Sermon Follow Up - Week 7, 2022
Let your life "match" the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” (Philippians 1:27–30, ESV)
SUBPOINTS AND REFLECTION QUESTIONS
1. Our citizenship changes our manner of life
Perhaps a more accurate way of putting Paul's main command from this text into English is "Only behave as citizens worthy of the gospel" which matches with what he says later in Philippians 3:20, "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ..." We have been born a second time, but this time into God's family and Jesus' kingdom. Therefore, our lives should reflect not just the place where we belong but to whom we belong as well. This command serves as the umbrella for everything else Paul will say in the rest of the book, which is why it's so essential for us to give it proper attention.
To be worthy of the gospel means not that we deserve its benefits (Scripture is clear that we're all equally deserving of judgment!) but rather that we should live in a way that properly carries the weight and wonder and glory of the gospel of Christ.
By gospel, Paul is refering to that beautiful message that has the power to save. Here is how John Piper summarizes a definition of the gospel just from within this little letter:
“The Gospel of Christ is the Good News that Christ, who is equal with God (2:6) became a human being (2:7), obeyed God perfectly (2:8), died, and rose again (2:9) so that by union with him (3:9) all who believe (3:9) will be counted righteous with Christ’s righteousness/obedience (3:9; 2:8) and so be saved (1:28; 3:20) from sin (3:6-8) and destruction (1:28; 3:19), and belong to Christ (3:12) forever in the resurrection from the dead (3:11,21).” (John Piper, Look at the Book: Philippians 1:27).
When you are faced with the choice between an allegiance to Christ or our country, or Christ and the unethical practice at work or Christ and the peer pressure from friends, we choose Christ. We want to flee sexual immorality like citizens of heaven who will have pleasures forevermore. We want to love one another sincerely like citizens of heaven who have known the greatest love of all. We want to represent our homeland and that gets reflected in our manner of life. We belong to God and are empowered by the Spirit, no longer enslaved to our flesh, but servants of the risen King.
-Have you ever thought of yourself as a citizen of heaven?
-What are some evidences of grace in your life that would reflect living in a manner worth of the gospel of Christ? What are some things that you feel like may not match up with the gospel of Christ?
2. Standing firm in unity and courage confirms that God is our Savior and their Judge.
Our togetherness matters. And it matters that we are together solely because of the gospel of Christ. Maybe you’ve never had the chance to stop and think about your church that way- this group of people I am a part of has come together because of the saving good news of Jesus Christ and for no. other. reason. That’s why it’s a big deal when we are at odds with one another, because it’s not in line with the reconciling gospel. It’s a big deal when we don’t meet together because the Word tells us we need to encourage one another as the Day approaches. It’s a big deal when we don’t stand firm together and we cave to worldly ideas or practices and stand by and approve of things in our brothers and sisters that aren’t Christlike.
Our unity in Christ, the fellowship we share, is itself a witness to the fact that the good news is real and it accomplishes something that people have been trying to accomplish since the beginning. Political parties, social movements, religions, sports teams, races of people, drama clubs, companies, and you name a group of people- have tried and failed to achieve lasting, even eternal unity. And yet, civil wars happen, bands break up, but Christ’s church has been graciously given the secret ingredient. The Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:1-3 sounds very similar to this passage, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:1-3 ESV). Let’s be eager to maintain the unity of this local church. It matters. It says something about the gospel we believe. And it can also say something about how firmly we believe it. That’s not to say situations don’t change or that leaving is never an option, but it is to say that there's a reason why we refuse to speak or hear gossip or slander— it's divisive and damages our togetherness. That’s why we patiently invite brothers and sisters in sin to repent and if not, to no longer be a part of this body because that person is not unified with us in their declaration and demonstration of the gospel, which grieves us. That unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is why we enjoy being together. It’s why we eat food together and spend time at each other’s homes. Because if we are fractured and fragmented, we hide or misrepresent the beautiful reality that Jesus died to gather a mosaic of people to be his forever. And we need the help of the Spirit to cause us to value our church as a whole and its individual members.
Another way we can align ourselves with the message of Christ is with one mind to strive side by side for the faith of the gospel. We are called to have this sort of “mind meld” We’re here, we’re a local church— now what are we here for? We are here to strive for one another and those outside this body to hear and believe the good news. So if you are a stay at home mom or a retiree or you’ve been working somewhere for who knows how long and your life feels like it’s got no focal point. We are being led to understand that we exist as to strive together for a major purpose: people growing in or coming to the knowledge of Christ. How can you be a part of that, right now? What ideas do you have of ways to reach people? Who do you long to see saved and who has the Lord already burdened you to tell? How can we as a church pray for that person or those people? What needs have you seen that you long to see met? How can you bounce ideas off of other wise members on how to consistently and creatively shepherd your kids at home? Let’s strive side by side in that. Let’s work hard at that. Now Paul wouldn’t be calling us to this if he didn’t feel like there wasn’t room for us to grow. To come together in our efforts in striving to spread the gospel to those who haven’t heard it or haven’t believed in Jesus. We want that as a church! Because we want our lives to be worthy of the gospel of Jesus.
Another way our lives should match the gospel is a bit of an uncomfortable one. Not being frightened in anything by your opponents. It’s actually a hard pill to swallow isn't it?— that being frightened by those who oppose what we’re doing or the message that we’re taking out to the world is not consistent with the gospel. Whether you’re sharing the gospel gently and truthfully with a stranger who verbally attacks and accuses you because they feel harassed …or the culture at large is angrily screaming at your definition of marriage or male and female… we should not be afraid of that. One of the main reasons is because we can look at their opposition and our suffering as proof that they are headed for destruction and proof that we will be saved. Our salvation is from God, as is their destruction. Asaph in Psalm 73 is frustrated and envious that wicked people can just go on about life and they prosper. They’re doing just fine. They curse God and get away with it. But something changes his mind about all of this.
But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. (Ps 73:16-20)
If we are frightened, we have so much to learn about the power that our risen Jesus has. Paul offers this prayer to the church of Ephesus: “[That you may know…] what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:19-23
-How does the church's togetherness matter to you?
-How can you participate in striving side by side with fellow believers so that others may have a chance to come to believe in Jesus?
-What frightens you about being opposed for the sake of the gospel?
3. Suffering for the sake of Christ is a privilege.
It sounds odd or even sadistic that we have been "graciously" given the gift of suffering for Christ.
Here is a quote that helps us understand why suffering for Christ is truly a gift from God:
“Faith and persecution are often a package gift; when the flame of faith shines in a dark place, the darkness will try to douse that faith and snuff it out. God writes a persecution story for his church so that mankind will be pointed back to the greatest story: the death and resurrection of Christ. Persecution is a parable that puts the death and resurrection of Christ on display again and again. Persecutors try to kill the faith of believers like they tried to kill Jesus, but faith rises just like Jesus did. When persecutors try everything in their power to kill faith, but faith refuses to die, resurrection power is on display. Opponents should fear, because they are actually fighting God, and they will lose. God’s power preserves our faith. He who began the good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Christ (Phil. 1:6), and nothing in all creation will be able to separate believers from his almighty grip of grace.” Jason C. Meyer, Philippians ESV Expository Commentary.
It has been granted to you to believe in Jesus…and yes, to suffer for Jesus. Not as payment, but as a proclamation that he is worth more to you than anything in the world. That’s what we’re saying when we willingly suffer for his sake. And that’s the life that you’ve walked into as a follower of Jesus. A life where you will be persecuted in some way as your life further and further resembles the good new. But go forward in that without any reason to be afraid. With God on your side.
-How is suffering for Christ a gift? Do you believe that to be true? If not, how can you ask the Spirit to help you understand and fight for faith?
-What do you imagine a way in which you have or might suffer for Christ?
- Background, Overview, Outline and Major Themes in Philippians - Dan Wallace
- Joy in the book of Philippians - John Piper
- Psalm 87:1-7
SONGS TO ENCOURAGE
O Church Arise- Keith and Kristyn Getty
Listen to the album on the book of Philippians by the musical group Psallos as they provide a journey through Paul’s letter with lyrics that are rich in biblical theology. Here is a review of this album by The Gospel Coalition. I pray that listening to this album over the next serval months around the house or while you are driving would serve to cement some of the significant themes of this letter. You can listen to the album on Spotify, YouTube, or on their website.