05 February 2009

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (1:25-1:30)

Well guess what! You ain't gonna believe this, but we are going to finish up Philippians 1 today. Can you believe that? Only three more chapters to go!

Philippians is one of the shorter books written by the apostle Paul. There were some shorter—2nd Thessalonians has 3 chapters, Philemon has just one little chapter. You can read Philippians in about a minute. But look at all we’ve dug out in just one chapter. If you recall, so many months ago we began by taking a few weeks and looking at Acts 16, which chronicles the beginning of the Philippian church. With Lydia and the other ladies being the first people Paul and Timothy preached to. Then Paul and Timothy are walking around and this girl follows them for several days. She has the spirit of divination, which means that if you wanted to play a parlay for the NFL games this weekend, forget the Vegas line sheets, talk to this girl. Paul commanded the spirit to come out of her, and brought--as Luke might be inclined to say--not a little trouble upon themselves.

This led to their unlawful arrest. At midnight they sang hymns in the darkest part of the Roman dungeon, probably sitting in mud—and probably, um, other stuff that wasn’t mud—with their feet and hands in stocks and they're singing praises to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Probably not joining in, since this was a Roman city; they had no idea about the God of the Jews, probably didn’t know a whole lot about Him. Besides that, there were probably not even 10 Jewish families in the city. So the prisoners are listening to them sing to their God who has allowed them to be put in this position. “Their God let them get arrested and put in the darkest part of this prison, and they're thanking Him?” Yes. Because at midnight, God grabbed hold of that prison and shook it. All the prisoners’ chains fell off, the warden came in, was about to kill himself, and Paul said, “Hey! Stop! We’re all here!” and the warden cries out that famous line, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Well, go do good things. Make yourself worthy and say a little prayer and ask Jesus into your heart, and you'll save yourself. Right? No, what did Paul say? “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

Then we looked at what it means to believe in Christ, and we even took a few minutes and talked about the practice of infant baptism, which has its roots in this passage. That some churches take the practice a little too far. But we’re not going to go back over that ground. Then when we got to the book of Philippians itself, we began with verse 1. No kidding! We looked at our relationship to God in verse 1, where Paul called himself a “slave”—a δουλος (doulos) of Jesus Christ. Not simply a “servant” or even a “bondservant.” But literally, a slave. One who owed everything he had to the Lord. Then we looked at the grace and peace of God in verse 2. And then we looked at how we should be always thanking our God for every one of our dear brothers and sisters in Christ whenever we think of them—that these aren't just “people we go to church with,” a phrase that means nothing to the world today, but they are really and truly our brothers and our sisters.

Then when we got to verse 6, we talked about how if God has truly saved us—not that we just believed a few facts for a while, but if we have been taken up out of the pit of sin by God Himself, if we have had our sins washed by the blood of Christ—then He will never cast us out of His hand. Because we don’t save ourselves. Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! It’s not Amazing Me how sweet it is that I have saved myself! Another song we sing is When I Survey the Wondrous Cross on which the Prince of Glory died! It’s not When I Survey My Wondrous Mind by which I figured out the truth! We saw that after God saves us, it’s not up to us to somehow keep ourselves saved. And we've seen the last couple weeks that God doesn’t just whoosh us out of here when He saves us, because He has work for us to do—to declare His power to this generation, and declare His name to the generation to come.

And just a reminder, starting next week we will be taking a little break from this study. We will look at how we got what we call the Bible, the who wrote it, and when and where were they when they wrote and why did they write and why aren't books like Gospel of Thomas, that was so popular a subject after that whole Da Vinci Code nonsense, why isn't that in our Bibles. Why do Catholics have 15 more books than us, why do they use books like Macabees and Judith and Tobit—all part of what’s called the Apocrypha. Why do we have James and Revelation and Amos and Joel? We’re not going to get super technical. Then we’re going to spend a week or two looking at just who is this apostle Paul guy that I keep talking about? Why is he the greatest things since sliced bread? He isn't. They didn’t have sliced bread when he was alive. Haha. Then we will be studying a subject called “Systematic Theology.”

Today, though, for now we’re going to learn what it means to follow Christ. People spend their entire lives trying to figure this one out. I'm going to try and do it in a few paragraphs. Here goes. Philippians 1:25-30—25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, 26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again. 27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me. Let’s start with verse 27.

You know, there are a lot of people who live their lives, spend their years drinking and partying and doing all kinds of things like that. Then when someone tries to talk to them about Christ, if they're like some folks, they’ll say they got saved when they were a little kid, went to VBS, said a prayer, got baptized, they're saved. Ask them what they think it means to be saved. “Well, I'm going to Heaven when I die.” OK. And.....? There are some who think everybody will be saved. Another troubling idea is this belief that people who die a horrible death—whether it’s cancer, or AIDS or the people who died in the Twin Towers—some people think that’s an automatic ticket to Heaven. If someone has some terminal illness for years, and they pass away—what do their friends always say at the funeral? “They're in a…...better place.” Don’t believe it! Just because somebody dies from a horrible disease does not mean they get a free pass. As horrible as that disease may be, Hell is a whole lot worse.

So, verse 27. Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. Look at that little phrase at the beginning. Let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ. Literally, it means, "Behave as a citizen" of the gospel of Christ. What in the world does that mean? this--

Live like you're saved.

Live like you belong to God. Don’t go around living your life—which, to be honest, if you're saved, is it your life anymore? 1st Corinthians 6:19Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? A few weeks ago we looked at verse 21, to live is Christ… Where Paul was literally saying we are to Live Christ. Not only to live AS Christ, and live BECAUSE OF Christ. But we are to LIVE CHRIST. 1st Peter 4:3-4For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of excess…

Both of these men are saying the same thing—if you belong to Christ, it doesn’t just mean you're going to Heaven when you die. That’s simply reward. How do you live right now? Do the things that used to entertain you before—dirty jokes and filthy language—do you look at those things now and say, “That’s wrong?” It’s like what Peter said. “We spent enough of our years doing these abominable things—and now those people think it’s strange that we don’t do them any more.” Are we strange? Does the world look at us and say, “Man, he used to be so cool. He used to come over, fire up a fat one, get drunk with me. Now, he’s gone around the bend. He ain't like he used to be.” If people are saying things like that about you—then you're strange, and you should be glad! I spent the last two years of my first marriage hearing my ex talk about how I wasn’t the same man she married anymore. And every time she said that, I would say, “Thank you.” Because I'm not the same man she married, thank the Lord!

Not only should our conduct be different—but he goes on to say, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. One mid, one spirit. Now, this is not some Eastern mystic hoodoo voodoo. When he says we should be of one mind—whose mind is that? Chapter 2 verse 5, he says Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. 1st Corinthians 2:16 says that we have the mind of Christ. Ephesians 4:11, 14-16And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers…that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Huh? Boiling it down, what he’s saying is that every part of the body has its function. Let me give you an illustration. The human heart has its own little pacemaker. It controls the heartbeat. But sometimes, these other little nerve centers, they fire out their own signal. And when that happens, that’s when you get an irregular heartbeat--an arrhytmia. The heart doesn’t pump blood like it should. If it is being controlled by all these strange nerve impulses, it’s not going to do its job.

The church is the same way. If we’re listening to this guy over here, and that guy over there and this woman somewhere else and they're all saying “Well, you can't really know the truth. Don’t bother reading you Bible. Just read your Catholic catechism, or your Book of Mormon or your Watchtower, or, don’t even read anything at all.” Then we’re going to be pulled in every direction, we’re not going to know which way is up and we’re going to be as lost as a duck in a dog show. This is truth. John 1:14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:17For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 8:32“…you shall know the truth.” Now, if Jesus said we shall know the truth, but we really can't know the truth, doesn’t that make Jesus a liar? John 14:6“I AM the way, the”—what? “I AM the Way, the TRUTH and the Life.” So, we are to stand fast in one spirit, one mind, and that mind is the mind of Christ. We are not to go off chasing some wild idea about God just to make ourselves seem more spiritual. It seems like these days, the crazier the idea, the more “spiritual” it is. Of course, it may be of a spirit, but is it the Holy Spirit?

Finally, verses 28-30. and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of destruction, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

When your old friends stop coming around because you aren't the same person you used to be, it’s not just because they don’t like you—they don’t like who you belong to. They don’t just hate you for changing—they hate God for changing you. John 15:18-22“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.” When God changes you, and your life is 180° from what it used to be, and you're not drinking and you're not cussing and you're not partying like you used to, and you're living by this book, and you are living Christ—the world will not want anything to do with you. Because they see that hey, if you could be changed, they don’t have an excuse for continuing in their sin. But it’s not just because of you—it’s because of who you serve.

Paul ends this chapter by saying that very thing. He said, “Hey, I know what you're going through. People turning their back, making fun of you, calling you crazy. But that’s because God has given you the gift of repentance. He has given you the ability you didn’t have before—the ability to turn your back on who you used to be and to suffer for Him.” And they don’t like it because it shows them just how lost they really are. It’s to them a proof of destruction, but to you of salvation, and that from God.

So if people you used to hang with are mocking you, if they're saying you're not who you used to be, if they're calling you strange--THANK THEM! It is proof that you AREN'T who you used to be and you are a new creation in Christ. If you were to ask me what the battle cry of the New Reformation--the one that is going on right now, with those of us seeking to defend the truth and contendo for the faith fighting against the candy-coated, Purpose-Driven™, feel-good, non-offensive preaching of the doctrines of men, directed toward the First Church of the Itching Ears--if you were to ask me what our motto would be, I would point you to Philippians 1:28 and 1st Peter 4:3-4. And that motto would simply say this:

BE STRANGE!

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