A Gospel-Shaped Life Part II
Pastor Jon Hueni | March 21, 2021
Pastor Jon Hueni | March 21, 2021
The gospel of Christ is not only something to believe, it is something to shape your life. It's to dictate your behavior. It's to control your conduct. It's to guide and inform and shape the way you live. In fact, if you really believe the gospel, it is doing that to one degree or another.
We've come in our study of this little letter to the Philippians, to verse 27 of chapter one. And it's the first command in the letter, and it's one of those all-inclusive rules of conduct. Notice it with me…1:27a, "Whatever happens conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel." See to it that your lives, in every part, line up with the gospel of Christ. That your conduct adorns the gospel, makes it attractive and winsome.
Now last week we sought to apply that principle, that all-inclusive rule of conduct, and gave several examples of how this works and just how broad and far reaching this command is. We noticed that since the gospel is a gospel of love, of God's love, then we need to major in loving others and especially those who are sinning against us, which is what gospel love is all about.
We noticed that since the gospel is a gospel of grace, we need to give grace to others. We have received…freely we've received. Freely we give.
We noticed this morning in the Sunday school hour two characteristics of Godliness…zeal and patience. And the gospel is about Christ's zeal to save us, and conduct worthy of that gospel is for us to be zealous for Him and for obeying His commands. The gospel is about a God who has been very patient with us, and therefore conduct worthy of the gospel is for us to be patient and to wait on God and to wait and be patient with each other.
And so on and on we could go. The gospel's good news, and because it's good news we don't keep it to ourselves. We share it with others. Because it's good news we rejoice in it. You see all of this and more, then, are applications of this all-inclusive rule of conduct, "to conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel.”
Now today we're going to see how Paul went on to apply that all-inclusive rule specifically to the needs there at Philippi. The church of God in Philippi. What will conduct worthy of the gospel look like in that church? Indeed, in this church and any church of the Lord Jesus Christ? As these things have been written down to teach us, even as they were to teach the church at Philippi. And we do need to see that this call to a gospel-shaped life is not only for individual Christians, but for them collectively as a church. This is a letter to the church. And verse 27 is a call to a gospel-shaped church life.
Now, to be sure, what is a universal always applies to the particulars that make up the universal, but we need to think of it in terms of our corporate life together. What does a gospel-shaped church look like? And the apostle by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit will give us three ways. Notice in verses 27 through 28b, "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the Gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.”
Notice by way of introduction, Paul is wanting them to live their lives as under the eye of God, not merely under the eye of God's ministers. Can you believe it that sometimes people act differently when their minister is around? What's up with that? You'd think that people would be more careful living under the eye of God than they would the eye of their minister. But lest you feel that I'm any different, I want you to know that sometimes ministers act differently when their people are around for the same reason. We're failing to live before that audience of One primarily. And we need to remember that the Lord is near. I live under His eye. And so Paul wants them, whether he's there or not, to be conducting their lives in a manner worthy of the gospel. "And so whether I come to you or whether I just hear about you, this is the message I want to hear...that you are conducting your life in a manner that lines up with the gospel. And if you are, then I'll know three things about you."
Number one: That you're standing firm and fighting for the faith of the gospel. You see it at the end verse 27, "I will know that you stand firm in one spirit contending as one man for the faith of the gospel." Now, the gospel of Christ is precious to us. It's through that message that we have been saved. That our eternal destiny has been changed from hell to heaven. That we have been made right with God and enjoy a life here and now in fellowship and communion with this God, which is just the beginning of an eternity of knowing and fellowshipping with Him.
It's a precious thing. It's called the Gospel of the glory of Christ because it reveals His glory. Now, is that not worth fighting for? "If the gospel is worth anything, it's worth everything", Matthew Henry says. If the gospel is worth believing, then it's worth standing firm on and contending for. Fighting for. That's conduct worthy of the gospel of Christ. People who are willing to let go of gospel truth never tasted the grace of God in the gospel and knew something of its preciousness, that it's the most precious thing in the world. This is the only good news for poor and needy sinners like us and how we can be saved. So we stand firm in the faith.
Now, to stand firm means to let nothing move you. The clear inference is that there are forces out to move you from the truths of the gospel. So think of the sumo wrestler. He's to stand firm. The object is for the other guy to to move him outside the circle or to bring him down to the mat. So he's not able just to stand casually, is he? No, if he's to stand firm, he must set his posture and distribute that 350 pounds out over those legs and not let the other guy move him out of the ring. That's what the picture conjured up by Paul's language here is. If we are to stand firm, it's going to take some doing. Why? Because there are those that would move us from the faith of the gospel.
Now, the other word is the word contend. Not only to stand firm in the faith, but to contend for the faith of the gospel. And this word, too, implies stiff opposition. It's the word for a struggle or a fight. Like soldiers at war or gladiators in the arena fighting for their lives. And so if the gospel is to spread and advance, it's going to take a fight. Not with the weapons of this world, but with spiritual weapons that have divine power to demolish strongholds, and to bring every proud thought that exalts itself against the knowledge of God into obedience to Him. You see we fight not with a sword, but with a cross. Not with angry shouts, but with bold and loving entreaties. Jude, the stepbrother of Jesus, also tells us in verse three of his little letter to contend earnestly for the faith "once for all given to the Saints". We're not only to believe it, we are to stand firm on it and we are to contend for it. Fight for it. That's conduct worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Now, what these terms reveal is that the Philippian church was meeting up with opposition to the gospel. Not everyone greets the gospel as good news. He'll speak later in chapter three of those who are enemies of the cross of Christ. Enemies of the gospel. And there were and are enemies, both within and without the professing church. Paul's going to deal with both in this letter. There were Jewish legalists who taught that salvation is something we can merit by our keeping of the law. And he'll deal very pointedly with them in chapter three. And on the other hand, you had Gentile libertarians that said, "Well, if salvation is free, it doesn't matter how we live." And so they were all about turning the grace of God into a license for sin. Both errors remain alive and well today within the broad confessing churches of Christ. Legalism and anti-law-ism are both alive and well and oppose the gospel that we believe. And opposition from outside the church came both from pagans as well as the religious people. It came from pagans, because our gospel condemns idolatry, and idolatry encourages immorality. And the gospel does not let us go on living in our immoral lifestyle. We just sang that the gospel has a "double cure for sin". It cleanses not only from its guilt, but from its power. And so we'll find the gospel to be full of those who oppose it. And that was the case at Philippi. We shouldn't be surprised at it and the folks at Philippi shouldn't have been surprised. They would have remembered Paul's first visit when he first brought the gospel to them, and how he and Silas were slandered and falsely accused, and mobbed, and stripped, and flogged, and thrown into prison with their hands and feet in the stocks.
So Paul had been in prison for the gospel. And we know that man's sinful nature is opposed to the gospel. It's hostile toward God. So the spirit of the age has never been friendly toward the gospel of Christ. The world finds it offensive because Jesus claims to be the only way to heaven. All religions are not equal in the sight of God. "No one comes to the father but by Him", and the world's offended. Proud flesh is offended to say that you are so sinful that nothing less than the Son of God being damned on the cross in your place will ever make up for the offense that you have made against God. This holy, great God that made you. That's offensive. And that's what the gospel is about, a Savior. Who was damned in the place of His people to save them. The devil hates the gospel of Christ because it magnifies God's love. It magnifies God's grace and mercy and glory. So he's ever out to oppose it and seeking to move the church away from it. So if you value the gospel, you will stand firm and fight for it. That's conduct worthy of the gospel. It's precious.
Now, tremendous pressures are being exerted today, pulling and pushing us, trying to move us from the faith of the gospel. And not all churches are standing firm. There are pressures to change the gospel message so that it saves man not from sin and wrath, but from social and economic and institutional injustices and oppression done to him. Which makes him an innocent victim of the sins of others, rather than seeing himself as the sinner, guilty before God. That's not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There are constant pressures to leave some of the sharp edges of the gospel out...to round them off. We don't like to speak of the wrath of God, but that's what Jesus Christ was satisfying on the cross. The gospel demands that we preach a God who must punish sin with everlasting, infinite wrath. We want to...there's the temptation to just be silent on some aspects of the gospel and not to speak of them. To not speak of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. To not speak of our need to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and follow Christ. To not speak of the gospel’s purpose to make us holy like our Savior.
Church history has been the story of the church being attempted in every age to give up the faith of the gospel. Five-hundred years ago, Martin Luther was being pressured on threat of his life to give up one of the cardinal teachings of the gospel....justification by faith alone, not by the works that a man does. And he stood on trial and you remember what he said, "Here I stand." It took some real grace to say that because there was a lot of opposition, not only from the religious world of his day, but even from the political world, for him to move from that truth of scripture. And he said, "Here I stand. I can do no other." And just reading that account 500 years later, we instinctively feel that is conduct worthy of the gospel. To take our stand and not be moved no matter what the cost.
Our Lord Jesus stood firm to the end to give us the gospel, didn't He? We sang of that and what He endured for us. Temptations to move Him from the cross. But He stood firm that there might be good news for sinners. Now He says," I want you to to live in such a way is worthy of the gospel. Stand firm for a gospel that is so precious", Jesus says, "He who stands firm to the end shall be saved."
So that's the first thing that Paul tells the Philippian church that he'll find them doing if they are causing their behavior to be such that commends the gospel. They will be standing firm and fighting for the faith of the gospel.
The second conduct worthy of the gospel is to be united for the sake of the gospel. To be united. The Reformation study Bible says Paul is appealing for unity among the believers. "Unity is one important way in which believer's lives are shown to be worthy of the gospel of Christ." End quote. Notice the double emphasis on unity here in verse 27b, "I will hear, I will learn from you that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel." So we're to live in unity as we stand firm, We're to live in unity as we contend for the gospel of Christ. It'll be harder to move us from the gospel if we're all standing firm together on it. And this double emphasis is simply saying that unity is critical for our gospel witness as well. Contending for the gospel, seeking to advance it, to hold on to it, to not lose any part of it, but to to bear witness to it. To see it given to our world. Unity is critical. If our unity suffers our mission will also suffer as well. And this unity is not just of outward actions. You see, it's to be united in one spirit. That's talking about your inner life. Your heart's affections. To be affectionately bound together with the brothers and sisters of the church. That's what he's speaking of here as we're standing firm and contending for the gospel.
Now, it's an interesting phrase, this "contending as one man for the faith of the gospel." Contending as one man. There were a lot of retired Roman generals and military men living in Philippi. And they knew all about what it meant to fight and to war, and the picture here, "contending as one man", can be pictured by the Greek phalanx that Alexander the Great used to conquer the world. It was a it was a group of highly trained spearmen who fought together in the closest formation. Often there would be 10 in a row and at least four deep, sometimes more. But just think of 40 men then. And they're not out each doing their own thing, but they're fighting, they're moving, they're advancing together as one man. Shoulder to shoulder, side by side, arm in arm, as it were. So close that they could even fasten their shields on to the next guy so that what you had coming at you was like an armored, human tank with swords and spears coming at you. They strove and fought together as one man, and what a beautiful picture of Christ's desire for the church to be fighting as one man. Here. Here we are. We're to be one phalanx, fighting together, taking our stand together, and advancing the gospel together. The togetherness needed by the church for our gospel mission...closely united in heart and mind as one man.
So our witness to the world, Brethren, is to be a shared effort. A shared effort. Not everybody out doing their own thing with no shared endeavor. That's not the picture here. We need to act as one man as we act for the gospel. And so we gather together to pray for each other, as we're each, yes, going out into our world where God has planted us and seeking to give the gospel to sinners. But we come back together to pray because that's the spiritual weaponry of divine power and a united church prays together. It's what makes our preaching of the gospel, like this morning, a united effort. You're praying for us as we preach.
But it's not just that. It's...I'm praying for you, as I hear who you're seeking to bring the gospel to. And we come to pray for one another in our gospel endeavors. We gather together to encourage one another in our witnessing efforts. It's tough work. Hearts are hard. They're dead in sin. And so on some Wednesday evenings, once a month, we gather and we say, who are we seeking to bring to Christ? Let's pray and let's encourage each other. We do that in our discipleship groups, we do it in our one-to-one meeting together. I wonder if you're doing it? Are you right in the midst of the phalanx of the church? Are you in the bloodstream of the church, or are you out here on the fringe doing your own thing unattached? No, we're to be doing this as one man in one spirit. A beautiful picture.
Notice the contending is not against one another, but it's contending together for the gospel. Unity gets the enemy right. It's not us, it's not each other. We don't shoot each at each other. We face the spiritual enemy that wants to move us and silence us from the gospel. The enemy's mission is to divide and conquer. He knows that united we stand, but divided we fall. That phalanx has to stay together and work together.
"If we can divide it up and and kill off each one..."
They won't be able to stand, but united, oh united! There's this tremendous thrust of the gospel...and over the past year we've seen churches with infighting and division over Covid sanctions and a host of other things effectively sidelining the mission of the gospel. Christ is giving us a word about that. No, no, we've got to be united arm-in-arm if the mission is to go on unhindered. Not torn by dissension and malice, but united in heart and combined effort. Not weakened by intramural squabbles, but moving together.
Can you imagine the catastrophe if Alexander the Great had this great phalanx moving out in battle and right in the battlefield they start stabbing each other there in that phalanx? What happens to the real enemy? He's not fought. And we see this sometimes in athletic teams when a fight breaks out on the sideline. And two guys start sharing words, exchanging words with each other...and then they come to blows and then their own teammates have to pull them apart. It's a sign that they are losers for sure. They're not going to win. They've forgotten who the enemy was. And it's almost hilarious. But it's not hilarious when it's the Church of Jesus Christ that as Galatians 5 says, "is biting and devouring one another", because while we are biting and devouring one another, the real enemy is going unfought and the mission is not advancing. And so unity is critical to standing firm and contending, defending, and going forward on the offensive with the gospel.
If our life together cannot demonstrate God's power, love, and grace, then why in the world should the world even want to hear our message? The gospel claims to tear down walls that divide...indeed to reconcile enemies to God and to one another. The gospel claims to unite all of us together into one family, that my being united to Christ and you're being united to Christ makes us brothers and sisters in Christ. And that's the vision that Paul is giving us of the church. And our gospel witness will only have credibility, it will only have a note of authenticity, when the world can come among us and see us loving one another with a supernatural love. God's love. And come among us and see a harmony and a unity that is not found in the world where everything's divided and everyone's fighting for their own turf. How this world needs to see Grace Fellowship Church standing as one man, in one spirit, striving for the gospel. Enemies, you know, they will unite to strive against the Gospel of Christ. We see that in the Gentiles and Jews that united to fight against our Savior and crucify Him. Then, can we not unite in order to advance the gospel?
Well, that's the challenge, isn't it, that comes to us from this text? So we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel when we make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. "Standing firm in one Spirit contending as one man for the faith of the gospel."
Third. The third behavior that marks conduct worthy of the gospel...not only standing firm and contending for the gospel, not only being united for the sake of the gospel, but thirdly, to be courageous in suffering for the gospel. Courageous and suffering for the gospel. You see it in verse 28, "without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you." Now, this word for frightened is that which was use of a startled horse, struck with fear, overcome with panic. Maybe some of you cowboys and girls know something about that. A snake on the trail, some sound and suddenly the horse is spooked. And Paul says, "Don't get spooked. Don't get panicky. Don't be overcome with fear when your opposition is persecuting you."
And they were undergoing persecution there in the Philippian church, even as Paul had encountered when he first went there. He says in verse 30, "...you are going through right now, you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and that you now hear that I still have. You saw how they treated us when we first came with the Gospel and threw us into prison, flogged, and in the stocks. And you've heard now that I'm still being persecuted and opposed for the gospel". There in Rome, in prison, as he writes this letter to them. And so "what you are going through is what I'm going through". So the Philippians were undergoing persecution, but they weren't to be surprised or startled as if something strange was happening. Peter says the same thing in his letter, doesn't he? No, no, it comes with the territory. Are you a Christian? All who live Godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution of some sort or another, II Timothy 3:12. You take a Christian loyal to his Savior and to His gospel, and you set him down in a world that hates Christ and His gospel...there's going to be opposition. There's going to be some persecution. "Did they persecute me?" Jesus says, "they will persecute you also".
And that's what was happening. So don't be startled. Don't be surprised. Don't be frightened and panicked and intimidated in the least by your opponents to back down, to be silent, to repudiate your faith. You know that's what the opposition aims at. That's why they take up persecution. They want to silence you. They want to shut you down. They want to move you from the truth of the gospel and to move you because of fear of what might happen if you keep on standing firm for the gospel. And it's right here that the gospel has something to say to us about our conduct in the face of suffering persecution from wherever it arises.
If we're wanting to have conduct worthy of the gospel, what does the gospel say to us? Well, the gospel says "Christ suffered for us. Christ suffered damnation for you. Is He not worth suffering something for? Besides, with God as our helper, what can man do to you?" That's what the Gospel says.
Well, he may confiscate my possessions and the gospel of Christ says not to fear. You can “ joyfully accept the confiscation of your property because you know that you have better and lasting possessions.”
Oh, but men may lock me away in prison. And the gospel answers, "but nothing can separate you from the love of Christ, neither trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword."
Oh, but men may make me suffer in some way. Physically. Emotionally. And the gospel answers, "Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us".
Oh, but they may take my life. The gospel says, "because Christ died for our sins, there is no sting in death for the believer.” “To live is Christ and to die is gain. To depart and be with Christ is better by far.” And that means the very worst that your enemies can do to you is to send you to heaven early. And by the way, isn't that the goal of your faith? (1 Peter 1:9)
So be willing to suffer for Christ, that's what the gospel says the gospels worth suffering for. It says be willing to suffer for Christ and to remain courageous under the persecution. Unmoved. And verse 28 says that your fearless courage under persecution is a sign. It's a clear proof that they will be destroyed, that is your persecutors, and that you will be saved, and that by God. When you fearlessly endure suffering, it's proof that it's futile to oppose God and His saints, and those who do will be damned. That's the message it sends, "…while you will be saved", speaking of ultimate final salvation. Nothing they do can stop that. Our Lord Jesus has said, "Be faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life". You see, when you endure suffering patiently, you're showing that you will be saved, eternal life will be yours. It's proof of coming salvation. So Paul's telling us, "better to be persecuted for Christ than to be persecuting Christ and His people. You know, He had done both, hadn't he, by this point? He started out a persecutor of Christ. And now he's being persecuted because of Christ and the gospel, and he says, "oh it's a lot better to be persecuted than to be the persecutor. It's a lot better to be saved by God than to be damned by God."
And so he encourages us to fearlessly endure persecution, whatever form it may take. And it gives us further encouragement for steadfastly enduring persecution, Verse 29, "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him."
I want you to notice the two gifts that God grants to his people here in verse 29...two gifts. First, it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ to believe on Him. To believe on Him. Saving faith is not something that you just worked up on your own. It is a gift of God. We see it here. It's granted, given by God. And what a gift it is! I never would have, or could have, come to Christ with saving faith. He had to give me that disposition, that ability to come to Christ and to throw my sin and my hopes for heaven all upon Him, and to receive Him in that sweet surrender of faith as my Lord and Savior. He gave me that ability. He gave me that disposition enabling me to believe on Christ.
So, if you're a Christian this morning you have God to thank for believing on Jesus. That's what he's telling us. That's the first gift. But he says that's not the only gift that's been granted to you. Not only to believe on Him, but secondly to suffer for Him. We like the first gift, but we don't like the second gift. But He gives both. He gives both. And it's not just the suffering itself that He gives. He gives the ability and the willingness to endure the suffering. The ability to be satisfied to bear with the suffering for Christ's sake. And that, too, is a gift. It's a high gift, it's a privileged gift. It’s an honor to suffer for Christ.
You remember when the apostles were called in for preaching in Jesus' name...and the high court of Israel, the religious high court, flogged them. And then warned them to never again speak in the name of Jesus. And they went out with their tails between their legs and never mentioned the name of Jesus again. No, if that would have happened, we wouldn't be here this morning. No, "they went out rejoicing. They went out rejoicing." Acts chapter five and verse 41. "Rejoicing because they'd been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name."
And notice that the emphasis is more on the disgrace that they suffered than the pain that they suffered. And we sometimes get hung up on the fact that we haven't been thrown in prison yet for the gospel, or had our feet put in stocks and tortured for Christ. And so we wonder..."Well, these passages have nothing to say for us". It really didn't say anything about the pain of their suffering. It said everything about the emotional disgrace that they suffered. So these are law abiding men. And they're treated as if they were criminals. And it was meant to shame them into silence. We bear that kind of persecution here, don't we? Trying to shame us into silence and that's just as much persecution as the pain. And that reminds us of how our Lord Jesus was put on a cross of shame for us. Let us, therefore, go to Him outside the camp bearing the shame that He bore for us. He wasn't ashamed to call us brethern. He was willing to bear the shame of the cross for the joy of bringing many sons and daughters to glory. He put up with the disgrace of the cross. The high, and holy, and harmless, sinless Son of God being treated like a criminal. One on either side of Him, and He bears the shame with joy because of what it would do in saving you and saving me. So, this is talking to us and those conversations where we're shut down because we get ashamed of speaking up for Christ. Now that's what we're talking about here...enduring persecution for Christ. Rejoicing that we would even be counted worthy to be on the side of being persecuted rather than to still be in the world where we're laughing at those Christians. What a blessing, what a kindness to be counted worthy to suffer, is what the gospel teaches us.
And so enduring persecution for Christ is a badge of genuine discipleship to Christ. It marks you out as a true disciple and not one of these easy-come, easy-go professing disciples. There are those who appear to be followers of Christ until persecution comes. Jesus talked all about it in His parable of the stony-ground hearer, didn't He? These are the people that when they hear the gospel, they receive it at once with joy. "This is great! Isn't this great stuff? This gospel about Jesus and forgiveness? And they can't speak about it enough. They can't rejoice in it enough. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. And when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. These are the fair-weather friends of Christ and His gospel. And as long as following Christ causes no difficulty, then count me in. And the moment it costs me popularity, and men's praises, and some money, some discomfort, I'm out of here. I didn't sign up for this. Well, then you didn't hear of the gospel, my friend. The gospel is, "if anyone would come after Me and be My disciple, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me."
A man carrying a cross was carrying it for one thing in that time. He was carrying it to his death, and Jesus said, "If you're following me, you better be aware that this is life and death stuff.” You're saying, "I'm a follower of Jesus." You are going to have a target on your back for opposition, for persecution. And so when we persevere and we endure suffering for Jesus sake, it's a sign we're no hard ground, stony ground here, but the true grace of God has taken root in our hearts, and believing Jesus and this gospel so precious, we are willing to suffer for His sake. That's conduct worthy of the gospel.
It's our Lord himself who promises, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." You see the promised reward? "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in heaven. For in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you, and they are now rejoicing in their reward." Romans 8:17, says "sharing in Christ's sufferings proves that we will share in His glory." II Timothy, 2:12, says "if we endure suffering, we will reign with Him."
So if suffering is a gift granted by God, then let's receive it. And count it conduct worthy of the gospel of Christ to be suffering for Him. And if it's a gift granted by God and it comes from His hand, then I know that my sovereign God is in control of it. No suffering comes to me but that is given to me by God. Isn't that a comfort, Christian? It's not that we're at the mercy of the whims of man or of luck and just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you ever suffer anything for Christ you've received it from the hand of God. He's not an idle spectator in our sufferings. He's for us in our sufferings. And it's because He's for us in our sufferings that we're "more than conquerors in our sufferings through Him who loved us so."
Courageously facing down our persecutors is conduct worthy of the gospel. Not spitefully. Oh, that's an ugly thing for the Gospel, isn't it? When someone persecutes you, to spitefully throw it back at them? But no, but lovingly enduring persecution even as our Savior did. When He was being tortured for the gospel's sake, that there might be a gospel. And He says, "Father, forgive them, they do not know what they're doing." And when that thief was mocking Him and laughing at Him, He didn't curse him. He continued to show kindness and speak kind words such that that thief repented right there on the cross and sought the Lord for mercy. And the Lord didn't say, "Oh no. You've been too rotten. You've lived a whole life in crime. There's nothing but hell for you, buddy." No, He said when the man cried, "Jesus, remember me when You come into your kingdom. He said, "Today you will be with me in paradise!" More grace, you see, for His enemies. The very ones who had been persecuting. Paul did it as well, didn't he? In prison for the sake of Christ. He's not cursing those soldiers, he's wanting to see them come to Christ and is witnessing to them…loving. This courageous confidence...it's conduct worthy of the gospel.
You know, as we sit here in the comforts of our church building, we have brothers and sisters. We're united with them...in other parts of the world, and they are going through very severe persecution. And though our persecution is less, it is not nothing. So let's pray that both they and we may bear up. Willingly, graciously responding in a manner worthy of the gospel.
So what have we seen today? Everyone claiming to be saved by the gospel of Christ is under obligation to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of that gospel. Yes, the gospel brings us many privileges and blessings that will keep us astonished for all eternity. But it also brings us obligation.
Are you soldier of the cross? Well then conduct yourself worthy of the cross. Stand firm and fight for that gospel, because if we lose the gospel, we lose everything. Secondly, maintain a loving unity for the sake of the gospel mission...united we stand, divided we fall. And thirdly, be courageous and willing to suffer persecution for the gospel. Is there not a cause? Was David's cry as he came upon the battle field with Goliath making the challenge? Is there not a cause, I would ask? Is Christ not worthy? And the Gospel says He is. He is. Well, then, may the Lord himself, by His Spirit, enable us then to apply this all-inclusive rule of conduct in these three areas for the glory of God and for the salvation of sinners. Amen.