Living Like We are Dying: Philippians Series #6
In this chapter the Apostle Paul is teaching us to live like we are dying. For example, in Philippians 1:20 Paul said, “Whether it be by life or by death.” Then, in verse 21, he said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” To live and to die: the two ultimate outcomes.
In this first chapter of Philippians, the Apostle Paul gives us three incredible pictures of life. In verse 5, we note that he is thankful for the fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now. The picture is of the Christian life as being a son sharing the fellowship of the gospel. We are sons and daughters in Christ. We are to share with one another the fellowship of the gospel.
The second picture is in verse 12 of this chapter. Here, Paul writes about the furtherance of the gospel. The picture there is of a Christian being a servant, seeking the furtherance of the gospel. We are sons sharing the fellowship of the gospel. We are servants that are seeking the furtherance of the gospel.
Then in verse 27, Paul shares with us the third picture. In this picture he teaches that we are to strive together for the faith of the gospel. The picture is that Christians are like soldiers striving for the faith of the gospel. If you listen very carefully to these verses, you will hear the marching of troops and you will hear the sound of gun fire. He is picturing the Christian life here as being like a soldier.
Of course, we know that soldiers must live like they were dying all the time. Soldiers are always in places of danger. They know that their life is up for grabs and that death may be imminent at any time.
We need to comprehend that the Christian life is not a playground, but a battleground. The Christian life is not a frolic, but a fight; not a stroll, but a struggle. As believers, every day we should live like we were dying, keeping in mind that as believers, we are soldiers of the cross and we are going to battle for Jesus Christ.
I. Our Lifestyle Should Be Virtuous
If you and I are going to live like we were dying, the first thing we notice in these verses is that our conduct and daily life must be consistent.
In Philippians 1:27, he says, “Only let your citizen be.” The word literally means to live as a citizen. Paul is saying to these believers in particular at Philippi, “Let your citizenship be as it becomes the gospel of Christ.” We are told that the city of Philippi was a Roman colony. It was an outpost of the Roman Empire. They were governed by Roman law. They were to emulate the patterns and the lifestyles of Rome. They wore Roman clothing in Roman styles. In every way, Philippi sought to be a miniature Rome. When Paul says, “Let your citizenship be,” they would immediately know what he was talking about.
In Philippians 1:20, Paul states, “For our citizenship, “is in heaven.” Do you see the comparison he’s making? He’s saying to those people in Philippi, “You are citizens.” They knew that they were citizens of the Roman Empire. But now, as born again believers, he says that your citizenship is in heaven. He’s saying that you should emulate heaven on this earth. “Let your heavenly citizenship be demonstrated by the consistent life and by the activities of your daily life that you belong to heaven.”
Everybody who comes in touch with us should get a little taste of heaven. Everybody who meets us as born-again children of God should get a little understanding of what heaven is going to be like.
I think he is basically writing about two qualities of our conduct as believers. I think he is saying that our conduct needs to be befitting of the gospel. “Let your citizen, your heavenly life, be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.” He’s saying there that our daily life and mind should be befitting of the gospel. We should live by the standards of the gospel.
When you and I visit a foreign country we are still citizens of America. We are bound by the standards and the laws and the regulations of our homeland. The same thing is true about believers. We belong to heaven; therefore, heavenly standards should be the standards whereby we govern our conduct.
Our culture today has its own standards. Our world today has its own rules for right and wrong. For instance, the standard in many places is that if it feels right, it is right. In other words, just do what you want to do. You become your own standard. They determine what is right and wrong in their behavior and in their conduct. However, if you name the name of Jesus and are a citizen of heaven, you have a different set of standards. You do not live by the standards of this world. You live by the standards of heaven. Paul says that our conduct must be consistent. It must be befitting to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Additionally, we should live in a manner that is becoming of the gospel. Paul states, “Let your citizenship be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.” If you are a lady, have you ever had anybody come up to you and say, “That dress becomes you”? What are they saying? They are giving you a very big compliment. They are saying, “You are lovely, and your dress just accentuates your loveliness.”
Paul is saying that you and I, as born again believers in the Lord, are to live in such a way that we will make the gospel beautiful to other people. We do have a beautiful gospel. This is a beautiful story, how God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, and how Jesus came into this world and died on a cross for our sins. Then, He was buried, and three days later He rose again from the dead. He is alive forevermore to change the lives of people! Isn’t that a beautiful story?
We should live every day in order for people to be attracted to the gospel. He’s saying that if we are going to live like we are dying, then we want to live in such a way that our life will attract people to the gospel of Jesus. We’ve got the greatest product the world has ever known. We should advertise and let people know about it. If people just knew how wonderful Jesus was, they would beg to come to church with us.
Do you know what is the best advertisement any church can have? For us to live for Jesus in your daily life on the job, or in social circles, or in your neighborhood and community. For us to live the Christian life so that people will come to our respective churches to find out what makes us live the way we live.
II. Our Loyalty Should Be Valuable
Paul says in Philippians 1:27, “I’m hoping that whether I’m there or not I will hear that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Paul reminds us that our courage must be evident by our faithfulness. He says, “That ye stand together.” The word there means to be united. We need to stand side by side together.
He is saying that God’s people need to have courage in these kinds of days. I think about our young people in our public schools. In our public schools, new kinds of morality are being pushed and new lifestyles and new ideas of what marriage is all about. It is a time that Christian young people need to take a stand for Jesus Christ. Christian young people need to be united in their faith in the Lord, in school.
Additionally, Paul stated we must stand fast in one spirit.
We need to be resolved in our courage, like the spirit of Winston Churchill. He was one of the greatest leaders of all time. In the midst of the conflict of World War II, when they were under attack by the Nazis, he said, “We have talked it over. We will go to the end. We will never surrender.” That’s the kind of spirit we need today on the part of God’s people. God’s people need courage, and it needs to be a courage to stand together.
He also says, “Striving together.” There’s athletic terminology here. Not only is he saying that we should put up a good front, have a good defense, but he says that we should have a good offense.
I enjoy college football. I know one of the greatest things in the world is to have a good offense. If you’ve got a good quarterback, a good running back, and a big offensive line, then you’ve got yourself a team. The children of God are a great team for the Lord Jesus Christ. We don’t need to always be on the defensive. We need to be on the offensive for the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a day to be faithful to the Lord, if we are going to live like we are dying.
Our courage must be evident in our faithfulness. Our courage must be evident in our fearlessness. He says in verse 28, “And in nothing terrified by your adversaries.” He’s saying, “Don’t be afraid of your enemies. Don’t be afraid of those you are fighting against in this battle.” The word for “terrified” is an interesting word. It was used to describe startled horses. Paul is saying, “Don’t be startled by your enemies. Don’t be surprised. Don’t get upset when your enemies attack. Don’t be disturbed when your values and your morals are under fire.”
It bothers me to see some Christians who are as scared as they are. The first time the devil says, “Boo,” some Christians go running and saying, “What are we going to do? We are under attack. I’m just so afraid.” We have nothing to be afraid of! We are members of God’s victorious team!
In those days, they had war horses that were trained. Those horses could stand there in the battle and not flinch amidst the midst of it. They stood there in the battle. I am encouraging God’s people to not be afraid. I know it’s controversial to take your stand for Jesus but we must stand firm in our faith. If you are a child of God, you are immortal until God gets through with you. Nobody can touch you until God gives them permission. You belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The story is told about a great preacher who was taking his stand against false doctrine. Somebody said, “Don’t you understand that the whole world is against you?” He said, “I’m against the whole world.” If you know you are right and if you are standing on Bible truth and standing with the Lord Jesus Christ, take your stand and don’t be afraid.
Next, Paul says, in verse 28, “Which is to them,” the enemies, “which is to them an evident token of perdition.” In other words, the fact that you are unafraid, and the fact that you stand with courage for what is right in the gospel, is a token. The word token there means it is evidence. It is evidence that they are on the losing side.
In other words, it is a token to your enemies that they are on the way to hell and they need Jesus. Yet, not only is evidence that they are on the losing side, but to you it’s a token of salvation. One of the ways you can know you are saved is that the devil gets after you. One of the ways you know you are saved is the devil is upset with you. Do you upset the devil? Does hell know your name? Do they know who you are? We should live for Jesus with such courage that we are a conversation piece in the hot halls of hell.
We have a token or evidence of our salvation and that of God. In the New Testament era, they would have gladiator games. When the fight was over, they would look up to the emperor’s box. The emperor would either give a thumbs down or he would give a thumbs up. Be courageous for the Lord Jesus Christ and look to heaven. If you stand for the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus will give you a thumbs up. We need to live like we were dying.
III. Our Lordship Should Be Victorious
We have now come to Philippians 1:29-30. We read, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake. Having the same conflict.” Many Christians wish these words were not in the Bible. These are not words that many people want to hear today in relation to the Christian life. Today, too many people want to hear about prosperity, health, and wealth.
Paul is talking about suffering and conflict. We don’t want to think about that in the Christian life. Some of us are so spoiled and pampered. We think that if the air conditioning goes off in the church that we are really suffering for Jesus. Yet, Paul here is talking about suffering. He’s talking about Christlikeness. He’s saying, “For Jesus sake.” He’s talking about Jesus’ suffering.
He talks here in unusual terms. We don’t normally think about this. He talks about the gift of suffering. He says in verse 29, “For unto you it is given.” Paul says, “Here is a gift God has given you. It is given on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake.” He says that suffering is one of God’s gifts.
When do you get that gift? He says that it is given to you not only to believe in Him but to suffer. He’s saying that suffering is a part of the salvation package. When Paul was converted on the Damascus Road, the Lord said about him, “For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” Suffering is a tool God uses to help us become what He has saved us to become. Suffering is a means of learning lessons we could learn in no other way.
Someone said that every sorrow comes with a message from the heart of God. Suffering is a love gift from the Lord. God honors you by the amount of suffering He allows you to have in your life. The general puts his strongest and best soldiers in the hottest part of the battle. Are you suffering? It’s a compliment.
We find “the gift of suffering” and the “glory of suffering” in the Bible. In the Bible, suffering and glory are tied together. Jesus suffered, but He also went into Glory. He said about Himself, “Ought not Christ to have suffered and to enter into his glory?” Suffering is the road to glory. Our Christlikeness becomes triumphant when we learn to suffer like Jesus did.
I love what Romans 8:18, says, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” 2 Corinthians 4:17, says, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Our God has some glory that He wants to put in your life. Live like you are dying so that your Christlikeness will be triumphant.
As we come to close in chapter one, in verse thirty, we read, “Having the same conflict.” The word conflict there is the word agony. It is the same word that was used of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. It says that He was in agony. It’s a word that means an athletic contest. Jesus went through the agony, but when the agony of Gethsemane was over, He had the victory of the cross.
Paul is saying, “It’s time for Christians to get in the game.” He says in verse 30, “Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” In verse 29 he says, “It’s time for you.” Jesus got on the field. Paul got on the field. Over the centuries, Christians have gotten on the field. Don’t you think it’s time for you and me to get on the field and live like we are dying?
We live in an era, when the grandstands are filled with 80,000 to 100,000 fans. They come to watch their favorite football team play against another team. I can imagine a man sitting up in the “nosebleed section,” talking to his buddies saying, “If I was the coach I would manage this team differently. Look at our quarterback. He can hardly play. Why do they run the plays that they run?”
Yet, this man is not going to get up and come down to the field to help his favorite team to win. He is content to criticize and cheer throughout the game. And, if his favorite team wins, he will no doubt say, “We sure did show the other team today! We have a mighty winning team!” However, he did not help the team to win. He did not make one block or one run the whole game.
Today, we have far too many Christians in the nosebleed section of life. They love to cheer when things go well and criticize when things go slow or wrong. It is time for the Christians of this generation to get on the playing field of life and fight the good fight of faith. We will have a conflict and suffering will be a part of our story, but in the end, we will be triumphant! We are more than conquerors in Christ! Let’s live like we are dying.