With the Memorial Day weekend ahead, I’ve been thinking tonight about where I was on my birthday ten years ago. I had the opportunity to spend the morning that day with a video crew observing and talking to men who are part of the Old Guard – soldiers who are stationed at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. I’ve shared the video with you before, but it’s worth watching again.
|I was struck as I talked with these men about their allegiance and dedication to their job. They are obsessive about their uniform. They march with remarkable precision. They understand that being selected to serve as a tomb guard is an honor, and as the Sentinel’s Creed makes clear, these men are committed to living their lives with whole hearted dedication to their duty.|
I think about the men who guard the Tomb of the Unknowns when I read Philippians 1:27. The Apostle Paul issues a solemn charge in that verse, challenging his readers, then and now, to conduct ourselves in a manner that is worthy of the gospel. As those who have been granted citizenship in the Kingdom of God, we have a duty to live our lives in a way that honors the greatness of the gift we’ve been given.
Philippi was a Roman province. Not every city in the Roman Empire had been granted that status. That designation meant that the people of Philippi had the same rights and privileges as the people who had been born in Rome. It was common for people in Philippi to say to one another “act like a citizen.”
So when Paul says in Philippians 1:27 that as Christians we are to conduct ourselves in a way that is worthy of the gospel, he’s saying essentially the same thing. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God. We are to live like citizens.
What does that look like? The rest of the verse gives us a snapshot. Not the whole picture certainly, but a snapshot. He highlights four qualities that should be true of Kingdom citizens. He says we should be men and women who stand firm, who live in unity with each other, who are striving together for the faith of the gospel, and who are not frightened by our opponents.
The call to be people who stand firm is a military term. It’s a word used to describe a soldier who holds his position. Who doesn’t let the enemy make any inroads. Who holds the line. To stand firm is to persist in your faith. To persevere. To maintain your allegiance.
The opposite of standing firm is to bend in the wind, to be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. Standing firm means we don’t weaken our resolve or surrender to the enemy.
Paul knows as he writes this letter that attacks on our faith will come from enemies within and without. From the world. From the flesh. From the devil. Paul says “when the attacks come, stand firm. Don’t waver. Don’t bend.”
He goes on to say that we are to stand firm together. Side by side. In unity. Standing firm and living lives that honor the gospel is not something we do on our own. We do it together, as the family of God. We need one another. And our unity in the gospel is a witness to a broken, divided world that the gospel is true. Jesus prayed that we would be one, so that the world would believe that God had sent Him. Unity in the gospel is a big deal to Jesus. A lack of unity is dishonoring to the gospel.
Theologian Don Carson says our unity in Christ is about a lot more than just warm fuzzies. He says it is “committed partnership, in which personal interests are subsumed under the common mission.”
If you are stirring up strife or division in the church, you are not living worthy of the gospel. The same goes for those who refuse to pursue peace with people who have offended them in some way. Disunity, division and discord do not honor God. The Psalms say “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.” Or to put it another way, how bad and unpleasant it is when there is disunity among God’s people.
We honor the gospel with our lives when we are engaged with one another in the mission we’ve been given – the mission of advancing the Kingdom by sharing the gospel and making disciples. This is something the Bible tells us we are to be striving for. That’s not a casual word. It’s not a passive term. Striving means we are making a concerted effort to accomplish the mission we’ve been given. To do any less is to dishonor the gospel.
Finally, the Bible tells us that we honor the gospel by not being “frightened in anything” by our opponents. We are not walking worthy of the gospel if we are living in fear. We walk worthy of the gospel when we have joy and peace in spite of our circumstances, because we know who is in charge and we know what the ultimate outcome is going to be.
How do we live with joy and confidence in a decaying, post Christian culture? What does that look like? It looks like not being frightened by or intimated by those who don’t love Jesus or who don’t have the same gospel centered priorities as we have. The other team does not frighten us. In fact, we love them.
Even as our culture moves further away from the biblical standard, we are not to be frightened. Instead, we are to recalibrate our game plan and begin thinking in fresh ways about how we can live worthy of the gospel as missionaries, not as the majority.
The gospel is great good news. It’s the main thing. And we honor the gospel by believing it, and then living lives that are worthy of it.
Think for a minute about the last 24 hours. Have you stood firm? Promoted unity and peace? Lived on mission? Not been fearful?
Now think about the next 24 hours. Make your plans. And live a life that is worthy of the gospel.
Thanks to all who have already brought hot dogs, chips and cookies to church, as we get ready for our very first Parking Lot Picnic (a week from today)!
PARKING LOT PICNICS – JUNE 2, 9, 16, 23
As you know, we’ll have a taco truck in our lot next Wednesday night. Your family can have all the tacos you can eat for just $10 per family. Singles, you can form your own family, or pick the family you want to adopt you for the night. We’ll have bottled water for you. A game time for the kids. We’ll have a shaded area. Bring some folding chairs. And some friends.
men’s summer book study – begins June 4
Guys – if you’ve signed up for the Gun Lap study, and if you requested a book, we’ll have it for you at church this Sunday, or you can pick it up at our first meeting on June 4. And if you haven’t signed up yet, there’s plenty of time. Order a book on your own and join us a week from Friday. Here are the details.
| Have you ever heard someone suggest that Jesus never maintained that He was God? That after His death, His followers got a little carried away and made Him out to be more than He ever claimed to be? That theory hits the wall pretty hard when you read John 10, as we’ll see this week.|
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!