hang out. It’s the end of the pool where people are just happy. It’s circumstantial driven.
The other end of the pool is the deep end, and that is the part of the pool where you’ve got joy. I’m talking about deep-water stuff. I’m talking about relational stuff.
It’s interesting; the shallow end is all about circumstances. It’s all about happiness. It’s feelings driven. The deep end of the pool is relational. It’s about tranquility of the soul. It’s from the inside out.
Isn’t it true that a lot of us spend too much time in the shallow end? We spend too much time with our floaties on, splashing around, relationally speaking. God wants us to go deep. He wants us to swim in the deep water, to swim with the swimmers. Yet, too many of us are just hanging out in the shallow end.
Some here are in the baby pool. Now you don’t want to swim around in the baby pool, because that’s the pee-pee pool. We want to go deep where God wants us to be. (I can’t believe I said that.)
We’ve been talking about the difference between happiness and joy. We’ve been saying that joy is where it’s at. We have this thing that searches for joy—that seeks joy. We want to go deep, we want to swim with the swimmers; yet, some of us are in kind of a lurch. We find ourselves being trapped, being pulled into the shallows.
You can’t dive into the shallows can you? You do that and you’re going to get injured; you can get paralyzed. And there’s a bunch of people that are relationally paralyzed.
You can dive in the deep. You can discover the real stuff that Jesus has in store for all of our lives.
The book of Philippians is a book about outrageous and contagious joy. It’s really unusual, because the apostle Paul wrote the book while he was in prison. He penned this book as basically a thank you letter to the church in Philippi, because Paul had just received this cool gift from a guy named Epaphroditus, who was a part of the Philippian church. And Paul, while he’s in prison, is talking about outrageous and contagious joy. Fourteen times he says, “Be joyful; be full of joy” in this book. So it’s a great book.
This book is also about relationships. It’s about Paul’s friendships. It’s about the people he was connected with in the deep water way.
And furthermore, it’s about the local church. It’s about the beauty of the church, about the fact that the church is a social place. It’s all about relationships.
Did you know that I could talk to your best friends without even meeting you and find out what kind of person that you are? You could meet my best friends and you could find out what kind of person I am without ever meeting me our talking to me. Just by my friends.
Have you ever worked in a place where you’ve done inventory before? I’ve done inventory before. I did it when I worked at a formal wear shop years ago. I did it also when I worked at a summer intern situation at this corporation. I just basically spent the entire summer in a warehouse taking inventory. When you take inventory, it’s basically getting a detailed, itemized record of things in your possession.
Well today, as we go through this book of Philippians, as we move from the shallows to the deep, we’re going to do a friend-entory. I want you to think about the friends in your life. I want you to think about who you run with, who you hang with. How do you spell relational relief? How do you do it?
The Scripture says this in Proverbs 27:19 (TLB), “A mirror reflects a man’s face…”
Well, that’s true. Most of us looked in the mirror this morning, I think. Have you ever looked in one of those mirrors that really magnify everything? Man, the older I get, the more I’m like “Whoah!” Mirrors really reflect the external don’t they?
[The verse continues] “A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he is really like is shown (is mirrored, you could say) by the kind of friends he chooses.”
The force of friends. It’s an intentional thing that we do. We need to swim away, I believe from some people, and swim toward other people. We need to start swimming away—whether it’s a dog paddle, whether it’s free style, whether it’s a back stroke—from some people in our lives. Some of the people we’re swimming with are trying to drown us. They’re trying to keep us in the shallows. Yet, we need to swim away from some people and swim toward and with other people.
Who are you swimming with? Who are you running with? Who are you doing life with? What kind of people; what kind of friends; maybe you’re single, what kind of person are you dating? Who do you do things with socially as a couple? Those are profound questions.
Now, Paul says something here in Philippians that I think is really cool about friendships, as we do this Friend-entory. He’s basically writing out a prayer to and for his friends at the church of Philippi. And he’s listing some characteristics in this prayer of real friends, of the deep-water relationships that he’s built over the years. And these are character qualities that I should reflect and that you should reflect if you’re a follower of Christ.
If you’re not, don’t worry about it. One day you’ll worry about it when you become a follower. But for now, you know this is not really where you are. Listen, though, but it’s not where you are.
This message is for those of us who are followers of Christ. It should be about my life, but it should also be about the people I’m swimming with. In other words, these character qualities Paul is praying for should be qualities I am looking for as I’m swimming toward the right people, and as I’m moving away from people who are dragging me down, who are tripping me up, who are drowning me.
I’ll just get up in your grill and tell you this: the evil one wants to drown you and me relationally. He has a whole methodology, a whole plan to drown you and to drown me, relationally. And I don’t want to go there, and you don’t either. But I think a lot of us are swimming with the wrong people. A lot of us are in the shallows. A lot of us are in the pee-pee pool when we should be going deep.
Here’s what Paul says in Philippians 1:9–11. He says, “And this is my prayer…”
He said, “Okay, this is what I’m praying about.” And notice four things. The first thing I want you to notice of is the depth of what he is talking about.
He says, “This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.”
You need friends and I need friends who are deep people. Depth is the first quality. I should be a person of real depth in my life. I should be a person of real love in my life. Why? Because if I know Christ personally; if I have that love relationship down cold, then that should be reflective of my horizontal relationship with others.
Here’s the question. Ask this about your friends. Do a friend-entory. Do your friends cause you to love God more or less? Do they cause you to love your spouse more or less? A or B? 1 or 2? What a question!
See this bracelet I have right here? Let me show you this bracelet real quick. When Lisa and I had been married for 20 years we had these bracelets made. See what it says on the bracelet? Commitment. Commitment. On the back, we defined it: “To pledge yourself to a position, no matter what the cost.”
We got these commitment bracelets for each other. We went to this jewelry store at a mall, and they had this bracelet like this that said “Love” on it. And the manager of the jewelry store said, “Oh, you want this one, because you guys have been in love for 20 years. You love one another, so I would recommend that one. Love.”
We said, “Stop in the name of love! No we don’t want that. Our deal is deeper than love. What is love? Love is commitment. It’s pledging yourself to a position, no matter what. That’s love. That’s what it’s about.”
And I’ve been married now for about 25 years and there are three stages, three types of love. There the hot love; I mean the wow, the woohoo, the passion! And we have that regularly.
There’s also the neutral side of love. Neutral. It’s kind of, you know, you kind of do life together. You know what I’m saying to you. Some of the singles are saying, “What?” You’ll find out.
Then there is the cold love. I’m talking cold. Now, if you think about those types of love—the hot love, the neutral love, the cold love—what is the most predominant love in marriage? It’s the cold love! It’s the cold steel of commitment. Do you have neutral stuff? No doubt. Do you have hot stuff? No doubt. But it’s all about, what? Pledging yourself to a position, no matter what the cost.
And here’s what so whack about our culture. People look in the shallows and they say, “I’ll dive into the shallows. I can find depth there!”
And we dive in and we get relationally injured. We think that feelings will do it. We think that we can be happy, and we’re happy and if she makes me happy or if he makes me happy, then that’s going to be it. But happiness is based on happenings; happiness doesn’t last. It’s chasing infinity. Yeah, we’re going to be happy now and then. “Happy and peppy and bursting with love!” But it’s not going to last. Happiness is shallow.
Joy, though, is relational. It’s deep. It’s a constant. It’s built on commitment. I can’t feel my way into commitment. “Okay, if I feel it, I guess that means it’s real. Okay, now I’ll commit because I felt it.”
Well, that’ll drown you. You commit, to the depth and then you’ll have feelings. So, it’s time we commit relationally and say, “God, I know you want the best for me. I want to be a person of depth and I want to swim with people who’ve made this commitment.”
Depth, that’s a major quality that Paul talked about. Look at Philippians 1:10. He says, “…so that you may be able to discern what is best…” Not mediocre; what is best.
The second quality that your friends should reflect as you take stock in who you are hanging with is discernment. What is discernment? It is the ability to make wise choices.
Read the book of Proverbs; thirty-one chapters. It’s all about wise choices. We negotiate the maze of life; we’re making decisions here there and yonder every day—past, present and future. When I’m swimming away from certain people and swimming toward other people, I should ask, “Okay I wonder how their discernment is. Do they make wise choices?”
Look back at their track record. Look at their decisions. See who they’re swimming with. Discernment. It’s big.
Life is all about decisions. Do you make wise decisions? Or, as you look back at your life, are you just full with stupid, what-was-I-thinking decisions? I mean, we’ve all made those before. But if you’ve made just a bunch of those—1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8—wow!
So, if you’re swimming with someone and they’re not deep, they’re not causing you to love God more, they’re not about commitment; if you’re swimming with someone and they’re a person who’s clueless about making wise choices, swim away from them! Act like they’re a shark and get away. Free style, back stroke, breast stroke—whatever you have to do, get away from them because they can drown you.
Purity is the third quality that Paul talks about. He unpacks this because he says (verse 10), “…so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure…”
This word pure is the word “integrity.” It’s really about a stumbling block. The person that you’re swimming with—are they a stumbling block in your life? A hindrance? Or do they help you to swim faster and deeper and better. Are they pointing you to Jesus? Or are they a stumbling block?
My wife and I have a Doberman. His name is Dolce. He sleeps in our bedroom in his chair, right by our bed. The other night there was a light on. It was about midnight and Lisa said, “Ed, please turn that light off.” So I get up, and I had no idea that Dolce had moved from his chair (it used to be my chair) to the foot of the bed. Here’s this big old Doberman, asleep, and I’m walking in the darkness toward the door to turn the light off and I stumble over him. Ahh! I about lost it. I fell down, and then, of course, was able to turn the light off.
Are you like Dolce? Are you like a Doberman? Are you like a stumbling block in the lives of others? How about the people that you’re swimming with? Are they a stumbling block to you? Do they drag you down? Do they hold you back? Do they keep you in the shallows?
“Well, you know what, they’re Christians.”
“They go to church.”
Well I go to Taco Bell. Am I a taco?
The next word is blameless. Paul says they need to be blameless. This word blameless has two meanings. One meaning is grain being sifted through a sifter, getting all the impurities out. The other one is fine pottery. Back in Paul’s day, if you made some fine pottery, you would put a stamp on it and the stamp would say “sincera.” It means “without wax.” We get the word sincerity from it. They had people, even in biblical times, who would try to rip people off. They would take pots that had all these cracks in them, and they would put wax in the cracks. And they would try to sell these cracked pots as the “sincera” stuff. People who were smart would hold the pots in the sunlight, and if it was without wax, if it was sincera, it wouldn’t show any light. If it had wax, the light would reveal the wax.
As you’re taking a friend-entory, put your relationships to the light. Do they have wax or not? Are they sincera, sincere people or not? Are they the real deal or not?
It keeps going. Paul then talks about the fourth quality. He talks about depth, discernment, purity, and now he talks about productivity.
Philippians 1:11, “…filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
Paul says that’s the deal—righteousness. That’s the Fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5. Righteousness. They should be filled with it and producing stuff from the inside out.
Throughout Philippians Paul talks about serving, Paul talks about the context of the church of Philippi and how amazing it was. And he was encouraging the people. Is this person you’re swimming with a believer or not? Well, one of the ways to tell, as far as productivity is, are they serving in the context of the local church? Are they involved in a ministry? If they are, probably, they’re the real deal. If they’re not, swim away from them. Because if I love Jesus; if I have this deep-water relationship with him, I am going to love that entity that was more near and dear to his heart—the local church. My friends will be all about that, and I am going to be all about that.
Question: why are we blessed? We’re all blessed. Compared to the world’s standards, we’re all wealthy. Why are we blessed? We’re blessed to be a blessing. We’re blessed, I’m blessed, you’re blessed, to bless the local church—the hope of the world. That person you’re dating, single adult, or student, are they serving in the church? That guy you’re hanging out with, is he a part of the church and serving within the church? They’re hard questions, deep questions. Are your friends stumbling blocks?
Do you know what Philippians 3:2 says? “Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil…”
Parents, let me talk to you for a second—because again, I want to get into your grill today. Parents, I understand. I mean, I know the deal. I talked about marriage; marriage is not the easiest thing. It’s the hardest thing. Let’s just talk here. Let’s just keep it real. It’s the hardest thing. But it’s the greatest thing. If you’ll do the hardest stuff first, it’s the greatest thing. There’s no doubt about it. Lisa and I have an amazing marriage.
Parenting is the same way. It’s not easy. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. It’s hard, man. It’s tough. But if you do some of those hard things, it will be the greatest thing.
Here is what a lot of well-meaning parents do. Isn’t it true that parents say to their kids, “Okay, just jump into the pool. I’m going to hang out over here, read a magazine, work on my tan, and you just have a good time in the pool.”
Well, while you’re doing that, do you think the kids are swimming in the deep? Do you think they’re swimming with the right people they should swim with? Are you kidding me?! Are you kidding me? If there’s a vacuum, kids will always drift, always. They’ll always drift and begin to swim with the wrong people. Always. The evil one is that powerful. If we’re neutral, if we’re just kind of floating through, we’ll end up in the shallows. And people are trying to dive deep in the shallows, and there’s going to be injury and paralysis and carnage.
Parents, we have to wake up. We’ve got to be intentional. We’ve got to guide, lead and direct our kids. We’ve got to help them and show them and model for them how to swim with the right people. It starts when they’re knee high and continues until they’re tree high. Do you know who your kids are swimming with?
“Well, I don’t know. We’re kind of out there; we’re just kind of playing the game. I’m just working on my tan, just enjoying nature.”
Mom and Dad, life is too short. Your kids can end up messed up! And I get so burdened about this because we do so much at Fellowship Church; we spend truck loads of money and time and energy providing some of the best ministries on planet earth for children and junior high students and high school students. And for the life of me I cannot even comprehend how so many parents will just show up here on Saturday or Sunday, bolt, and never have their kids up here for age appropriate teaching. They’re going to meet the right people up here. They’re going to hook up with the right people to date. They’re going to meet their spouses here.
Government does not highlight and underscore those transcendent values taught in the family. The educational system surely doesn’t. Select Soccer won’t get it done. Only through the local church will.
So you can say, “Well, I’m just going to kind of come in and kind of come right out. I just kind of treat Fellowship Church like a big honkin’ Christian concert. It’s kind of the cool thing.”
You could do that for a while; kick tires and test the waters. One day, though, you’re going to have to wear the bracelet. One day you’re going to have to commit to swim in the deep and to monitor your kids’ relationships.
My oldest is twenty now, and the other day her best friend was over at our house and they were in the kitchen and I was like standing over here getting something to eat. And I looked over and I thought to myself, “You know what? When LeeBeth was little, she did what I told her to do. She did it. Whatever I said, pretty much, she did it. Now she’s twenty. You know what she does now? She does what I do. She does what Lisa does. Whoa!”
Kind of scary, isn’t it? Or is it? It shouldn’t be. Because for twenty years Lisa and I have been modeling depth and discernment, purity, and productivity before her. We’ve revolved our lives around the church. Church attendance and student ministry has never been optional for our kids. And I was watching LeeBeth interact with her best friend and I said, “Her best friend is like my best friend! Thank you God!”
Parents, what are you doing? It’s time that we leverage the church and leverage it relationally for our kids. But more than that, parents, who are you running with? Who are you hanging with? How do you spell relief? You’re telling me that your friends are Christians? But they have no depth, no discernment, no purity, no productivity? You don’t see them serving in the church. They’re not talking about the things of God? They’re not causing you to love God more?
See Mom and Dad, I’m smoking what I’m selling here. This stuff works. And you know you can say, “Wow, Ed was pretty into this message. He was pretty fired up today! Go preacher, Ed, you get ‘em! You beat up on the devil.”
But I want the best for you. I love you too much to just beat around the bush and just kind of blame the pee-pee pool. No, no. We’re not going to do that. I want to tell you the real deal. I want to get up in your grill and tell you life is too short to miss this stuff. And we know so many people, we’ve talked to so many, many, many people from all sorts of situations and backgrounds—rich, poor, the middle class, the pink collar the white collar, orange, green skin… you name it. We’ve talked to them all.
And whenever I talk to them and get up close to them and say, “Okay, you’re going through a problem here. Your life’s in the deep weeds. When did the wheels come off?”
It’s always about four words, they all tell me this. “I had these friends…”
The force of friendship. Paul’s talking about it. He’s all over it. Proverbs 18:24, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Think about the life of Jesus. Who did Jesus have? He had the three deep-water guys—Peter, James and John. Think about the Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. They have unity, relational harmony.
Proverbs 27:17 “As Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
That’s what we do when we have deep-water friends. We sharpen one another. And let me, again, say a word to the adults here. We have small groups; we have Bible studies on Wednesdays and Thursdays; we have mission trips; we have a squillion ministries for you to get involved. Where’s the disconnect? I don’t know. I don’t know. But I want you to experience the best. And God wants it even more.
So are you in the shallows? Or the deep? Do you have your floaties on? Or are you swimming with the swimmers? It’s time to swim away from certain people who are messing you up, who are dragging you down. If you’re having sex outside of marriage, you will marry the wrong person. You are totally drowning your life. If you’re involved in immorality, in sin; if you are going to the wrong places at the wrong time and breaking God’s principals, swim away from those people. Delete them off your cell phone.
Now, for a while I’ve said, “Oh yeah, talk to them about Christ. Pray for them.”
But some of you are so deep into this, you can’t do that yet. You’ve got to start swimming. You’ve got to get away from them and then, maybe several years after you have depth and discernment and purity and produce, then you can come back and talk to them. But you need to cut them off because you’re swimming with dogs. And Philippians 3:2 says they’ll mutilate your flesh.
So who’s going to step up? Who’s going to be the man? Who’s going to be the woman? Who’s going to say, “I’m going to commit, Ed. I am going to do it right. I am going to do what God wants me to do relationally.”
Because God wants all of us to experience the joy, the outrageous, contagious joy of friendships.