Living Worthy


Charlotte Digges “Lottie” Moon (December 12, 1840 – December 24, 1912) was a Southern Baptist missionary to China with the Foreign Mission Board who spent nearly 40 years (1873–1912) living and working in China. It was a time when teaching was considered the only place for women on the mission field, yet Lottie felt called to be an evangelist, to share the good news of Christ. She led hundreds of Chinese to the Lord. She was a tireless advocate with Southern Baptists to send more missionaries, to provide support for the missionaries on the field and to raise funds to help in the ministry of the gospel. This is her ongoing legacy. The annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Missions has raised a total of $1.5 billion for missions since 1888, and finances half the entire Southern Baptist missions budget every year. Lottie Moon is a tremendous example of a person who lived with the priority of the gospel and helped others, through their support of missions, to do the same. It is the same mindset that we have been learning that Paul the apostle had concerning the gospel.

Philippians 1:18b-20
 
“Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” Paul was in prison, but his hope and expectation was that at some point he would get out. He recognized that the prayers of God’s people were the means, along with the help of the Spirit, by which he would be set free. But notice with me that his concern was not so much on getting out. He concern was the manner with which he lived as a representative of Jesus while he was in prison. He wanted the Lord to be honored through his life no matter what happened to him.Mindset reset #1: Living so that the Lord will be glorified through our lives at all times.When we are going through it, those fiery trials which the Lord says are just a part of life, our temptation is to do whatever it takes to lesson our pain. This kind of thinking is pervasive where the ends justify the means. “If only I get through this, then I do what you want, Lord.” “Get me out of this foxhole and then I will turn to you God.” But with the Lord there is no bargaining. The mindset that He leads us to embrace is that no matter what, whether we are in the thick of it or not, our motivation will be to live for His honor and glory, not our own will. You can’t have it both ways. Either you pray, “Thy will be done,” or you don’t.
I’ve never quoted Oprah Winfrey before, but no time like the present. “There are many people who will want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is people who will ride the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” The Lord wants people who will ride the bus with him. He wants to reset our mindset so that we honor Him, no matter what our surroundings are.

Philippians 1:21-26
 
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”

This week we had two long-time saints of our church depart to be with Christ. Larry Leach had been a member of our church since 1966. Lucille Sunby had been a member since 1935. Their membership has been transferred as the song says, up yonder. They both were looking forward to being with the Lord, yet up until this week they had fruitful labor to do for Christ and His Kingdom. Although Paul wanted to die so that he could be with the Lord, he understood that the Lord had work for him still to do. That work was to help grow the faith of these believers so that they could become mature. He realized that there was still more that he could do, so recognizing this, he saw that it was God’s will to keep him around for a little while longer.

Paul’s mind had been so changed that death became something no longer to fear. On the other side of death was Jesus whom Paul came to know and love more than anything in the world. Because of Jesus, both death and life held equal gain – the one side, death, was gain for him, the other side, life, was gain for others which was also gain for him since that is what his life was dedicated to.

Mindset reset #2: Living with the conviction that in Christ both death and life are gain.

Most people live with a fear of death, and it can keep them from truly living life to the fullest. But when we put our life and our future in God’s hands by trusting in Christ, we are saying that we trust God to take us home to be with Him at exactly the right time. For some, like Lucille or the apostle John who outlived all the rest of the apostles, it is a long life. For others, like John’s brother James who was martyred for the gospel of Christ soon after Jesus’ resurrection, it is much shorter than we expect.

Paul shows the mindset that the Lord wants to install in us. When we die that will be a great day because we will be with the Lord. In our life, let it be that we work with Christ for the advancement of His Kingdom. For both the sharing of the gospel message and the growing of God’s people in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. No matter how well you know Jesus Christ, just love and serve and follow Him, and He will work through you, sometimes without your even knowing it, to help others know the Lord better too.

Philippians 1:27-30
 
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, 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.”

What does it mean to live worthy of the gospel of Christ? Paul mentions three aspects. First, standing firm in one spirit. There are different flavors of standing firm. These flavors range from the radical take no prisoners burned earth approach on one end to the wide tent we all love each other can’t we just all get along approach. Somewhere in between there is a place where God’s people can stand together on solid ground which keeps them from being sucked into the spirit of either of these extremes.

If we are to stand in one spirit, then it stands to reason that this spirit should be inspired and led by the Holy Spirit. What is the character of the Holy Spirit? Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatian church that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) These character qualities are a firm place to stand. Living them out is something that we can all agree on since as members of God’s family through faith in Christ we have all been given the Holy Spirit who lives in us. Our spirit is drawn to these fruit of the Spirit because that is the new nature which God placed in us.

I find it compelling that Paul mentions standing firm in one spirit before he mentions standing firm in one mind. These two aspects are certainly both important, but this order highlights something that people often forget. When we are standing firm for something that we believe in, we must not lose sight of how we are standing firm. Especially as those who represent Jesus Christ, the spirit with which we live and interact and respond to people and situations around us matters immensely! In other words we lose the unity of the Spirit and the power of our witness for Christ if we are not standing firm on the character of Christ.

So then to take it one step further, if we are striving to stand firm for the faith of the gospel in one mind, yet our behavior is motivated by the ends justify the means, we are not standing firm together at all. In fact this is the criticism that many have against Christ-followers – that their beliefs and their behavior are not in sync, that they believe one thing but live another. It matters that we have a love in our hearts for people and for each other. It matters that we are filled with joy, that we display patience, that we exhibit self-control. Where our lives are not matching up with the fruit of the Spirit we need to submit ourselves to the Lord for His work of transformation.

At the same time that we are standing firm in one spirit, we must stand firm in one mind for the faith of the gospel. This is a mindset reset that I think many Christians never go through. It comes back to the purpose which Jesus left his first disciples. It is the mission that Jesus left for them to accomplish, by His power, after He went back to heaven. This mission has been handed down generation after generation until the present day when those of us here who have trusted Christ must come to grips with just what that means. Jesus said it this way, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) For the past year I have been saying that “We connect people to Jesus and help God change their lives.”

Paul was hopeful that these believers would strive for the faith of the gospel side by side, united in their minds, on the same page as to the priority of gospel in their daily lives. In this way they would be encouraged when the difficult times came and people became opposed to their message, that they would remain firm in their convictions and in their priorities. Paul was expecting them to have opposition. He was expecting that this opposition would take the form of suffering.
This is the reality of what it means to live in a manner that is worthy of the gospel. Paul understood that when he shared the news of life in Jesus with people that there would be a negative reaction. This is because whenever you share the truth, the evil one works against it due to his nature as a liar. This highlights why God’s people need to be united in spirit and in mind. The evil one does not want to have people forgiven of sin and set free. The evil one and all evil spirits are united under a different kind of spirit. This is what Paul also highlights in the 5th chapter of Galatians. “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”

These works of the sinful nature are what works against us when we stand in one spirit and in one mind for the gospel. We call this spiritual warfare. It really boils down to ourselves being targets for sinful behavior and for other people’s sinful behavior boiling over on us. This is why we need to stand side by side for the gospel. That way when conflict comes because we are living for Jesus and for His message of good news, we can encourage each other.

Last week we saw that Paul was basically saying, “Prison is no big deal. What matters is the gospel of Jesus.” This week Paul is basically saying, “Death is no big deal because we get to be with Jesus. What matters is the gospel of Jesus going out to everybody.” The Spirit of Jesus is always working to advance the gospel message in all the earth. How do we work with the Lord in this? We need to stand together in one spirit so that God would be glorified in our lives, in one mind so that we stand together on the truth of His Word and to stand together with great courage so that fear doesn’t keep us from doing God’s will.

Mindset reset #3: Living so that our spirit, our mind and our response to persecution is worthy of the gospel of Jesus.

I think fear has really done a number on God’s people when it comes to the good news of Christ. In our own minds we allow our thoughts to run rampant about what things might possibly happen if we stand for the Lord. Most of these thoughts are just wild and don’t have anything to do with reality. Some of them might be right on target.

But what does it matter? Only the gospel of Christ is the power to set people free from the path of destruction and eternal separation from God that we are all on. What does it matter that someone might be mad, or misinterpret our intentions, or slander us and calls us bad names, or misrepresent our character, or try to do all kinds of bad things against us? In the light of eternity with God, who is love and good and all the best things that we could ever desire, how do any of these things even compare?

Paul encouraged these early Christ-followers to live their lives in a manner that was worthy of the gospel. Paul’s mindset took some time to change. These believers took some time for their mindset to change. Your mindset will take some time to change also. But work with the Lord. He wants to make some changes in you. You can see what God did in Paul. The gospel was the priority in his life. Jesus made that change in him. He wants to make it in you too. He’s still working in me on it as well. Let’s allow Him to do His work. Let’s ask Him to reset our minds so that the gospel of Christ has the priority in our lives.
This week I had the honor of sharing the gospel. I could see that the Lord was working powerfully in the lives of those I talked to. I don’t know yet how they will respond. That’s not my responsibility. That’s the Lord’s. He is the one who begins the work in a person’s heart. He gives us the privilege of being His messengers.

In the Welcome Center I printed out the gospel message which I shared this week. At the top of the sheet it says, “Five words that will change your life.” Take a copy with you. If you feel comfortable doing so, talk with someone about it this week. Take multiple copies and give them to someone that the Lord is putting on your heart who may not quite understand the gospel message. Let’s live in manner worthy of the gospel. Let’s follow Paul’s example and make it the priority in our lives.