INTRODUCTION: TEAM ON TASK
I trust you may have caught some of the winter Olympics. We’ve loved it. From skiing to snowboarding to ice skating to bobsleighing to curling. As well as the ice hockey. Which is fun, fast and furious. Teams are made up of 3 forwards, 2 defenders and 1 goalie. Who all have to play their part, and work together, all in order to win. That’s the purpose.
I rooted for team Finland who took the gold for the first time.
As a church we too are a team with a task. god’s team with a gospel task.
And that’s what Paul unpacks in our passage. We are partners with A purpose. We are together for the gospel.
So what does God command us here, to be and to do?
1. WHATEVER HAPPENS
First up, God’s commands are to be kept, in spite of circumstances and uncertainties, whether sunshine or rain. Verse 27.
Philippians 1v27 “… whatever happens… “
Something about the future here is uncertain. And you’ll see what if you read on.
Philippians 1v27 “… Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, … whether I come and see you … or … only hear about you in my absence… “
Paul wants to visit, in person. But it’s not certain anytime soon. ‘Cos he’s in prison. Facing possible death.
So Paul says;
Philippians 1v21 “… to live is Christ, [verse 21] to die is gain.”
Living means fruitful labour, death means glory. Paul’s torn. He’s better off dead. But the Philippians are better off with Paul alive.
Which makes Paul think, verse 25, that he may just hang around a little longer, though he can’t be certain. So;
Philippians 1v27 “… whatever happens [verse 27] … whether I see you or [I don’t see you]… “
Which means God’s commands here are not dependent on what happens to Paul, or what happens to them. It isn’t tied to circumstances.
Paul is certain about glory – that death brings gain. Yet he’s uncertain about what tomorrow brings.
The certainty of our eternal future should effect how we live now. However, the uncertainty of our immediate future should have no effect whatsoever. Uncertainties. Circumstances. Should make no difference to our Christian commitment and conduct.
To those in our church family who serve (or served) in the military, we thank you.
As a young man I served as combat medic. And I recall in training, that when you sprained your ankle, they’d put you on ‘light duty’. Meaning your commanding officer couldn’t make you march or run or lift heavy stuff.
‘Light duty’ meant you got off the hard work. They’d not put you into battle or on the frontline. You got a bit of a holiday. You got to take it easy.
Though as followers of Jesus, when circumstances turn bad, when you sprain your ankle, when the future’s uncertain, when the going gets tough, God never gives us light duty. ‘Cos we’re all in the full time ministry, serving Jesus 24/7/365. We’re always in the battle. We don’t get time off. There’s no holiday from following Jesus.
You and me are called to follow Christ, our commanding officer, wholeheartedly, unreservedly, joyfully, obediently, no matter the cost, no matter what happens.
2. CITIZENS OF HEAVEN
Which brings me to my second point.
Philippians 1v27 “… Whatever happens, [verse 27] conduct yourselves in a manner… “
Now it’s a little lost in our English translation, but this conduct is specifically to do with being citizens of heaven. ‘Conduct yourselves in a manner’ is literally ‘behave as citizens.’ Which is how it’s translated in other English versions like the ESV and CSB.
I only mention that ‘cos it’s important. This verse launches the central section of the letter that runs all the way through to chapter 4 verse 1. Where the language of ‘behaving as citizens’ is used again. Citizenship frames the body of the letter.
Hamish helpfully showed that partnership is the gospel thread of this letter. We’re partners. Which is business language.
And yet, side by side with partnership is citizenship. We’re in gospel business together, out there in the rough and tumble of the world. But we’re not of this world.
Philippians 3v20 “… our citizenship … our citizenship is in heaven… “
Americans are warm, friendly and exuberant. The British are polite, reserved and stiff upper lip. Aussies are earthy, easy going and laid back.
Every nation is associated with general traits or characteristics.
Christians should be associated with Christian characteristics. To behave as heavenly citizens.
Philippi was in Macedonia, but it was a Roman colony. Rome ruled the world. And Roman citizenship was a ‘passport’ to privilege, status, success.
I’d guess almost everyone here would be Australian citizens. You’d have a passport that states your first name, family name, date of birth, place of birth.
For those who follow Jesus we have a much better passport. That reads; … ‘Member of god’s family, born again, citizen of heaven’.
Christians in Philippi, and Brisbane, should keep that in mind. We’re not living for this world, but the next. We’re merely passing through as pilgrims or refugees. We belong to god’s Kingdom. We belong to Jesus. We’re citizens of heaven.
We arrived in Australia 4 years ago with the expectation we’d be permanent residents within 6 months, and then citizens a few years thereafter. It’s been a long, complicated and frustrating journey. We’re not yet permanent residents. There’s been lots of rules, and red tape, and rule changes, and many hoops to jump through, and lots of costs. We’re thankful for our church family, especially Rick and Cathy, for all their hard work towards that end. And we’re thankful the church has prayed and paid.
Now here’s the good news. For us. And you.
Heavenly citizenship is not something we earn, or merit. We don’t sit an exam. There’s no red tape. We don’t need an immigration agent. We don’t pay a cost.
It’s a gift. From God. Won at the cross, by Jesus,
The King of Heaven died, to make rebels, bound for Hell, into citizens of Heaven.
And that Heavenly citizenship ought to shape our earthly conduct. To die is gain. Heaven awaits. but until then, we’re heavenly ambassadors representing Jesus. We live for Christ, not this world.
3. WORTHY OF THE GOSPEL
So. Whatever happens behave as heavenly citizens. And for such conduct there’s a standard. Something to live up to, or verse 27.
Philippians 1v27 “… [to be] worthy of… “
‘Standards Australia’ applies strict standards on various products from cars, to kitchen appliances, to washing powder. Things have to measure up to meet the criteria.
Which is how the word ‘worthy’ is used. It refers to … balancing a scale. What you put on should balance or measure up to what’s on the other side.
So what’s on the other side? Verse 27. Read it for yourself!
Philippians 1v27 “… conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
Our lives should live up to the gospel.
Now the gospel both instructs and motivates our conduct. The Gospel says, live like this. And here’s why.
a. Motivated by Jesus
Jesus came to serve. Made Himself nothing. humbled Himself, and became obedient, even to death on a cross.
Jesus died for you. And you! And you!
Which motivates, doesn’t it? Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
The gospel of Christ drives, demands, motivates we live in a manner that measures up. To live for him who died for us.
b. Modelled on Jesus
Though the gospel’s not simply a huge incentive to live for Jesus. It’s also the ultimate example of how to live like Jesus.
The gospel motivates and models Christian living. It shows us how.
So look down to chapter 2.
Philippians 2:1 “… Therefore if [verse 1] you’re … united with Christ, if [comforted] from His love, if [you share] in the Spirit… “
Basically it’s saying, if you’re a Christian. then, verse 2.
Philippians 2:2 “… [have the same mind], the same love, [be united] in spirit… “
One mind, one love. One loving family. That looks like what? Verse 3.
Here’s what having the same mind and love looks like?
Philippians 2v3-4 “… do nothing [verse 3] out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”
The problem with my heart – God says it’s the problem of every human heart – is the problem of self-righteousness.
Self-righteousness puts us, our interests, in the driving seat. Self-righteousness makes us blind to our own faults, yet crystal clear on the sins of others. It makes us quick to ‘forgive’ ourselves, excuse ourselves. But unforgiving toward others.
Philippians 2v3-4 “… in humility value others above yourselves.”
Just imagine if we collectively lived that out? Humble. Other person centred. Putting others above. Putting their needs first.
And then follows, in verse 5, an early Christian song that shows how Jesus lived. And it’s the model to follow. he gave himself. serving. sacrificially. Such amazing love demands we live the same way.
Hamish wears a couple of rubber wrist bracelets which I spotted this past week.
- With the letters on them, WWJD.
- What Would Jesus Do.
We’re not to ask, ‘what can others do for me?’ but ‘What can I do for others?’ We’re not to think, ‘Do unto others as they do unto me!’ but ‘Do unto others as Jesus has done unto me!’
‘Cos Christian conduct copies the original. WWJD.
And so what God’s done for us in Christ, is both a motivation to live for Jesus, and the model of how to live like Jesus.
Lives lived in light of the gospel. Worthy of the gospel.
4. STANDING FIRM
Now. What will be the result for us collectively?
Well, look again at verse 27. In the middle of the verse there’s the little word then.
Philippians 1v27 “… [behave as heavenly citizens, live] worthy of the gospel [and] … then, whether I [see you or not], [then] I will know that you stand firm… in the one Spirit… “
Stand firm. In the power of the Spirit, the Spirit that indwells, personally and collectively.
We stand firm. We stand the ground on which our feet have been placed by the grace of God. We stand where we’re planted. On gospel ground. In the spirit.
Though, what’s it practically look like to stand firm? There are two verbs or doing words here to describe that.
a. Striving Together
The first is, verse 27:
Philippians 1v27 “… [standing] firm in the one spirit, striving together… “
The word literally means to co-athleticise. co – ‘side by side’, together. athleticise – contending, striving, exerting.
Which fits with the image of a rugby scrum. Arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder, pushing, sweating, putting bodies on the line, all in the cause of victory.
The cause here is, end of verse 27.
Philippians 1v27 “… striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.”
Please note. It’s not saying we strive for ‘our faith’. That’s subjective and personal. Keep going as a Christian. No. It’s that we are to strive for ‘the Faith’. For objective public gospel truth. We stand up for Jesus.
So, this isn’t about holding onto Jesus. It’s about holding out Jesus. Speaking for Jesus. Speaking of Jesus.
b. Without Fear
There’s another verb which further explains standing firm. Verse 28.
Philippians 1v28 “… striving together for the faith … without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.”
Standing firm means having courage.
So, here’s a reality check. Following Jesus isn’t a picnic. It’s not the secret to health, wealth and easy living. It’s not the path to popularity or being well liked.
Quite the opposite. ‘Cos, verse 28, there’ll be;
Philippians 1v28 “… those who oppose you.”
Opposition comes with being Christian.
If you’re not willing to own the name of Jesus, or speak of Him, then easy days. That’s ‘cruisey Christianity’.
But if we’re going live the normal Christian life, being partners in the gospel, then we’ll be well acquainted with opposition. I think this is increasingly the challenge for Christians in the West. I think it’s a challenge for us here in Australia, the lucky country. Which I worry is increasingly becoming unlucky for those who openly own and publicly follow Jesus.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be asking, ‘How can I be … without fear? I’m scared of what others will think, say and do! I’m afraid of injustice. Of slander. Or ridicule.’
So, what’s gonna give you and me courage?
For one thing, reading the signs.
Standing firm for Jesus, and being opposed for doing so is a clear sign you’re saved. While for those who oppose Jesus and His followers, it’s a clear sign they’re not.
Philippains 1v28 “… This is a sign [verse 28] a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved… “
When you raise your head above the parapet, you’ll be opposed by those who reject Jesus. Which clearly confirms which side each person is on.
Which is an encouragement.
Well, what else will add courage. Verse 29. And it’s surprising.
Philippians 1v29 “… [It’s knowing that] it has been granted [gifted] to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him… “
Suffering for Jesus is a gift. A privilege, an honour.
Which should encourage us.
So, suffering shows whose side you’re on. Suffering is a gift. And thirdly, in suffering God’s on your side.
I’m sure you’ve faced a situation where others where hostile and injustice was a likely outcome. I remember facing such a situation, and someone with power and influence texted me, ‘I’ve got your back.’ Which was really supportive.
When you’re feeling outgunned and afraid, it’s strengthening to know there’s someone significant you can count on. Though on a human level, people can fail to come through for you. Or may simply lack the power to do so.
But not God. Jesus says, ‘I’ve got your back! I’ve got the power. I keep my promise. and I’ve got your back. I’ll never leave. Never forsake. My Spirit indwells. My strength is yours. My power is made perfect in weakness.’
So, be strong and be courageous.
Whatever ridicule or threats, or injustice or slander, or persecution comes our way. As citizens of Heaven, in a world hostile to the gospel We’re to stand firm. To live courageously for Jesus. Speaking up no matter the cost. Owning the name of Jesus even though others will disown you. Speaking truth in love even though it may mean being called hateful and intolerant.
5. ‘WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER!’
So we stand firm, we courageously contend for the faith. And very importantly, ‘we’re all in this together
Philippians 1v27 “… [we] stand firm [verse 27] in the one Spirit, striving together as one… “
Christianity is a team sport. There’s no place for ‘lone rangers’. If we’re to accomplish our purpose we must play as partners. If we’re to complete the task, we must play as a team.
Divided we fall. united we stand. One for all, all for one, all one.
Philippians 2v2 “… [same mind] … same love, … one in spirit … of one mind.”
We’re one family. ‘We’re all in this together
‘. team MPC. Church united. Loving one another. Contending for the cause of Christ. Together for the gospel.
Now let me say that being on team MPC brings much joy. I’m encouraged to know that this afternoon there’ll be a group of people sitting together praying. And on Tuesdays. And at Growth Groups. I’m encouraged that youth leaders and the youth are getting stuck into God’s Word. I’m encouraged by Ted and Glen who do our gardens, and everyone who helps out at our working bees under John’s direction, so that our facilities are a welcoming environment. I’m encouraged the Kids’ Church leaders are partnering in proclaiming Jesus to our children. I’m encouraged by Gary, Elaine, Margaret and many others on the visitation care team, seeking to love, support and point people to Jesus. I’m encouraged by Tracy, Taylor, Katie and Sandy sharing God’s love with mums at playgroup. I’m encouraged by those mentoring others by reading the Bible one to one. I’m encouraged to serve in a church side by side with both young and old. And that’s committed to expressing that better. I’m encouraged by Ian, Wayne and the CoM team who focus their minds on practical and financial issues to help MPC to effectively advance the gospel. I’m encouraged to know how people at school and in the workplace are befriending others and speaking of Jesus, gently, wisely, respectfully.
I’m so encouraged by our mission partners. Keith and Marion discipling students in PNG. Nathan and Tomoko making Jesus known in Japan. Jeremy and Mosaix sharing God’s love with refugees and the homeless.
And I’m encouraged and humbled by the message I received on Friday from an old missionary couple in Ukraine. The email from xxx reads,
… This is quite possibly our last means of correspondence for some time. War is imminent and the consequences dreadful. … Young Ukrainian men from 16 years of age are being called up to serve in the military … A major cyberattack is happening … our local currency is in free fall. Rhoda and I are not leaving – how can we? As an elder in the [church] my responsibility is to shepherd at all times. It would be a terrible testimony to get up and leave the believers. … we [hope] to turn the [church] hall into a place of shelter to accommodate and feed the believers who will face many a hardship. God is about to give us [gift us] a great opportunity to show our Christian faith practically and [to] reach out into our community with the gospel. … [xxx] and I may have to move out of our apartment as we are close to the military airfield and on the xxxth floor of our apartment block, we have the Ukrainian secret police. As we close [this email] the military jets can be heard overhead and we covet your prayers! … We are not any braver than you – but confident we are where God would expect us to be.
MPC. Together as one for the gospel. All of us. Different. With unique gifts, unique opportunities, unique responsibilities and relationships. Together, partners with a purpose.
And so, whatever happens. Regardless of circumstances or uncertainties.
Let’s behave as citizens of heaven, worthy of the gospel. Living for Jesus. And like Jesus.
Let us, stand firm. In God’s strength having courage to speak up for Jesus.
And let’s do it all together, as one. Partners in the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Together for the gospel.