Live your life worthy of the Gospel
Let me invite you to open your Bibles or your copy of God’s Word and turn to Philippians 1:27-30. This morning we’re continuing our series of sermons entitled Advancing the Gospel Together. We’re looking at Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. We’ve been kind of going through that book verse by verse for the last several weeks, and we’ll just kind of pick up in a transitional section of that book today in Philippians chapter one.
Now raise your hand if you think instructions are important. How many of you think instructions matter? Some are shaking their heads no. Now I’m a guy. So when I’m building stuff and I’ve talked about this before, I don’t always look at the instructions, especially if you got to build something and it’s like a book and there’s like 400 steps. That’s tough and I don’t want to look at all that, so I just look at the picture on the box. And start putting stuff together and what happens? I do it wrong. Because instructions are important.
Now, how many of you think simple instructions are very important? Anybody want to? Yes, simple instructions, you know, like the two steps, pictures. My kids get Kinder Eggs from time to time. It’s like one picture on how to put together that toy and it’s simple. It’s easy now some of them are frustrating. But simple instructions are important. As a parent, instructing my children are important because I want them to grow up. I want them to know the difference between right and wrong. I want them to grow up and be able to manage life without me. Is that not the goal of parenting? To raise him and get him out of the house. I mean, we love them and we wanted to come back and when they come back, they’re going to bring more and we understand that. But we want them to be able to live and be dependent upon themselves. To know how to wash the clothes or how to do the dishes or how to manage their finances. We don’t want to have to take care of them forever, and so instructions are important. We say hey, go clean your room. Any parents relate to that? And then we go check on him. Now I don’t know if, I mean my kids do a great job, but when I was a teenager and I got checked on, it was “you didn’t do it right”. So, I was first shown how to do it and then the next time if I didn’t do it right, I got what is lovingly referred to as gentle correction. Now there’s not a lot of gentleness in gentle correction, but we learned and we grew, and that’s where we pick up in our letter.
The Apostle Paul has shown the Philippians what his circumstances are. He’s explained to them what he’s going through and how he’s responded. But in verse 27 he changes. The verb changes to instruction. He wants to instruct them. Paul is like a father to the Philippians. He started the church. This is a friendship letter. It’s a very intimate letter between friends, but he’s like their dad and he wants this church to be able to thrive and survive even when he’s gone. If you read ahead a little bit, it says whether he comes to them or whether he doesn’t, he wants to hear that they are striving together, working together, and thriving with the advancement of the Gospel. Like any father, he wants them to be able to move forward if he doesn’t make it. Now remember he’s in jail and he could be executed. He’s not executed at this point in time, but he could be.
And so he writes this letter of instruction. He starts, the first verse, opens the whole thing up that will take us through the end of Chapter 2. Now we’re not going to cover all of it today, but here’s what he says. “Just one thing.” Don’t you love the simplicity of that, just one thing? But there’s a tone of warning. You can see Paul shaking his finger. Guys, girls just one thing that you need to do. Now I go to the grocery store from time to time to get my stuff and Jennifer will ask me “hey, will you get this one thing for me?” That’s a very important task that I often forget. I’ll get home and it’s like, “well you bought what you wanted and you bought all this other stuff but where’s my one thing?”
And so Paul really is stressing to the Philippians, just get this one thing one thing. “As citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, in one accord, contending together for the faith of the gospel, not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your salvation—and this is from God. For it has been granted to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are engaged in the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I have.”
He opens up his words of instructions with one command. Live your life worthy of the Gospel. Now the CSB renders that as citizens of heaven. Other translations just go right into it and says, contend or not but concern yourself or live your life. They don’t use that phrase as citizens of heaven, but that’s what Paul means. He is talking about citizenship. The word to live is a word that means to live as free citizens of your nation. The Philippians would have really understood where Paul was coming from because they would have understood their history. For the Greek and for the Greeks in the church and the Romans in the church, they would have understood that they were not just Greeks. They were not just Romans. It wasn’t just a place where they lived or a place where they were from. It was a community they were a part of. An individual would be gifted and he would work to advance his gifts and he would work to become better at his gifts, not for his selfish desires, but for the good of the whole community. That was the Greek philosophy and the early Roman philosophy, that everybody, all the people would work together to achieve the highest good for all other people because and so the Philippians realized that their Roman citizens. That comes with a lot of responsibilities and a lot of duties. They had a duty to represent Rome well. They had an obligation to be good citizens of the Roman Empire and the people in Philippi took great pride, now this is history and we don’t like history, but this is important.
The Philippians took great pride in their Roman citizenship because it was given to them years before by a guy named Octavian who conquered the city. It is a great battle. He became the emperor Augustus because of his victory in Philippi, he bestowed upon the people the title Roman citizens. Philippi modeled itself after Rome. It was a little Rome. If you would go to Philippi, back then, it looked a lot like Rome. So that’s what Paul is talking about. Citizenship. Being a part of a community, not individualism. But then he changes an expands the definition of that word. He says citizens worthy of the Gospel. And that changes it. It’s no longer, “hey, you’re not citizens of Rome, your citizens of Heaven.” That is where your citizenship lies. Yes, you live here and you have a citizenship to Rome that was bestowed upon you by Octavian when he conquered the land. They didn’t do anything to earn their earthly citizenship. But he says you also because of what Christ has done with the Gospel, are citizens of heaven. Live your life, worthy of that citizenship. Live your life worthy of the Gospel.
Now think back to last week. Paul said to live as Christ to die is gain, right? To live as Christ, to die is gain. That was his mantra. That was his attitude. I asked everyone here or told everyone here, you have to fill in that blank for yourself. What are you going to live for? Are you going to live for Christ or something else? And so when Paul says to live for Christ, to die is gain, that one thing, if you choose to live for Christ, this is what it looks. Living your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel.
Colossians 1:13, Paul writes this. “He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.” Man, that’s powerful. Through what Jesus did on the cross, you became citizens of heaven. By God’s grace and your faith in Him, He has rescued you from this world and He calls you His children. He calls you citizens of heaven. So live your life worthy of the calling of the Gospel.
So here’s what he says. How do you do that? How do I live my life? And so in these first few verses he talks about how to live your life worthy of the Gospel facing extreme opposition. OK, I told you a few weeks ago that the Philippians wanted to know how Paul was responding to persecution because they were suffering persecution. So now Paul is instructing them on what they need to do in the face of their external opposition.
The first thing he says is stand firm for the Gospel. You gotta stand your ground for the Gospel. This is unflinching courage in the face of extraordinary danger. Unflinching courage in the face of extraordinary danger. When I was a when I was a kid in school, we used to get on the bus and we played the stare game anybody know what their game is? You just stare at each other and the first one that blinks loses. Me and Larson play it from time to time. It’s really just a silly game that passes time. But see I was the champion. You know why? Because I would take my hand and like almost hit somebody and they would flinch. When I felt my eyes getting heavy, I’m like I’m getting ready to blink, I just do that I would win. See we didn’t set ground rules were only like 4 or five years old, we didn’t know. So I would win. But then I met a guy. I got older; I was like fifth grade. I met a guy who wouldn’t flinch. His eyes were solidly, he never blank. He says he slept with his eyes open. He never closed him and so I would do this and this and this. I would like that he wouldn’t blink. That’s unflinching courage. He never would blink, so that’s what Paul says. You’ve got to have courage to stand your ground.
This is a military term. A lot of military people, former Roman soldiers lived in Philippi, so it’s the idea, and I know we have a former and current military people in our church. This is standing your post in the fiercest of battles. You will not leave your post, no matter what.
I’ll demonstrate it like this. If I stand here like a toothpick, right? Anybody would come up here. I thought about asking Graham to do this, but he might push me over if I stand here just like this man, you can take me down pretty quickly. OK? I’m not going to be able to stand firm. OK? But if I spread my legs and get a good base and bend my knees a little bit. Ain’t probably nobody in this room gonna push me down. I’m a big ‘un, you know? I’m solid. I have a solid foundation. That is what it means to stand firm. Church, faced with extraordinary opposition today with people who are hostile to the Gospel and all of our core beliefs, we have got to stand firm on the foundational principles that are taught in the Bible.
First and foremost, this Book, is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. It is authoritative an it is sufficient, and this is our God for living life as citizens of heaven. I know it’s hard to read it. I know it can be a tiresome thing to read it and it can be hard to understand it, but this is where we get the truths of God. This is where God reveals Himself to us in a very special way. That is where we start and we stand firm. Nobody tells us this is a myth. Nobody tells us this is wrong because we know it is the truth. This is where truth comes from. We also stand firm on core theological principles like a literal real virgin birth of our Lord and Savior. That really happened and she really was a virgin. No matter what anybody tells us that we stand firm and do not compromise on the virgin birth. We do not compromise on a real, literal physical resurrection. Jesus died and He was all the way dead. I know you watch The History Channel today, they’ll say, well, He wasn’t all the way dead. He was halfway dead and it was cold in that tomb, so He just healed Himself and he then He got up. No, no, no, no. He died. He was dead and three days later He got up and He got out of tomb and we do not compromise on that truth. We do not compromise that we are saved by God’s grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ. Fundamental truth that we will stand firm on. You can’t work your way to heaven. There’s not many paths to heaven. I had, believe it or not, I had a professor at my undergraduate just down the road at Pfeiffer, who said there were many ways to get to heaven. She was a religion professor. She said there are many ways to get to heaven. Those of us who knew that to be wrong told her so. Well, guess what grade I got in that class? Guess what happened a week later? I changed my major ’cause I could not sit under that wrong theology.
God’s grace through faith alone in Christ alone is what we stand firm on. We stand firm on the Trinity, one God, three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We do not compromise on those truths and I can go on and on and on, but we have to stand firm on core theological principles. And there are some theological things we can discuss and we can debate. But there are core principles, a few that I’ve already listed, that we do not compromise on as a church. No matter what they tell us. Because they’re wrong and the Bible says so.
But if you continue, Paul says you stand firm with one accord. Now when I heard that phrase, one accord, I thought of Ecclesiastes 4:12 “And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” So again, go back to the military example, you got a soldier standing firm at his post. Now he might be able to be overrun eventually. An army may be able to take over one guy. But if his buddies and his brothers come up and lock arms and stand beside him, which was a common practice for Roman soldiers, nothing, was going to overtake an army of soldiers standing firm for the Gospel. Yeah, you will get to this in a minute, but Christianity isn’t like baseball. Baseball is a decent team sport, but it’s a lot of individual-ness in baseball. You know, being a Christian is a team sport.
We worked together, we’ve served together and that’s why Paul says the next point, we contend together. We work together for the Gospel. This is from a military word to an athletic word. Now the Super Bowl is next week. Tom Brady is an exceptional quarterback. I don’t like him. I never have, but he is an exceptional quarterback. I cannot deny his greatness, especially now that he’s done it with two teams. But, he’s not the only guy on the team. If you watch the game last week, he didn’t play very good and they still won. Why? Because he’s got an offensive line that protects him. By the way, I was an offensive lineman and you talk about a group of guys that stand firm together for one goal. Offensive lineman do that. We never get our names in the papers. OK, so that’s a tangent. I’m chasing a squirrel, so anyway. It’s a sports analogy that’s what made me think of it. But contending together. Tom Brady is great, but he’s got a good offensive line. He’s got a good group of receivers and that Tampa Bay defense is phenomenal. It’s a team effort. At the beginning of every football season or hockey season or baseball, basketball, whatever sport at the beginning of the season, you may have individuals with egos, right? Everybody might be out for themselves. Oh, I’m better than that guy. I’m out for my money or my accolades. But if they want to win the Super Bowl, they all have to come together as one unit. Our goal as a church is to bring glory to God and advance the Gospel together, and we do it by coming together. My son watches a lot of karate type TV shows, so this is where this is coming from, but we can’t have little ninjas that run around doing their own thing. You can’t fight the battles we face by yourself. We work together. We serve together. We stand together for the Gospel. We can’t have secret Agent Christians either. Christianity’s not a battleground. It’s not a playground, and you gotta get in the game, you gotta get in the battle.
I said last week, don’t sit, soak and sour. But we gotta get up and we’ve got to contend together. But here’s what happens. When we decide to do this. When we decide to move forward, advancing the Gospel together, standing firm on our beliefs, people will oppose us. And so, Paul says, do not be afraid to suffer for the Gospel. Don’t be afraid of your opponents. Now I know, many of you watched the news. You read the papers. It looks like the other side’s winning, doesn’t it? It looks like we are a fleeting, weak group of people, as Christians. Well, I’ve read the whole Book. You know what happens in the end? We win! We win! No matter what it seems like today, we win. And that’s what Paul says. Don’t be afraid of your opponents because it serves as destruction for them and it proves your Salvation. What Paul is saying is when they come against you, it proves you’re right. You may say, well, what do you mean by that? Well, look what Jesus says. Jesus says it this way. John 15 “If the world hates you, understand that they hated Me first. They hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own.” If we continue as churches to compromise on God’s truth just to fit in and to conform, man, the world will love us. The world will accept us and will be citizens of this world.
But if we push back and do what the Bible tells us to do, standing firm, working together, advancing the Gospel together on God’s truth, they’ll hate us because they hated Jesus first. However, because you are not of the world, we’re not citizens of the world, He says, “However, because you are not of the world but have, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.” So, when the world comes against you and comes against the Gods Church, it proves that they’ve rejected God and they’re going to face judgment for that. But it confirms to us that we were right. It confirms to us that we’re living the way we should live. Now, we’re not rude about it. We don’t throw it on people’s faces. We’ve got to do it in a loving, caring, Gospel centered way. But they’re still going to hate us. It’s what Jesus says. But we can’t be afraid because we know who wins.
I was watching yesterday, Andy Griffith. I love Andy Griffith, a lot of people do. I use a lot of sermon illustrations, so I apologize that. If I stay your pastor for 10 years, I will reference every single episode of Andy Griffith, I promise. But the one that Season 2 I think. Opie and the Bully. It’s where the guy’s taking Opie’s milk money and Andy says “I don’t want him to be afraid, I wanted to stand his ground.” I want him to stand up to the bully. And Andy tells that story of how he stood up and he just didn’t want Opie to be to be afraid to take a punch. Now what happened when Opie stood up? He took a punch. OK, he had he took the punch. But who won? Opie. That illustrates what I’m trying to get you to understand, is we don’t need to be afraid of those who oppose us, even, not that I think it’s going to happen in our lifetime, but it may happen in some of our young children’s lifetime. Even if they say you’re going to go to prison. We can’t be afraid of that. I’m more afraid of displeasing God. I’m more afraid of not representing the Gospel. So we don’t have to be afraid of our opponents. We don’t have to be afraid of standing firm and advancing the Gospel. Now you say, how do we do this?
We do it with the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul says at the end of his letter, he goes “now you understand you’re experiencing what I am going through. I’ve just told you my experiences and how I’m responding. So you’re going through the same thing. This is how you should respond. Live your life as citizens of heaven, worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Because to live as Christ and to die is gain. So you see how the letters building on top of itself? To live to live as Christ to die is gain. So to live as Christ means we stand firm. We work together and we’re not afraid of the consequences.
And that’s it. So what are you going to choose to do? What are we as a church going to choose to do? Will we stand firm? Or will we let the world break through our lives. Stand together. Now, unity is going to be a big part of next week’s sermon, but we stand together and nothing can stop us when we’re together
There is a poem that I read this week that I’ll end with. I don’t know where it came from, I just kind of found it. It is about living your life as citizens of heaven. “You’re writing a gospel. Your life is writing the Gospel, a chapter each day. By the deeds that you do and the words that you say. Men read what you wire. Whether faithful or true, just what is the Gospel according to you?”
I said at the beginning. When you went to Philippi, you saw Rome. When people come to the church, do they see heaven? When people look at your life, do they see Jesus? That’s what I want you to reflect on this week.
Let’s pray together.
Father, we are so grateful for the Word of God, the truth of revelation that You’ve given to us through it. Father help us to stand firm and advance the Gospel together. Help us to contend for the faith without fear. Knowing that You are Sovereign, You are in control. You’re going to work all things out for our good and for Your glory. Father help us to follow Your will and Your ways, even when the world says stop it. We ask all this in Jesus name Amen, Amen.