PHILIPPIANS: Week 4 | FREED - to Unity
Topic: New Testament Passage: Philippians 1:27–2:4
Christopher Rich – April 29, 2018
FREED | From Prison to Peace
Freed to Unity |Philippians 1:27-2:4
Introduction | Prison of Self
Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we’re continuing our series FREED: From Prison to Peace.
What are you apart of? What groups do you identify with? What groups or identifiers are your proud to be a part of and you display and share with others? Did you serve in the military? Were you part of a great team? Do you have an ethnic heritage you have some pride in? What are some of your identifiers you’re not quite as proud of? That you know is part of you but you’re not flying the flag real high all the time? What happens when there is a prevailing less than positive connotation or even direct opposition to something you’re apart of? Do you distance yourself in self-preservation? For me, I don’t usually lead with telling people, I was in the marching band in High School. How does the shifting tide of culture and media impact what you’re “proud” of about. For my good friend who is a United Pilot, when there are issues with airlines in the news he gets really agitated, because he’s like “We’re all on the same team! What those guys do reflects on me”. What and who we are affiliated with impacts how we see ourselves, how we are seen by others, and how we engage with the rest of the world. In the beginning of this letter we know God has begun a work in a church bringing individual into a family that will endure. Paul continued with showing how his individual suffering was serving to advance the gospel and how we need to understand the purpose of our life and presence is for Christ and others. Today we see this theme continue with our purpose in life drive the practice of our life. When our life is in Christ we are FREED to Unity.
PART I | FREED to be a Citizen | v27-28
Philippians 1:27-29 | 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.
Paul has told them about how his suffering has been purposeful in sharing the Gospel and how his focus has been on others, but now he’s turned his attention back to the Philippians. I know you are concerned about the challenges I’ve been facing, but I am fine. I am here to serve you. How I want to serve you is to remind you about who you are and how who are impacts what you do. This verse opens with one Greek word that has been translated into a phrase. The word is politeuo and it’s a rich word that has been translated into “Only let your manner of life be worthy” or literally it means “Only behave as citizens worthy” It’s a word/phrase they would have been familiar with and understood it’s meaning because of their unique context and understanding of the concept of citizenship. In the US we have birthright citizenship. So if your born here, you’re a citizen. Some of us value it, some of us don’t. But for the people in Philippi there was a sense that what they had was something they had earned. There was pride.
In Act 16 the people of the city call themselves “Romans”. These are people in this city that are really far from the actual city they’re claiming allegiance too and identifying with. They live in this distance city living out the value of a city they may have never been too. But they believe in the values of that city and the emperor Caesar is their King so they are actively working to establish a shadow of that great city in the city they find themselves in. Many of these people who had such patriotic pride were veterans of distant Roman wars. They had fought for their country, they had bleed for their country. They believed in the cause of the expansion of Rome under the rule of the Emperor. And now they’re in this city and region with status of land and position that comes from being a citizen of the Empire. They know all they’ve done has earned them this status so the pride they had in their citizenship was really a pride of self.
But not so for the Philippian church. They have a status than was bled for, but one they cannot earn. Don’t live in a pride that says through your work and service you’ve now achieved a status and an inheritance for your next generation. This is the Gospel. The gospel is true and the Gospel changes our life. It changes our family, but it also changes our citizenship. So Paul says live your life like a one who knows what their status and value is. There is a clear implication that your status with God as a member of His Kingdom should lead you to a sense of privilege. You are a privileged person if you are in Christ. But this privilege is not something to flaunt and fall back on but it is something to be stewarded. But don’t miss how important and significant citizenship in the Kingdom of God is. Your status is irrevocable, your privilege is valuable, your inheritance is assured, so your conduct should reflect this truth about you! That means your life should be lived in a worthy manner of what Jesus has done for you. You have status and privilege for the purpose of having responsibility and accountability, in your conduct. In this case “manner of life” is, about allegiance and what nation and kingdom you’re embodying.
What is your citizenship? What are your marks of citizenship? If you are to live a Life worthy of the Gospel, What does that mean? Behave as citizens worthy of the Gospel of Jesus? What specifically is he talking about, person piety, doctrinal purity, what the concern he has for the Philippians (as disciples what is our concern?) There is great concern for their unity and shared citizenship.
So in using the word and phrase “Behave as citizens worthy” He is telling the Christians who are know to be a bit timid at times. Go ahead and be proud of, be patriotic of what you are a part of! You are members of a great victorious Kingdom which is ever expanding under the name of and for the glory of the king, Jesus! , go ahead and be patriotic. Just remember what Empire you’re truly a citizen of, and remember who earned your citizenship. It’s Jesus. He earned it for you, and he earned it for your brothers and sisters so you could be unified. But there is a tension because you’re also living in and among another kingdom, an other nation, with another army of citizens that does not recognizes your king or your status. You will face opposition from them, your roll is not to overcome them but to invite them into this Kingdom.
Standing Firm – We are citizens who stand firm in the truth of the Gospel that says we are Saved by Jesus’ Work. Being a citizen of this Kingdom means we can be humble, gentle, agreeable, but not soft, weak or malleable. There is an implied and inherent weakness in us as lone individuals that implies we weak) Just as ancient armies would lock shields, you lock shields. Where is the strength? Not army of one, but in One Spirit, One Mind. Yet there are a bunch of people standing side by side. We’re stronger united.
Striving- How are we striving? Side by side, not alone but together Your growth is and will be hindered as much as it’s is apart from and disengaged with others. Why are we striving? For the faith and sake of the Gospel. We want more and more people to know about our King and how to be citizens of our kingdom. We are not content to simply hold ground, and keep our opponents from overrunning us. We strive to see God’s glory and our joy expand in to more and more areas of our corporate and individual lives. Neither of these are passive. Neither can be successful without engagement and effort.
Freed from Self for other to be part of a Gospel Community We’ve been given each other. Not some other church, but a specific one. With one Spirit, one mind uniting us, which is the Holy Spirit and mind of Christ. But we cultivate this unity with reminders of our shared identity, vision, values, mission, etc. That’s why we constantly using unifying language like Saved by Jesus’ Work, etc… It’s not branding, it’s binding.
Why don’t we do this? What hinders this unity? We are a united community of saved sinners, who are broken and are (at different places) being Changed by Jesus’ Grace. There are internal conficts, personality and philosophical disagreements, and at time we really just don’t trust other people. We aren’t sure we can lock shields or we think we’re better on our own. We don’t think there is a benefit to unity or we forget the mission can only advance if it advances together. We don’t trust God who gave us the other people. We think other people in our Gospel Community are the opponent. We forget where the real opposition is coming from, there is another nation, another army, at odds with our King. Being a citizen of this kingdom is to enter into a new conflict with what is opposed to the Gospel in this world and our own hearts.
PART II | FREED to Conflict | 29-30
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.
We are FREED, not from conflict, but to a new one. In the Gospel our conflict with God is over. We’re not estranged, we’re family, we’re not traitorous rebels, we’re citizen saints. The kingdom you are part of is at odd with the kingdom of this world. They cannot be reconciled by simply agreeing to coexist. The truth is the kingdoms of individuals (and groups) that are indifferent or opposed to the God of the Bible have no interest in what you believe or following the God and King you serve. To be a citizen of this kingdom is to recognize there is a conflict between Good and evil, light and darkness, sin and righteousness. Good, light, and righteousness all come from God. That means entering into a conflict that you didn’t previously know existed. You were participating in it as a sinner and opponent of God but you might have just thought it was being “independent”. Instead, in following Jesus you’re not simply trusting Him for a future date of wholeness and peace later, but you’re enduring the tension of dwelling in an imperfect world today.
It’s a conflict that matters. See if you’re in “peace” or free from conflict because there is harmony in your life and no tension then you’re following the course of the world, and your flesh. Things seem easy but only in the sense that you’re on the side of the rest of the world and your own desires, WHILE being opposed to God. Jesus entered into a world He created, to saves sinners He created, and what met with hostility, and rejection, causing suffering and death. We should have expectations in the Christian life of conflict.
Where are you too comfortable? I don’t mean content, or enjoying God’s good provision. I mean where are you not wrestling in place you know should be more of a battlefield. Where are you being overrun? There is no greater courage displayed in fight alone, just foolishness. Like in a Kung Fu movie when each guy goes at the main character one on one so I he can pick them off one by one, when if they all just bum rushed him they’ed overrun him. We have to recognize we will naturally face tension and conflict as we walk in the light, follow our king, unite around the gospel. The conflict is real, internal, and external.
How can we endure in this conflict? I don’t feel very equipped to handle difficulty. But we haven’t been freed to be a citizen engaged with a cosmic conflict of Gospel advance without being given all we need to continue to endure and pursue the mission. God has given us all we need.
PART III | FREED to Courage and Comfort | 2:1-2
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
Encouragement in Christ – So if there…. What a rhetorical! Encouragement in Christ! This isn’t simply saying nice things to people, this is where we have fear and a lack of courage understanding where courage comes from. God says Fear, not for I am…. Distantly watching while you flounder around by yourself hoping to not get picked off in a battle you’re not sure you signed up for. NO! He says Fear not, why? For I am with you. God has given us courage in the midst of conflict because He has given us Christ. Christ who stands firm in place, who strives for victory and achieves it. Because we have Christ we are united in Christ.
Comfort from Love – Lonely, exposed, ineffective, and impotent, this is us alone. Christ came to dwell with His people. To bring His healing presence, his providing presence, his peace producing presence to bear in the lives of His people. He loves intentionally and self sacrificially. We see this in on the cross. His love is powerful, life giving, and restoring. We see this in the resurrection. The courage of a Christ who brings victory also brings His love to His people with His presence. He tells us his people will be known by their love of one another. We’re united by His love, and we
Participation in the Spirit- Its back to the fellowship/colaboring for the Gospel word The Holy Spirit is at work. We wonder why God seems distant, why Jesus seems absent. He’s not God is with us, Jesus is in us, through God the Holy Spirit. This is a unique and glorious way we’ve been given courage and comfort by having the third member of the Holy Trinity dwelling in us and inviting us to participation and communion with the God of the Universe. This Holy Spirit indwells individuals and holds together a people. God has given us the Holy Spirit so we can be united knowing we have One Spirit.
Affection and sympathy- This is a genuine warmth knowing God loves us because we were made good in His image and loves us despite of us because of sin. The God who created you says “Oh I remember how and why I created this one this way. I love this one, I Iove the way this one was made. There is sympathy. I see what’s gone wrong. I see how their sin has hindered them, I see how the sins of others has hurt them. How sin separates and shames and leads to discouragement and discomfort. I have an answer for them. The answer is Jesus who deals with their sin AND makes them a new person, makes them part of a new people, united for a share purpose. I love them enough to love them as they are AND I love them enough to change them into who they should be. God has affection and sympathy for us, so we can be unified in affection and sympathy with one another.
All of these are given to us from God for a purpose. That we may take the equipping work of God for you in Christ, and tie it together with the other brothers and sisters around you, be of the same mind, because you have the same love. You have been loved by Jesus, you have been loved by Jesus, I have been loved by Jesus, we have been loved by Jesus so we should be united by Jesus. There is enough division, discouragement, and distance in the world. The kingdom we are citizens of is unified in heart and mind, as one accord. Held together as one while also being as different as every individual in this new nation. You are valued as an individual! This unity is not uniformity!! We can be respected and loved as our individual selves the way God made us and wired us, but we cannot forget who this kingdom is about.
PART IV | FREED from Conceit | 2:3-4
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Unity for the sake of your glory and goals being achieved, your felt needs being met, for your identity and status to be affirmed or ego to be stroked, is foolish and sinful. We can still have ambition, drive, desire, ambition is good, selfish ambition is not!! It fills us with conceit. Conceit is a pride… in self. When we think this kingdom we are citizens of us really about us, instead of Jesus and others we work against this unity and upset the order we are to consider and engage with others.
There is an order, and it’s kindergarten simple but grad school difficult to pursue. Jesus first. Others Second, Yourself last. JOY. The opposite is what we typically do. YOJ. Yourself first, Others second, Jesus last. Jesus died for YOJ people for the purpose of reordering them to experience Joy.
Don’t JUST look to your own interests (IN the gospel there is healthy self-denial, but there is also self-disconnection/distortion) You are individual. But you are never meant to only be an individual, you are meant to be one who is orientated and concerned withothers. We can’t take care of ourselves as well as we think we can. We can believe that self care is the only care we’re called to experience. We can be concerned with our own interests, but we we’re to also be concerned with the interests of others. This is so realistic more than idealistic. We can look out for the interests of others when we remember we have a God who is looking out for our interests better than we ever can. Because He knows what we need better than we do!
This is hard to think of others as more significant as us. But in Jesus we follow a God who went to the cross because he thought of us in that moment in that pain, in that opposition as more significant than himself. That in humility he would purchase a people who were/are prideful, who are conceited, who look out for our own interests and think we’re the most significant person in the universe.
Jesus IS the most significant person in the universe. And so we could have ambition, not for ourselves, but for His glory, we can actively pursue glory and interests of Jesus and others. We’re freed from the pressure that comes from thinking we are the only ones who are looking out for our own best interests. We have a God who is for us and he’s put us into a community of people all looking out for us, as we look out for each other. United as a people who Trust Jesus
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