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Series:  Philippians:  A Letter of Life in Jesus - Part Three

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
July 20, 2003

Please turn with me to Philippians 1 - starting at verse 27 and we will come there in a minute. As you’re turning let me share where we’re going this morning.

There were three Swedes who decided to take the train to see a soccer game in a nearby town. As it happened there were three Danes who also decided to take the same train to the same game. I realize I’m walking thin ice here. So, just chalk it up to being Armenian. It’s only a story.

At the train station the three Swedes buy three train tickets - one each - and then watch as the three Danes buy only a single ticket. One of the Swedes asked, “How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?”

“Watch and you’ll see” answers a Dane.

They all board the train. The Swedes take their respective seats. But all three Danes cram into a bathroom and close the door behind them. Shortly after the train leaves the station the conductor comes around collecting tickets. He knocks on the bathroom door and says, “Ticket please.”

The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor takes the ticket and moves on. The Swedes see this and agree it was quite a clever idea.

So after the game, they decide to copy the Danes on the return trip and save some money. When they get to the station, the Swedes buy a single ticket for the return trip. To their astonishment, the Danes don't buy a ticket at all.

“How are you going to travel without a ticket?” asks one perplexed Swede. “Watch and you'll see” answers a Dane.

When they board the train the three Swedes cram into a bathroom and the three Danes cram into another bathroom nearby. Once the train leaves the station, one of the Danes comes out of their bathroom - walks over to the bathroom where the Swedes are hiding - knocks on the door and says, “Ticket please.”

There’s an importance to working together towards a common purpose.

Paul writes - starting in verse 27: Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ,

Paul was man with a singular purpose. As Paul traveled around he was imprisoned on several occasions - including his first visit to Philippi. As he writes to the Philippians Paul is under arrest in Rome. He was beaten more times than he could remember. Whipped even by his own countrymen. In the city of Lystra he was stoned - dragged outside the city - and left for dead. Through all that Paul’s purpose never changed. Always his purpose was the forward progress of the Gospel - share the Gospel with others.

Paul’s call to “conduct worthy of the Gospel” - is his encouragement to those in Philippi who were also committed - even to physical death - committed to the same purpose of sharing the Gospel. “Conduct” - is how we live. “Worthy conduct” means that we live a life that reflects the life and character of our Savior Jesus - who gave His life for us. As Jesus died for the Gospel we are called to give all that we are to advance that Gospel.

conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent - whether I’m physically with you in the battle at Philippi or here in Rome - 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 no way alarmed by your opponents - which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.

Notice here that Paul - encouraging the Philippians - and us - Paul gives three descriptions of what Gospel worthy conduct looks like.

First - it means that - We stand firm in one spirit.

Remember the Chevy Truck commercials? Like a Rock. Chevy trucks built Chevy tough. Bolted and riveted and welded and super glued together. Nothing shakes the Church of Christ - rattles it - causes it to come apart. We stand firm together - not as individuals left to fend for themselves - individually getting picked off by the enemy. But in one spirit - as one person - one body - in solidarity together.

Second: We strive together for the faith of the Gospel.

We all have to speak southern for this - “y’all” strive together. Try that. “Y’all strive together.” Every “you” in these verses is plural. The Greek word for “striving together” has the idea of a team in a contest - striving together - working together - for a common goal.

People who stay home and watch “church” on TV - or keep themselves apart from the ministry and fellowship of the church - they miss this great reality of life in Jesus. Being on the same team together - supporting each other - helping each other - encouraging and building each other up - being concerned for each other - keeping each other moving forward in our relationship with Jesus. We need that kind of support - to have it and to share it. One mind set on one purpose - moving forward together in the life God promises us in Jesus.

Third - We are not alarmed by our opponents.

Paul emphasizes this truth in Romans 8 - writing about the worst assaults that Satan can send against us - tribulation, hardship, persecution, famine, poverty, danger, even death - Paul writes, “In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

Jesus said, “The gates of Hell itself cannot hold back My church.” (Matthew 16:18) When we stand firm striving together with one purpose - the bold forward motion of the church - proclaiming the Gospel - through the spiritual battlefield of this world cannot be stopped. Its our enemy - Satan - who needs to be alarmed.

Then - verse 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, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

This is the bottom line point Paul is making in verses 27 to 30. “Let me encourage you to conduct yourselves in a Gospel worthy manner because of the opportunity you have - just as I have - not only to know Jesus - but to suffer for Him.” Paul does not write as some great theologian - but as a comrade - with affinity and understanding - for his brothers and sisters who are in the same battle - with the same struggles - with the same purpose.

Satan attacked Paul in very visible ways. The Philippians may have been attacked differently. But the enemy - the battle - the purpose is the same. The bottom line issue is not how we relate to those outside the faith - or to those who come against us - attack us - the bottom line issue is how we relate to each other as brothers sisters in Christ - our conduct.

Have you seen the Capital One Credit Card commercial? An unsuspecting shopper is about to make purchase. In the background-behind the back of the shopper - hoards of barbarian warriors - looking liked Vikings - horned helmets - ragged fur clothing - with swords, spears, and shields - hoards of barbarians - representing high interest rates and all the horrible things that can happen to us if we use the wrong card - the barbarians are charging forward ready to attack this unsuspecting shopper. At the last second the shopper pulls out his Capital One Credit Card - with its low interest rates and great benefits. The barbarians defeated head off muttering, “Oh, darn.”

It would be so much easier for us if Satan would just fight fair. If the attack against us was as visible as a hoard of barbarians pillaging through the church. But, where we live our lives - the attack against us is much more subtle.

The attack comes from within - from our pride - our jealousy - as we focus on ourselves rather than God. It comes in those words we say that we wish we’d never said. Attitudes that appall even us. It comes as we allow any incursion - any attitude or action - to work its way between us. Satan attacking our life as a congregation - our homes - our families.

We need to be clear on this. Even though the attack is more subtle - the ferocity - the intent at our destruction - the enemy - Satan - is the same. We need to hear Paul’s call to “conduct worth of the Gospel”

In the last couple months we’ve concluded the sale of our Yosemite Avenue property. Among many things what that means is that God has blessed our congregation financially. Which is a cause for us to rejoice and give thanks to God. But, there’s a concern - because money can divide a congregation. The renovation of our facilities is moving forward. There’s nothing like a good building program to tear down a church. As we move forward together in ministry some changes are being made. There’s nothing like change to unsettle the balance in a congregation.

Its important - essential - with the forward motion of God’s ministry through us - with the potential of sharing the Gospel and supporting and encouraging each other as brothers and sisters in Christ - which God is doing and its exciting to be a part of - it is crucial that we recognize that Satan seeks to destroy us. That recognition isn’t so that we become fearful or alarmed. Because we have victory in Jesus. But, it is crucial that we covenant together that Satan shall not have his way here. That we will stand firm in one spirit with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel.

How do we do that? Chapter 2 - verse 1. This is Paul’s application - the “How do we do that” part.

2:1: Therefore - meaning because of everything Paul just wrote - therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

At first this sounds like a question. Are these things possible? But, Paul - in moving us to application - Paul is making a very powerful statement of fact. Without the question it sounds like this: “Even though we are in a spiritual battle - suffering together for Jesus - it is possible to be encouraged in Christ - to be consoled in Christian love - to have fellowship of the Spirit - affection and compassion. In order to have the same mind - the same love - to be united in spirit - intent on one purpose - here is what you need to do…”

Three practical points of application “How to do this.” The first is in verse 3: Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves

First: Regard the other person as more important that you.

Have you been in a church where every little thing that everyone does gets major recognition? If you haven’t been there offer a word of thanks to God. A person’s name appears in the annual report because they gave a dollar. So and so gets recognition for bringing flowers. This person get mentioned because they provided the napkins. We wouldn’t dare miss recognizing or complimenting or inviting someone because they’d get really bent out of shape and it might split the church.

So many churches struggle - are hindered in their witness and crippled in their fellowship - because we fall into the trap of serving for ourselves - of thinking of ourselves first - of taking our side - seeing our perspective - remembering wrongs suffered against us. Maybe 90% of church problems would be solved if we would just get off our own pedestals and learn - made a conscious choice - to value and put others first. That doesn’t mean that they are more important. It means that - in our thinking - we learn to value them as more important.

Second application point - verse 4 - Look out for the interests of others. Paul writes: do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Driving through Texas, a New Yorker collided with a truck carrying a horse. A few months later the New Yorker tried to collect damages for his injuries. “How can you now claim to have all these injuries?” asked the insurance company’s lawyer. “According to the police report, at the time you said you were not hurt.”

“Look,” replied the New Yorker. “I was lying on the road in a lot of pain, and I heard someone say the horse had a broken leg. The next thing I know this Texas Ranger pulls out his gun and shoots the horse. Then he turns to me and asks, ‘Are you okay?’” (1)

How does that saying go? “If you want to understand someone walk a mile in their shoes.” What Paul says goes even deeper than this. Beyond just understanding we need to feel what others feel - we personally take on their burdens - the concerns - the hurts - the expectations - what shapes their motivation - moves them to action.

Take a look at the person sitting next to you. Be brave. Do you know what they feel? Can it become a part of what concerns you. That’s the part of them that we need to champion - to protect - to care for - to look out for.

Third point - verse 5: Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.

Last Tuesday we went to the China Grand Buffet on Olive. Have you been there? Those words, “All You Can Eat” are an invitation to the sin of gluttony. I confess. I have sinned.

In the United States 80 plus percent of church growth comes as Christians switch from one church to another. As Christians move from one church to the next we hear things like, “We didn’t like the teaching.” “We didn’t like the worship.” “The people are like this” or, “The pastor was like that.” Various reasons for disappointment. The church is like a buffet. “All We Can Eat” - Christians picking and choosing whatever will please them. If this doesn’t please us then we move on to something that will.

There are legitimate reasons for moving from one congregation to another. But - what motivates us in our conduct as a congregation? As members of the Body of Christ?

The attitude of Jesus Christ that Paul is writing about here - he’s going to describe in verses 6 to 8 - which is what we’re going to look at in more depth next week. But, what we need to understand today - that attitude is the heart mindset that we need to have in ourselves - is the attitude that Jesus had in taking on human flesh - His willingness to give up everything - to die an undeserved death on the cross - for us - you and me. That’s the underlying mindset of everything Paul is writing about.

The third point of application is this: It’s not what we get from being here. Its what we give. Or, more accurately - what God gives to others through us - despite ourselves. We’re here to serve each other with the humility that drove Jesus to the cross. As Jesus died for the Gospel we’re called to give all that we are to advance His Gospel.

Last thought - notice that Paul writes “conduct yourselves” - its in the plural. We cannot do this on our own. Striving together for the Gospel is a group activity. How freeing - how joy bringing - how courage inspiring - if we could understand this. We are the Body of Christ - in enemy territory - yes. But, what a privilege to serve Him together.

1.  Reader’s Digest, July, 1994, page 64

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.