Together We Can Do More For Christ

27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.

INTRODUCTION

The Church at Philippi is a good church and Paul has already stated in verse 7 that the Philippians have a special place in his heart. They had worked with Paul as partners in spreading the gospel. But there is a division in the church and we believe the conflict centered around two women, Euodia {yü-o-dē’-ä} and Syntyche {Sün-tü’-khā}. We know there was a disagreement but we do not know the particulars. In the passage before us, Paul entreats the Philippians to remember who they are and where they are. It is understood that they were living in this world but Paul said, “You must live as citizens of heaven.”

I have been on several mission trips, most recently to Guatemala, and I have never forgotten at any moment that I was an American on foreign soil. My interest in Guatemala are very narrow. I don’t drive, don’t vote, don’t buy land, don’t make any plans to live there permanently. I remember who I am and where I am. It is the same way for me as a Christian, I live in this world but I am not of it. I am a foreigner, a pilgrim just passing through. I will not be staying here: this is not my permanent residence.

We do not belong to this world but we do live in it for the moment and we have to remember that we are being observed by the citizens of this world. We must walk in a manner that does not compromise the gospel we preach. If we are not careful, what we do will drown out what we say. Paul is simply reminding the Philippians that they are on stage, being watched and the infighting is hurting the gospel message. To live worthy of the gospel is to refrain from doing anything that will compromise our message. If you have a dirty mouth, clean it up, you are hurting the cause of Christ. If you are not honest; you don’t pay your bills, you over charge, deceive or defraud….You must stop. People will not hear our gospel if we are living in contradiction to the very message we preach.

So the problem at Philippi is disunity and it is shorting out the power of the gospel. The disunity in the church is hurting the cause of Christ. So Paul gives them a motivational speech about TEAMWORK and togetherness. First Paul says…

I. WE MUST STAND TOGETHER [v.27]

I love the story of Ben Franklin and the Continental Congress. After a period of argument and debate, Ben said, “Men we must stand together or we will all hang separately.” Standing alone, they were traders: standing together they were a more perfect government. Ben Franklin understood clearly, their success depended on standing together.

How do you get a congregation to STAND TOGETHER? Obviously, I do not know how to make this happen but I do know the entangles involved. We must be of one Spirit. We must have the same spiritual breath. Paul told the Corinthians….The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. [I Cor. 12:12-13,NLT] All humans breath oxygen and all Christians breath the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the principle unifier of the Church. This was the sign that God had accepted the Gentiles, He gave them the same Spirit as He did the Apostles. Thus Paul said to the Ephesians…He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. [Eph. 2:17-18, NLT]

So the Spirit of God is a unifier but Paul mentions a second and that is the mind. We are to have the same Spirit and be of one mind [psyche]. Literally, we are to be of one soul. The psyche is the seat of man’s feelings, desires, affections and aversions [strong dislikes]. I had a great mentor who was a servant-leader but somehow I didn’t get it and my idea of pastoring a church was for me to tell the congregation what to do and for them to do it. I can tell you one thing for sure, that is not the right way to get a church unified. I discovered in time that this was not God’s way. The church is not a democracy although we do vote from time to time. To me voting is a necessary evil, something we have to do because we are too lazy to pray things through. The key to unity is to get everyone committed to following Jesus who is the head of the Church. I don’t care what our members want and they shouldn’t care about what I want: what we should be focused on is WHAT JESUS WANTS. Unity is not a problem when all want to please and honor Christ.

So we have to STAND TOGETHER in ONE Spirit and ONE mind.

II. WE HAVE TO FIGHT TOGETHER FOR THE FAITH [v. 27]

Contrary to popular opinion, we do have an enemy. The devil doesn’t want us to get on the same page. He loves a fragmented fellowship. He loves to get us seeking our own agenda. As Paul said, “The devil is the author of confusion.” As Gideon learned: a small unified group can be more powerful than a large disunified group. Paul told the Philippians: “Do not be intimidated in any way by your enemies.” The devil will sow seeds of discord among the wheat. He is going to do everything he can do divide us but he will also do everything he can to intimidate us. The devil is a terrorist. He is the father of terrorism. This is why I can say with confidence that Islam is a dark and demonic religion. They advance their cause by intimidation and terror. God never uses either of these to advance His kingdom.

The key to victory is to FIGHT TOGETHER by staying together, close knit and tight. The Amalekites were human scavengers. They were like jackals, wolves, coyotes who stalk the weak and helpless. When Israel was journeying across the wilderness, the Amalekites would pick off the stragglers one at a time. They lacked the courage to attack the body. The key to enduring was to stay with the group. We are in a spiritual war and the fighting is intense. We must stay together to survive. One of my favorite all time movies is the GLADIATOR. I do not go to movies as a general rule but one of my children said, “Daddy, you have to rent this movie when it becomes available, you will love it.”

Maximus Decimus Meridias is emperor Marcus Aurelius most trusted General. Before his death, Marcus Aurelius made Maximus the ruler of the Roman Empire instead of his cowardly son Commodus. Before Aurelius can make his decision public, Commodus smothers him to death and assumes the role of Emperor, he gives orders for the death of Maximus and family. Maximus escapes execution but cannot save his family. Taken into slavery and trained as a gladiator by Proximo, Maximus lives only that he might someday take his revenge and fulfill the dying wish of his emperor. The time soon comes when Proximo’s troupe is called to Rome to participate in a marathon of gladiator games held at the behest of the new emperor. The event is staged in favor of the Roman soldiers who are to reenact a former battle for the pleasure of the crowd. Maximus and his troop of gladiators are facing overwhelming odds. Maximus gives orders for all to stay close together. He warns that survival depends on them sticking together. A half-dozen chose not to obey the order by launching their own attack but all were killed. The rest come close to Maximus in a huge huddle: they respond to his every command and they win a great victory over overwhelming odds. “Completing one another is better than competing with one another.”

PAUL SAID, YOU HAVE TO FIGHT TOGETHER AGAISNT YOU FOE…YOU CANNOT WIN BY FIGHTING EACH OTHER

Unfortunately, our Convention is divided and this time it is about theology. There is a growing wave of Calvinism and I’m talking hyper-Calvinism…they are more Calvinist than Calvin. They believe God created all men for His good pleasure, some to grace heaven and some to fuel hell. I believe that Christ loves and died for all men. I believe that God in His sovereignty gave us a chose about eternity. I believe men go to hell because they reject Christ. They choose hell over heaven because of their rebellion. I believe man is responsible and accountable to God. I don’t understand it but I believe Jesus commissioned us to get the gospel to the ends of the earth. A hyper-Calvinist does not believe in Missions or evangelism. They make fun of market place evangelism. They go to seed on Worship and Bible Study. There Mission has little to do with the gospel: their Mission is to propagate Reform Theology. I think this is a subtle way for Satan to divide us. I have to be careful not to be a source of the division because I have strong feelings about Calvinism. The devil doesn’t care what it is that divides, so long as we are divided. I believe as Paul said in Philippians 1:29, “We have been given the privilege to trust Christ.” If we have the privilege to trust Him, do we not have the freedom to distrust Him?

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

III. WE MUST STRUGGLE TOGETHER [v.30]

The word for struggle is agōn from which we get agony. The exact same word that is used of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. The KJV and NASB translates it conflict. Holman and NIV struggle. I like the VOICE, ‘Agonizing Conflict’. Paul said, “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.”

  1. First of all, we all struggle but there are different degrees of suffering and agonizing conflict. I have no idea what Jesus experienced in the Garden. The weight of our sin, the sin of the world literally crushed Him. His agony was so intense they He was sweating pure blood through the pores of His skin. The agony in the garden almost killed Him. I don’t know what Job felt. I don’t know the agony of Paul there  in prison. I do agonize from time to time, I do have conflict and of course I struggle but at a different level.
  2. Even though I have not been in jail for preaching the gospel, I believe we can trust the testimony of Paul. If he says it is a privilege to suffer for Christ, then I say amen, although I have suffered very little for Christ. Paul looked upon suffering as a grace gift, it is a privilege that God gives us. I think of Paul and Silas in jail at Philippi and Peter and John arrested by the Sanhedrin. In both cases they were over joyed to be counted worthy to suffer for Christ. As I said, it is not my experience but by faith I can see it.
  3. When a general has a tough mission, he picked his elite soldiers, his very best to accomplish the mission although it means endangering or sacrificing their lives.
  4. I suppose the greatest comfort in our suffering is that we are not alone. We suffer together. Peter had John and Paul had Silas. We suffer but not alone, we are in fellowship with other believers.

In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul defends himself against his critics. He breaks a cardinal rule by making himself vulnerable. Thirty years ago I got hit in the back of the head with a softball as I was going from second to third. The ball glanced off the back and top of my head and went over 50 feet into another ball field. I continued home and went into the dugout. Everyone was laughing so I laughed too but really I was hurting. When everyone turned there attention back to the field, I rubbed the knot of my head. That is the way we humans are: we stumble and fall, then jump back up immediately, hoping no one saw us. We act tough by hiding our pain. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul lays on the ground and cries; he calls attention to his pain. Did it help? I doubt it. Paul was hurt they no one in the Corinthian church defended him. He was deeply disappointed because he thought he had some friends there but this is a part of the agony we share. Every preacher better understand that they will hang us out to dry just like they did Jesus and like Corinth did Paul. When your name comes up, people go to piling on and no one defends you; if they do it is rare and you had better appreciate them. The good thing about all-out persecution is that they will not discriminate between preachers and members, they will lump us all in the same basket and that will be a good thing for us. At least we will be together for a change.

 

 

 

 

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