Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Whom Are You Living For? - Part 1

This post will be part 1 of my notes for a sermon I had the opportunity to preach this past Sunday at my home church. Our pastor and his family were out of town visiting their son in college, so he asked me to fill in for him. It was an honor to be entrusted with such a great responsibility as proclaiming God's Word to His people. I pray that He would be glorified in all that was said.

These are the notes I used and do not contain every word I said, but the core of the message is intact.

Whom Are You Living For?

Philippians 1:18b - 21a (ESV)

Let us turn to Philippians, chapter 1, and as I speak to you today on what I believe God has laid on my heart and mind to speak, I want to encourage you to ask yourselves a couple of questions.

1. Is what Bro. Chris saying the truth according to Scripture?
2. If it is, what am I going to do about it?

Our church as experienced exponential growth in the last 2 - 3 years. I know you may be asking, “What is he talking about; look at us?”, but I’m talking about growth that is infinitely more beautiful and awesome than mere numbers. I’m talking about spiritual growth and maturity that comes from God alone. God has grown us as individuals and as a collective body of Christ in ways we don’t even recognize. And we have the promise of His Word that He will continue growing us and conforming us to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In light of this promise, my prayer today is that this message will be an instrument of God to further His work in us and through us to the glory of His great Name. I want you to understand that the purpose of this message today is not to discourage us or beat us down over what we’re not doing, but to cause us examine our lives, individually and as a church body, to see what we must do to grow further in the grace of our Lord and to live this vapor He has given us for His glory. So the question I ask you today is, “Whom are you living for?”

Yes, and I will rejoice, 19for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me to live is Christ...

Tradition holds and many scholars agree that this letter from Paul to the believers in Philippi was written from the Roman prison during his stay there described in Acts 28. Philippi was a Roman colony whose population was mostly made up of retired Roman soldiers. For this reason, and the fact that there are no Old Testament quotations or Jewish names referenced in this letter, it is most likely that the church at Philippi was a group of Gentile believers. While there is a spirit of joy and gratitude in this letter, it was written to encourage and exhort believers who were facing persecution and pressures by false teaching.

Let us to look at the what is going on here in the passage we just read. Paul is in prison for preaching the Gospel. And he is rejoicing. Why is he rejoicing? Well let us look back to verses 12 - 18.

12I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16The latter do it out of love,knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

So Paul is sitting in a prison cell rejoicing because, due to his imprisonment, he has had the opportunity to preach the gospel to his fellow prisoners and even to the prison guards. In fact the gospel has even reached the royal household. He is rejoicing because the brothers and sisters who are not in prison are now more emboldened to preach the gospel and even his enemies are preaching the gospel out of rivalry, which means that while they are preaching the true gospel, there motives are selfish and contrary to that of Paul’s. Nonetheless he rejoices because the gospel is being preached. Then as we come back to our original passage, we see the driving force behind his joy. Paul rejoices because, “For me to live is Christ...” Paul isn’t concerned about whether he will live or die, only that in his life or in his death that Christ is glorified. Does your heart beat that way?

Now if we are not careful, we will try to justify ourselves with the thought that Paul was different than you and I today. We will seek to derive comfort in a false premise that Paul was a “radical” Christian and that we are just “normal” Christians. We will esteem Paul as to having attained some higher level of closeness with God because, after all, he was an apostle. And in doing so, we will excuse ourselves from having to honestly evaluate our lives and answer the question that has been posed to us. The question, “Whom are you living for?”. And then having freed ourselves from the sting of conviction, we will pull the covers back over our heads and drift back to sleep in the bed of our “comfortable” Christianity.

May it never be! The same God who blinded Paul on the rode to Damascus has reached down and ripped us from the miry pit of our sin. The same Spirit that transformed this evil Pharisee, this Jew of Jews, into a “Jesus freak” has quickened us also from the dead and now dwells inside us, giving us eternal life. And the same Jesus, of whom Paul wrote to the Galatians, “... redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming the curse for us...”, this Christ paid for our redemption also with His very blood. That is why, later in Philippians, Paul writes, “Brothers, join in imitating me...”. This is not “radical” Christianity. This is “normal” Christianity. For this is that great commandment: You shall love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.

...to be continued

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