God’s Call to Heavenly Living
Text: Phil 1:27
After the meeting last week I was asked a question that related to the message. If you remember, we looked at what Paul said was the pulling him to glory, and what was keeping him on the earth. The desire to see Christ versus the need to help the church at Philippi. And from that I said that the love for both Christ and His people should be equal. That we have no right to claim to love Christ more than His people because in accordance with 1 Cor 12, Christ and His people are one body.
All of us struggle to love some of God’s people. But here’s the ugly truth beloved – that is more of a reflection of our sinfulness than it is of theirs. If they are the people of God, then God loves them for what they are in Christ. And we have to look at one another as God looks at us – in Christ. We all have unlovely features, and those of us who have less obviously ugly features, have it by the grace of God alone.
But we move on from that to v27, where there’s a shift in the language.
v12-26 really was all about Paul. The application and challenge of that passage comes by way of his example. But in v27, Paul begins to address them by explicit exhortation. This goes to 2:16.
I. THE CALL IS A COMMAND
It’s given as a divine imperative. This is a command from God.
It’s given as a perpetual imperative. It’s not something for a certain period of life.
“only” – often just introducing a new thought. Have you ever been given a list of things to do or remember, and the person giving them highlights one thing. They say something like, “Whatever you don’t, make sure…” That is the idea here. Paul is drawing attention to the exhortation.
We live in a day when we don’t like absolutes and we don’t like commands. Everything is relative, and what’s good for you is your choice, and nothing should be allowed to impinge on that. That’s blatantly ungodly.
If you have been fed on a diet of Christianity which never challenges how you live, it’s not biblical. Our Christian life is a life of faith, but that doesn’t mean it’s without imperatives. Now we know that nothing we can do can earn favour with God, but also because of God’s work in us we can do nothing but what he commands.
II. THE CALL IS TO CONFORMITY
“let your conversation” – Paul uses this word in Phil 3:20. Has the idea of citizenship. Just as those at Philippi had the benefit of being a Roman Colony and treated as citizens on Rome, which gave them a number of benefits, so Paul tells them that they ought to live in light of their heavenly citizenship.
“be as it becometh the gospel of Christ” – it is not a command to live to earn the gospel of Christ, but a command to own the gospel of Christ. To live in a distinctive way that shows your are citizens of the kingdom of God. The call to a certain conduct becoming of believers is not a secondary matter.
“the gospel of Christ” – God’s greatest display of glory. God’s love, goodness, justice, mercy, etc, is all most wonderfully displayed and revealed by the gospel of Christ. And as we live the gospel as citizens of the kingdom, people should see God’s attributes reflected in us.
Our lives should be lived to show the primacy of the gospel in all things – it should be clear to all that the gospel is of primary importance to us. We work, but that work cannot in any way be allowed to contradict the gospel. We marry, but that avoid any marriage that contradicts the gospel. We laugh, but not at that which contradicts the gospel. The gospel sanctifies and makes demands on every area of our lives. No exceptions. Don’t look around you for your cue for how to live.
Let us never forget that the gospel deals with sin. “thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Matt 1:21. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Eph 2:10. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Rom 8:29. “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” 1 John 2:6.
The laws of this heavenly kingdom do not change with the fads of society. They are concrete. Fornication is sin, always has been, always will be. Adultery is sin… Sodomy is sin, always has been, always will be.
Now all these things are commonplace today. Their acceptance has been drip fed into the minds of people by the devil. And of course, now they’re doing the same with pedophilia. They’re telling us it’s a disorder, not a sin.
Because of course, nothing is a sin anymore, and having laid the groundwork in the worldview of people to ‘live and let live’ then Satan can easily bring people to accept everything if they’re exposed to it enough and its presented as accepted by the masses. But I tell you men and women, the laws of the kingdom do not change, and whatever the world says, these things are sin!
Tell me, how are we defined as people? Are we defined by our nationality? Are we defined by our past? Are we defined by our occupation? Are we defined by where we live?
Are we defined by how much we earn? Listen, we are to be defined by the gospel of Christ, and how do we do that? We let the gospel define us.
People should know we don’t cheat on taxes. People should know jokes of cheating and telling negative stories about our spouses are wasted on us. People should know innuendo is lost on us. we are called to conform to the gospel of Christ as citizens of heaven.
Are you not a proud holder of a passport to glory? You should be! And we ought not to live like that privileged citizenship doesn’t mean anything to us.
III. THE CALL IS TO CONSISTENCY
“that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs” – He desires consistency in this, whether he was present with them, or whether he hears it by report. Why is this important? Because these things are changeless. The truths are changeless, the commands are changeless, and the grace of the gospel is changeless.
Consistency is the toughest part of the Christian life, and yet it is the most important. It is tightly bound with the concept of perseverance. And this isn’t just something Paul is looking for, it’s something Jesus is looking for. “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” John 8:31. “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Matt 24:13. And so this is what Paul expects of the Philippians 1:6, and it’s what he desires of himself Phil 3:14. Because without this we show we are not true citizens!
And I tell you beloved, I long this of you. I don’t want to have to chase you up wondering where you are. Sad to say there are some of you I already wonder why you don’t attend more meetings than you do. Is it because you have an abundance of grace? Can you give me your secret?
Listen, if you haven’t learned this yet then you need to. There are times as Christians none of us ‘feel’ like doing certain things. We don’t feel like praying, or reading our Bibles, or going to church, etc, but we are called to it. We are citizens of heaven, so we live as we are called to do.
And not just for the pastor’s sake – compare Phil 2:12.
I hope my presence and preaching encourages you to godliness. But I don’t want your motivation to be me. It’s not me you serve. You ought to fear God, not the pastor. My mother has a plaque on her wall with the words, “Bidden or not bidden, God is present”. And beloved, we need to keep that in mind.
If the presence of a person provokes us to live more godly, we have yet to grasp a true understanding of the fear of God.
Close – Would your life have been different this past week if Paul was with you the entire time? What would have changed? The websites you visited? The words you used? You never cease to be a citizen of heaven. Remember when Peter denied the Lord? He forgot that the Lord was watching him the entire time. Then when he caught the glance of the Lord after his third denial, he broke down and wept.
Beloved, don’t live your life sensing the look of the Saviour only after you sin. Plead with God that you will sense that look before you sin. That’s the look that will keep you from sin, and keep you living as a citizen of heaven.