Second Reformed Church

Sunday, August 31, 2014

"Complete My Joy" Sermon: Philippians 2:1-4

“Complete My Joy”

[Philippians 2:1-4]

August 31, 2014 Second Reformed Church

            Paul continues his thought in this next section of his text:  we are to live lives worthy of the Gospel.  As those who have been gifted by God to receive the Gospel and salvation in Jesus Christ Alone – the Gospel, salvation, and the ability to believe are gifts from God – and gifted by God to suffer for the sake of Christ – for, as we do so, we show the value of the Gospel to us – that we are willing to suffer, if necessary, to see that the Gospel is advanced, Paul now turns from addressing those external problems that face the Church and looks at internal problems.

            In this morning’s text, Paul tells us:

            First, Christ is the reason for our unity.

            Second, unity in Christ completes our joy.

            Third, living lives of humility is worthy of the Gospel.

            And fourth, living lives of caring is worthy of the Gospel.

            “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,”

First, Christ is the reason for our unity.

The first thing we need to understand here is that Paul is not telling the Philippians and us that “if” these things are true or “if” these things occur, then something.  No, Paul is using an expression which means “if this is true and since it is the case” – or we could even replace the word “if” with “since” – “since there is encouragement from Christ, comfort from love, participation in the Spirit, affection and sympathy.”

Paul uses this expression to jar the Philippians into saying, “What do you mean ‘if,’ these things are true” – and that is how we are to interpret this.  Paul is telling the Philippians that they need to remember that we – all believers in Christ, the Savior God sent – are united with Christ and in Christ, and with one another in these four ways that he mentions.  Since we are united in these ways, we should by all means be in harmony with each other – we ought to resist internal division and friction that arises in the Church.  Here, he explains that our unity is not based merely on doing good works together, but on the spiritual union we have with one another with and in Christ.

He tells them that there is encouragement in Christ.  The encouragement is that we have been changed and saved by the Grace of God through Jesus Alone. 

Paul writes:  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21, ESV).

There is a lot in this passage, but the point we should focus on this morning is that we have been changed.  We are new creatures.  Our sin has been taken on by Christ and our debt to God has been paid.  God has reconciled us to Him through Christ.  We are no longer “children of wrath,” as Paul calls unbelievers elsewhere, but we are brothers and sisters of Jesus, the adopted children of the Almighty God, and “nothing,” as Paul says elsewhere, “nothing” can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus.

That should encourage us!  We are new.  We are different.  We are forgiven.  We have been changed.  We are saved and nothing can change that because salvation is of God and all of God forever and ever, Amen.

He tells them there is comfort from love.

In the context, we understand that the love he is talking about is love from God the Father and Jesus Christ.  This is the love that God showed towards the world in choosing some to be reconciled to Him.  This is the love that Jesus showed in incarnating, living, dying, and physically rising from the dead for our sakes and to the glory of God.

The word that he uses for “comfort” has in its root the same word that Jesus used when He told the apostles about the coming of the Holy Spirit, where His Name is translated as Advocate, Comforter, or Helper:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17, ESV).

So, what Paul is saying is that believers are indwelled by God the Holy Spirit as an act of love from the Father and the Son.  God loved all those who ever believe so much that He indwells them in the Person of the Holy Spirit.

He tells them that there is a participation in the Spirit.  The word that Paul uses for “participation” is the word “koinonia,” which some of us may be familiar with.  It means “fellowship,” and it indicates that there is something shared amongst all those who believe – and that something that is shared among believers is the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, Who now works in us and leads us in becoming more like Jesus.

Jesus promised the apostles:

 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:25-26, ESV).

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” (John 15:26, ESV).

There is unity among us because the same God indwells every believer and reminds us and helps us to understand what we have heard and read in God’s Word.  God the Spirit bears witness to us as we hear and read God’s Word that Jesus is God the Only Savior – strengthening us in the faith and leading us on in joyful obedience.

And Paul tells them that they have affection – love and care – for one another and sympathy for one another, now that we are part of the One Body of Jesus Christ – the Church.

As Paul explains:  “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift” (Ephesians 4:4-7, ESV).  We are one in the Work of God in us and through us and to His Glory.

Therefore, we ought to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:15-16a, ESV).  As brothers and sisters united in One Body, we ought to rejoice with each other’s joys and weep with each other when we suffer pain and loss.  That is how close we are to each other through the Work of Christ.

So, Paul begins by telling us that Christ is the reason for our unity:  we find encouragement in our being changed through God’s loving choice to grants us salvation through Jesus Christ Alone, by making us one through the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, through the Holy Spirit’s helping us to believe, understand, and grow in the faith into the Image of Christ Jesus, and through our now being one such that we love one another and rejoice and mourn with each other as we live lives worthy of the Gospel.

“complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

Second, unity in Christ completes our joy.

Paul already told the Philippians that he rejoiced every time he thought of them.  Yet, here he tells them there is still room to grow – there is still room to increase Paul’s joy in them.  Literally, Paul writes, “Fill my cup of joy to the brim.”

The implication of his words is that there was strife and self-interest in the Church that was disunifying – it was disrupting the advance of the Gospel and the joy that they and Paul could have in each other through Christ.

We also have room to grow.  None of us is yet perfect.  We still have strife amongst one another.  We still act out of self-interest and to the detriment of each other and the advance of the Gospel.

Remember we looked at the worth of the Gospel?  Is the truth of the Gospel worth putting aside petty differences and seeking the unity we have in Christ for the sake of our mutual joy?  Do we want others to see the Gospel advancing in us and through us?

How do we fill each other’s cup of joy to the brim?  How do we continue in making each other rejoice in each other and in the Work of Christ through us?

Paul tells them to be of the same mind.  What he means is that they are to be united in doctrine – in the teachings of the Scripture.  And Paul particular means in those teachings – those truths – those facts of the Gospel – those things we must believe if we are to be Christians.  We saw before that The Apostle’s Creed is an early summary of these teachings which are necessary for faith.  If we are steadfastly united in those things, our joy will increase in Christ.

There are things we disagree on across Christendom.  In those things which are not necessary for salvation, we must continue to study and read God’s Word and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in understanding.

For example, we baptized Samuel Hastey recently, and in the sermon that day, we looked at why we baptize infants.  There are denominations that do not baptize infants, and they have their reasons for not doing so.  However, we are agreed that salvation does not cause salvation, so it is an issue that we need to continue to pray and search the Scriptures on, seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  But it is not an issue which should disrupt the unity of the Church in Christ.

An example that does matter in this issue of unity is whether or not Jesus physically rose from the dead.  This is an issue we must agree upon – it is foundational to biblical Christianity.

Paul says we are to have the same love – this is the love through Christ for one another.  Even though we are different people and have different preferences and interests, for the sake of Christ, for the sake of our joy, for the sake of the unity of the Church, through Jesus Christ, we are to truly love all believers as brothers and sisters – as part of our Body, which is the Church.

Paul explains:  “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:10-26, ESV).

And Paul tells us to being in full accord and of one mind.  We are to be working together towards the same goal – the advance of the Gospel – seeking inner harmony in the Church.  We join together in worship to proclaim the worth of our God and Savior, and to grow under the reading and preaching of the Word of God, that we might be transformed into the Image of Jesus and live lives worthy of the Gospel and advance it better through our living.

The unity in Christ that causes joy to fill our cups to the brim comes as we agree with each other and stand for those teachings – those doctrines – of the Scripture which – in particular – are the basis of our salvation, as we truly love each other as members of the Body that we cannot do without, and seek the inner harmony of the Church.  As Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, ESV).

But, how do we show our love for one another?

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

Third, living lives of humility is worthy of the Gospel.

Paul contrasts the wrong way to live lives worthy of the Gospel with the right way:  we are not to be lifting ourselves up.  We are not to be seeking our praise.  We are not to be prideful.

If we give a certain amount in the offering to be praised, we sin.  If we desire to hold office in the church to be praised, we sin.  If we boast about temptation that we have escaped, we sin.  If we look down on others because of their sin, we sin.  If we look down on others because they are not like us, we sin. 

No, we are to live lives of humility – we are to consider others more significant than us – more important than us.  We are to be tending to each other, building each other up in the faith and holy living.  We are to support each other in the fight – in the race – that is the life of faith as we look forward to the finish line when Jesus returns with all the holy angels with Him.

Now, Paul is not saying that we are to be a doormat for anyone.  What shocked the pagans during the days of the early Church was that the Christians really showed love for each other.  Whether someone was rich or poor, Jew or Gentile by birth, city-dweller or country-dweller – all were welcomed and loved and supported and each one sought to lift each other up – to advance each other in growth in the Spirit.

We ought not to look at someone in the Church and think, “Oh, I wish that person weren’t here, he brings the whole place down – I’m going to avoid him.”  Nor should we think, “Oh, I am so glad she is here, she is a big giver – important in the community – I want to get her attention.”

No, in humility, we ought to look at each other and both ask – for the sake of Christ and His Gospel – how we might make each persons’ life better, how we might help each person avoid sin, and how we might show Christ’s love to each person today.

That is what Jesus meant when He answered the lawyer about the greatest commandment and said, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, ESV).

This is especially true in the Church as we are one in Christ, but it extends to all people, as every human being is created in the Image of God.  Whether a person is a Christian or not, we ought to see something of the Maker in them and desire God’s best for that person.  First, of course, would be to proclaim the Gospel to them, if they are not believers.  Then, we ought to see how we can be of help to one another – how we can lift each other up – not how we can lift ourselves us.

“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:1-12, ESV).

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another” (John 15:15-17, ESV).

So we ought to look at each other in humility as brothers and sisters in Christ, all members of the One Body, seeking to lift each other up, not ourselves; not becoming doormats to each other’s whims, but doing all we can to keep each other from sin and to encourage growth in Christ in each other.

Which leads into:

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

And fourth, living lives of caring is worthy of the Gospel.

            We are to follow after those things that God has called each of us to do, but we are also to show real care – a deep interest in and for each other.  We are not to be self-obsessed, but seek the good of each member of the Body of Christ.

            Again, showing care does not mean that we have to be slaves to other people, because there are people who take care to an unhealthy reliance.

For example, there was a woman who did not drive that I was helping to get to wherever she needed to go, but her desire for my service and care continued to grow to the point where she was angry with me if I could not drop everything and do whatever she wanted.  For my health, I had to eventually walk away from her.

We all have gifts and abilities, and we are to share them with each other – especially in the Church.  If we are able to help someone – especially in spiritually matters – we ought to do so.  If we cannot, we ought to say so, and we ought to receive such in humility and thanks.

So, let us get to know each other.  Let us truly care about each other.  And if someone has a need and we can fill that need – let us do so.  And if someone desires to share a joy with us, and we can receive it, we should do so.

            None of us is the center of the universe – Jesus is.  He has given us all work to do, and He has given us each other to care for and have joy with.  We ought to seek out ways that we can minister to each other and be receptive to those who need our help.

            Let us seek to complete each other’s joy – to fill each other’s cups to the brim, for the sake of the Christ Who makes us one with Him, for the sake of the Church in which we are One Body, and as a witness to the world that Christ has made us different – for all of our good and to His Glory.

            Let us pray:

            Almighty God, we thank You for making us Your people – for uniting us with Christ and each other in One Body – the Church.  We thank You for the joy that comes from the salvation You give us and for the increase in joy as we live lives of obedience and service towards You and each other.  May we be pleasing to You in all that we do, and may the world look at us and desire to know what has made us different – joyful, loving, united people.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

"A Sign of Salvation" Sermon: Philippians 1:27-30

“A Sign of Salvation”

[Philippians 1:27-30]

August 10, 2014 Second Reformed Church

            “I have one piece of instruction for you.”

            Do you know the joke?

            “What is the biggest lie a pastor ever tells?”

            “For my final point…”

            Paul had greeted the Philippians, expressed his love of them and hope for them, and then he told them about how his imprisonment has served to advance the Gospel and how, so long as Christ is glorified in and through Paul’s body, being set free from prison or being put to death, both end up to Paul’s benefit and joy.

            After talking about his circumstances and thoughts on his future, Paul now gives the Philippians “just one piece of instruction.”  This is a little funny, since it comes early in the letter…

            And we find three points in this text:

            First, we ought to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel.

            Second, living in a manner worthy of the Gospel is a clear sign.

            Third, living in a manner worthy of the Gospel is a clear sign because God grants us grace.

            Paul ended in last week’s text by telling the Philippians that he hoped God would be willing to let him live after preaching to Caesar that Paul might return to the Philippians and continue to instruct them in maturing as Christians that they all might abound in joy and in the glorification of Jesus.

            However, whether God’s Will was for Paul to live or die, Paul had “one piece of instruction for them.”

            First, we ought to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel.

            “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ,”

            What is the Gospel worth?  What is it worth to you that God came to earth in the Person of Jesus, lived a perfect life, so you would be seen as holy, died for the sins of everyone who would ever believe, so you would be forgiven – saved from the Wrath of God, and physically rose from the dead and ascended back to His throne that you would be raised in your physical body to live eternally with Him?

            Jesus told two parables about the value of the Gospel:

            “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

            “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:44-46, ESV).

            Jesus tells us that the value of the Gospel – the value of entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven – is everything.  There is nothing of greater value.  It is the only answer to the most important question a person will ever answer:  “How does a person become right with God?”
And Paul does not leave the Philippians clueless, but he tells them how to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel:

“so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit,”

We live in a manner worthy of the Gospel by agreeing together and standing firm – not wavering one way or the other – on the teachings – the doctrines – of God’s Word.

That does not mean that we will not have differences from time to time – look at all the denominations.  What is means is that in those facts of the Gospel – the means to salvation – we are united on them without question – because those things we must believe if we are to be a Christian.  One of the earliest summary formulas of doctrine is The Apostle’s Creed.

That is not to say that everything else in the Bible is negotiable.  No, we must believe that the Bible is God’s Word – and if we truly do, we will approach it and what it says in a respectful and humble manner, seeking to obey and understand by faith.  There are passages which are not as clear as others, but most of the Scripture is plain and can be understood, and all that is necessary for salvation is abundantly clear.

We live in a manner worthy of the Gospel by agreeing on the teachings of God’s Word – especially those related to salvation – the Gospel.

“with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,”

Then, side-by-side, as one person, we are to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel by acting on the teachings of God’s Word.  We are to believe and defend and proclaim the teachings of God’s Word, and especially the Gospel.

As we have seen in Philippians already – Paul didn’t mind being in jail, Paul didn’t mind being condemned, Paul didn’t mind being spoken of falsely, Paul was ready to live or to die – whatever God’s Will was, so long as the Gospel was advanced.  So long as we all join together in letting everyone know there is only One Way to salvation through Jesus Christ – through Who He is and what He did – we strive with one mind for the faith of the Gospel.

Now, we may remember that agreeing on the Gospel and proclaiming the Gospel – being strong and united as the Church – is one thing – but they were living at a time and in a place of severe persecution – as are many in the world today – the Islamic group ISIS is slaughtering Christians in Iraq today – trying to eradicate Christianity in that country.  So, Paul continues:

“and not frightened in anything by your opponents.”

Notice, Paul does not say “if” you have opponents.  The Philippians had opponents in the Jews and the Romans and others.  And if we stand for the Gospel and proclaim the Gospel, we will have opponents.  Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18, ESV).

The imagery that Paul uses is that of a group of panicked horses stampeding away.  No, we are to stand – steadfast and united, for the sake of the Gospel.

Jude wrote about the need to fight the opponents of the Gospel:  “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:3-4, ESV).

Paul told the Ephesians how to stand up against the opponents of Christianity – and he explained that we are not just people fighting against people, but world-views and ideologies and spiritual alignments fighting regarding the One Savior Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

Paul wrote:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:10-20, ESV).

Paul used to familiar image of the Roman soldier’s uniform to paint a picture of standing firm in one spirt and striving with one mind, determined in faith and belief in the Gospel, hoping in the sure victory of Christ, and we stand for Him – unafraid – because we know who has saved us and where we are going – waiting for what God has willed – that He would be glorified and we would have His joy.

So, live in a manner worthy of the Gospel – which is worth everything you could ever have or be – and more!  Live together with other Christians, confessing the truths of the Gospel and all of God’s Word, both ready to proclaim and defend the Gospel against the enemies of the world.  And do not be afraid, because God has gifted us with the ability to stand in the face of evil – and to stand strong together – serving and glorifying – making known the Gospel – of our Victorious, Risen Savior and God.

Second, living in a manner worthy of the Gospel is a clear sign.

“This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.”

Paul tells the Philippians that if they truly live a life worthy of the Gospel, it will be a clear sign.  What does a sign do?  A sign points to something, right?  Paul is saying that we – in our living a life worthy of the Gospel – are a sign – to unbelievers of their destruction in everlasting torment – and to believers of our salvation which is of God Alone.

Jesus explained it this way:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:16-21, ESV).

God came to earth in the Person of Jesus, and Jesus lived a life worthy of the Gospel – a pure and holy and obedient life in all things sinless – and there were two responses to Jesus’ light – to His bearing the sign of the Gospel – salvation – in His living:  there were people who believed and repented, and there were people who told Jesus “no” – in one of many ways.

Those who believe and seek to live a life worthy of the Gospel bear the sign of a person who has been saved by grace alone through Jesus Christ Alone.  If we are seriously striving after living a life that is pleasing to God and lives up to the worth of the Gospel, it will be a proof of the salvation that we have – those fruits will be a proof of the salvation that we have.

On the other hand, those who deny Jesus and His Gospel – those who say they don’t need His salvation – they do not live in a manner worthy of the Gospel and that is a sign – proof – that they are condemned.

And let no one think that you can just not make a decision:  one of my college professors said that Jesus made a logical mistake when He said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30, ESV).  The professor said there was a third option – a person could not care one way or another – he could remain agnostic about Jesus.  That professor was wrong!  Jesus does not give us a third option – as the Sovereign and Almighty God, He has made One Way of salvation and has called all people to Himself – and those who received Him will live in a way that proves their salvation – and those who reject Him will live in a way that proves their condemnation.  Pretending not to make a decision is to reject Him.  There is no third option. 

If we live in a manner worthy of the Gospel it will be a clear sign as to who believes and is saved by Jesus Alone and who rejects Jesus and is damned.  And woe to the person who rejects the sign of the Gospel made visible through our living in a manner worthy of the Gospel, because there is no other way to be saved except through Jesus Christ Alone.

One final point:

Third, living in a manner worthy of the Gospel is a clear sign because God grants us grace.

“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.”

Paul told the Philippians that God had given them grace to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel and to be a sign to those who hear the proclamation of the Gospel through our lives and through our speaking – either to salvation or damnation – and Paul points to two outcomes of receiving grace from God:

In receiving this grace from God, we believe savingly in Jesus.  In other words, the grace to believe in Jesus savingly – the grace to believe in the facts of the Gospel and receive them in our minds and heart – is a gift.  Salvation is a gift and the ability to receive salvation is a gift – a gift of the Grace of God.

Paul put it this way to the Ephesians:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10, ESV).

            Let me repeat one sentence:  “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

            God, in accordance with His Sovereign Good Pleasure chose to give some the grace – the gift – of faith – through which we receive the grace – the gift – of salvation.  God has given us this immeasurably precious gift of salvation through faith entirely as a gift from God.  We were dead and could not – we had no ability – to receive the Gospel and belief it and repent – it is all a gift.  What a wonderful gift of grace!

            And, we are given the grace to remain in the Grace of God, saved, believing, sons and daughter of the Kingdom of God.  The gift that God gives us – and this is shown in the grammar of the text – the gift is not a one-time gift and then God goes away, leaving us to our own devices, hoping that we will make it to the last day as believers.  No!  The gift of God’s Grace to salvation is a one-time declaration which God continues – it is ongoing – persevering us until the last day, so that all those God has gifted with this grace will be received into His Kingdom.  God cannot fail.

            Yet, there is a second gift of the Grace of God given to the Philippians and to all believers, as we live our lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel – that is, that we should suffer for Christ’s sake in the same way that Paul suffered – in the same way the Philippians have suffered – in the same way that Christians throughout history have suffered for the Gospel and Jesus’ sake.

            Paul told the Corinthians that he had suffered in these ways:

            “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:24-28, ESV).

            And now as he waited to preach the Gospel to Caesar, there was the very real possibility that he would be put to death for Jesus’ sake – and we know that he was beheaded in the end.

            Now, we may hear that and think, “I don’t much like the gift of suffering!”  And we should not – we are not called to look for or to enjoy suffering.  What Paul is telling the Philippians and us is that when we suffer for Christ’s sake – and we already saw it is a promise that we will suffer – God gives us His Grace that the bitterness of suffering would be taken away – that, though we do not enjoy suffering, we can be joyful about suffering for the sake of Christ.

            How is that?

            As Paul explained about himself – he wanted to see the Gospel advanced – by any means – and he was willing to live or die – both are blessings and of great advantage – according to the Will of God – so long as the Gospel is advanced.

            Paul wrote the Thessalonians:

            “This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:5-12, ESV).

            All we who believe savingly in Jesus Christ – all we who believe the Gospel – those historical facts of Who Jesus is and what He has done – have received a priceless gift from God – salvation and the ability to receive it.

            Since we have, let us live a life worthy of the Gospel of Christ.

            Let us seek to live lives worthy of the Gospel that we would be signs to the truth of the Gospel – waking people up to whether they have been saved from the Wrath of God for our sins and made His sons and daughters – brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ – or whether they are continuing in the road to damnation apart from Christ and His salvation.

            Let us recognize and rejoice in the Grace of God that has caused us to believe this most worthy of worthy news – the Gospel.

            And let us stand together, united in our belief in the Word of God, ready to proclaim it, defend it, and even suffer for it, to the Glory of our God and Savior.

            Let us live lives worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

            Let us pray:

            Almighty God, help us to live lives that are worthy of Your Gospel.  Cause the Holy Spirit to apply these teachings of Paul to the Philippians – these teachings commanded of the Word of God to all who believe – that we would be blazing signs of Your Gospel, calling all people to belief and repentance.  Unite us in belief and action and lack of fear of what those who can only kill the body may do to us.  May You be glorified in us as we seek to advance the Gospel.  May we be thankful for our salvation and proud to suffer for Your Gospel as it gives You glory.  In Jesus’ Name and for His joy, Amen.