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Philippians 1:12-27 12  Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14  Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. 15  It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16  The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17  The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18  But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.

And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19  for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20  I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24  but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26  so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. 27  Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Silent Prayer

If you are just joining us in 2016 our theme for the year is the “Year of the Gospel” where we will know it, live it, tell, it and give it.  I encourage you to go back and watch the first three sermons of the year if you missed any as they are foundational to our efforts this year to share the Gospel with others in practical and challenging ways.  Today’s message is part two of the “Live It” idea.  Remember, it isn’t enough just to know the Gospel because the Gospel is more than a series of beliefs.  In order for the Gospel to be effective we have to live it out in and through our lives.

Last week in the first “Live It” message I laid the foundation for what living the Gospel includes.  It means that we let Jesus do His job description in our lives (IS 61:1-4) and we seek to reflect that work in our lives to those around us as we live happy, live whole, live free, and live as “Oaks of Righteousness” a planting of the Lord in order that His splendor might be seen in our lives.  In today’s message the Apostle Paul gives us another glimpse of what it means to live out the Gospel message.

First of all, Paul’s words encourage us to:

View all of life as a way to advance the Gospel.

Revisit verse twelve with me: 12  Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14  Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

So, let me get this straight.  Paul is in prison in Rome, and while he is chained up, he sees this not as incarceration but as proliferation of the Gospel.  From his perspective, jail on behalf of the Gospel is a good thing.  For while he is held captive he has a captive audience with the palace guards.  They were Caesar’s special troops!  Paul had an opportunity to influence Caesar himself by influencing his guards with the Gospel!  Woohoo!  If he was going to be in prison anywhere, Rome was a great place to be in prison because it was the great empire.  It was a key city.  If Paul could conquer Rome for Christ it would mean reaching millions of people with the Gospel.

He wrote in Acts 19:21 that he must go to Rome.  He wrote in Romans 1:15 that he was eager to get to Rome to preach.  So even though he was in a restricted situation, he was in a prime place to preach the Gospel.  I guess you could say Paul wanted to go to Rome as a preacher, but instead he went as a prisoner.  But he didn’t let the prison experience keep him from preaching!  In other words, prison became helpful for the preaching purposes!  Listen, God may put a direction or destination in your spirit but that doesn’t mean you know the way to get there.  God has creative ways of getting us into the place He desires for us to be in order to bring Him glory.

Now Paul’s imprisonment in Rome wasn’t in the confines of a harsh jail situation.  It was more of a house arrest kind of deal, but he definitely contended with chains and some limitations.  He did, however, get to have visitors coming in and out with whom he could share the Gospel.  Paul could have been writing his memoirs about how awful his life was, what a bummer his confinement was, how he wished for the freedom he had once known, but instead he wrote several parts of the New Testament which means he was writing down principles about the Gospel and was writing about his dealings with sharing the Gospel which have given countless people instruction about the value of sharing the Gospel.

He had a right to be upset about his prison status.  After all, he had been illegally arrested in the temple in Jerusalem (Acts 21:17-28:31).  It’s a long story, but just like Jesus he was falsely accused and charges were trumped up to make him appear as a lawbreaker.  So he was imprisoned in Jerusalem and because he was actually a Roman citizen legally he was allowed to appeal his case to Rome.  He made the appeal, and that is why he was sent from Jerusalem to Rome.  Paul had longed to get to Rome, but he probably didn’t think it would be via the jail system and being transported as a criminal.  On the way to Rome he was actually shipwrecked and was stranded on the Island of Malta for three months in the process; not exactly something to smile about.  But Paul basically said, “It’s all good” because everything that has happened to me (vs 12) has served to advance the Gospel.

In fact the word “advance” really means “pioneer advance.”  It is a Greek military term that refers to the army engineers who go before the troops to open the way into new territory.  Instead of finding himself confined as a prisoner, Paul discovered that his circumstances were really God’s strategy for opening up new areas of ministry!

(The following three paragraphs excerpted from the Bible Exposition Commentary, NT)

Many of you have heard of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the famous British preacher, but few know the story of his wife, Susannah. Early in their married life, Mrs. Spurgeon became an invalid. It looked as though her only ministry would be encouraging her husband and praying for his work. But God gave her a burden to share her husband’s books with pastors who were unable to purchase them. This burden soon led to the founding of the “Book Fund.” As a work of faith, the “Book Fund” provided thousands of pastors with tools for their work. All this was supervised by Mrs. Spurgeon from her home. It was a pioneer ministry.

Listen, God still wants His children to take the Gospel into new areas. He wants us to be pioneers in advancing the Gospel, and sometimes He arranges circumstances so that we can do just that. What this scenario tells us is that people may be chained up, but the Gospel cannot ever be chained!  Hallelujah!

Maybe you are in a situation now where you feel restricted.  Maybe you feel like your hands are tied or like you are stranded on an island going nowhere.  Listen, if you are in a tight place right now, don’t make it about you, but make it about the Gospel!  If we could always avoid unpleasant situations we may never get the Gospel into every place where it is needed.  You are on a mission, my friend.  It could be that the tough spot you are in is God’s appointed place for you to be advancing His Gospel.

Second, Paul’s words challenge us to View all of life as a way to defend the Gospel.  Paul said in verse 16 that it was clear to everyone what he was about.  He was not only about advancing the Gospel, but he was also about defending it.

What is it that we are to defend?  First and foremost, it is that Jesus Christ was and is the sinless Son of God.  He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin.  He suffered death on a cross where the sins of the world upon which He bore the sins of the world.  He died and was buried, but on the third day He rose from the dead, defeating sin, death, and the grave forever.  He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father where He reigns and He lives to pray for us.  His Holy Spirit is at work in the world today to help us experience His grace and forgiveness in fullness.  There is no peace with God without a relationship with Him, and there is no other way to Heaven except through Christ.  That is the essence of the Gospel.  I will defend it until I draw my last breath.

There are other Christian beliefs that flow out of the Gospel message, however that as Christian believers we must defend them regardless of the risk of being labeled, misunderstood or persecuted. You see, living out the Gospel means, in part, defending the truths of the Gospel which are truths for which Christ died.  One of those truths deals with life which is part of our theme and is central to Christ’s Gospel. It is a truth we must defend and it is this:  Every person, unborn and born, regardless of race, gender, age, ability, or location is a human being created in the image of God and is valuable, should be protected, respected, and given dignity.

There is no doubt that an unborn child is a human being from conception.  At conception, everything about that human being comes into existence.  It only needs food, water, shelter and oxygen and a congenial environment in which to interact.  At conception, day one, this tiny new cell, smaller than a grain of salt contains all the genetic information for every detail of the newly created life-the color of hair and eyes, the intricate fine lines of the fingerprint, the physical appearance, the gender, the height and the skin tone.  Day one!  A person on day one.  Human on day one.

Not only is the infant in the womb worth defending in honor of the Gospel of Christ, but the woman who contemplates that difficult decision needs to know that her quality of life is also at stake.  Women who make the difficult decision to have an abortion can and do deal with many, many documented emotional and physical complications that I don’t have time to detail.  Abortion snuffs out the lives of babies and hurts the lives of women who deal with post traumatic issues.  It isn’t a political issue.  It isn’t an individual choice issue.  It is a biblical truth which is central to the Gospel news that Jesus came to give us life, and we must stand up to defend it in order to faithfully live out His Gospel.

While I am unbending on defending that truth, I know many of you have been affected by abortion.  It has changed your life in some way whether you have personal experience with it or know someone who has.  I want you to know there is a wideness in God’s mercy and compassion for you if you have made that choice.  There is forgiveness and healing in the name of Jesus.  And just as vigorously as I will stand for life and defend life, I will also stand for the grace and mercy of God that can forgive any offense and bring healing to any life.

The urgency in my message is for girls who aren’t yet in the situation where they might contemplate abortion who one day might be.  There is another choice.  We will stand by you and with you.  Through our Heartbeat of the Valley, single mom’s ministry and other methods we will come alongside you.  We can help you welcome your baby into the world and support you as you mother the child.  We can help you bless a family that desires a baby by helping you adopt your child out.  I’m not saying it is easy, but the end result will be a life of contentment for you knowing that you chose life.

You see, the Christian life is the best life.  There are some no-compromise beliefs and behaviors that go along with being a Christ-follower.  Let me mention a few more Christian principles worth defending.  Love for all people.  There is NO PLACE in God’s Kingdom for the hatred of racism.  It is inexcusable and is sin against God.  A racist heart has not truly been touched by the power of the Gospel for when a person truly experiences God’s love, His love will flow freely in their lives to other people around them. We must continue to defend biblical marriage as one man and one woman while loving those who make a different choice.  We must defend the Creationist viewpoint as the way the world came into being for without a personal Creator involved in personal way with Creation there is no redemption.

Being Christian doesn’t mean that you never disagree with anyone.  It doesn’t mean that you never step on toes and just keep the truth to yourself.  It doesn’t mean you simply adopt a “live and let live” mentality. It just means you speak the truth in love and you respect other people’s right to disagree with you.  If you are truly living out the Gospel, seeking to advance it and seeking to defend it appropriately God’s power will be convincing and many people will see and embrace the truth.

That leads me to my last point: View each day as a call to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel.  Paul says in verse 27, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel.  This verse deals with our personal walk and conduct.  It does no good to a watching world for us to try to advance or defend the Gospel if we are living hypocritical lives.

Paul said he was a citizen of heaven, (Phil. 3:20) and the way he lived his life backed up his claim. He lived to pursue righteousness and not sin.  He lived to serve Christ and not self.

Paul said in verse 27 of Philippians 1“…standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”  Let’s acknowledge today it isn’t easy to stand for the Gospel, to live worthy of the Gospel, to defend the Gospel and to seek to advance the Gospel, but the level of difficulty in our current time doesn’t change our calling to do just that.  There is an element of endurance needed, an element of perseverance that is needed.  I would say it takes more courage now to follow Christ than it has in the previous 47 years of my lifetime.  I don’t see it getting easier.  God is calling for Christians today who will truly advance, defend and live out His Gospel message.

If you were asked to give an account for your life today based on where you are now and how you have been living, could you say you have been living in a manner worthy of the Gospel?  In light of the fact that Christ has given His all to save you and has given you everything you need to live for Him, can you say you are doing just that?  I guess God is asking us this morning through this verse, “Do we have spiritual integrity?”  We can’t be seeking to live as citizens in this world according to the ways of the world and at the same time claim citizenship that is in heaven.  You may be able to claim dual earthly citizenship, but you can’t claim dual spiritual citizenship.  Is there an effort to do self-examination during these messages or at the end of every day or regularly through prayer?  Do you ask God to show you what might need to be changed in your life?  Is there a desire to know and to live out God’s truth in your daily life?

There is a Gospel to advance.  There is a Gospel to defend.  There is a Gospel to live out.  Where do you find yourself in light of this Gospel challenge this morning?

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