April 26, 2015
This past year a friend of mine who I play hockey with had a heart attack. He is 44 years old and his heart attack took place while playing in a game. Fortunately for him there were guys who knew what to do and they saved his life.
He’s back playing and when I asked him about his experience he told me that it has changed the way he sees everything in life. Well that doesn’t surprise me.
But what does surprise me is that there are people who profess to know Jesus Christ, who claim to have Christ living in them, but very little has changed in the way they view life.
How can this be? I mean, shouldn’t having Christ actually living within us make a significant difference? As I have been studying in Philippians I have come to a renewed appreciation for the Apostle Paul and his life with Christ. And this morning as we consider Phil.1:12-30, I want to underscore that the presence of Christ in one’s life changes everything.
I. CHANGED: THE WAY WE VIEW THE WORLD. 1:12-18
When I think about the Apostle Paul a word that comes to my mind is, “driven.” This is my opinion and I may be wrong. But Paul seemed to be a man on the move. He wanted to take the gospel everywhere he could. Generally, people who are driven do not like to be hindered. Yet, here was Paul in prison, under house arrest. He could not go anywhere. Many people would be frustrated and upset, but not Paul. Paul was rejoicing.
He was rejoicing because his imprisonment had actually promoted the gospel in a most unlikely place. In v.13 he tells us that the whole imperial guard had been exposed to the gospel. These were the emperor’s elite troops. These soldiers would take four hour shifts in guarding Paul. During the days of his imprisonment Paul would have met many different guards. Since he was under house arrest he was allowed to have visitors and so these guards would hear a great deal about Jesus. No doubt Paul made sure they heard the good news about Jesus and the life he has to give.
Not only that, but Paul goes on to say that his imprisonment had actually encouraged greater boldness on the part of the believers living in Rome so that the gospel was being proclaimed even more.
And notice something else. It seems that while most of the brothers and sisters were preaching the gospel out of love for Paul, in v.15-17, we learn that some were preaching out of envy and rivalry, hoping to make things difficult for Paul. No one can be sure about what Paul is referring to. A number of New Testament scholars point out that Paul did not plant the church in Rome. They speculate that in the church in Rome there were Gentile and Jewish believers and that some of the Jewish believers were not happy with a number of things Paul wrote in Romans concerning the Old Testament law. Paul indicates that these were believers who were preaching the Gospel, but their motives were not pure.
Now see Paul’s response to this in v.18. He is rejoicing in the fact that Christ is being proclaimed. How is it that Paul can rejoice? Many of us would be frustrated, afraid, feeling hurt because some of the believers in Rome didn’t approve of us. But not Paul! Why?
It is because the presence of Christ, dwelling in Paul, had so changed his life that Paul lived to see the gospel proclaimed in the world. When Paul looked at the world he saw people who needed the Lord. He recognized that the most important issue is the Gospel issue. People need Christ. In fact because of what God had done in Paul’s life through Christ, Paul said that he was compelled to preach the gospel. Christ and the gospel were Paul’s priorities when he looked at the world. In 1Cor.9 Paul tells us that he made himself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. He became all things to all people in order to bring some people to Christ.
Men and women, when you look at the world what do you see? There is much that is wonderful and beautiful in the world. But there is a great deal more of heartache, brokenness, injustice, violence and brutality. When we look at the world through gospel eyes we are compelled to confront this brokenness with the love of Jesus. You see, at the end of the day, only Jesus can bring life and heal the brokenness of this world. The good news is expressed as we address physical, emotional and social brokenness in the name of Jesus, all the while communicating the good news of life in Christ. Is the good news of Jesus a priority for you?. I understand, Paul was called to take the gospel to the Gentiles. In a sense it was his job, but all of us who have embraced Christ are gospel people. Because Jesus had changed Paul’s life he viewed the world from the perspective of the gospel. And when we view the world from the perspective of Jesus and the gospel, every circumstance becomes another opportunity for the gospel. The more we are occupied with Jesus and the gospel, the more we will see the world with gospel eyes.
II. CHANGED: THE WAY WE VIEW OUR LIVES. 1:18b-26
Even though Paul was awaiting trial, it was his conviction that he would be released. Nevertheless, while in prison, he had much time to reflect on matters of life and death, and he shares some of his thoughts with the brother and sisters in Philippi. Before I say any else, let me highlight that Paul was depending on the prayers of his brothers and sisters in Philippi and the Holy Spirit. Some people think that prayer has little real effect on God. Paul didn’t think that way. Paul believed prayer was critical to the outcome of things and this is instructive to us. Prayer is God’s idea. Prayer is God’s provision through which we can effectively enter into his work in the world.
As Paul reflected on his current situation he realized that death was a possibility. He could be executed. What is important for us to see is how Paul looked at this reality. In v.20-21 Paul shows us that the most important thing in his mind was that Christ be honored, exalted, in his body. The phrase “with full courage,” has the idea of being public. “Boldness” is another way to translate the word. In other words, Paul was not talking about honoring Christ in his heart. He wanted to publically, visibly honor Christ before everyone. In life or death, Paul wanted everyone to know that there was nothing or anyone more important in his life than Jesus Christ. Everything pales in comparison to knowing Christ.
Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to this earth to reveal God and to provide the way to knowing God and living life in God’s wonderful kingdom. Through his life, death, and resurrection Jesus provided forgiveness of our sins and opened the door to the kingdom of God for all who repent and put their trust in him. When Paul came to Christ he received new, abundant, eternal life from God and he never looked back. In fact Paul was not just looking to go to heaven when he died. Paul was looking to be with Christ when he died, and there is a big difference. In fact, Paul so much wanted to be with Christ, that he tells us in v.23 that he would rather die and be with Christ; “to die is gain.”
In Lk.14:26, Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Of course Jesus was not teaching that we are to hate our loved ones and even our own life. Jesus was making it very clear that because of who he is and what he has done and is doing in our lives, he is worthy of our singular, wholehearted worship and obedience. In other words, in comparison to knowing God and his son, Jesus Christ, even our own lives pale in importance. Why? It is because when we come to Jesus we receive his eternal life to live. And if his life is my life, then I want to be with him forever.
We have an expression. Sometime you will hear a person say, “O that dress is to die for.” O that dessert is to die for.” The dress is so gorgeous; the dessert is so delicious that it’s worth paying any price. Probably none of us would choose to die for a dress or a dessert. We might be willing to die for a spouse, a son or daughter. What about Christ? Are we willing to die for Christ? In fact have we forsaken our very lives for Christ? Think about your life. Is what Christ has done for you and is doing in you right now, worth dying for? Does knowing Christ make a significant difference in your life? Is he transforming your life to be like his life?
Last Friday I heard a message by Alister Begg. At the end of his message he quoted the lyrics of a song I have not sung for many years. Listen: “Things are different now, Something happened to me, When I gave my heart to Jesus, Things are different now; I was changed, it must be, When I gave my heart to Him. Things I loved before have passed away, Things I love far more have come to stay. Things are different now; Something happened that day, When I gave my heart to Him.” Are things different for you since coming to know Christ? Is Jesus Christ the single more important pursuit in your life?
III. CHANGED: THE WAY WE VIEW THE CHURCH. 1:27-30
After explaining his affairs, Paul directly addresses the affairs of the believers in Philippi. And for a brief moment let me point out that many believe Paul wrote this letter to address two primary issues. One is that the church in Philippi was facing opposition, suffering for the cause of Christ. Last week we made reference to the fact that because Philippi was a Roman colony, at public events all were expected to acknowledge Caesar as Lord and Savior. We also remember from Acts 16 that Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison because of their ministry in Philippi. So Paul wants to encourage the believers to stand firm.
A second concern had to do with unity in the church at Philippi. This issue is mentioned in chapter 4. So the themes of suffering for Christ and unity in the church are woven together throughout this book. In fact, one can easily see that in sharing his own situation in chapter 1, Paul was seeking to give the Philippian believers a whole different way to view their suffering. Just as Paul was contending for the gospel, so the Philippian believers were to contend for the gospel. Just as Paul was not frightened, so the Philippian believers were not to be frightened. Just as Paul expected to suffer for Christ, so the Philippian believers should not be surprised at their suffering. Paul and the Philippians were in the same conflict for the gospel and Paul was encouraging them to stand firm in Christ.
In v.27 Paul says, “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” The phrase, “your manner of life,” translates a word that has to do with citizenship. Because Philippi had been made a Roman colony, the population was granted Roman citizenship. That was a coveted status in the Roman Empire. Citizenship gave one significant privileges.
Paul plays with this word and urges the believers to live in a way that is worthy of citizens of the kingdom of God. They were to live lives that were worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, the gospel is not just about believing certain truths. There are moral virtues that flow out of our life with Christ. In short our character and conduct is to be like that of Christ. Why are we to live in this way?
Paul says that we ought to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel so that we will stand firm in the Holy Spirit, with one mind striving, struggling side by side for the faith of the Gospel. Striving together for the gospel implies that we help one another in this effort. Together we seek to display the reality of the gospel in our lives and seek to make the gospel known.
If the church is going to strive for the gospel, the believers need to be in unity. The church is the body of Christ in the world. In other words the church is the physical expression of what life-with-Christ-in-the-kingdom-of-God looks like in the world. When people see the church they should be reminded of Jesus. Again this calls for unity in our striving for the gospel.
Brothers and sisters, in Paul’s day the church was a pretty new phenomenon. For us, the church is old news, and often our experience in the church effects the way we view the church. Perhaps for some of us, church was more of a fashion show. It was the social place to make a fine appearance on Sunday. Perhaps for others the church was a place of legalistic rules. Christianity was more about what you shouldn’t do as opposed to receiving a joyful life with Christ. Maybe the church has been a huge source of hurt for you, perhaps even a place of rejection. And maybe the memory you have of church is that it’s a place where people argue with one another in business meetings. How has your experience in the church effected your view of the church? I want to urge us to think along the lines of what Paul says in v.27. I want to urge us to live our lives in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Christ. I want to urge us to intentionally stand firm in the Holy Spirit, striving together for the faith of the gospel. How do we do this?
Well honestly, I believe the place to start is with prayer, calling out to God to renew our faith and trust in Jesus and to renew our commitment to follow Jesus. We need to ask God to pour out his Holy Spirit upon us to unite us in the work of God as a local congregation. On Wednesdays we have the opportunity to contend in prayer together as we seek the face of God.
And then I would encourage us to cultivate our relationships in the church so that we can encourage one another in meaningful ways. Maybe it’s during Adult Bible Study and worship. Maybe it’s participating in one of the men’s groups or the women’s Bible study and meet and greet, or the seniors or singles fellowship, or getting together outside of the church. These are opportunities to check in with one another to see how we’re doing in our walk with Christ. Unity in the Spirit calls for intentional care for each other as we live our lives with Jesus.
Most of us are familiar with the amazing conversion of Paul. On the road to Damascus he is blinded by a light from heaven and he encounters Christ. It was life changing. What we may forget is that after his conversion, Paul spent 3 years in the desert learning and growing in his understanding of the Lord and the Scriptures. Having a Christ like perspective does not just happen overnight. We gain the perspective of Christ as we walk with him and reflect on his word. This so important because there are many distractions in the world which cloud our vision. The presence of Christ in one’s life changes everything. How has Jesus Christ changed your perspective? Are you looking at life through the eyes of Christ who dwells in you? Amen