Contending for the Faith
Thus far in this letter to the church at Philippi Paul has thanked God for their participation in the ministry of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. He has expressed his confidence that God would complete the work that He had begun in them. He has prayed that their love would multiply and they would be filled with the fruit of righteousness. He has also shared his joy that the gospel is being preached because of his imprisonment.
I want to read this morning beginning with chapter 1 verse 21 where Paul talks about his desire to go home to be with the Lord and the fact that he knows he must remain for the benefit of the church. Read with me.
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.
In the next verse he turns back to what he wants from those he loves in the church at Philippi. They are in a very real sense his children. He has led them to faith in Christ and baptized them into the church of God. He has continued a close relationship with them during the intervening years. Pick up reading in verse 27:
27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved — and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
Paul says, “Whatever happens” - whether he lives or dies, whether he makes it back to Philippi or not he is praying for them and expresses here his hopes for these who are dear to him. He tells them to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Act in a way that is worthy of the gospel of Christ. Are you saved? Act like you are saved. Has God taken up residence in your soul? Live like He is there. In other passages of scripture Paul says our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God is living in us.
The God who created us and knows better than anyone why we are here lives with in us. The creator of the universe has taken up residence within us if we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior. WE have the grace of God, the gift of God, the presence of God Himself living in us.
Live like that is true.
He has a plan for each one of us. He wants us to know He loves us and wants to walk with us. He will lead you and guide you and bring glory and honor to His holy name.
But you have to cooperate with Him. You have to listen to Him. You have to choose to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul says to them, in essence, I am living for the gospel of Jesus Christ, telling the world about the love of God expressed in Jesus Christ. He tells them he may even have to give up his life because he is testifying about this great truth, but he is rejoicing that God is being glorified and the gospel is being preached because of his difficulties. He is asking them to join him in this ministry. He is asking them to realize that God also wants to use each of them to take the love of God to the whole world.
He would say the same to us today. Live as if you really believe that God loves every person around you. His Son died so that we could be restored to a relationship with Him. Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of this great news that there is life to be enjoyed in the presence of God because He loves us and does not want to condemn us to an eternity separated from His great love. Live like you mean it. Live like you really believe that is true.
If you do this, if you conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, then you will be living as one person. You will be standing “firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel”. This is the basis of unity in the church. We are here for one purpose. To Glorify God by making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that Christ commanded us.”
This is where the Spirit of God will lead us as we go forward together. United in one purpose and one goal, to see God honored. To do all we can do to see that everyone has the opportunity to join us in this endeavor, in this life of living for God and giving up the life lived in the flesh to allow Christ to live through us. Paul said elsewhere, “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me.”
If we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Jesus, we will be united in our efforts to live for Him and not for our own pleasure.
The unity of the body of Christ was so important to Jesus, it was the main part of this High Preistly Prayer that we have recorded in the 17th chapter of the gospel of John. He prayed again and again that His followers would be one as He and the Father are one.
We unite around the mission of the church. We unite when we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. We will give up our petty arguments and surrender to the leading of God's Holy Spirit as He works in us to bring more and more people into the Kingdom of God.
We will begin denying ourselves and taking up the work that He has for us to do. We will put off the old man who lives for the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, and begin living out the relationship that God is dying to have with each and every one of us.
The enemies of our souls will do all they can to keep us complacent and focused on the pleasures of this world that will only last a short time. The world will attract us to the things that have no eternal value. Satan and his minions will do all they can to keep us from standing up for Christ and proclaiming the good news to our neighbors that God loves them and wants to be part of their life.
The flesh, the natural person that thinks of itself most of all, will hold us back from living the fulfilling life of dedication to the purposes of God. There are so many good things out there that can keep us from focusing on what is best for us. We must contend for the faith of the gospel.
Contend. The sport of boxing calls its athletes contenders. Athletes contend for gold medals.
Who wins boxing matches? Who wins gold medals? It is those who work at it, who contend for it. Paul is calling us / No God is calling us to contend for the faith of the gospel. It is something we have to work at, to strive for. It has to take over our lives.
When an athlete wants a gold medal he cannot just sit and wait for the gold medal to come to him. He has to fight for it everyday. He has to overcome the lethargy that sets in when the muscles are sore from working out and practicing his sport.
To stay on the winning team in baseball, you have to have talent, but you also have to practice day after day after day.
To get to the place that you can play like Janet you have to devote yourself to learning music and practicing. Just going to music lessons once a week does not work. You have to practice every day. Those who are the best musicians play their instruments for hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.
Do you begin to get the idea of what Paul meant when he said to contend for the faith of the gospel?
This must become our way of life. We must practice our Christianity all the time. We must remind ourselves constantly why we have put our faith in God to save us. We are called to be His witnesses, demonstrating what it means to put our faith in God.
Sunday morning is just the beginning of our week. We gather here at the beginning to remind ourselves that God is on His throne and we live to praise and honor Him with our whole lives.
We gather here to sing the songs that give us the courage to contend for the faith of the gospel.
We gather here to remind ourselves and one another that He who began a good work in us will go on to complete. He will not leave us. He will not forsake us.
He loves me and He is my Lord
First, He loves me. Say that with me: He Loves Me
Second, He is my Lord. Say that with me: He IS MY LORD!!!!
Christianity is about living out those two truths. First, believing they are true and Second, acting like they are true.
If you have never accepted that God loves you and that He is the Lord of your life, I invite you now to come and kneel before Him and ask Him to come in and live with you.
If you have slipped away from living out these truths, I encourage you to come and kneel before Him to recommit yourself to following Him where ever He leads you.