How Then Should We Live Part One
Bible Text: Philippians 1:27-30 | Pastor: Craig Wilson | Series: Philippians |
In 1976, some 44 years ago, a man, a Christian author by the name of Francis Schaffer, wrote a book that asked the question of believers, “How Should We Then Live?” Now the book, and the question that he asked, arose from his observation and understanding of what was going on in the culture at that time and what he saw was taking place throughout Western civilization. And while many believers were completely oblivious to the pace of change and the pace of decline that was taking course in our society, he saw it coming. He understood that it was just the first of many changes that would come and that there would be even more seismic shifts, if you will, in the future.
A few years ago either 2016, or 2017 Dr. Albert Mohler was writing about Francis Schaffer and he said this “He [Dr. Schaefer] was also asking precisely the right question. How should we then live? That question which troubled Schaffer so much in 1976 troubles all of us now. We’re about to find out if Christians in this generation are going to believe and live authentic, biblical Christianity.” And Dr. Mohler asked the question, how will we live now?
How Then Should We Live
Why would Francis Schaffer ask that question? Why would Albert Mohler ask that question? And we can go back 2000 years and ask why did the Apostle Paul ask the same question. Here’s the reason why. How we live matters. Paul understood this. That’s why he instructed the believers in Phillippi to live in a Christ-honoring, gospel-honoring way.
Now let’s think this through. What happens when the grace of God brings a person to faith in Christ. What happens when our lives are touched by God’s grace? Nothing? A little something? Or does a radical change take place? Well, the Bible would say that when a person comes into saving contact with the grace of God, a radical and dramatic change takes place in that person’s life. I mean, let’s think about this. Before God’s grace intervened in our lives, the Bible describes us as being in a state of spiritual death. But once we come in contact with the saving grace of God, we pass from death unto life. In fact, Jesus calls it “abundant life” (John 10:10). Before God’s grace intervened in our lives, we were slaves to sin. We were slaves to our bodily passions. We were slaves to the desires of our flesh. We were slaves to our emotions. Before God’s grace intervened in our lives, we lived in fear of death. We had absolutely no hope for the future. Before God’s grace in our lives, nothing about us was acceptable to a holy, righteous God. But when the Holy Spirit drew us to Christ and granted us the twin gifts of repentance towards God and faith in Christ, everything about us changed. The Bible says that we became new creations. The Bible says “the old has passed away and the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17).
So I ask you, does your life reflect this kind of radical change? Not that you are perfect, but fundamentally, are you different from the person that you were before you came to Christ? Your affections should be different. Your attitudes should be different. Your action should be different. your desires, your purpose in life, all those things should be different. And if they’re not different, please do the wise thing and ask yourself, “Am I truly in Christ? Have I truly been converted? Has there been an inward change or am I just conforming to some external standard? Am I living up to my own standard of righteousness?”
So I ask you, does your life reflect this kind of radical change?
Paul, here in the text, draws on two images that the people of Philippi would have been very, very familiar with. One is the image of being a citizen, which we’ll look at this week. And the other image is that of being part of the Roman military. And we’ll examine that next week.
So the first image that Paul draws on is their citizenship. Remember that Philippi was a colony of Rome. It was some 800 miles or so from Rome but they were very loyal to Rome. Now, Rome, different from our country, the United States, in that, just because you were born in Rome or in a colony of Rome, that did not mean that you are automatically a citizen of Rome. Here in the United States. If a person is born on United States soil, they are automatically a citizen of the United States. But that wasn’t the case in Rome. Say, “well, how did you become a citizen of Rome?” Well, you could purchase it, or it could be conferred upon you, you could be granted citizenship. You remember Paul with his dealings with the Philippian jailer told the Philippian jailer that he was indeed a Roman citizen and Philippian jailer said “well, I am too but it cost me a great deal of money in order to become a citizen.”
So, to be a Roman citizen, was a great source of pride for those who were indeed, Romans. Roman citizenship was coveted as a prize. To be a citizen of Rome meant that you had rights and privileges as well as responsibilities, that those who weren’t citizens of Rome didn’t have. And a citizen of Rome was to live in a manner that was worthy of the name of being a Roman. Roman citizens were to recognize that to obey the laws of Rome, they were to be loyal to Rome, they were to, yes pay their taxes to Rome.
So Paul draws on their understanding of what it means to be a citizen of Rome to teach the believers of Philippi to teach the church of Philippi that although they may have been citizens of Rome, not all of them probably were, but for those who were and the others would have been familiar with the concept, they were also citizens of heaven. They were first and foremost citizens of heaven, and therefore, their lifestyle should be a reflection of their true citizenship. In fact, later in the letter in chapter 3, verse 20, Paul reminds them “but our citizenship is in heaven.”
And by the way, this is just an aside. As you focus on becoming the best citizen of heaven that you can be, you will automatically become a better citizen of the country where you hold your citizenship. Okay? That’s Paul’s whole point. I’ll say this dozen of times. Paul’s whole point is: focus on the fact that you are first and foremost citizens of heaven and you are citizens of Rome, a distant second, okay?
We are citizens of heaven!
So since we are citizens of heaven, and that means that our lifestyle should be governed by and should conform to the mandate of God’s kingdom. Now, I realize that when you hear a statement like that, it’s very possible that you immediately begin to think negatively. You think, “Oh, well, here goes another sermon about ‘gotta do this. You got to do that. Don’t do this. Don’t do that.'” That’s not what Paul’s driving at here at all. The reality is, and I’m afraid we don’t focus on nearly enough as believers, there are so many positives and privileges of being a Christian, or being a citizen of heaven, that it seems like we rarely ever focus on. Perhaps even more rarely are they ever preached upon. But let’s not miss that. Since our citizenship is in heaven, what Paul is saying is, that must be you’re, not just your primary focus in life, your only focus in life.
Let me show you where I get this. Look at verse 1, “only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ so that whether I come and see you or I’m absent, I may hear of you that you’re standing firm in one spirit with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” The first thing that Paul says is: ‘Whether I’m there or not, you need to live the right way.’ It’s a real sign of spiritual immaturity if you can only act right when the preachers around. Right? So Paul says ‘whether I’m there or not if I get released from prison, I’m coming back to you if I don’t, if I’m executed in prison, obviously I won’t be coming back. but whether I’m there or not, this is the way you must live.’ Okay? So when Paul says only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, He is calling us to make a concerted effort, to focus on our citizenship which is in heaven. Not our earthly citizenship, but our heavenly citizenship.
Now, one important phrase is “manner of life.” It translates a Greek word that has to do with being a good citizen. So Paul uses a bit of wordplay here. ‘He says even though you live in Philippi, even though you are a citizen of Philippi, even though you may take great pride in being a citizen of Philippi never forget that you are first and foremost, also a citizen of heaven and therefore, you should be a good citizen of heaven,’ if I could say it that way. You should pay attention to your responsibilities because you’re a citizen of heaven, but you should also pay attention to your privileges because you are a citizen of heaven.
So let’s think this through. The Church of Philippi, as we’ve seen earlier, was under a great deal of pressure, they were being persecuted for their faith in Christ. Now, what happens in our lives, in our hearts and our minds, when we have some kind of external trouble? Isn’t that where we always focus our time and attention on? That’s where our thoughts always go to? We’re always focused on the problem. The tyranny of the moment takes over, the tyranny of the urgent. Somebody says something to us and that’s all we can think about. Somebody does something to us and that’s all we can think about.
Don’t give others emotional power over you!
I told Ben here a few weeks ago, I have come to the point in my life where I do not grant anybody emotional power over me. I will not do it. You are not going to control the way that I think, the way that I act, the way that I live. Try as you might, it ain’t happening. You’re wasting your time. And I would encourage you to do the same. Do not give people emotional power over you. Why would you want to do that? The only person that I’m going to give emotional power over me is the Lord Jesus Christ through the person of the Holy Spirit. Other than that, I’m not going to do it. But so many Christians, what do they do? They just can’t get over something. Sometimes it happens decades ago.
I remember making a call on an older lady at that time. She was in her late 70s, early 80s. And she was still battling something that took place in her childhood. And I felt for her. My heart broke for her and I thought, where does your faith in Christ come in and all of this?
I know, it’s easy to focus on that kind of stuff. And I realize that we as a church today, we’re not experiencing persecution as a church at Philippi was. I’m not drawing that kind of analogy at all. But just look at how much ink has been spilled and how much discussion has taken place about what the governor of this state can do, the governor of that state can do and what they can or cannot tell the church to do. And here’s the problem: that has become the focus of far too many Christians. We’ve got our focus all out of whack. We’ve become single-minded on really something that in the grand scheme of things is not going to matter. Yes, we’re inconvenienced at the moment. Yes, we don’t like the way things are at the moment, but it is what it is.
And listen, believer, beloved, you’re rebelling against God when you keep complaining about the situation because God in His sovereignty has brought this into our lives. Go ahead and complain. Go ahead and fuss and fume. Go ahead and do all that you want, I’ve done my share. But you know what? I realized I got tired of banging my head against the wall and God wasn’t given in.
And don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be concerned about intrusion into the church. What I am saying is that even if it does happen, that should never become our focus.
And I’ve been emphasizing for the past couple of weeks in various ways that we are first and foremost citizens of heaven. My citizenship in heaven must override my earthly citizenship. But I’m afraid far too many believers have reversed the order. It seems to me they’re far more concerned about their earthly citizenship, then they are their heavenly citizenship. Do you know what that just says? You just told me where your heart’s at. We must never forget who we are. We must not let ourselves become distracted, we must maintain our focus that we are citizens of heaven. And because we are citizens of heaven, we must live in a manner that reflects our identity.
Focus on your heavenly citizenship
Now, the underlying Greek word that is translated “only” here is the word from which we get the prefix mono- which means “single.” Does everybody know what a monocle is? If you’re a fan of classic TV you know, that’s what Colonel Klink wore on Hogan’s Heroes. He had a monocle. I know some of you are going to have to google it, to figure out what I’m talking about. But that’s a monocle. When a politician stands up and he gives a speech, it’s a monologue. When a comedian does his bit it’s a monologue. In many ways, a sermon is a monologue. It’s it’s one-sided it’s just coming from one person.
So Paul says, be single-minded. Paul says, ‘believer this has to be the single focus of your life. Believer. This excludes everything else.’ Let’s just think it through. Now, he says “only,” “only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel.” In other words, everything else, by definition is excluded. If this is the single focus on my life, guess what everything else is excluded. Do you see how the Bible makes things really rather simple in life sometimes? Just focus on who we are. Focus on the assignments that God has given us to do. So, focus on this. Pay attention to this. Paul says don’t let anything distract you. Don’t use anything else as an excuse for not focusing on this. Paul says there’s one thing and there’s one thing only and that’s what you and I are to focus on. Make sure you are single-minded.
So I have to ask you, when is the last time you thought about your heavenly citizenship? I would be shocked if someone could stand up and honestly say that in the past four or five months, I’ve not thought about my American citizenship at all. I’d be shocked. I might be more shocked if I would ask you to stand up and say when’s the last time you thought of your heavenly citizenship?
When is the last time you thought about your heavenly citizenship?
Make sure that the way that you live, Paul says, the decisions you make, the choices you make, the values you hold, the actions you take, are consistent with your heavenly citizenship. Sadly, today the lives of many who profess faith in Christ don’t seem to be much different than the unbelieving world. We entertain ourselves the same way the unbeliever does. We spend our time the same way the unbeliever does. Our values seem to mirror those of the unbelieving world. Our priorities seem to be those of the unbelieving world. Paul reminds us that ‘hey, you’re a citizen of a much higher kingdom, a much greater Kingdom live like it.’ What Paul is saying is, we should live as the gospel deserves. That’s what the word worthy means is deserves. We should live in a manner that is deserving of the gospel. We want to adorn the gospel. We want to make the gospel look good.
I wonder do you really value the gospel? Remember, it’s not just the gospel it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember the gospel was given to you as a gift of God’s grace. You didn’t deserve it. You couldn’t do anything to earn it. God, purely by His grace, gifted you the gospel. Remember the gospel cost the Son of God his life.
Again, we didn’t deserve the gospel but, God in His grace, we were given the gospel and what does God ask us to return? Now if you’ve tuned me out up to this point, tune me back in for just a couple minutes, because if you don’t you’ll blow things up. What does God ask us in return? Because he has saved us. What does he ask us in return? Now, this is after-the-fact. I’m not saying God’s asking any of you in order to be saved. I’m not talking about some kind of work-salvation or earning your salvation. I’m asking you is what does God ask of you now that you are a Christian? He asks us to live lives worthy of the gospel. Is that too much to ask?
Live lives worthy of the gospel
Now I know that can be a dangerous statement to make because it could be misinterpreted, and people could see that as some kind of a burden. “I have to live a life worthy of the gospel. But that’s why I needed the gospel because I wasn’t worthy of the gospel. Now you’re telling me to go back and live a life worthy of the gospel. This seems to be a tremendous burden. I thought this was all taken off of me.” Well, don’t take Paul’s words as a challenge to live up to the gospel, but rather to live out the gospel. To try and live up to the gospel is to take on a burden that you can’t handle and you can’t satisfy but to live out the gospel is within your reach by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So what does it mean to live out the gospel? Let me give just a couple of things. We should live, First of all, as people of grace, we should live as people who have experienced grace and are therefore quick to give grace. An ungracious Christian is one of two things. An ungracious Christian is an oxymoron or they’re not really a Christian. We have too many people walking around claiming to be Christians who are very, very ungracious people. They show no grace in their lives. They’re quick to condemn. Quick to nitpick. Quick to point out every flaw.
Someone said to me in the first service. “You taught me something.” And really before I thought, I said, “Oh, I didn’t know you were teachable.” That’s what ungracious people are like. They’re not teachable. And I really believe the reason that they don’t show grace is that they’ve never experienced grace. We should live as those who have been forgiven and therefore we’re quick to forgive those who have hurt us and betrayed us. Again an unforgiving Christian against an oxymoron.
I can’t speak for you but when I think of this word “worthy,” I immediately think of something of value. It’s worth something. So I wonder, do we treat our salvation as the most valuable possession that we own? Or do we treat it like a fire insurance policy? You know, you get that thing and you hide it away someplace and hope you never have to use it. Not very valuable, but you’ve got it. Do we recognize the value of the gospel? The writer Hebrews declares that we have “such a great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3). The Apostle Peter writing about our redemption said we were ransomed not with perishable things such as gold and silver (1 Peter 1:18). I mean, when you talk to people in this world, gold or silver, that’s something that’s very valuable. The prices keep going up and people want in on gold and they want in on silver. They see that as something that’s a great value. And Peter says that’s nothing. We weren’t ransomed with those kinds of things we were ransom with the precious blood of Christ.
And I think one way to help us to recover a sense of the value of the gospel is by reminding ourselves of what our life would be like both now and in the future apart from the Gospel. Perhaps we have been saved for decades and we really never take the time anymore to think about where we would be apart from Christ. We never take the time to think about what our lives would be like if we had never been rescued by God.
Here’s just a couple of things for you to think about, we would have absolutely no hope. We’d have no hope. We’d have nothing to look forward to. And we see this in the attitude of so many today “eat, drink and marry for tomorrow we die.” No hope, no meaning, no purpose. We would have plenty to fear, such as sickness and death and we see this it’s rampant in our society. The unbeliever may not know it, but we are under the wrath of God and facing the judgment of God. We would be filled with anxiety and not peace. We wouldn’t have much of a purpose in life. We would never know the satisfaction and joy that comes from our relationship with Christ. And upon death, we would never again experience the love of God, only the judgment of God. That’s just a few of the things that would be true of us if we were not in Christ. That shows the value of the gospel. And many times we simply can’t appreciate the value of something until we don’t have it. But we do have it. Let’s think it through and value it and appreciate it.
Why should we walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ? Well, the answer is in that question, because it’s the gospel of Christ. It’s not the gospel of man. It’s not some fairy tale. It’s not something made up. This is the work of God, that required the death of His Son that he loved more than anything else. It’s the gospel of Christ. Live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. It’s Christ’s gospel. Our heavenly citizenship should be reflected in the way that we interact with one another, particularly our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to remember that we are fellow citizens in God’s kingdom. And Paul’s desire was for them to understand who they were, they’re citizens of heaven so that they would be sufficiently informed and thereby sufficiently motivated to live out who they are.
But let’s go back to our original question. How then should we live? Well, let’s answer that question by asking and answering another question. What is a Christian? A Christian is a citizen of heaven. Have you ever thought about those terms? Have we drawn some false lines? “Well I’m a citizen of heaven, that’s something that’s going to happen in the future. That’s something that’s going to happen when I die.” Np you’re a citizen right now.
What is a Christian?
The moment I was born in Mariemont Ohio, doesn’t matter when I became a citizen of the United States. The moment you were born, born again by the Spirit of God, you at that moment became a citizen of heaven, live like it. It’s been granted to you. You are a Philippian in Rome and someone has conferred citizenship on you. I’m a pagan in this world. And God the Father has conferred salvation upon me through Jesus Christ. Live as who you are.
So a Christian is a person who has experienced the grace of God and therefore should be a person who shows grace to others. A Christian is a person who has been forgiven, therefore should be a person who forgives others.
And can I say this, and I say it with a pastor’s heart, If you continue to live, and there are other ways you could apply this, but if you continue to live with guilt, over past sins, either yours or those that someone has perpetrated against you, you beloved are not living in a manner worthy of the gospel. Say “why do you say that?” Because your guilt has been dealt with. Why do you keep dredging it up? Why do you keep letting it hang over your head like a sword? Why do you let the past dominate the present when your salvation has successfully dealt with the past? That’s who you were that’s not who you are. You are a new creation. The old has passed away.
A Christian is a person who is loved by God and therefore should love their brothers and sisters in Christ and their neighbors as they love themselves. And as we’ve seen already in Paul’s letter to Philippians, we should put the needs of others first. We should consider others better than ourselves. That’s what a Christian is. A Christian is a person who’s biggest fear has been conquered. What is it that we fear the most? It’s death. But Paul says “to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). Paul’s looking forward to death. Was Paul just a nut? Was he mentally unhinged? No, he understood that was the goal. To die and be with Christ. To die is gain. And what do we do in our world we do everything under the sun to try and preserve our lives for as long as we can and we end up living, terrible quality of lives. We have nothing to fear. Therefore to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ is to live without fear.
How about this a Christian is a person that has been given the peace of Christ. Now I’m not trying to make you mad, but this is what the Bible says. Therefore, if a Christian as a person has been given the peace of Christ, and they have, Jesus Himself said, “my peace I give unto you, (John 14:27) and you live with constant worry and anxiety, you are not living in a manner worthy of the gospel. A Christian is a person who has excepted the finished work of Christ therefore, they have been liberated from a performance mentality. In other words, they’re not trying to earn salvation. They’re not trying to earn God’s favor. They’re not out there trying to prove their worth to God and to others. And if you live with a performance mentality, you know what you’re doing? You’re living in a manner that is not worthy of the gospel.
I hope you see that when Paul says he wants them “to live in a manner worthy of the gospel.” He’s not just talking about “make sure your hair is the right length. Make sure your skirt is the right length. Make sure women don’t wear britches.” You know, all that kind of stuff and “don’t drink, smoke, cuss or chew and run with them who do.” “That’s a life worthy of the gospel.” Have you heard that? And In the back of your mind, you’re saying “what? What does that matter? So I can cut my hair so I’m socially acceptable or whatever and if my attitude stinks, I guess that’s okay. Right?”
See, you can have all your doctrinal facts, all your doctrinal ducks in a row, and still live like a hellion. And Paul’s saying, Listen, the gospel is to permeate every aspect of our lives. The gospel is given to help us to transform every aspect of our lives. Negative attitude? Something’s wrong. Live in fear all the time? Something’s wrong. Anxiety all the time? Something’s wrong. We need to begin asking ourselves, am I living in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Am I showing the world what the gospel really is?
See many unbelievers today, we have given off this false portrait of the gospel, as it seems like it only relates to external things. And if it didn’t make sense to use a Christian, why do you think it makes sense to them as an unbeliever? It doesn’t. And so they say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” But if they see you going through adversity, and you do so in a manner worthy of the gospel, well, then they have to say, “well, what’s going on here?” If they see that in your relationships, there’s something different. In your marriage, with your children, with your neighbors, with your fellow believers, your brothers and sisters in Christ, you handle things differently. And they say, “well, what’s going on here?” Well, you’re living in a manner worthy of the gospel.
We must get away from this idea that just because someone looks different from us that they’re holier than us. The world has had enough of the fakery, the hypocrisy of so many professing Christians. They’re not living in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
How do we respond to the authorities that God has placed all of us under? Is our response, gospel worthy? See, these are all important questions that we need to ask and answer ourselves. This is what it means. To be a citizen of heaven. I live differently because that’s where my citizenship is. I take my orders from King Jesus because I’m in His Kingdom. I obey Him. I serve him. I love him.