What Does it Look Like to Live in a Manner Worthy of the Gospel of Christ?

When you think about what it means to be a good citizen of our country someone like Louie Zamperini may come to mind. A while back I read a book by Laura Hillenbrand entitled Unbroken in which she chronicles Louie’s life.

Louie was drafted into the armed services in his twenties to fight in WWII, and he ended up in the Air Force. Before Louie accepted his draft orders, he was an amazing runner, an olympic hopeful, someone who was on pace to run a mile in under 4:00 minutes. If you are wondering, that’s fast, really fast! You have to sustain a speed of 15 mph in order to run a 4 minute mile.

Even though Louie was fast, he believed serving his country was more important than his own hopes, dreams, and aspiration, so he took up the fight alongside his fellow servicemen. I don’t want spoil his story for you. Let’s just say his time in the Air Force was no cake walk. A downed airplane, lost at sea, POW camp, and ultimately forgiveness. These are the threads that run through the book and Louie’s life.

When we look at a man like Louie, we can all agree that he is a good citizen of this country. He put others first. He considered the welfare of the nation over his own. He is someone who lives in a manner worthy of being an American. 

But what about a Christian?

What does it look like to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ?

Paul tells us what it looks like to live in a manner worthy of the gospel in his letter to the Philippians. Beginning in verse 27 of chapter 1 we read, 

“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 [I want you to take note of what comes next because this is where he starts to tell us what it means to live in a manner worthy of the gospel] you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 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. 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, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” 

(Php 1:27–30)

From the text above, we gather that living in a manner worthy of the gospel looks like us:

(1) Standing firm with one another in the faith.

In order for that to happen, we must not only understand the core doctrines of Christianity and the gospel, but we must also be willing to contend, to strive side by side for the truth of the faith. We must work together to spread the gospel and promote our faith, even in the face of persecution. Persecution is going to come. When it does, we must be ready and willing to take it head on. In order to do that, we need others standing next to us. No soldier goes into battle by themselves. We must not enter into the battle alone either. To be sure, living out the Christian faith is to live in the middle of a war, a spiritual war. We must not be naive or ignorant of that. We must come together, then, with one another striving side by side for the faith.

(2) Living in unity with one another.

Following up what he just said beginning in verse 1 of chapter 2 Paul writes,

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” 

(Php 2:1–2)

Now, one of the things I believe Paul is trying to get across here is that the gospel should bring us together, and it should do that because we are all saved in the same way. We all need all of Christ’s righteousness credited to our account. That’s because we are all bankrupt sinners who can do nothing to get ourselves out of debt.

Along with holding our need for Christ’s righteousness up as a means to bring us together. Paul also brings the Spirit into the equation. He says that we all have the same Spirit working in us. The Spirit provides us with encouragement and comfort. He helps us to grow in our Christian walk. As well as equips us for the work of ministry among other things.

Having experienced the same salvation, encouragement, comfort, and work of the Spirit, we should all live in unity with one another. No one is better than anyone else. We are all in God’s family. We must all live as family. We must live as those who are unified with one another.

(3) We must consider others to be more significant than ourselves.

Paul is not only hinting at that idea in verses 1 and 2, when he calls us to unity, but he is specifically telling us that here. We can’t think ourselves better than someone else and then seek unity with them. It doesn’t work like that. Paul is not only hinting at this idea in verses 1 and 2, but starting in verse 3 he explicitly tells us that we must consider others more significant than ourselves.

After telling us what we must think of others, he follows that up with the example of Christ. Let’s look at that. Paul writes,

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

 (Php 2:3–11)

Now there is a lot in there, but for the sake of today’s post, what I want you to see is that we must have the mind of Christ.

One thing that having the mind of Christ means is that we don’t think of ourselves as more significant than others. Instead, we humble ourselves. We think others more significant than us. That type of thinking should lead us to care and sacrifice for others. 

I believe, if we all took this command to heart, then conflict and disunity in the church would cease. But conflict continues, which tells us that we haven’t taken this command to heart. Instead, we continue to think about and do what is best for self.We care more about our own comfort, desires, and wants than others. But if we want to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, then we must humble ourselves, counting others more significant than ourselves.

Closely related to the last and contained in that grouping of verses is the idea of self-sacrifice, which tells us that living in a manner worthy of the gospel mean that:

(4) We must serve and love others self-sacrificially

Jesus is the prime example of self-sacrifice. Paul is explicitly calling that out in these verses by telling us that Jesus left His heavenly home, came to earth, and died for us. Jesus is, then, the chief example of self-sacrifice.

When it is hard for us to serve or love others, we should think about Jesus. How He loved and served us when we were unlovable. How He gave Himself for a people who were His enemies, so that we might experience the blessing of salvation. That’s self-sacrifice. That’s counting others more significant than yourself right there. Jesus died so that His enemies could experience the blessing of eternal life.

If we want to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, we must do the same. We must serve and love others self-sacrificially.

Lastly, we learn that those who want to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ must shine as lights.

(5) We must live in such a way as to shine as lights in this dark world.

Look at the text starting in verse 14,

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.” 

(Php 2:14–18)

In these verses, Paul shares a number of things with the Philippians. One of which is that he wants them to live in such a way that they are able to shine as lights in this dark world. When the world looks at us, they should see a people who are different.

What differences should they see? Paul points out some of the differences that should be apparent in the lives of those who are Christians. He says that:

  • They don’t grumble, nor do they dispute with one another.
  • They live in such a way that they are considered blameless and innocent.
  • No one can bring a charge against them.
  • We also see that they hold fast to the Word.
  • In other words, they aren’t wishy-washy about their faith, about their beliefs. They don’t allow the culture to sway them one way or the other.
  • As well as they are a people who are consistently growing in Christ.

These, then, are some of the ways that we might shine as lights in the world and live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you living in a manner worthy of the gospel?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: What Does it Look Like to Live in a Manner Worthy of the Gospel of Christ?

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In What Type of Community Must the Church Live? – Part 3

As Christians we are supposed to live in authentic and interdependent community. If you want to know what that looks like and why, check out my last two posts here and here.

While I believe I’ve argued well for why we must live in authentic and interdependent community and what it looks like, that doesn’t mean we know how to develop that type of community. Today, that’s what I’ll focus on –– how we develop authentic and interdependent community with one another.

How do we develop authentic and interdependent community with one another?

We can start by looking at what took place in the early church. Looking at Acts 2, we see that the early church:

  • Immersed their lives in God’s Word together.
  • Prayed together.
  • Shared each other’s burdens.
  • They laughed, they cried, they parented, they ate together.
  • They celebrated the Lord’s Supper together, proclaiming in a visible way to the world that Jesus is their Savior.
  • They served each other and the community.
  • They sacrificed for one another.
  • They made sure each other’s needs were met.
  • They extended hospitality to those around them.
  • They were on mission together, seeking to win others to Christ and helping each other grow in their Christian walk.

These are the things the early church did.

You are a necessary part of the body of Christ.

Along with doing these things, they saw themselves as a necessary part of the body of Christ. They knew that they were missed. They knew that they were hindering the church’s growth and mission when they failed to participate.

You must be willing to share your lives with others.

As well as they were willing to share their lives with each other. They were open. They were transparent. They shared more than their physical needs with others. They also shared their spiritual needs.

So we must not only participate in the same activities as they did, but we must see ourselves as a necessary part of the body, and we must be willing to share our lives with one another. Those you attend church with should know how to pray for you. Not just physically but spiritually. They should know your fears, your struggles, your joys.

I know hearing that probably sounds a bit invasive. But that’s what it takes to live in authentic and interdependent community with one another. If we always keep one another at arms length, if we never let anyone in, we aren’t really depending on them. Instead we are depending on ourselves. But that’s not how a body operates. Your arm doesn’t depend on itself. Instead, it depends on the rest of the body in order to work. We must do the same. We must depend on one another in order to live in authentic and interdependent community.

Conclusion

How are you doing with that? Do you see yourself as someone who just lives in proximity to others? Or are you living in or at least working towards living in authentic and interdependent community with your local church members?

If we are going to be authentic disciples, then we must also live in interdependent community. We must do it, not only for our own spiritual growth, but for the spiritual growth of others, and the furtherance of Jesus’ kingdom. So we must be disciples who live authentically and interdependently with one another in biblical community.

Resources

Post developed from my sermon In what type of community must the church live?

In What Type of Community Must the Church Live? – Part 2

The community represented in Acts 2 reminds me of an illustration I recently read in a book. The author spoke about the giant Redwoods just outside of San Francisco in the Armstrong Redwood National State Reserve. These Redwoods extend skyward over a football field in length. They have stood for centuries despite heavy storms coming through the region. The way they have been able to face storm after storm after storm without toppling over has to do with their root system. When you read about their roots, you learn that they are only about 12 feet under the surface. While 12 foot is not shallow, it doesn’t seem deep enough to hold a tree 100 or more yards in height in the ground against fierce winds. On it’s own it probably wouldn’t. But the giant Redwoods aren’t standing on their own. If you were to scrap back the earth, you would see an intertwined network of roots. The Redwoods are able to stand because they live in community with one another. In other words, they depend on one another for strength. What they couldn’t do on their own, they are able to do in community.  So that’s how they have been able to stand for 100’s of years despite the storms Mother Nature throws at them.

Likewise, the only way we are going to be able to endure the storms of life and thrive as God has intended us to is by living in authentic and interdependent community with one another. In other words, our spiritual roots must not just extend deep but also wide. We must be connected with and depend on our fellow believers around us. If not, we aren’t going to stand when the storms of life come at us. Instead we will fall. We need one another. We need to live in authentic and interdependent community with one another.

What does that look like live in authentic and interdependent community?

II. What does it look like for us to live in interdependent community? (vs. 44-47)

Starting in verse 44 we read,

“And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:44-47)

What I want to draw your attention to in these verses is the word “together”. It appears in verses 44 and 46. While this word is translated as the same word in English, it’s actually two different words in the Greek. As you can guess, these two words mean two different things.

In verse 44, the Greek is epi and it has to do with physical location. What that tells us is that these early Christians lived in the same place.

A. They lived in close proximity to one another.

This wasn’t a small community. In verse 41, we learn that 3,000 people were initially saved at Peter’s preaching during Pentecost. Some, I presume, went back to their towns, but others stayed in Jerusalem. Along with those who initially believed, we also learn in verse 47 that others were being added to the church each and everyday. So this was quite a large community of Christians living together with one another. I’m not exactly sure what that first community’s living quarters looked like. But what I do know is that they sold their possessions and moved so that they could live in close proximity to one another.

Now, I don’t think this means that we all have to sell our houses, secure a plot of land somewhere, and build our own community. Although, I know some of my church members wouldn’t be opposed to some folks buying and building across the street here, since they have land for sale. While they will gladly sell you a plot of land, I don’t believe that’s what Acts is teaching.

Acts is mainly a descriptive, not a prescriptive text. In other words, more often than not it tells us what the early church did and not necessarily what we must do. I believe that is the case in this text. God through the writing of Luke is calling us to do something but it’s not to move on to the same plot of land together. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with that. There are families in our church that do live on the same plot of land. If anything that can be very beneficial. I’m sure the families here would agree. But that is not what God is calling us to do — that part is descriptive.

That, however, doesn’t mean God isn’t calling us to do something. We have the book of Acts for a reason even if it is written in more of a descriptive fashion. What I believe that we, as 21st century Christians, are to take from this is that:

B. The church we are involved in and its members should be local to us.

In other words, it should be in the same community in which we live. We should be able to “run into” other church members while we are out and about.

That means then that we shouldn’t be members of a church that is located outside of our community just because it is the popular church in the area or we like the speaker. No, we must live in proximity to those with whom we attend church. That makes sense if we are going to genuinely devote our lives to one another. That’s hard to do if we don’t ever see one another. Or if it is a burden or hassle to get together with one another. So we must live in close proximity to one another, just as those in the early church did. In other words, the church we attend must be local.

That idea that we must be a part of a local church gains even more traction when we consider the second “together” used in these verses. It is found in verse 46. It is the Greek word homothumadon. Literally this word means to have the same fiery passion. It’s to be intensely unified with another like fans who cheer on their home team.

I know most of you in Decatur like football. Even if you don’t, being from Decatur, you probably still attend the Homecoming festivities — the parades, pep rallies, and the game. Those who attend those activities don’t sit there half asleep. They engage, they cheer, they root for the home team. If you were to take a step back and get a birds eye view of the stands, especially if Decatur was driving down the field for the winning touch down, you would see a fiery passion, a sense of unity among the fans. That fiery passion, that unity that draws you together is the idea that this word is trying to convey. This is why some translations translate it as “one accord.”

But this word doesn’t just carry the idea of being in one accord with other spectators at a sporting event. It goes much deeper than that. It carries the idea that we are to be together, in one accord with one another, on a deep spiritual and emotional level. What this word tells us then is that:

C. We are to live interdependently.

Living interdependently means that we are together in both proximity and in dependent community.

Think about the example of the Redwoods that I opened with. They exist in proximity to one another, as well as they depend on one another. They live in interdependent community. That’s how the first church lived. That’s how we are to live as well. 

Now, living in interdependent community of course means that we live in proximity to one another. But:

Interdependent community takes us much deeper than proximity.

Even though proximity is associated with interdependent community. To a certain extent living in proximity is easy to attain. All it takes is for us to live in the same community and attend the same local church on a regular basis. Proximity is really nothing more than seeing one another, saying hey, shaking hands, sitting in the same Sunday School class and sanctuary together. So achieving proximity is really not all that difficult. But it is the first and a necessary step to living in interdependent community.

That tells us, then, that

We can’t just stop at proximity, we have to keep going until we also are living lives that are depending on one another for growth and godliness.

We need to get to a place where we believe that we need each other in order to grow in Christ, that we need more than just Jesus, a Bible, and a quiet a place. Don’t get me wrong, we need time alone with Jesus. We need our time in the Word and in prayer, but we also need one another. We have to recognize that or we will never live in interdependent community with one another. We will never see the value of asking someone else to pray for us. We will never see the value of asking another to hold us accountable. We will never see the value of getting together with one another in Bible Study. We will never see the value of serving one another by using our spiritual gifts.

So we must get to a place where we believe that we need one another in order to grow in Christ and accomplish our mission as the Church.  I’m not talking about a physical need. Certainly, we need others to help us with things. We need people who are willing and able to cook meals for those who can’t do it on their own. We need people to go and fix things at other people’s houses. We need others to give us a ride at times. We need each other physically.

But we also need to go deeper than that, so that we recognize the fact that we need each other spiritually. The first church saw that need, and that’s what drove them to sell everything, to move in with one another, and to gather together on a daily basis to not only fulfill the physical but the spiritual as well. They saw their need for one another. If we want to be a growing vibrant church that is making disciples, we must see that need and we must allow others to meet that need.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do we see a need for one another? 
  2. Are we willing to be open and transparent so that others can fulfill that need? 

Next Time

Next time, I’ll focus on how we are to live in interdependent community with one another. 

Resources

Post developed from my sermon In what type of community must the church live?