A Life Worthy of the Gospel
Scripture: Philippians 1:27-30
We are called to have a manner of life that is worthy of the gospel.
Well, let me give you a little overview of what preaching is going to look like this summer here at Calvary. We have a number of guys in our church who can open up God’s word and share it in a clear, biblically accurate and spiritual life-giving way. And one of our core values here at Calvary is the multiplying of healthy leaders who can serve the church here or wherever the Lord happens to take them. And preaching is part of that. So I’ve formed a team who will serve this church by preaching God’s word and work as a group actually to develop each other’s preaching skills, preaching abilities. Some of these guys have been preaching much longer than I have. And some of these guys are just getting started. But all of us are working to serve this church well by rightly dividing the word of truth, which is what second Timothy tells us to do. All right. So let’s now jump into Philippians today. We’ll get to the end of chapter one. I know your thought. Didn’t we start this at the beginning of the year? No, it’s only been seven weeks in chapter one. It’s not my fault that Paul packs all of his sentences so densely. Right. You’ve read Paul. You know what I’m talking about. Someone told me last week that in their small group, they’re taking bets on how many verses that I’ll cover in a given week. So I just want to say that here at Calvary, we discourage betting.
Unless it’s casting lots. That one’s in the Bible. Today we’re covering four. So if you had four, you win. We’re starting in verse 27 of chapter 1, so you can turn there. So far, up to this point, Paul has been talking almost exclusively about his own experience and about his own thinking, things that are going on in his mind. He’s given us a masterclass on mentally processing personal circumstances through the lens of the gospel. And he’s given us the key for interpreting what’s happening in us and around us in light of what God is accomplishing. So I would recommend that all of you regularly go to Philippians 1:3-26 to recalibrate your thinking. It’s like getting an alignment when your tires are out of out of sync, when they’re out of line, you start to drift in different places. If you find yourself gliding toward despair or shifting toward meaninglessness, and you can’t seem to make sense of the world around you or what is happening in you, you need to revisit Paul at his jail cell. You just need to go to Paul in his cell, where he lays out a Christ centered worldview that gives him joy when he’s going through difficult times.
Starting in our passage today, Paul shifts from himself to the church. And you know what? Our brother Paul really cares a lot about us. He really does. He really cares a lot about us. I know that we don’t often think of him that way because he’s the Apostle Paul, right? He wrote all this scripture and all these letters and it’s the Bible. And so we have this very high view of him and what he’s produced. But we need to remember that these letters that he wrote are at the very same time circular letters meant to give the church instructions for how to have hope, how to trust in Jesus, how to lean on grace and stand on truth when the choppy waves of this world are crashing against us. We need to turn to give, to get guidance. These letters were to his brothers and sisters in Christ, and we’re part of that. This letter wasn’t originally written to us, but it was written to us. We’re a part of this church that he cares so much about. So as Paul turns to the church, what’s his first instruction? What’s the first thing he has to say to us? We are called to have a manner of life that is worthy of the gospel. If you would, you can turn to chapter 1. We’re going to begin in verse 27 today. I’m going to read the full passage. And Paul is going to break down this manner of life that he’s talking about into its parts, standing, striving and not being afraid. And then he’ll tell us why we need this manner of life. Let me read this for you.
“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.”
Only – by itself with no deviations to the left or right, make your life fill out and achieve the pattern that is the size and shape of the life, death, burial, resurrection, and new life of Jesus. That word ‘only’ there is not a rare word for Paul, but it is rare for him to begin a new thought or a new sentence with that word. He’s emphasizing for the Christian that there is only one way forward for us. There’s only one life for us. So the Gospel of Christ, the good news of Jesus Christ is not just the message of salvation from sins. It actually is the standard or the form by which we live our lives.
Do you all know what this sound is? You’re that. That is the sound of sadness. Universally, that is the sound of a family member’s failure to understand how ‘community milk’ works. How to love your neighbor well, by leaving enough for someone else to have what they need. It’s the sound equivalent of leaving one square on the roll and thinking, that’s enough. Usually the one glued to the paper. Right. I didn’t bring this up here to shame anybody. But if that’s you, do better. I brought this up here because what we have here is a one-gallon form. The one-gallon form. It’s made to hold one gallon of liquid. Clearly, it does not have to. But it’s made to hold one gallon of liquid. And if you fill it up, the liquid inside of it will be shaped like this. This is not how liquid shapes itself. This is not how liquid normally is. The liquid could never be shaped like this without the form around it, but with the form firmly in place, the liquid can take on a shape that it never could before. Paul is telling the church, Church, we have this incredible gospel. We have this incredible gospel that serves as the form for your new life in Christ. Our job is to study this form, and then, by God’s grace, through spiritual discipline and prayer and ministry and sharpening each other, fill up our lives in such a way as to conform to the pattern of the Gospel.
The continued daily growth in God’s grace will conform our lives to the pattern of Christ. And so when this happens, in a sense, we become shaped like the gospel. Or using Paul’s word here, worthy of the gospel. A life worthy of the gospel is one that anyone can look at and say, Oh, so that’s what the gospel is. That’s what the gospel looks like. If someone were to ask you, what difference does Jesus make? What’s so amazing about Grace? What’s this whole Christianity thing all about anyway? We ought to be able not only to explain the gospel, but to be able to point to the church and say, you want to see it. There it is with these people. These people are increasingly conformed to the pattern of the gospel day by day. Of course, this also implies that it’s possible to live a life unworthy of the gospel. Now, I’m not going to get all Greek nerd here on you, but the verb that’s translated ‘let your manner of life’, that’s actually just one word. And it’s a reference to being a good citizen in relationship to other people. So it’s pretty clear from what follows that Paul has in mind specifically how the church, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, relate to and interact with the citizens of their committed community. He’s saying we need to be gospel-shaped citizens within our community, and that dual citizenship is pretty important because a lot can go wrong with it.
You’ve probably noticed a lot of the contents of Paul’s letters to individual churches, specifically address areas where the church is not conforming to the model of grace and love and holiness and righteousness that Christ shows us. And the result then is that we’re not representing Christ very well to the world. That’s why He has to say this. That’s why he has to instruct the church in this, and that’s why we need to hear it. So he offers three ways to make our lives look like and conform to and be worthy of the gospel. First of all, he says, we should look at how we’re standing, standing firm in one spirit. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there isn’t much in our culture that likes Christianity, to put it mildly. There are pressures from outside in and from inside out to change Christian beliefs and biblical teaching to better coincide and sometimes even support the more popular views of our culture.
This first instruction to stand firm in one spirit is a call to be immovably fixed in gospel truth without shifting. It pictures a church knowing God’s word, and then united in the Holy Spirit, helping each other remain firmly committed to Christ, without compromising the Gospel, when it would be far easier to compromise and just go along. So some of you may be standing in a body of water sometime this summer. A big, big body of water. It’s choppy. It’s got waves and it’s kind of fun sometimes to get out there waist deep in that. And when the waves come in and see if you can keep your footing right, see if you can stand up to the big waves that are crashing against you. That can be fun. But it’s not fun to see if you can keep your footing in a firm commitment to the Gospel when the waves of criticism hit you, and you’re told that your beliefs are intolerant or hateful, or that you believe in fairy tales. In the water, the waves crash against you. And then what happens is the undertow pulls the sand out from under your feet. With attacks from society, derogatory words crash against you, while arguments and criticisms try to pull the gospel truth out from under the foundation on which you are standing. This is where we need to remember that we are bound together with our fellow believers by the Holy Spirit. It’s God’s supernatural grace that unites us and empowers us to deal with attacks like that. We don’t just have a better or more persuasive argument. We have the solid foundation of the gospel truth that will not shift. And we stand together, the Holy Spirit will continually give us the strength to stand, and He will give us the words in the moment that we need them, to represent Christ. That’s how we stand.
Secondly, we need to look at how we are striving. Striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. So when you stand, you’re not moving. But when you strive, you are moving forward. So here you can picture an army. When the army is in its fort, when a military unit is in its fort, it’s difficult to be overcome with attack. And so the strength of the army at that point is in the walls around them. But when it’s on the move, it’s actually out on a mission. And the strength then becomes the strategy and the teamwork. When the church is striving, it’s on the move. It’s completing its mission. And so here’s the strategy, Paul says, here’s the strategy that you need. I want you to notice the battle formation: side by side. That’s the battle formation, side by side. You remember all that talk earlier in the letter about partnering in the gospel and coming together for the sake of the gospel? Here it is. Here it is again when God’s people are doing what we’re called to do, you ought to be able to look to your right and to your left and see your brothers and sisters engaged in that same battle. That’s the way your life should be. You should be able to look to your side and see your brothers and sisters. When God’s people are doing what we’re called to do, that’s what should be happening. And at no point in your Christian walk should you ever feel like you’re all out there all alone trying to accomplish the mission solo, trying to live for Jesus by yourself. There should be people in this church who you look to and you say, those are the people that are engaged with ministry. They’re right next to me. I’m going to use a phrase here that I don’t really like very much, but I’m going to use it because it works pretty well in this moment. You need to ‘do life together’, hear this phrase, ‘do life together’. I like it about as much as ‘loving on someone’. We used to love people. Now we love on those people. See the reason for that preposition. But anyway, all right, back to ‘you need people that you do life together with’. That’s what we need. We need people right next to us who are walking with us through life, not just on Sundays. This is so key, not just right now. I know you have people right now that you walk with, that you’re with or next to you probably physically, right? I know them. But frankly, Sundays are easy. Sunday is a spiritual recharge day, but what about Wednesday? What about Wednesday? When you’re in the thick of a major problem at work and your coworkers are bringing more stress than help because they’re operating out of selfish motivations and they’re speaking in heartless ways and it’s causing friction and the work isn’t getting done.
You’re supposed to represent Christ in that darkness. You are supposed to represent Christ there. Let me ask you, who do you text at lunchtime for help? Hopefully someone here in your church who’s walking side by side with you here at Calvary. The battle formation for the church is side by side. Notice the battle objective. The faith of the gospel. So why do we strive side by side? It’s to live out, share, speak and spread the faith of the gospel. And I love the assumption that underlies this statement. The assumption is that when the church does what the church is striving to do, it’s doing the work of mission. That’s how you know that the church is doing the right things because it’s on mission together. It’s doing the work of spreading the faith of the gospel. If we’re doing what the church is supposed to do, the whole church is side by side, striving on the single mission to bring gospel faith to as many people as we possibly can. It’s VBS week here, so I think I can without permission, pick on Pastor Brian. Pastor Brian, along with Pastor John and an entire cast of volunteers, did just a great job this week putting together a VBS program across our full campus, and hundreds of children came to it, many of whom were just from our community, not even part of our church.
I watched two ladies turn into human ice cream sundaes at one point. I saw a system in the parking lot, volunteers who came and their job was to stand in the parking lot and just help people navigate. And so like dozens and dozens and dozens of cars just circling through our parking lot, all everybody pointing where they needed to go, everybody getting everybody signed up, run by volunteers. My daughter made Rice Krispie treats on the snack team and she loved it. She had so much fun doing that. My son helped lead music and this team of kids that you saw here earlier in the service, and I saw dozens, dozens of young people throughout this whole building giving up their summer vacation. That’s no small thing, right? Giving up part of their summer vacation to come and serve these children. Why? Why do we do that? Is it because Pastor Brian enjoys dressing up like Popeye? Is that why? I mean, he does, but is that why? That’s what I’m asking. Why do we do it? It’s all to create an environment where we can tell them that there’s a God who loves them, and there’s a savior who came and died for their sins. And by putting their faith in this gospel, they can have the treasure of eternal life with Jesus. That’s why we do it.
Standing firm in the power of the spirit. Strive side by side to accomplish the task of showing people the way to Jesus. So we’re standing and we’re striving.
And third, we need to look at our level of fear. Not frightened in anything by your opponents. In my experience, Paul has done a really good job here of addressing the main obstacle to standing and striving. Now most people I know who love Jesus, they have no problem standing for the truth of the Gospel, and they have no problem striving side by side with their fellow Christians. But the one thing that keeps a robust private faith from becoming a culture challenging public faith is fear. Fear. What will happen if I publish my faith and evangelize? What will happen if I put myself out there? And here’s the thing. There’s reason for fear. Paul agrees. He wouldn’t tell us not to be afraid of opposition if there wasn’t anything to fear from opposition. That’s why it’s an instruction here. When facing that fear, Paul says, we can be sure that what we stand on and what we strive for should take away the emotions of fearfulness. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t frightening things for the Christian. A lot of the foundational tenets of a biblically faithful Christian worldview are direct challenges to the values of what I’m going to call the popular, secular religion of our day. It’s popular because it seems everyone holds to it. It’s secular because it doesn’t acknowledge or revere God. And its religion because it requires faith and adherence to a law.
This popular secular religion says, for instance, that morality is subjective, that it’s relative to each individual. And then what happens? Christianity comes along and says, no, God is good and his law is for everyone.
Secular religion says, we define ourselves and then what happens? Christianity comes along and it says that God made us and we find our definition of a human in his design.
Secular religion says that we’re basically good people who sometimes do bad things. And of course, those bad things are defined by whatever happens to be the most popular thing on Twitter today. Christianity says We are at our core, sinful people in rebellion against God, the God who made us. And in order to be restored to the good design of our Creator, we need His saving grace to come into our lives. That’s the gospel that we’re striving to share.
Now, what do you suppose happens when the Gospel of God’s grace comes up against the prevailing popular secular religion of our day? When they come together and are in the same proximity, what do you think happens? The sparks fly. People aren’t going to understand or people aren’t going to want to understand. You’ll be called intolerant. Which is very ironic, actually. Tolerance actually requires difference. You can’t be tolerant by definition of a view unless it’s different than your view. What they actually want is acceptance. And ironically, if you don’t give it to them, that acceptance, they will reject you, which actually is intolerance. But here’s the thing. Nobody wants to be strange. No one wants to be weird. No one wants to be in the minority. Be made fun of. To be called hateful. Or lose friends. I have found that in our culture some of that danger is overblown in the Christian mind. That some of that danger that we think is out there actually, isn’t there. Some Christians are more afraid of rejection than they really need to be. I’ve found that if you’re kind and clear and humble, you will have opportunities to share the gospel and very little danger of being rejected in those opportunities. But the possibility does exist. And so there is a cause for fear.
So how can Paul simply say not to be frightened of anything that could come from our opponents? Well, once again, it comes down to what God can do with your personal circumstances and what your goal is, your view of that. Paul shared the gospel in the community where he was and he got locked up for it, but then in his cell he realized it was a great strategic spot for the spread of the gospel. If you live your faith publicly, your opponents can’t do anything that would put you or the gospel in a bad position. Do you realize that? If you live faithfully, kindly in humility with all that fruit of the spirit in your life, no matter what you do as you share, you and the Gospel will not be compromised in a bad position. And if that’s the case, what is there to be frightened of? If you can’t lose, you can only win. If you are conforming your life to the Gospel in such a way that you stand with your church in one spirit and you strive side by side with them for the Gospel, and you cast out fear of what could happen. Then you are ready for whatever comes. You are ready for whatever comes next. Paul says it’s been granted to the Philippine church not only to believe but to suffer for the sake of Christ. He is probably referring to information he received from the person that came from Philippi to him in the prison, a man named Epaphroditus who came and actually carried this letter back to Philippi. Paul knows that his experience is not unique to him. That’s the point. Right now, this is what the Roman world does to Christians. It destroys them. And Paul knows that. And he knows he’s not the only one sitting in prison. He knows other people are probably in prison. He knows perhaps even that the Philippians, some of the Philippian folks are arrested. And Paul’s encouragement to us is to expect that the world is not going to treat Christians or our savior very well.
Here’s what Paul says is going to happen when Christians suffer at the hands of the enemies of the Gospel. He says that this is going to be a sign. So this is going to be one of the rare cases where I disagree with the translation of the English Standard version that I preach from. It happens very, very rarely, but this is one of those times. Verse 28 literally reads: “This is a clear sign to them of destruction”, not ‘their destruction’ but “this is a sign to them of destruction, but to your salvation, and that from God”. The sign he’s talking about here is this church that’s united, this church that is united and its standing and it’s striving and it doesn’t have fear. To the Romans when they see that, when they see us standing, striving, not fearful, Church, that sign says to them destruction, that they see a church that should be destroyed and judged by their Roman gods. But the same sign looks to the church like an indication of salvation. Why would that be? The church that suffers under the enemies of the Gospel. Looks like Jesus. Who suffered under the enemies of the Gospel. To join Jesus in His suffering is a sure sign that you’ve been saved by him. Church, there is nothing to fear by standing for Christ in the world. Even our suffering is assurance to us that we are united with Christ. Would you pray with me?