June 28, 2020

What Are You Living For?

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Passage: Philippians 1:12-18
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If you knew that before the clock struck midnight tonight that your life would be over, would you be happy with the way that you have used the gift that God has given to you? When you face your Creator, do you think you would hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant?" (Matt 25:21). Or would you hear, "What were you thinking?" Would God say to you, "You've been a good steward of the life that I gave you, and you made the most of your life. You made your life count." And don't we all want our lives to count for something? The Apostle Paul certainly did. He wanted his life to count. He wanted his life to make an impact, not for his own legacy. A lot of people want to leave some kind of lasting legacy. But he wasn't concerned in a legacy built around himself and his accomplishments. He wasn't concerned about his own glory. None of those things mattered to Paul. He wanted his life to count for Christ. He wanted to make the most of his life for Christ. He told Timothy, as he approached the end of his life, 'Timothy I fought a good fight. Timothy, I've kept the faith Timothy, I have run the race. I've run a good race. Timothy, I've done everything that I could to make sure that I have made the most of my life.' (2 Tim 4:7). So the question that faces each one of us is, "How can you live your life so that when you come to the end of your life, you can say with Paul, I made the most of my life?" Well, there are three lessons that the Apostle Paul demonstrates for us here in our text.

"You make the most of your life when you devote your life to a cause bigger than yourself."

Here's the first one, number one: you make the most of your life, when you devote your life to a cause bigger than yourself. Look at verses 12 and 13. "I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ." (Phil 1:12-13). Now remember, as I just said a few moments ago that Philippians was written during Paul's time as a prisoner. Now, the word 'imprisonment' here really means chains. I think we probably read Philippians, and understandably so, we think that Paul has been thrown into some rat infested, dark, damp cell. But that wasn't really the case. Paul lived in a house that he rented, that he had to pay for, but he was never alone. He was constantly chained to a Roman soldier, and try and imagine how difficult that must have been for a man like Paul. You don't find Paul's sitting around very long, do you? Paul was a man on the move. Paul was a man that was highly motivated to take the gospel around the world. He's driven, he's motivated. His ambition was to take the message of the resurrected Christ to every corner of the world that he could reach, as far away as Spain, to make sure that they heard the message of Christ. He was a man on the move, he was a man on a mission, but now his wings have been clipped. The man who had a desire to take the gospel around the world has been, for the last four or five years, chained to a Roman soldier. Of course, we all have just come through, and many are still in the midst of, some sort of a lockdown and isolation. And we don't like it, do we? We don't want any part of it. In fact, what do we see? We see rising rates of mental illness, and sadly, suicide. Why? Because we're not meant to be stationary. We are meant to be out and active. And here was the Apostle Paul. He was the Rambo of the Christian faith, he was on the move, he was a warrior for Christ, right? And now all of a sudden he's chained to this soldier, he has knowwhere to go. He wasn't under house arrest for a few months. He was under house arrest for a few years. Yet what do we find Paul doing? Or better yet, what would we do? What would you do?

Well, in verse 18, Paul says he's rejoicing. We gotta say, "Paul, how can you have joy when you've been chained to another and your ability to move, your ability to preach, has been restricted?" Another man might say to Paul, "Paul, you're getting up there and age, pal. You don't have much time left. Paul, you've always been a man on a mission. Paul, you're driven to advance the message of Christ. Paul, how can you rejoice in such a situation?" And you know what Paul would say? "You don't get it. It's not about me. It's all about Jesus. I live because of Jesus, I live for Jesus, and I will gladly die for Jesus." See, Paul lived for something much bigger than himself, he lived for Christ. He lived to see the message of Jesus communicated to as many people as possible. And guess what? In Paul's way of thinking, if it took a prison cell to accomplish that, so be it. He didn't live for himself. Later right here in chapter one, verse 21 he says, "For me to live is Christ," and what, "to die is gain." Is there any hint of self in there? The only hint of self is, 'I'll be glad when I'm dead.' For me to live is Christ. In other words, I'm going to live for Christ. Everything that I do is going to be driven by Christ. But if I die that would be gain for me.

Paul didn't live to please himself. Paul was not concerned about his comfort. Nor did Paul complain because of his circumstances. Listen, please listen. Paul understands that God uses the circumstances of our lives to accomplish His eternal purposes. You're not the victim of fate. The world has not played a cruel joke on you. The universe is not against you. That's all baloney, that's all garbage. Your circumstances, when you are a Christian, will always be used to accomplish His eternal purposes. That's why, we as Christians, face suffering differently than the unbeliever. It's just as painful, the outcome may be just the same, but we know there is a real purpose to our suffering. We know that through our circumstances, God is accomplishing His eternal purposes. Paul lived for something bigger than himself. And what do we have? What is our culture characterized by today? Selfie this, selfie that. I want this, I want that. We have millions and millions and millions, literally millions and millions of people who are only living to please themselves. And not surprisingly, what what else do we have? Millions and millions and millions of people who are unhappy, they're frustrated, and all they can do is vent on social media. So I need to ask you, what are you living for? Is it money? You can lose it. Status? You can achieve it and lose it. I could give you probably 20 names right now. People who achieved some status in this world, but they've lost it. But what happens if you never achieve the status you're living for? Will you consider your life to have been wasted? I would. It's not a sure thing is it? Earthly goals, they won't matter when you die. Take a good hard look. What are you living for? What are you living for?

Paul could rejoice because he understood that in the wisdom of God, and through the sovereignty of God, the gospel would best be advanced by him being in prison. You say, "That doesn't make sense." Humanly speaking, it doesn't make sense. Here's Paul, the great evangelist, perhaps the greatest evangelist the church has ever known, and he's chained to this soldier. "God, it doesn't make sense," does Paul ever hint at that? Does Paul ever say, "Hey God, do you want to reconsider this?" No.

We wonder how can this be? Well notice that because that Paul has been in chains, he reached a group of people, that apart from him being in chains, he never would have reached at all. The gospel was advanced, he says it himself, "I want you to know, brothers that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel." He's not upset about this. He's not discouraged about this. It was advanced to an unlikely group of people because Paul was in chains. The Gospel is made known throughout, his own words, the whole imperial guard. The knowledge of the gospel was growing throughout a very specific group of soldiers. Say, "Who's who's the Imperial Guard, is that just a title?" No, they were the elite of the elite. They were the Navy Seals. They were SEAL Team Six. They were Delta Force. They were Jack Bauer and Chuck Norris all rolled up into one. They had one duty and it was to protect the Emperor. There were some 9,000 of them, and that's what they trained for. They were highly skilled, they were the best of the best, and Paul says that the Gospel's being spread throughout their number. So we have to ask ourselves, "Were they actually using such elite soldiers to guard Paul?" We really don't know, but what we do know is that Paul was sure that they were hearing the message of the gospel. Say, "Well how can that be?" Well, perhaps Paul was guarded by soldiers from another squad. And perhaps his guards came into contact with these elite soldiers down at the cafeteria, or in the barracks, or on the training ground, we don't know. But maybe during the course of their conversations, you know how employees are; "Hey, what've they got you doing? What they got you doing?" And the people who are guarding Paul said, "You're not gonna believe this. You're not gonna believe this. I'm not sure I signed up for this. They got me chained, eight hours a day, to this little Jewish fella. And he just keeps banging on and on and on about somebody named Jesus Christ." He said, "You're not gonna believe what he says about Jesus. He says that Jesus died and he rose again. Have you ever heard anything so absurd and all of your life?" His buddy says, "No way, does he actually believe that?" "Yeah, he does. And you know, he's pretty convincing with his passion, his logic, and his arguments. He says that there's only one true God and I said, 'Now, wait a minute. We know the one true God, it's Caesar. We worship Caesar. And by the way, if I don't worship Caesar, it's off with my head." And Paul says, "No, no. There's one true God," and he tells the soldier, "you're responsible to Him, everybody's responsible to Him." He goes on to tell his, buddy, "Then he keeps telling me that I've sinned against this one true God. And then he says, unbelievably, that God sent His Son, this Jesus, and He died on the cross for the sins of His people. And then, this is where it gets really good, and He rose again. Paul claims he's alive. This little guy says if I repent of my sins, and trust in Jesus, my sins will be forgiven, and I'll have eternal life. Now, I like that part about eternal life. Because next time I go into battle, man, I can be fearless. What a warrior I can be. Kill me, I'll be back. Can you believe this guy?" This buddy says, "What a nut. Hey, Marcus. Marcus, come over here. You gotta hear this." So it went day after day, each shift change, Paul would be chained to a new soldier. And what do you think he talked about, the Gladiators? Of course not. He talked to them about Jesus. He gave them a knowledge of Jesus. He told him who Jesus was and what Jesus had done. See? The gospel began to spread throughout this elite group of soldiers. And remember who this elite group of soldiers guarded? The Emperor. The gospel made its way into the palace. Look at the very end of the book, chapter four, verse 21. I'm taking a risk no glasses here. So here we go. "Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of," what's that say, "Caesars household." How did the gospel infiltrate Caesars household? By a little Jewish man chained to a big brawny Roman soldier. Why did this happen? Because Paul lived for something bigger than himself. And because he lived for something bigger than himself, whatever circumstances he found himself in, he used them to advance the gospel. Is that first in our thinking? Sadly, is probably not, is it? The knowledge of the gospel grew because Paul lived for something bigger than himself, and I ask you again, "What are you living for?" Does the thing that you're living for have eternal significance and eternal benefit?

"You make the most of your life when you decide to fear Jesus more than man."

You make the most of your life, number two, when you decide to fear Jesus more than man. Look at verse 14, "And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear." Now, here again, isn't this so counterintuitive? Here's Paul in prison. Why is Paul in prison, why is Paul in chains? Because he didn't pay his speeding ticket? Did he double-park his chariot? No, he's in prison for preaching Christ. And what does he say? 'The brothers out there are much more bold to speak the word without fear.' In other words, it's as if they have lost all sense of self-preservation. It's almost as if their lives didn't matter. If they were arrested, so be it. If they ended up in chains, so be it. But where did this come from? It came from the example set by the Apostle Paul. Paul says, 'Because I'm in chains, many other Christians are becoming much more bold to speak the word without fear.' Fear of what? I think the easy answer is, fear of the authorities. But I'm not sure that's the right answer. I think it's fear of man. Let's be honest, we fear man. We fear the disapproval of others. We fear of being mocked for our faith, and it so quickly silences us far too easily. There are far too many times when we should be speaking out and speaking up, but we do what? We clam up. Well, that's not what had happened in Rome. Something was happening in Rome, that was not natural. It was counterintuitive. It was not what you think would be happening or should be happening. Something supernatural was going on. Say, "What's going on here?" The Holy Spirit was at work, in the one in chains, as well as all of those who weren't in chains. Paul's captivity had set them free.

Notice the words and phrases he uses here in verse 14, 'Having become more confident, much more bold without fear.' Paul may have been confined, but the gospel certainly wasn't. Paul's freedom may have been restricted, but the gospel cannot be restricted. By the way, the gospel will not be restricted. And what if? What if? What would happen, if all the professing Christians in our country were set free from the fear of man, and became confident in the Gospel? What would happen if all the professing Christians in our country became much more bold? What if all the professing Christians spoke without fear? What if all the professing Christians could confidently, boldly, and fearlessly proclaim, "Jesus is Lord." I read an article by a Christian professor in a secular university. He's the Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Baylor University, his name is Allen Jacobs. And he wrote this week, he said, "I can't help wondering what would happen if the Christians of America, en mass, started confessing their faith openly. Not going on a crusade against sexual deviancy or whatever, but simply saying that they believe that Jesus is Lord and that they hope to serve Him. Which means to love the Lord their God with all their heart, all their soul, and all their mind, and love their neighbors as themselves. To comfort the widows and orphans in their distress. To do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with their God to put no other gods before Him. Even the strong gods who preen and strut on social media." I read that this week, and I just could not get those words out of my mind.

Why do we as Christians, let every other group be so vocal? Why are we so silent? Read the New Testament carefully. Some people are not going to like this, but I'm not paid to be liked. You cannot find Jesus speaking out against the government. You cannot find Paul speaking out against the government. Go back to Ephesians. Paul taught submission throughout every level of society for the Christian didn't he? See, we have confused the message of the church. Too many people, unbelievers, think the message of the church is political reform. It's not. It's the transformation of the human soul by the power the Gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit. That's the mission of the church. Why are we so silent? Let's begin to fear Jesus more than we fear man. Let's fear Jesus more than we do the trolls on social media. By the way, you can live as a Christian without social media, and you'd probably be much better off, frankly.

"You make the most of your life when you decide your reputation takes a backseat to the glory of Jesus."

You make the most of your life, number three, when you decide your reputation takes a backseat to the glory of Jesus. You make the most of your life when you decide your reputation takes a backseat to the glory of Jesus. Look at verses 15 through 18, "Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I'm put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice." Paul, in these verses, acknowledges a sad reality of the Christian life. There are Christians who act with impure motives. There are Christians who intentionally inflict pain on other Christians. They may come in the form of bombastic preachers, who are envious of another's success, and they have determined to do whatever they can to hurt the ones they are jealous of. They may come, in our day and age, in the form of the discernment blogger. You know, the guy or girl that's always right, apparently is perfect, and is quick to point out the faults and everyone else. You know, there are those in the church who like to shoot their wounded. As I was preparing this week, show you my level of intellect, I couldn't help but think of the Eagles song, 'Dirty Laundry'. Your ever heard 'Dirty Laundry'? It's really a pretty good song. And the chorus is a great hook. The chorus is, "Kick 'em when they're up, kick 'em when they're down. Kick 'em when they're up, kick 'em all around." Don Henley wrote that song back in the 80's about news at that time. Boy, he'd stroke out today if he had to write another song. See, there are those who are Christians who will kick you when you're down. They will kick you all around. It's not right. But it is reality.

There were Christians in Rome who were preaching Christ for all the wrong reasons. They were not preaching in order to bring glory to Jesus. They were preaching Christ, to hurt Paul. Their motives, Paul describes himself, were envy and rivalry. And by the way, those are two characteristics that should never characterize a Christian, amen? There were those who were preaching Christ to make themselves look good, and to make Paul look bad. Say, "Well, how can we be so sure that these were genuine Christians? I mean, how do you know that these weren't false teachers? These weren't false prophets of some kind. How can we be sure of that? How can we be sure that they were preaching Christ out of selfish ambition?" Well, we know they were genuine Christians by the fact that Paul rejoices in their preaching. Paul would never, ever rejoice over a false gospel being preached. What's the book of Galatians all about? In the book of Galatians, Paul enters into a bare-knuckle brawl with a group of preachers known as the Judaizers. He has no use for the Judaizers. And how did Paul respond to their preaching? Well, in chapter 1, he drops the gloves, in verses 7 through 9. He says, "Not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we are an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached, you let him be accursed." (Gal 1:7-8). Do you know what that word accursed means? You're going to be cursed by God, and when you're cursed by God, you what you are? You're damned. You're damned. "And as we have said before, so now I say again: if anyone's preaching to a gospel contrary to one you received, let him be accursed." (Gal 1:9). Paul wasn't content to say it one time, he said it twice. Why did he say it twice? To let them know that he was serious. Paul would not stand for a distortion of the gospel. Paul was not a compromiser. Paul wouldn't have gone on Larry King and clammed up. Paul wouldn't have gone on the hottest podcast and try and backpedal the gospel. No. No. What he said then, he would say today, 'Listen, you distort the gospel, you're damned. You're cursed by God. Don't mess with the gospel.'

And sadly it was genuine Christians, that were preaching the genuine gospel, for disingenuous reasons. They were tearing down the reputation of Paul in order to build themselves up and their argument may have gone something like this. "Oh, you think Paul's great, do you? Then why is he in prison and I'm free? I'm out here preaching the gospel. My convert count is going up. Oh, Paul, the great Apostle. It looks like God's taking him down a peg or two. Hmm, I wonder what Paul's done to get himself arrested? Hey, did you know he's been in prison almost five years? Hmm, I wonder what he's done wrong?" And what was Paul's response to all of this? He praises God. He thanks God. He's filled with joy. You say, "Why, how?" Because he's not concerned about his reputation. He is thrilled to know that Christ is being preached, that the gospel is being proclaimed, and in that he rejoices. See, it's Jesus that matters, not your reputation. 'Trash my reputation all you want, as long as you are preaching Christ', that was Paul's philosophy. Man, oh man, how far we've come. We have whole industries designed today to manage a reputation. Paul would have had nothing of it.

Now remember, God spoke through a donkey to Balaam (Num 22:28-30), so He is certainly powerful enough to take the impure motives of others and turn it to good, and that's exactly what he was doing in Rome. But not all the Christians in Rome were acting like jerks, amen? Paul goes on to say there are brothers who are speaking from a heart of love and with goodwill. They're not trying to bring any harm to Paul at all. Now, we need to look at verse 16. So here we go again. Paul says, "The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here," would you make an mark in your Bible around those words 'put here', "I am put here for the defense of the gospel." That's an important statement. When Paul says that he has been put here, meaning in chains, that means it's no accident is no cruel twist of fate. It's not bad luck. It's not bad timing. It's not that the political winds have turned against him. It's none of that that has landed Paul in chains. The reality is, what scripture means is, it is a divine appointment that was set by God in eternity past for Paul to be there.

Say, "Well, what does that mean for me today?" Well, here's one thing I think that it means. It helps us handle the circumstances of our lives. How do you have joy in trying times? How do you have joy when your movements are restricted? By understanding that in God's sovereignty, you are exactly where you are because, before the foundation of the world, that's where God appointed you to be. Remember, we just saw this word 'appointed' in Jonah. Why did that fish show up at the exact moment they chucked him overboard? Because God had set a divine appointment for that fish to be at that latitude, and that longitude, and that depth, at that time, at that hour in history. That's the way God works. God does not play catch up. God doesn't say, "Oh, that almost caught me off guard, let me straighten this out." No, it's all, why are you here? When, I talked to that young man last week, I said, "Why do you think God brought you here? It's no accident that you're here. God didn't send you here for me to go and rip off your crazy roommates 'It' poster off the wall. God brought you here because he knew that you were going to hear the gospel here." It was a divine appointment.

I quote this one thought of Jonathan Edwards frequently. Jonathan Edwards, of course the great philosopher and greatest theologian that America has ever produced. Jonathan Edwards struggled with the doctrine of God's divine sovereignty. In fact, there was time in his life where he feared that he didn't like it. But he finally came to the point where he described God's divine sovereignty as "a most comforting doctrine." Which means none of God's children ever have anything to fear from God's sovereignty. The unbeliever, on the other hand, has everything to fear. Because as Edwards famously said, "They are sinners in the hands of an angry God." When's the last time you heard that preached? Go the book of Psalms. The ESV translates it a little differently than the KJV. The KJV says, "God is angry with the wicked every day." (Ps 7:11). The ESV says God is "indignant". Indignant is even stronger because indignant means 'very angry'. King James, 'angry', ESV, 'very angry'. Edwards also said, "How can you expect to dwell with God forever if you so neglect and forsake him here?"

Well, we all want our lives to count. And the measure of our lives will not be by the size of the estate we leave behind. It won't be because of our career accomplishments. It won't be our educational achievements. It won't be the fact that we were listed in "Who's who". No, the measure of our lives will be whether or not we made our lives count. By living for a cause bigger than ourselves. By fearing Jesus more than we fear man. And by deciding that the reputation of Jesus is far more important than your own. So you're confronted with a choice. What will you do? Choose wisely. Joshua said, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua said, "Choose you this day who you're going to serve." (Josh 24:15). Because you're going to serve somebody.