Heavenly Citizens: Standing Firm, Not Faint-Hearted

May 22, 2022

Speaker: Michael Dennis

Audio Download

Bible Passage: Philippians 1:27-30

Last week our church family as invited to serve Pillow Elementary in north central Austin to help with their Spring Fling and it was great. We had about 17 people from our church show up in a variety of contexts like face painting, donating drinks, ping pong toss, soccer shoot out; it was awesome!
We are thankful for everyone who came out to serve in the community, and this morning we are going to see God’s Word remind us why we are a church that engages the community, and we are going to see three sub-points; 1. Stand Firm. 2. Spunk. 3. Suffering. Let’s look at our first sub-point; 1. Stand Firm.
Stand Firm.
Philippians 1:27, “27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;”
In the context of the passage the Apostle Paul has been encouraged by the Philippian church. He has been praying for the Philippian church. In verse 12 Paul tells us he is in prison but in verse 26 Paul tells the Philippian church he isn’t discouraged about being in prison because he plans to see them again, so that at verse 27 the overall tone of
the letter begins to change.
In verse 27 we see the focus of the letter change from the Apostle Paul to a charge for the people in the Philippian church. Do you see it? Don’t look at me, look at God’s Word. Circle that word “only.” The word “Only” means “above all.” It is language of a warning. It is language to grab one’s attention so as to say, “look over here.” It is to clap our hands together and say, “Listen to me.” Listen about what?
In verse 27 there is a charge to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” This is language that the Apostle Paul uses in his letter to the Ephesians, Colossians, and Roman churches so that when we see repetition in God’s Word we should lean in and listen.
First this word “conduct” in the original language is around “character of a citizen.” Does that make sense? It is like how we have reputations as people from different countries around the world. People from the United States are known to be loud and opinionated around the world. People from Germany are known to be neat and orderly around the world. People from Singapore are known to be entrepreneurial. People in Austin is known for “keeping things weird.”
Therefore, the Apostle Paul calls out, “As citizens of heaven, what is your reputation?” What do people say about you at work? What do people say about you as neighbors? Collectively as a church family, when people visit our church family, what do they say about our church family?
The words “standing firm” is military language. The words “standing firm” is of a soldier who has entrenched himself in a position as the commander cries out, “Hold the line.” Stand firm! Stand firm in what?
In one spirit, one mind, and striving together for the faith of the gospel. The language of “one spirit and one mind” has the connotation of unity and clarity. Write that in your notes. Unity and clarity around the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Let’s look at our second sub-point; 2. Spunk.
Spunk.
Philippians 1:28, “28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.”
The word “alarmed” has a connotation of horses being skittish on the battlefield. It is another military term in the context of the passage. God’s Word is using military language because as follower of a Jesus we are absolutely in a spiritual battle. Did you know that?
When you get home at the end of your day, and you’re tired it isn’t just because of physical and mental activity? As a church family in north central Austin we are in a spiritual battle every day and verse 28 reminds us that as a follower of Jesus we absolutely have “opponents.”
In our context today, we have opposition around biblical sexuality. Our country use to have “freedom of religion” but our culture is absolutely against a biblical view of sexuality. We have opposition around identity politics. Our culture is trying to bracket people into groups and then pit those groups against one another. If you are a woman you have to be skeptical of men. If you are a person of color, you have to be skeptical of white people. If you are a follower of Jesus you have to be Republican, you probably follow QANON. Opposition is everywhere!
As a result, there is a “ruffling of feathers” taking place right now as opposition presses in, but God’s Word reminds us, “You who are in Christ, be not alarmed by the opponents of our day.” Why? Look at verse 28. It is two-fold.
First the follower of Jesus doesn’t need to be alarmed because the opposition of our day is simply a sign of destruction for them. Did you follow that? When a person or an ideology opposes Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection it is a futile cause.
How so? It’s because there is only one conclusion for those who oppose Jesus. It is destruction. Those words aren’t meant to be mean but loving. Therefore, if Jesus is King of Kings and we are with Him, then salvation is for you. Do you see that? Verse 28 is a binary conclusion that gives us confidence. We are either for Him or against Him. There is no middle ground. Matthew 12 Jesus says, “You are either with Me or against Me.” You’re either a friend of Jesus or an enemy of Jesus. Let’s look at our last sub-point; 3. Suffer.
Suffer.
Philippians 1:29-30, “29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”
These two verses are about to blow our minds, because these two verses are going to give us a completely different perspective on suffering. I am so happy you’re here today. These are such important verses.
Notice that key word “granted” in verse 29. The word “granted” means “to give freely.” The first of verse 29 is about faith and belief in Jesus so we love that the God of Scripture has given faith freely, right?
None of us have established our own faith in Jesus. None of us were able to drum up our own faith in Jesus. None of us are righteousness on our own, for we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory but in His grace, He has granted, He has given freely our faith to believe in Jesus. Praise God!
But verse 29 clarifies, it isn’t just faith in Jesus that we are given freely, but also to you who are in Christ it has been “granted” for us to suffer for His sake. Do see that at the end of verse 29? How come those pastors on television never teach on verse 29?
In verse 29, and I don’t know if I fully understand it, but verse 29 is teaching the suffering we experience in life, the opposition we experience in life, the hardship we experience in life is a gift of God’s grace in our life.
Stay with me, watch this part of the message on YT over and over because God’s Word is so helpful to us this morning. Our immediate thought on life is that God’s role in our life is to protect us from suffering, opposition, hardship but verse 29 is teaching that our suffering in life is a gift of God’s grace in our life. How’s that possible?
It’s because the God of Scripture knows our hearts and minds will easily latch on to the sparkly things of this world that will not last. We don’t just love romance; we give up everything for romance. We don’t just love our careers we become work acholic. We don’t just love our hobbies, we become obsessive. We don’t just eat food, we become gluttonous. Our hearts and minds will latch on to the things of this world and they won’t last, and the Lord knows they won’t last. We know they won’t last.
Relationships come and go. Careers come and go. Hobbies are great until we get old and our bodies fade, our minds fade. The economy is up and down. The politicians are hit and miss. The things of this world are fleeting, and the Lord knows the things of this world are fleeting.
Therefore, listen to me, the God of Scripture, the creator of all things will absolutely bring the gift of suffering into our life, not because He hates us, but because He loves us and He wants to show us that He is the only part of life that we can hold on to for eternity, therefore, the Apostle Paul writes, “29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”