This is a first draft of a lesson for Sunday August 18, 2013:
John 6 records two days of the ministry of Jesus. On the first day, Jesus performed the miracle of feeding 5,000. The next day, the people had loved him, left him. In John 6:66 we read
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
Yet just the day before these same people had come “to take [Jesus] by force and make him king” (John 6:15). How could the same people who were willing to make Jesus king be unwilling to follow him 24 hours later?
They really didn’t want the King of King and Lord of Lords. Rather, they sought something a bit less; a constitutional monarch who would protect them and help them, but one who knew his place. Jesus knew this of the people:
“Truly, truly I say to you, you are seeking me not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (John 6:26).
The same pattern played out some time later. On Sunday, Jesus was hailed as king when road into Jerusalem. On Friday, the people called for his death.
Many people are willing to permit Christ to be Lord and King, but only a king with an asterisk. Jesus can ask for our obedience, but only so much. We see Jesus not as the glorious king, risen Savior, meditator between man and God, Alpha and Omega – rather, we a swell helper who makes our lives better, easier, happier.
Now most all of you will protest, No I don’t. I see Jesus as who he is.
I must most emphatically say, No we don’t. We do not see the Lord high and lifted up. We do not see him in his transcendent splendor. Our view of Christ is small – far too small.
This has been a constant problem for Christians – even in the best of congregations. Paul wrote to Philippi for two reasons. First, he wrote to give thanks for their gift which helped to support Paul in prison. We see this in the beginning and the end of the letter. Look at Philippians 1:5. Do you see the words,
Because of your partnership in the gospel. If you have the NASB you’ll see the word “participation” – same idea. The Philippians were furthering Paul’s ministry by sending him help. He mentions the help at the end of the letter. Beginning in 4:10 Paul writes of their gift and his joy at their willingness to further the proclamation of Christ.
Paul wrote for a second reason. Two women, Euodia and Syntyche were quarreling over something. When Paul mentions their names in 4:2, he doesn’t tell us the cause. All we know is that the trouble was so serious that Paul was certain that it was still a problem when he wrote his letter. There was time Epaphroditus to leave Philippi, travel to Rome, deliever the letter; recover from a near-fatal illness and bring the letter back.
While the Philippians were willing to have fellowship with Paul, they were unwilling to have true fellowship with one-another. Now it’s interesting, rather tell them twenty different ways to knock it off and behave, Paul actually goes at their heart and shows them that they have a far too low view of Christ. Their made theology was showing up in their bad conduct.
Look how Paul thinks through their situation. In 1:9 he speaks of how he has prayed for them. He has prayed that their love will abound – that tells that perhaps their love was weak.
Paul then goes to explain how their love will abound, “with knowledge and discernment”. Verses 10 & 12 tell us the result of such love abounding through knowledge and discernment: they will be blameless and filled with the fruit of righteousness.
True fellowship results in maturity. That is precisely what Paul seeks for the Philippians. Let me show you.
Look down in 1:27. Here Paul gives the Philippians a command:
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ.
That is our focus this morning. To understand this we will first start with what Paul means by the Gospel. Second, we will look at what it means to live “worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
The Gospel is a Proclamation about Christ
It is faddish in some circles to say Gospel-this and Gospel-that. Most of the time, what me mean is something like “good” or “godly” or “Christian” or “appropriate”. The Gospel is not everything that is stated in the Bible. The Gospel is not everything in the NT. The Gospel is the proclamation that the Son of God became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth. That Jesus perfectly fulfilled the will of his Father. That Jesus wholly without sin was crucified by conspiracy of all the leaders, Rome, Herod, the temple authorities. That he hung upon the Cross and, as he Paul writes in Galatians 4:13, Jesus “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us”. That having suffered the full weight of punishment due us, Christ rose again on Sunday morning. Christ then ascended into heaven, where he reigns at the right hand of majesty on high.
Now, we poor miserable sinner, enemies of God, by nature children of wrath, find ourselves adopted as sons:
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4–7 (ESV)
In Philippians 2:6-11 Paul gives a slightly different version of the Gospel which emphasizes more the graciousness of God in coming to us and the glory of praise and worship which is due to Christ and which will be given by all in heaven, in earth and under the earth.
We Must Live Worthy of the Gospel
Now that we have shown what is meant by “gospel” let us look at Paul’s command in Philippians 1:27,
Let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel.
This is the place where we cross our fingers and cut Jesus down to size. God saving us, adopting us, making of joint heirs with Jesus – all good. Jesus as king – that is where we draw the line. In the way we live, we are too often like the rebellious people of parable in Luke 19 who say, “We do not want this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14).
Again, at least one of you will say, That is not true of me! Oh, but it is. To live worthy of the gospel is far more demanding than I think you realize. Let us consider the implications of Christ as King.
1. Christ is More Important Than our Physical Freedom
Look first at Philippians 1:12-13:
12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.
Look at the middle of verse 12, see the words “what has happened to me” or as the NASB has it, “my circumstances” – by those words, Paul means, “falsely accused, imprisoned, potentially facing a death sentence”. When Paul weighs out prison against Christ being glorified, Christ’s glory outstrips it all.
In Acts 5:41 we read that the disciples of Jesus
left the presence of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
Christ has the right to demand our freedom; and yet we begrudge him our time. If we do not think the gospel is worthy of our inconvenience, how will ever think that the gospel is worth losing our physical freedom?
2. Christ is More Important Than our Rights and Honor and Status
Paul goes to mention those who bizarrely “preach Christ from envy and rivalry” (Phil. 1:15). By doing this, such people think they will somehow afflict Paul in prison (Phil. 1:17). This is a strange passage. Yet at the least it means that some people were seeking to dishonor Paul by stating that Jesus is Lord. Yet Paul was perfectly willing to suffer whatever insult they sought:
18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Philippians 1:18 (ESV)
In 1 Peter 4:4, Peter writes of friends and family and co-workers who slander and insult Christians on account of the claim of Christ. And of such slander Peter writes
13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13 (ESV)
In Chapter 3 of Philippians, Paul gives a long list of all his privileges and rights as a man – he calls this his confidence in the flesh.
At this point, I want you to make a mental tally: Start to up your reputation, your honor, your aspirations for work and home and school. Think of all the things you have and want – maybe your retirement account and investments, or perhaps you dreams for school or career or marriage. No one is listening on your thoughts so tell the truth.
Now gather up these things, these hopes these possessions and watch them burn:
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:8–11 (ESV)
If you are willing to have Christ as true King, if you are willing to live worthy of the Gospel, then you must believe in your heart of hearts that you would willingly lose everything for Christ’s sake – and do so with joy.
3. Christ is More Important Than Your Money
This important enough that we need to take a second look at stuff. When we think generally about our stuff, we have a tendency to give Christ some – but secretly we hold back a reserve. There is a couple mentioned in Acts 5: Ananias and Sapphira. They sold a certain parcel of land to give to ministry, but they held back a portion. Now it was not a sin to keep the land, and it was not a sin to not donate all their money. The trouble was the idol to money raised up in their hearts.
The pair wanted to give lip service to giving much to Christ – but they wanted to hedge their bets.
Now, you are saying, I am not like that? I would never have lied to Peter – ah, but they lied to the Holy Spirit, “You have not lied to man but to God” (Acts 5:4). Think of it, you have stood in church singing
I surrender all
I surrender all
All to thee my blessed Savior
I surrender all.
And yet, in your heart you have reserved a bit of protection in case God doesn’t come through. I am not saying that you must this moment give everything away. But I am saying that you at this moment must forever give up the pronoun “mine” and replace it with “his.”
In Luke 12, Jesus speaks of the rich fool. By every account, this man was prudent, wise and rich. He made his money and he kept his money – and his money was his ultimate protection:
20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:20–21 (ESV)
In Mark 10, we read of the rich young ruler who had perfectly kept the law. Jesus told the man to sell all that he had – for to live worthy of the Gospel, we must willingly give up all at Christ’s command. But the rich young man went “away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:22).
Jesus then explained to his disciples, ‘
25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:25 (ESV)
But to be rich is our dream – isn’t it? Shia Linne in his song “False Teachers” says:
Visualize Heretics christianizing the American dream
It’s foul and deceitful, they’re lying to people
Teaching that camels squeeze through the eye of a needle!
But beloved, that Christianized American Dream makes it through the church – in subtle ways.
Now you will say, I am not rich. Yes, but you are. All of us here have wealth and ease that the people who sat on the Mount while Jesus preached could never imagine. It only takes a little wealth settled down in the heart to sink a man to hell. The human heart is like a paper boat – as long as the wind blows it along, it does well. But as soon as a quarter is cast in, the whole drowns.
In James 2, James says that if you see your brother in need and you don’t use your money to help him, then you are one who has a worthless, dead faith: “What good is that?” James asks. What good is it to mouth Christ as Lord and then keep your stuff when you see a needy brother. “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).
John makes the same point in 1 John 3:17:
17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 1 John 3:17 (ESV)
Now, this does not mean that you must care for every poor person in the world – but you must care for every poor brother whom you see. Look at John’s words, “and sees his brother”.
James and John say that your claim to Christ stands in question when you have stuff your brother has need. Are you beginning to feel the radical weight Christ has laid upon your life?
4. Christ is More Important Than Your Life.
In the next section, Paul rights that he would willingly give up his life for Christ,
For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phil. 1:21
Now if Christ has the right to demand even your life, then Christ has the right to take everything short of your life. Christ has the right to require you to be beaten falsely and unjustly at work:
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 1 Peter 2:18–20 (ESV)
I want you to consider that baldly. Christ has the right, as your king, to subject you unjust abuse. Christ the right ask for your body. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20,
You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
While Paul is speaking specifically of God’s right to control your sexual behavior – and yes, as king, Jesus has the right to make demands of your sexual behavior – but Paul himself applies the principle to one’s work and freedom in 1 Corinthians 7:23. Since Christ has bought you, body and soul, you must give up your body as Christ sees fit.
Look at the end of Philippians 1, look down at verse 29:
29 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, Philippians 1:29 (ESV)
Do you have any idea what that means? Do you realize that part of the gift you received along with saving faith is suffering? That does not mean that someone else gets the suffering and you get the ease. Not at all. Christ has granted you suffering. He has the right to take your body, your life, your ease, your family, your possessions. All of it belongs to him – he can take it whenever he wants – and you must respond like David in Psalm 39:7:
9 I am mute; I do not open my mouth,
for it is you who have done it. Psalm 39:9 (ESV)
As the Puritans would say, You must kiss the rod which God uses to strike you.
5. Christ is More Important Than Your Relationships
Perhaps you have made it through the first series of test laid out by Paul in Philippians, but now turn to chapter 2. Paul first reminds them of all the good and comfort they have received in Christ. Then he lays commands them to realize that Christ is more important than their relationships or what they want to get out of their relationships:
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, Philippians 2:3–5 (ESV)
The command here is a command of love: You must truly love one another. It is important to remember: the command to love does not mean that you don’t have to love when you don’t feel like it. While it is more pleasant to love in action when the emotions carry us along, love is not limited to feeling like it.
There is someone at church whom you do not easily like. You don’t get to ignore the command to love, just because it will not be pleasant for you. If your brother – who is difficult in ways – is there, you must love him.
Look at how Paul describes love: You are not most important.
He gives two negative describes of what he means. First, you may not act from “selfish ambition”. Your personal desires can’t stop your obligation to love. Second, you must not look out only for your own interests. Obviously, you have obligations and you are elsewhere commanded to be prudent. But, you are forbidden from merely considering your own interest.
Paul then gives two positive aspects of love. First, you must in humility count others as more important than yourself. This means that when you look at situation and see your desires and your brother’s needs, you have put your brother first. Second, look out for the interests of others.
Let us consider what this means in practice: There is something you would like or need. There is something your brother or sister needs. You think, this would be very difficult for me to do. Love says, you must do it anyway.
Think about it: If Christ has the right to take your life and take your money – then surely he can require you to use a part of your life and a part of your money. If Christ can command you to love your enemies (Luke 6:27), then surely he can command you to show active to your brothers and sisters in Christ.
But I still fear that you don’t understand the true weight of this command. Look at the structure of chapter 2. Paul gives some reasons for his command, that is verses 1-2. Then Paul gives the command, that is verses 3-5. Paul then proves up the command by measuring it and placing it in the context of what Christ did for us.
The Son of God graciously appears among human beings to save us. That is the true measure and cause of our obedience. Peter says something similar in 1 Peter 2:21:
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (ESV)
The command that you love is measured by the love and obedience of Christ.
Now Paul wishes to make the importance of this command perfectly clear. Look down at verse 12 of chapter 2, go to the end of the verse,
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
He has been describing their duty to love. He then brings up this matter of fear and trembling. This is not light matter. Jesus is the end and lord of your relationships.
Jesus is more important than your immediate family. In Mark 3, Jesus’ mother and brothers and sisters come to take him out of a house. Mark writes in verse 21, “they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’” When Jesus heard his family were outside he said,
Here are my mother and brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my mother and brother and sister! Mark 3:35, ESV.
Later Jesus said, as recorded in Luke 14:26:
26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26 (ESV)
Do you see, to live worthy of the gospel means that Jesus is worth so much more than my life and family that even familial relations seem like hatred when compared to our love of Christ. This is a big deal for many Christians – they often sound more like Mormons who make a man’s family his saving grace, then Christians who work out their salvation with fear and trembling.
But you will say, But we are commanded to love our wives! But pay close attention to the command of Ephesians 5 – it is a command make disciples, it is a command for godliness. Husbands, love your wives – then in Ephesians 5:26-27 we get the goal, the wife’s sanctification. In Ephesians 6:4 we get the purpose of raising children, “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Your relationships, your marriage, your children, your friendships – they are not about you. Marriage is not about you loving someone and living happily ever after. It is about the Gospel.
All your relationships are about the Gospel.
What Then Shall We Do?
What does this mean? It means that the way you think about your life, and the way you think about church and your time and your money and your family and your friends all must be weighed and measured against the gospel.
When you look at this weight, you may just think – I cannot live up to that. True. Alone you can do nothing; but Christ has sent his Spirit. You must
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Phil. 2:12-13.
But see one thing more: Christ has given you his Spirit – but he has also given you one-another.
Remember the first of Paul’s letter to Philippi: He thanks them and prays for them, because they have been participating with him in the fellowship of the Gospel. Paul writes that God did not let Epaphroditus die to show mercy upon Epaphroditus and mercy upon Paul,
But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Phil. 2:27.
In Christian fellowship we give up life, and possessions and rights and relationships, but we gain more than we lose. In God’s economy, we are losers by hording. In the wilderness, the foolish man gathered too much manna and on the next day he found it filled with worms. The foolish Christian seeks to horde his money and time and family and life – foolishly thinking that he is prudent and godly. Such a man will find his hording has resulted in worms.
The economy of Christ is far different. For those who truly let Christ be king, the reward is great:
29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10:29–31 (ESV)