October 19, 2014
Message, Paul Laslo
I am excited and thrilled to be here with all of you. I want to thank Pastor Robby for the opportunity he has given me to be able to share this sacred desk and I love that because of the simple fact that I know that Pastor Robby trusts that it is the Word that does the work in peoples’ lives. So I am thankful for that. Thank you, Tim, for the introduction.
One quick side note, I am beyond thrilled. There is a beautiful young lady that is sitting up front that I will be marrying in 21 days and I am very excited. So, be in prayer for that because I am definitely transitioning into a brand new position in my life. But I love it and I can’t wait for it.
Again, I am excited to be here with all of you and I pray that you are excited and hungry to hear God’s Word today. The title of this morning’s message is A Worthy Way of Living. A Worthy Way of Living.
R. Kent Hughes tells of a story from one of Shakespeare’s plays involving King Henry the Fifth. The interesting thing is that Shakespeare begins with young Prince Henry, not as King yet, but as Prince. He tells the story of this young man as being a vain, self-indulgent man who spends his time drinking and partying with John Falstaff. But then came a time when there was a change in Prince Henry’s life and it happened to happen during the time when his father was on his deathbed. He realized at that moment at that time that something was going to happen. There was going to be a transition in his life. One day his father would now die and he would have to wear the crown and be King and not Prince anymore.
The difference was that he noticed that his father wore the crown with worthiness. He wore the crown because he fought for it, because he wore it with dignity. And at that moment at that time, he made these words. He said this to his father. He said, “The tide of blood in me hath proudly flowed in vanity until now.” Something that he recognized that had to change because the life that he was living was not the same example that his father had lived. And interestingly enough, it is noted that from that day forward, Henry V became one of the worthiest and noblest kings of England.
Interestingly enough, the passage that we are studying today resembles and almost rings exactly the same words. And it says this. There is something of an idea in this opening line of our text that though it may not be readily apparent, the lines read the following: Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Here is another way of saying it. Which in effect is an individual call, may the power of the gospel in me, the life of Christ in me display itself in formal majesty. Do you see the difference?
I remember a time, if you are like me, where there was a moment where I knew there was a change in my life, that something had to change. And in that moment in time, I realized that before God, I was not living a worthy life. But it was at that moment when I gave my life to Christ that I was on a journey too for the rest of my life, live a life that was pleasing to God.
So my goal this morning, my proposition for all of you this morning is the following, that I want to show you how to live a life in a manner worthy of the gospel so that we fearlessly stand firm in our faith for His honor and for His glory.
So turn with me to Philippians Chapter 1 and we are going to read Verses 27 through 28. And like Mark, Pastor Mark, I, too, have been waiting to say this as well, when you are there, say “Word.”
Verse 27 states the following: “Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel, not being frightened in any way by your opponents.”
Father, I am grateful for the opportunity to study Your Word. Father, I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to preach Your Word. And Father, we trust that it is Your Word that does the work. It is Your Word that transforms the hearts and lives of people. So God, I pray this morning that we would look at Your Word and we would look at our lives and ask ourselves, are we living a life worthy of the gospel. I ask this in Christ’s name. Amen.
Just a little background to this text. And this will help us understand the kind of passion and desire that Paul had when he wanted to communicate these words to the church at Philippi. Paul, in this letter, is in prison and he is jailed for the defense and for the establishment of the gospel.
So here, Paul is writing to this church while he is in prison. We know this letter to be affectionately known as the Prison Epistle. And it is in this time that Paul is overjoyed because he is hearing of their faith. He tells them, I am excited to know that you are partnering alongside with me, even though I am not with you, you are continuing the work, and for that I am overjoyed. And, in fact, I am praying for you.
And then you see a little bit of Paul’s life. He peals back a little bit of his inward struggle that is going on and he says, I would love to be with Christ. I want to be there because that is where my heart is, but I realize that it is necessary for me to also be here with you. And it is within this context that Paul writes to these believers and he tells them, whether I am here or whether I am not, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel.
So, this is my first point for this evening…for this morning, excuse me, that I want to convey to you guys. Two main things. One is the conduct of our lives and the partnership that we carry together. It is not just individual, it is corporate.
So my first point is this: The conduct of our lives. The conduct of our lives. And right underneath that, Paul reminds the believers of their identity. Paul reminds the believers of their identity. Here Paul is trying to establish a foundation for these believers to live by. And notice what it says in Verse 27, “Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
To understand the significance of this phrase, live your life in a manner, we have to look at the Greek. Most of your translations may say live your life in a manner, conduct yourselves or let your manner of life, is what you may be reading it as.
The word “conduct” or “live” here means manner of life or your way of life. That is why I titled it the way that I did. But when you look at the Greek and the English, the English language misses the essence of what Paul is trying to translate here. This is how most commentators would read this passage. Only let your manner of life (watch this) as citizens, be worthy of the gospel of Christ. Now that changes something, because now, all of a sudden, Paul introduces an identity for the believers. You are not just anybody, you are citizens of heaven. You are someone different.
R. Kent Hughes helps tremendously here with the cultural context to help us understand why did Paul even say “citizens.” Why? Well, to help us grasp the weight of this phrase, Paul couldn’t have carefully chosen and crafted better words to both impress and encourage his Philippian brothers. Why? Because here is the interesting thing, Philippi was a colony of Rome and these people prided themselves in what they had. They weren’t just Philippians, they were Roman Philippians. And what came with this citizenship was a sense of honor and a sense of prestige and sense of pride because now they had this kind of establishment and this kind of identity. I mean, who wouldn’t have thought that? I mean, Rome was the epicenter of the known world. If you were a Roman citizen, that was huge. So Paul then, all of a sudden offers them a counter-citizenship. I know what you have here, but by the way, you are a citizen of heaven.
And just so you understand the weight of what you actually have, let me tell you who you are. You are redeemed. You are chosen. You are a child of God. You are bought with a price through our Savior and one day, just so you know, you will be face to face with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
By the way, what did Nero say that you had to offer, because one day, he, too, will have to bow. So what Paul is saying here is, listen, don’t get too caught up with the prestige, get caught up with who you are now in Christ because this is the kind of identity that we have to have and understand because here is the great thing about knowing this. Who you are will dictate what you do. The more you understand who Christ has made you to be, the more you live in that. But Paul here is establishing that for them and listen, knowing who you are is huge.
Alexander the Great understood this perfectly. And many of you know the story. A man by the name of Alexander was actually in Alexander the Great’s army, but some of the soldiers were telling Alexander the Great that though this man carried his name, he was acting out in cowardly actions. So guess what Alexander the Great does? He pulls him to him and he says, “Bring me this man.” So he asks him, he says, “What is your name?” And the man stuttered and said, “A..A..Alexander.” And he says, “I can’t hear you. What is your name?” And he says, “A..A..Alexander.” So all of a sudden, Alexander the Great calls his attention and says, “Sir, either change your name or change your conduct.” Alexander understood this perfectly because his name carried weight. It carried significance. It carried an identity.
We, too, have this identity. We are citizens of heaven. So how does this look like? Everywhere you work, everywhere you live, everywhere you frequent on a regular occasion, you carry the name as citizen of heaven. So you see, you are not just from Ringgold, Georgia, you just happen to live there as a citizen from heaven. You see, you are not just employed at your work. You are employed as a citizen of heaven at that organization. You are not just a student anywhere that you go to. No, you are a citizen of heaven that happens to be a student at that place, at that school, at that university.
Do you see how carrying that name is so significant? Because we carry it everywhere.
Now here is the interesting thing. Paul doesn’t just leave us hanging with saying, hey, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. He says something else. He transitions with this specific word and he asks us, how are we supposed to live? So it is not just any identity, but a worthy identity.
The word “worthy” here is the Greek word “axios.” It has to do with tipping or balancing scales. When two things are compared and found of equal weight, they are considered fitting or appropriate. Since this implied worth, the Greek word “axios” came to mean worthy or deserving. So Paul put this word perfectly. It is not just establishing an identity, but who you are now is determining how you live and it has to be worthy.
So what is being compared, you might ask? Your life. And your life in light of the gospel. You say you have been changed. Are you living like it? How is it being measured? By the conduct of your life. That is what it means to have a worthy life.
Now Paul here, without saying it, is already alluding to a major point of the Christian life. He is talking about our integrity. He is talking about our character. And here Paul is specifically talking about how we are living out. Many of us already know this and we have heard this several times. D. L. Moody describes character as who you are in the dark. It is who you are when no one is looking around, when everyone is away and you are living your life, not only before God, but here Paul is specifically talking about your public testimony before people. Here Paul is concerned about how you are living in front of other people.
And so, this is what is so important. John MacArthur says it this way, “The greatest weapon the church has is its integrity.” Here is what Paul wants us to see is that there is a life of consistency. MacArthur continues and he says, “A citizen of heaven is consistent with what he knows, consistent with what he teaches, consistent with what he preaches and consistent with what he believes. That is integrity.”
So if you put it together, if you are a citizen of heaven, you are living worthily like a citizen of heaven. It ties together. However, any time that we compromise our character, it only cuts down our credibility. This is why Paul lays out this foundation so heavily because he knew the importance of what it would mean, especially to these people in Philippi because they are living in a context that there were some that did not approve of the message of the gospel. There were some that did not approve of what Christianity was doing at that time and so they were at a point where they had to say, okay, are these people living by everything that they actually believe.
The question is, are you living in a manner worthy of the gospel? If God were to look at your life, if the public testimony of your life were to be on a scale, how would it weigh? Would people say, this person is fitting, he is worthy, he lives what he believes.
To further Paul’s point, then he transitions. Notice what the text says and this is incredible. Paul makes a great point here. He says the following: “Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” And then notice what he says. “Then, whether I come and see you or I am absent, I will hear about you.”
Many of you have heard this statement before: when the cat’s away, the mice will play. I will never forget the day where I was sitting in my 7th grade class and my teacher asked all of us in the class to make sure that we completed an assignment. We weren’t to do anything else in that class. All we had to do was make sure that we sit quietly and that we complete our task. That was all we had to do. It was just 45 minutes of our time. And then we heard the words that every 7th grade student wanted to hear from his teacher during a time that we had busy work. “Students, I need to step out for five minutes. I will be right back.” Now you can imagine what would have happened in those five minutes that he was gone. Everybody was standing up, people were getting answers from other people, they were talking, people were throwing papers. I mean, it was full out, out of control in that classroom.
What was interesting is that unbeknownst to us, guess who was standing outside of the door? Our teacher. And all of a sudden, he walks right in, unannounced, doesn’t say anything and all of us are caught off guard. And we all just stand there. And you can imagine the weight of what happened there. We were surprised. He is back. We didn’t even realize it. And then he said a statement that I will never forget. “I am disappointed in all of you.” That was probably one of the greatest lessons that I still remember to this day. And what is the lesson that we learn from that? Is that absence doesn’t excuse a lack of obedience.
Just because my teacher wasn’t there didn’t mean that I was supposed to do what he had asked us to do. And here is the same kind of context that Paul is asking about, whether I am here or whether I am not, I should not be the determining factor for the continued partnership and advancement of the gospel. It is that your lives, whether I am here or whether I am not, should be lived worthy for the gospel of Christ. That is the kind of attitude that Paul is speaking about when he says these words, “Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel, whether I am here or whether I am not.”
So, here is the foundation, the conduct of the believer. His identity, her identity and the kind of life that we are supposed to live.
Move on to our second point. The partnership of the believers. The partnership of the believers. Notice what it says in the latter part of Verse 27, “Then whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel, not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance—and this is from God.”
A couple of points that Paul wants to make here for the Philippians and there is three of them. One, that we are to stand firm in one spirit; two, that we are to strive together in unity and three, we are to be serving with faith and not with fear.
The first phrase that we want to study here to get a better understanding of what Paul is talking about is standing firm in one spirit. In this context, Paul is speaking about spiritual resolve, or spiritual tenacity. The word “stand” is best defined by comparing it to a soldier. The soldier Paul speaks of is someone standing in position, not moving or wavering from their post. They literally guard their post.
A great example that I can think of us my future brother-in-law. My future brother-in-law had the privilege of being able to serve as one of the guards of honor in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. How many of you have visited Arlington Cemetery and seen this? It is quite an amazing sight and very impressive to see. And one of the unique things about the soldiers is that they do not leave their post, ever, whether rain or shine, whether freezing weather or extreme heat, whether night or day, these soldiers never leave. They guard the post 365 days of the year, 24 hours of the day. Their duty and their honor is to stay there.
It is the same kind of resolve, this same sense of duty, the same sense of spiritual tenacity that Paul talks about is that we are here to stand in defense of the gospel, is that we are here to stand in guard of what has been entrusted to us, is that we don’t waiver. And here is the wonderful thing, we do it together. We don’t do it alone. And that is the second point.
Here we are to be striving together. Paul is conveying the idea of striving side by side or to work side by side with one another, not by yourself, but together. Not alone, but with each other.
Now here is the interesting thing that always reminds me of this. It is a great thought and a great story. I will never forget when I heard the story of the Lone Ranger and Tonto. They are riding along in the canyon and they are speeding through and all of a sudden the Lone Ranger realizes that there are a lot of warriors that are coming, dressed in battle, ready to attack Tonto and Lone Ranger. And all of a sudden, the Lone Ranger looks over at Tonto and he says, “What are we going to do?” And Tonto looks at him and says, “What do you mean “we,” Paleface?”
And so this is key. Here is what you have to recognize and we have to understand, this is not a me mentality when it comes to partnering together for the gospel. It is we. It is us. It is this church. It is difficult to stand alone and not know that you have people next to you. That is a huge burdensome task.
But the beautiful thing that we can see within the church is when we see us working together. I love the stories and I love to hear when people are coming by and saying, hey, I have this person that I am reaching out to and I am trying to share the gospel with. Brother, I am praying for you. I am praying with you that we will work side by side to do this together.
The picture of the body of Christ is wonderful and we see each intricate part at work, whether it is small, it is not insignificant. Whether it is large or not, every part has a vital aspect to how we see the gospel at work here, across the seas, when we give for Bible, when we support each other on missions. All of that is striving together or working side-by-side.
Now here is the flip side to this. That is the wonderful picture. But truth be told, sometimes that may not happen. And sadly sometimes what happens is that we allow other things and the difference between working side-by-side is strife. It is discord. And that is what we don’t need. That is what we don’t want to see because here is the thing, Paul is telling them that this is a beautiful picture of how the world is seeing us and when there is strife and there is discord amongst the church, it ruins that unity. In fact, it is disunity, not unity. So Paul says, make sure that you strive side-by-side, that you work together in unity. We have the same gospel, we are saved by the same Christ and we are united to work together.
The third one is this, serving with faith and not with fear. Serving with faith and not with fear. One of the key words here is the word “fear.” And this is a rare word. It means to be frightened or to be disturbed or to be dismayed in light of opposition. This is when all of a sudden there are people attacking or they are saying things. We had a little bit of this when we experienced through the last sermon series on whether we had to decide whether we were going to stand for God’s Word or bend to man’s opinion. And we experienced a bit of opposition when we were standing for God’s Word. And that is the kind of fear that Paul is talking about.
But what Paul wants you to do is not to do, not to live in that way, but to actually live encouraged and to know that you are going to live fearlessly in faith. It reminds me of one of my favorite movies that I have seen and that is “Remember the Titans.” How many of you guys have seen “Remember the Titans.” One of my favorite movies.
There comes a point in that movie where Bill Yost, the coach, one of the coaches of the Titans, had to make a decision. He knew that there were things that were going on in the game that were wrong. In fact, he realized that the refs were being paid in order to call the game in the favor of another team. And as he realized it, he walked up to the individual and he said, “I know what is going on, Gary, and I want you to realize that I will go to the papers for this.” And that gentleman says, “You dig your own grave. I will worry about mine.” And so Bill Yost comes back, calls a time out and he gathers his defense together and he tells them probably some of the most inspirational words. I mean, I have never played football before, but after I heard this, I said, where are the pads, where is the helmet, I want to go out there and play myself.
And he says these words, “I don’t want them to gain another yard. You blitz all night long, so they remember forever the night they played the Titans.” I don’t know about you, but that gives me chills. I am ready to get out there. But it was in that moment, that though there was oppression, they were treated unfairly, they went back in the game fearlessly. They went back in with courage. They went back with a sense of duty that they had to win that game and that came from that inspiration.
Here is a great thing that we can think about when it comes to this text is that Paul is reminding us of something very important. Our lives are on display to this dying world. And every moment that we take and we live in boldness for the cause of Christ, it shows them a sign. This is what Paul is talking about here in this text. It shows them a sign of your deliverance. It shows them a sign of a difference that is happening in your life. In fact, the contrast to that is the fact that there is also a sign of their destruction. And a word to describe that is a sense of separation from God. Every moment that dying world sees a difference in our lives, it only gives evidence to the change that is happening in us. And it shows them that there is something wrong. Though they may not believe it at the moment, though they may not see it, we pray that by our fearless stance and by our faith in serving, that one day by our example, by our conduct and by the worthiness of our life, they will see that God has made a change in us. That is what it means to stand with faith and not with fear.
It reminds me of a passage that I love and I know that many of you hold dear and it is in Romans Chapter 8 Verses 31-39. Turn with me if you can. If not, I will read it out loud for you. Interestingly, the translation that I use, the Holman translates this, subtitles this section “The Believer’s Triumph.” If there is ever a time when you are wondering, I don’t know if I can do this, if I can live this way, notice what Romans 8:31 says.
“What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare His own Son but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything? ?Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: Because of You we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that not even death nor life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!”
Listen, I pray that that is an encouragement because here is the thing, that is what drives us to live in this way because nothing will separate us from the love of God. Nothing can separate us from His love.
So I close with these two walking points and I ask you this, are you living a life worthy or the gospel? Are you standing firm or are you wavering? Are you working side-by-side or are you working at this alone? Because Brothers and Sisters, you don’t have to do that. And, can you live in faith and not in fear?