Read Matthew 21:1-11 (and note that Jesus wept when he looked over Jerusalem)
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, (Phil. 1:27) Just as Jesus strolled up in Jerusalem, so we are to stroll up in our neighborhoods and circles of life with a life that is worthy of the gospel. Ambassador: truth of the gospel united with love for people…Represent!
Phil 1:27: This is a huge statement. We must remember that Philippi was a Roman city that was created to be a retirement home for Roman soldiers who got too old to serve in the military… this city would be full of the equivalent of retired military vets in Texas who put bumper stickers on the back of their cars that say: “Don’t Mess With Texas!” They have an arsenal of weaponry that could take over the city. You tracking with me?
Paul is also making a parallel between what would be on the top of the Philippians’ minds as they read “Only let your manner of life be”; in Greek it’s only two words: mónon politeuesthai,
Mónon is an adverb that can mean “only”, “simply”, “whatever happens” or “just one thing”; and politeuesthai which shares its root from the Greek word “polis”, which means “city”. So “politeuesthai” is referring to being a citizen of a state.
So Paul is essentially saying with this short phrase: “Whatever happens, remember one thing, just as Philippi is a colony of Rome, so to is the church a colony of heaven; therefore, live in light of the gospel of Christ which makes you more of a citizen of heaven (Phil. 3:20) than a citizen of Rome.” This gets people killed in city’s like Philippi.
“Here Paul challenges his beloved Philippians with a ‘counter-citizenship whose capital and seat of power are not earthly but heavenly, whose guarantor is not Nero but Christ’” (Bockmuehl).
These retired Roman guards and families of these guards were enjoying protection and provision from their kyrios (lord) Caesar. But those in the Philippian church were subject to the only true Kyrios (Lord), Jesus Christ, in whom every knee (including Caesar’s) will bow and every tongue will confess (Phil 2:10-11) that Jesus is the One True Lord.
So what does this manner of life, this citizenship look like? The next 33 verses Paul uses to flesh out what he means. We will only cover the next 3 today: so that whether I come and see you or am absent (Paul wants them to act the same whether he is there looking over their shoulder or not), I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side (sunathléō; “sun” means along with; sunathléō means to compete, this is where we get the word athlete) for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.
Christians who had the courage to stand for Christ and declare to the Romans that they are “first” citizens of heaven were declared to be “un-Roman” and essentially an enemy of the state and disruptive of public order. This is why there was public, wide-spread persecution of the early church and this is a major occasion of this letter.
Paul says here that their unity in the Gospel will advance God’s good news as his people labor together in love and faithfulness towards each other, but it will also be a sign to their opponents (those who oppose Jesus) of their coming judgement for their neglect of God, while it will serve as church’s assurance of eternal salvation.
28b This is a clear sign to them of their utter lostness (and they may turn to Christ once they see that clear sign), but of your salvation (after death), and that from God (being that if it is from God, then it is secure).
The way the Philippians lived their lives was of utmost importance. It was not this grace that set them free to live however they like. No! Rather, this grace, this gospel, makes them worthy of eternal acceptance before God Almighty, and in turn, compels (2 Cor. 5:14) them to defend (side by side) the gospel…and live radically different!
Paul now follows up his exhortation with an irreducible connection between the way they are to live, and the life they are to expect in return:
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, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Let me translate a little better for you what Paul just said and means here from the Greek. Paul uses the word “charisthḗsomai” which comes from the word “charis”; which means grace. So “charisthḗsomai” means to give or grant graciously and generously, with the implication of good will on the part of the giver.
So in other words, Paul says: “For it’s been graciously and generously given to you on behalf of Christ, that you should not only believe in Jesus, but also suffer for his sake. Philippians, you don’t only get the privilege of coming to faith in Christ, but you also get to suffer for Christ as well!”
This isn’t how we normally offer gracious and generous words. This is a whole new way of living and Paul is intentionally writing this as a loving father would write to his children on how to truly live and experience joy in life. This is a whole new ethos!
Let me note though, that our suffering cannot add to the atonement of Christ. Rather it can serve as an assurance of the grace you have received from Christ, as before you were saved by grace, you never would have had the grace and strength to suffer for anything in life.
This should not be news to any of us though. Jesus warned and taught often of the suffering His followers would endure. Jesus told his disciples in John 15:20: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. And later in this same discourse from Jesus, He says: In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33b).
In Mark 8:34b Jesus tells His disciples: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. This is a death sentence to first century ears. To take up your cross to their ears 2000 years ago would mean to carry a cross-beam on your shoulders, to walk (or crawl) to the place of execution, and give your life up to be brutally nailed to that beam and hung up in front of all to see you in shame.
Now we know that this was a metaphorical picture of what Christ is asking of us to do internally as He internally gave us new and living hearts and His own righteousness.
So as believers, we are to daily give up all hopes of accomplishing or pursuing self-driven interests, to lay ourselves and our desires down before Jesus and have Him align your will to His will.
This is discipleship: “Giving up what you cannot keep, to gain what you cannot lose.” Many of us listen to this and think, “Paul and Jesus surely didn’t mean that this would continue. That message was for the disciples or the Philippians, but now we are more civilized these days. What kind of suffering are we to face, or going to face?”
I would like to say that it was only given to the apostles or the early church to suffer this way, but this is simply not the case. DA Carson, in his commentary on Philippians says that “Missiologists who track these things tell us that the greatest period of gospel expansion has been the last century and a half. That same century and a half has witnessed more Christian martyrs than the previous 1800 years combined.” (57)
We are called not just to believe on Christ but also to suffer for him, for it is in the face of suffering that we stand next to the cross and gaze upon Jesus the Christ. This is God’s tool for raising up his followers. How could one be arrogant, dry, apathetic, or disconnected from Jesus and His people when they are standing next to the cross of Christ?
Suffering brings us face to face with Jesus and to the foot of the cross. The atonement that Christ accomplished on the cross is the only thing that is able to cause us to cheerfully make self-denying choices out of a heart of worship, instead of it just being the right thing to do.
As Paul would tell Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Alright, let’s bring all of this full circle as we close and see how this passage bears on us at Kineo in 2012, this morning:
Christian, you are a citizen of heaven! Through faith in Christ, you are a son/daughter of the King. You have been marked by a new heart and sealed into God’s heavenly kingdom by His Spirit. Let your life match outwardly that which is a reality inwardly.
Those who claim citizenship in heaven and never have their lives match outwardly what has taken place inwardly (to some degree at least), will sadly find out one day that they were never truly citizens of God’s kingdom.
Is that you this morning? Do not assume God’s grace applies to you if you are living for this world or yourself. Confess your sin, repent and turn to Jesus for redemption. If you are a redeemed child of God, but not living in line with the gospel, be honest with yourself. Let Jesus reach into your life and grow you up.
Consider how Jesus grew: Luke 2:52: And Jesus increased in wisdom (intellectual) and in stature (physical) and in favor with God (spiritual) and man (social and emotional). Jesus grew as a citizen of heaven grows. How are you in the area of intellectual growth.
Intellectual: Are you growing in the knowledge of God and his word. How much time do you put in to learn about your savior vs. other things that peek your interests? Maintain a consistent reading program…be a learner. Take classes somewhere or commit to Surge for a year. Ask to be mentored, commit to a study or a group of men or women who are committed to growing up and maturing as believers.
It’s a huge privilege we have to be able to read, write, think and speak freely. The problem is, we have more people coming out of high school and college who can’t critically read, write or think, outside of what they had shoveled to them. If you can’t do any of those, then what can you do…and don’t tell me you can play video games…
Physical: What about physically? Is your money under control, or is it controlling you. What about your material possessions? How about your sex life or your sexuality? What are your eating habits like? Do you exercise? How well do you sleep? Do you over work? Don’t brag about not drinking or smoking and protecting your temple if you’re burning late night hours and over working. You are not fooling any one with your appearance of righteousness.
We should not neglect our physical bodies. After all it is our body and soul’s that will be redeemed ultimately, so we should model that as best we can. Where do you need to grow up more physically? Identify it. Expose it. Get help with it. Don’t allow it to remain hidden because of shame or fear and inevitably master you. You should only be mastered by One.
Social and Emotional: Who are your friends? Who you running with? Are they Judaizers or Gentiles who mock righteousness and destroy the flesh, or are you running with the Timothy’s and Epap’s of the world? Do you have friends who aren’t believers? Do you love people and show kindness only to witness to people, or do you really care for them? Enrich your circle of friends and don’t be scared of people who are different. Give of yourself emotionally and let others speak into your life. Be humble and compassionate. Be yourself, confess your sins regularly, and let people “truly” know you. This is why it’s important as to who your Christian friends are.
You cannot live a gospel-centered life alone. You can’t live a gospel-centered life while being disconnected from God’s people. This means you gotta go on your own journey and begin to grow up emotionally so you can labor along side other hurt people without being so hurt by their hurtfulness. Paul writes to the local church in Philippi: Stand firm in one spirit. Have one mind among you. Strive side by side for the faith of the gospel.
This was a huge part of Jesus’ prayer for us in John 17:22-23: 22 The glory that you (Father) have given me (Jesus) I have given to them (us), that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Spiritual – The Gospel: As you live as citizens of heaven, you will adore the gospel of Jesus and grow in your intimacy with Jesus. And it is the very gospel of Jesus (when you encounter it face to face in an intimate way) that will compel you to live like a citizen of heaven. And here is the gospel in a nutshell:
You are more sinful and evil and wicked than you ever dared believed, but you are more valued and accepted and loved than you ever dared hoped, both at the same time only by faith in Jesus that He lived the life you couldn’t live and died the death you should’ve died, as your substitute in your place, so that God can receive you not for your record and for your sake, but for Jesus’ record and for Jesus’ sake.
And this is to be proclaimed to all nations! (Luke 24:46-49: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”)
This is part of the role of suffering. God has appointed suffering of believers for His glory and our good. Suffering bringing us to the end of ourselves, and that is where we see Jesus more clearly. He is jealous for us, so suffering is activated in our lives so we long for Jesus more and grow spiritually.
And here’s the crazy thing…when we suffer and we catch a glimpse (or many glimpses) of God’s beauty and majesty, the pain of suffering isn’t removed, but the purpose of our suffering is revealed and the joy of our salvation is more fully realized than any other time in our lives. Oh that we would suffer well and that we would see the beauty and majesty of Christ and live a life abandoned for Him more and more.
Go ahead and start working on these things knowing that Jesus covers you where you fail. Don’t let failure freeze you. Let me pull a little Jesus on you: Consider the babies, in a crib, watching these larger babies walking to and fro with beautiful kinetic motion and they say to themselves, “I can do that.” So behind the prison bars called the crib, they learn to climb out only to find that they fail constantly at modeling that beautiful kinetic motion, but they keep at it, and here you are today, walking beautifully. Some of you can even do it in your sleep…literally! So go for it, grow up, act like a citizen of heaven and not fornicator throwing your jewels to the next thing that looks cool.