Saturday, February 05, 2011

Standing Firm

Philippians 1:27-30

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,

28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.

29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,

30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Week 5 of the Partnering to Remember project found us in this passage of Philippians chapter one. I have been mulling over the exhortation to let my manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, and I am more and more convinced that the only life worth living is one that is devoted to and saturated by the gospel. The whole focus of Philippians chapter one is Paul’s prayer for the Philippians to be living faithfully to the gospel and the fact that all that has happened to him has served to advance the gospel. We cannot be too spiritually, too gospel minded. In fact, I find that much of the time I am not nearly gospel minded enough.

The amazing thing about the gospel is that it does not stop at the point of a person’s conversion to faith in Christ. This is not the end result of the gospel, but the beginning. It is the gospel that saves us and brings us into right relationship with God, and it is the power of the gospel that keeps us and produces the fruit of righteousness in us that allows us to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Growing up with a decisional, walk the aisle, pray this prayer and all is well kind understanding of the gospel, I have not always appreciated fully enough what it is to live with a gospel saturated mindset.

Spending five weeks with Philippians chapter one, rehearsing it over and over and over as I’ve sought to memorize it and think on it, I am seeing more clearly that the gospel is deeper and richer than we often present it as being. Proper understanding of the gospel is vital to justification, but also to sanctification. I am saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, and I am also kept by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, and it is His working in me that is leading me to a fuller understanding of His grace and to be shedding the things that weigh me down from running the race He has called me to run. It is through Jesus Christ that the fruit of righteousness begins to fill my life.

One thing I’m taking away from this section is how Paul really wanted to hear that the Philippian church was striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. We’ve been encouraged to pray daily for our church here, and we really want to see God be glorified, we want revival. I’m convinced that what the church needs to be about is this striving for the faith of the gospel - not about programs per se, or a cool and fun youth group, or about making me feel....whatever it is I think I may want to feel based on my so-called ‘felt needs,’ or about making sure the music is all I would want it to be in whatever style I think is most what I want, or about being entertained, but about striving for the faith of the gospel. Striving is a strong word. It implies work, and not ease and comfort and fun and games and entertainment. I have not fully apprehended this in my approach to church membership yet, but I want to. I want to be much more about striving side by side for the faith of the gospel than about warming a pew or going through churchy motions or being entertained. Church really is not about me and my entertainment, but very much about turning our attention to our God and worshipping Him in spirit and truth and coming in line with His will. I want to be alive in Christ and busy about His business. I am thirsty for revival, and I’m praying for this for my church, too.

I go back to verse 22, “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.” As I’ve been saturating my mind with this, it has come clear to me that this has not been my attitude toward my life in the flesh. Most of the time I pretty much muddle along through life, getting through the busyness of each day, but not actively, purposely thinking about fruitful labor in the gospel in the midst of the busyness. How much time I waste. Will I change? Can I change? Please, God, grab my heart and help me to change!

Something else that struck me this week was the way Paul told them that it had been granted to them that for the sake of Christ they should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake. I think this is a very hard thing for an American Christian to get her mind wrapped around. It is for this American Christian, steeped in the comfortable Christian subculture of suburban decisional Christianity anyway. I don’t typically look at suffering being something I would want to be granted. Believing, sure, but suffering? Not so much. But looking closely, it is suffering for the sake of Christ. Meaning, suffering because they are obviously being bold and obedient to speak the word without fear. I want to be bold to speak the word without fear. I want to be bold to speak the word at all. I’m not there yet, but I want to be. I don’t even face the risk of imprisonment and yet much of the time I am not out there looking for opportunities to speak the word. Why not? I think it goes back to the striving together side by side. As we as a body will be striving together we will also be bold together. I need to be really engaging with my church family, not settling for being comfortable to be part of it, but actively being busy with them in speaking the gospel of Christ to our community and in discipling those who are in the fellowship.

Anyway, these are just some of the things I’m working through as I partner to remember Philippians. Praying I will be obedient to take them to heart and learn to act on them, not just think about them, and then to stand firm in that obedience and be changed because I’ve hidden this word in my heart.

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