A Gospel-Shaped Life
Pastor Jon Hueni | March 14, 2021
Pastor Jon Hueni | March 14, 2021
Well, thank you for your prayers for me while I was away. The Lord has answered them. He has refreshed me and brought me back. Thankful to be home. You are home. And I look forward to worshiping and working together on into this year.
Now, in our study of Paul's letter to the church at Philippi we've noted three major themes that just keep bouncing back up...that of joy, unity, and the mission…the gospel mission. And we're also noticing something of the interconnectedness of those three themes. The interdependence, how one affects the other. And as we come today to verse 27 of chapter one, we are now coming to the first commandment given in the letter. We've come 26 verses without a command and now we're given a command to obey. And it's a special command. One that's to shape the whole of our lives. Verse 27a, "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." That's the command.
Now, God's commandments are usually applied to a specific aspect of our lives. Maybe to marriage, or to worship, or work, or the family. Some aspect of life. The commands come specific to those responsibilities that God has given us. But every so often in scripture we bump into a command that is all-inclusive…what I'm calling an all-inclusive rule of conduct. It reaches in its application to the whole of life, not just to worship, not just to family life, or work life, but to all of life, every aspect of it. It's like the Golden Rule that our Lord gave us in Matthew seven and verse 12. And notice it's all-inclusiveness, "so in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you" Very similar (is), "for this sums up the law and the prophets" It's very similar to that second greatest commandment to "love our neighbor as ourself."
Jesus knows that we love ourselves. And He says, "Now put that love for yourself to use and learn how you are to love your neighbor." So put yourself in their shoes and ask the question, "If I were them, now, in this situation, with all that has gone on and is going on, how would I want to be treated?" And then treat them accordingly. The "Golden Rule". One-size-fits-all rule.
Another one is found in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 and verse 31, "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." You see its extent…all-inclusive. Every single thing you do in life is to be done for the honor of God's reputation on the earth. And if you can't do it to the glory of God, you're not to do it. Well, that's the kind of text that Philippians 1:27a is. It belongs to this same category of all-inclusive rules of conduct. "Whatever happens"...or always and only... "conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."
Now, there were failures of unity in the church that Paul is soon to address head on, but he begins by rightly relating this problem to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Unity problems are gospel problems. Love problems are gospel problems. Indeed, we can say without being overly simplistic, that all problems are gospel problems. All problems are failures to rightly understand and apply the gospel of Jesus Christ. And so everything that follows verse 27, for the rest of the letter in one sense, is just spelling out what it means to conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel.
Now, would you not agree that if we are anything, brothers and sisters, we are gospel people? Once we were not a people. But now we are the people of God. And how did we become the people of God? Well, it was through the gospel. It was through the gospel of Christ that we entered into these glorious privileges of salvation and became the family, the people of God. And so, we sing the gospel. We read the gospel. We preach the gospel. We believe the gospel. We receive it. We walk in it. We live it. That's what the apostle Paul is telling us here. That the gospel is not just something to know. It's not something just to get right and to sign on to in our statement of faith. "There, I've done it. I believed, and now I can get on with my life."
No, Paul says the gospel is now meant to dictate the kind of life that you live. It's meant to control our conduct as Christian men and women, boys and girls. It's meant to exert a powerful influence upon everything we do. And so verse 27 is nothing less than a call to gospel-shaped living. The gospel-shaped life. And that no matter what happens, it's to be a life shaped by the gospel. Now, I don't know everything that's happening in your lives, or may happen in your lives. But I know that whatever happens, you are to conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel.
Now, Paul's been telling us up to this point what's happening in his life. What was happening to Paul? Well, it was imprisonment by the world, wasn't it? Persecution from the world, and mistreatment and trouble from his brothers…some of the brothers in Christ who were preaching Christ out of rivalry, trying to stir up problems and trouble for Paul while he was in prison. That's what it had been for Paul. And what he shows us is that his response to what was happening was to walk worthy of the gospel of Christ. And that's what he's now calling us to do. He's turning to the Philippian church, to Grace Fellowship church, and he's saying, "Now you have the same duty. Follow me as I follow Christ in this business." The gospel's brought untold blessing and privileges to us, but it also lays upon us this all-encompassing obligation to now live worthy of it.
I've not yet got my head around this one duty, but it's been helpful thinking through these things this week. And I see just how all-inclusive this is. And as it trickles down in more and more to our head and hearts, we will see that I do nothing but that the gospel is to have a shaping influence upon me. So that's the all-inclusive rule of conduct stated.
Now let's see this all-inclusive rule of conduct applied. And I was going to say, let's apply it generally, and then we'll see specifically how Paul applies it to the church at Philippi. But I realized this morning that I have just too many pages of notes, and rather than rush over it, I'd rather save the latter part for next week, Lord willing. So what we're looking at then is, "How does this rule of conduct apply in our lives? How does it touch everything that we do and shape all that we are and do?" And then next week we'll see how the apostle applies it to the specific situations that were going on in Philippi.
It's clear on the face of the verse that there is such a thing as conduct worthy of the gospel. And there's conduct that is unworthy of the gospel. So let me give some examples this morning. Let's tease this out and ask, "What is conduct worthy of the gospel? What does a gospel-shaped life look like?" Well, let's ask what the gospel says. The gospel says "that God so loved the world. That He gave His One and only Son that whoever puts their trust in Him will not perish in hell forever, but have everlasting life." The gospel says that the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me. The gospel says that when the kindness and love of God appeared, He saved us. So if the gospel is saying anything, and if the gospel is anything, it is God's love in action, isn't it? And it's God's love in action for sinners...for sinners. "For God demonstrates His love for us in this, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
The gospel of Christ is a gospel of love. Therefore, conduct worthy of that gospel means that you must major on loving people, and sinful ones at that. Especially sinful ones since that's what gospel love is. Whether they be Christians or non-Christians. Loving with gospel love. And so this gospel is calling us, then, to "be imitators of God as dearly loved children and to live a life of love just as Jesus loved us and gave Himself up for us...", Ephesians 5:1&2.
And that gospel, then, the gospel of love, holds huge ramifications for whatever happens to us in life, doesn't it? It means that Christ-like love. 1 Corinthians 13 love should be more and more describing me every day. Love that "is patient and kind. Love that rejoices with the truth, that bears all things, that believes all things, that puts the best construction on all things." Love. That's conduct worthy of the gospel of love. "And this love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, nor self-seeking, not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrong's." Why not? Because that's not God's love, and that kind of treatment is not worthy of the gospel…the gospel of love.
So the gospel is a supernatural love. Such as only the gospel produces. And so your lovingkindness ought to surprise folks who are used to the harshness and hatefulness that is found in the world. And that's conducting yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. That's not hard to see, is it? How the gospel shapes our life? The gospel of love means that we love like we've been loved.
Or again, another example...the gospel tells us that in Christ we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, Colossians 1:13. How many of you have earned forgiveness from God? How many of you have have paid for your sins? You say, "Jon, that's not the gospel." Of course it's not. And besides, it's impossible. Our debt was too great. Indeed, the offense of even one of my sins would take eternity to atone for, and I could never be able to pay the last farthing. No, the gospel of Christ says that when we could not pay, Jesus paid it all for us. That all my sins have been freely forgiven for Jesus' sake because of what He did. “For Christ died for sins, once for all time, the Righteous One for the unrighteous, to bring us to God.” So the gospel of Christ is a gospel of full and free forgiveness. And to conduct yourself in a manner worthy of this gospel means that you ought to be ever so quick to forgive others who sin against you. You've been forgiven far more.
The gospel of free forgiveness tells us, "get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, along with every form of malice." That says there's more than one kind of malice. Some of it's outward, very obvious. Others, inward. But to get rid of every form of malice and then to forgive each other, "just as in Christ, God forgave you." That's the gospel! And only this kind of behavior is worthy of the gospel. We didn't pay for our sins, Christ did. Yet, without this gospel-shaping our hearts, when others offend us we can be brutal in making them pay for it, can't we? We can go off on them, just explode with sharp and cutting words intended to hurt back. We can give them icy looks. Don't we have that phrase, "If looks could kill"? That's what it's talking about. "You're going to pay for that!"...if it's nothing more than an icy look. Or we can give them the silent treatment. The cold shoulder. Or file (it) away for future use against them. What are these but all ways to make them pay for their sins against me?
But such conduct is completely out of touch and totally unworthy of the gospel of Christ. The gospel of full and free forgiveness. Such a gospel calls us to be merciful just as we have been shown mercy. So no one needs to earn mercy, no one ever needs to earn grace from me. Because the gospel has freely forgiven me because of what Jesus has done. He paid it all. That's conduct, then, worthy of the gospel of Christ. Freely I've received, so freely I give. Freely, I give forgiveness.
How does the gospel shape our conduct? Another example: Well, since Christ has forgiven all my sins, does that mean then that I don't need to really be all that concerned about sin in my life? I can just live any way I like because Jesus paid it all? And though I am a bit flippant in explaining it, that is a doctrine that runs right through the church, the evangelical church. I don't need to be all that concerned about mortifying sin, about making every effort to be holy, because after all, "Jesus paid it all." Is that right? What do we do with such a suggestion? And it arises in our own hearts.
Well, what does the gospel have to say about this? You see, that's what we've got to keep coming back to. What is the gospel? Does the gospel have anything to contribute to this discussion of how I ought to live? Well, the gospel claims to be the power of God unto what? Salvation! For everyone who believes. And by the way, that salvation is a salvation from what? Sin. In fact, that's why the Son of God took the name Jesus. God gave Him that name because Jesus means, "the Lord saves", and He will save His people from hell. No, that's not what it says. It says He will save his people from sin. From their sins. Yes, from hell, but He will save them from that sinful lifestyle that used to characterize them. We sang it, didn't we? That there's power. The power of God in the gospel to "break the chains of reigning sin, to set the prisoner free". So interesting...that's what the gospel claims. So are you conducting yourself in a manner worthy of that gospel? Is it patently, obviously, clear that with the gospel...the power of the gospel is setting you free from your sin. It's setting you apart to God? Is there more to your life than just an outward form of Godliness? Is there the inward power of Godliness? The inward power of the gospel changing you from the inside, out, from top to bottom?
The gospel tells us of a Father who chose us to be holy. Not because we were holy. We weren't. But He chose us to be holy. That was the purpose for saving us...to be holy that we might honor and glorify Him by a holy life. Walking according to His rules. His ways. So the gospel says we have a Father who chose us to be holy, and it tells us that we have a Savior who died to make us holy. A holy life, then, is conduct worthy of the gospel.
"God forbid! Should we go on sinning so that grace may abound? God forbid!” Perish the thought. It's not worth hanging on to a second longer because we were saved to be free from sin, to be set apart unto God for holiness. So "Be holy as He is holy". Not in order to be saved, but because He has saved you. He saved you freely by the work of Christ. By grace alone, through faith alone.
But that grace, the grace of God in the gospel, is sin-killing grace, isn't it? That's what Titus 2:11 and following says, “that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men." The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, and it teaches us. It? What? The grace of God in the gospel that saves us "teaches us to say NO to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to say yes to a self-controlled, upright, and Godly life in this present age." That's what the gospel teaches us and says to us, that Christ gave Himself up for us. Why? "To redeem us from all wickedness and to purify unto Himself a people who are His treasured possession, eager to do the good."
And so Calvin writes, "We're not cleansed by Christ so that we can immerse ourselves continually in fresh dirt, but in order that our purity may serve the glory of God." Making every effort to be holy is conduct worthy of the gospel of Christ.
You see, when the gospel comes to a man in saving power, it not only does something for him, it does something in him. And both are absolutely parts of the gospel. The gospel applied. The gospel does something for me. It changes my record in heaven from damned to justified, from condemned, guilty, to righteous. That transfer of my sins to Christ and His righteousness to my account. That is what is done for me by the gospel. But the gospel also does something in me. It brings to me the heart of Christ, the Holy Spirit, working, transforming my life into what? Into that same likeness of Jesus. That Holy One. That Righteous One. So the gospel does something to a man. It changes him and is changing him. It humbles him. It makes him poor in spirit. It makes him mourn, and mourn for sin. And to mourn for none more than his own sins, because he knows them better than anybody else's.
The gospel makes a man meek. Have you noticed that? That the gospel tenderizes man? I didn't say it makes him weak. It makes him not weak, but meek. Doesn't have to have his way. He's a tender man. He's gentle. He's easily approached. He's reasonable. Meek.
Paul was a savage man before he was saved. Breathing out slaughter against the Church of Jesus Christ. And the gospel tenderized that man, didn't it? He wept over his people. He wept over his lost Israelites. It tenderized him. The gospel makes a man meek. The gospel makes a man hunger and thirst for righteousness. To be right with God. To live a life according to God's righteous commandments. The gospel makes a man merciful, not demanding justice be served. The gospel makes a man pure in heart, cleansing the heart from sin. The gospel makes a man a peacemaker like his Father in heaven. The gospel makes a man willing to suffer persecution for Jesus' sake...and we'll see that next week as Paul applies this whole principle to the church at Philippi.
Well, you know what I've just done, I've taken you through the Beatitudes. That is conduct...a heart and conduct worthy of the gospel. That's the Gospel-shaped life.
Well, we could go on. The gospel, if it's anything, is a gospel of grace. “And you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor so that you, through His poverty, might be made rich.” How rich I am. Since Jesus came to me, redeemed my soul, and gave me eyes to see how rich, how very rich I am. But it came at His expense. So to live, to live life and to conduct myself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, which is a gospel of grace, means that I will be willing to become poorer to make others richer. I will be willing to go without and to sacrifice rights and preferences and things for myself in order to make others rich with my money, with my time, with my words, with whatever it is I am and have. Thus life…and conducted in a manner worthy of the gospel.
What does the gospel tell us? It tells us about a humble Savior, doesn't it? Tells us about a humble God. That though He was, and this is where Paul's going you see, this is all part of the thought from 20:7 on, he's going to chapter two and he's going to tell us about the Son of God, who was equal with the Father in every way. And yet He didn't hold on to all those privileges and rights that were His there in heaven. But He humbled himself. He became one of us. A nobody. A servant. A slave. And humbled Himself and was obedient. What's humbler than a slave obeying a master? And even obedient to the death of the cross. Down, down, down He went.
The gospel's about a humble Savior. Did you know that the only place in Scripture where Jesus talks about His own state of heart is Matthew 11 verses 28 and 29, where He says, "Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me..." For I am what? "I'm lowly and humble and gentle of heart." That's our Savior. That's the gospel of Christ that tells us about a humble Jesus. And then there aught not be a humbler man on my street than one who's been saved by that humble Jesus. By that humble God who stooped to take my sin and pay for it all.
So we could go on. I trust you see just how intensely practical and how all-inclusive this rule of conduct is. Work it out for yourself. Think about whatever's happening. Think about the gospel. Take time to think, “What...what does the gospel tell me that ought to shape my conduct right now in what's happening?” All our daily Christian behavior is to flow out from the gospel.
But now how...how do we keep our hearts under this life-shaping power of the gospel of Christ? That's the challenge, isn't it? I mean, I can come in here on Sunday and sing and hear the word and pray along with you as you men lead us. And my heart is just burning within me like those disciples on the road to Emmaus. By Thursday I can be ready to strangle somebody who's offended me when I've just been four days earlier worshiping a God who forgave me the whole mountain of my sin debt. And now I'm ready to strangle a man for some words he said against me? Some look that he gave me? No…what's wrong? How do I keep my heart in a state where the gospel is shaping my conduct?
That's the million dollar question that I was struggling for this week. We want the gospel working in our hearts like a teabag flavoring every drop of water in the cup. And you who are tea-drinkers know that that doesn't happen with a one minute dip in and out of the cup. You must let it steep. You must wait. You must linger long until the flavor in the tea bag leaves its flavor in every drop in the cup. And if our entire conduct is to bear the distinct flavor of the gospel of Christ, it's going to take more than an occasional dip into the gospel of Christ and Him crucified. It's going to mean lingering at the cross like Bunyan's Pilgrim, who just stared and stared until the tears fell and he was ready to go on in the journey. So how often do you need to revisit Calvary to keep your heart in a gospel shape?
I find I need it daily if it's to hold sway in my heart, if it's to humble and tenderize me and keep me low. And lead me, in whatever happens, to behave in ways worthy of the gospel of Christ. I need it every day. I forget so easily that I'm the sinner who needs this Savior who is bleeding and dying on the cross. And when I'm forgetting that, I'm toxic. I'm dangerous. To you, to anybody in my life. I'm not then conducting myself in a manner worthy of the gospel. I'm not building others up in love. I'm not giving them grace and mercy. I'm tearing them down in self-interest and neglect and spiteful paybacks.
How often do you need to revisit Calvary? There confess your sins? I wonder if our Lord is not teaching us something about that question when He taught us to pray, "Give us this day"...this day..."our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, even as we forgive our debtors." Could it be that what Jesus is saying is that just as this day, and every day, we are to pray about our physical needs, we are to come confessing our sins to God and to receive from Him that kiss of pardon? I'm needing daily to bring my sins to that beautiful, terrible cross asking, "What is someone like you doing in a place like this? You, the holy and harmless Son of God, the eternal delight of your Father. What are you doing in this place? This...this place of judgment, of condemnation, of curse? For everyone knows that, 'cursed is the one who is hanged on a tree.' Everyone knows that the curse brought the thorns and you're in a place where you're wearing a crown. But it's the crown of a curse placed upon you. What are You doing wearing that crown? Why are You crying? You who have enjoyed sweet fellowship with Your God forever?"
"My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?"
Why in that moment does He feel absolutely zero of the Father's delight in loving Him? And the gospel says, "It was for you, Jon. It was for you, Jon. So to stay and linger and watch. And think what's happening here until your heart warms and melts before the sight.
Who was the guilty, who laid this upon Thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee.
'Twas I Lord Jesus, I it was denied Thee; I crucified Thee.
For me, kind Jesus, was Thine incarnation. Thy mortal sorrow & Thy life's oblation.
Thy death of anguish & Thy bitter passion, for my salvation!
There's nothing in that that we don't know. We hear it every week. We read it in our Bibles. If we're reading our Bibles we're bumping into it. But when has it last melted you and brought you under its spell of wonder, love, and praise, and then sent you out into a world to love, and give grace, and mercy, and truth, and righteousness, and holiness...whatever is happening to you?
So how many days out are you? How long since you've had that kind of look at the terrible, beautiful cross of Christ and knowing that it was your sins? And then took your sins to that Savior? And just as the sinner in the Old Testament laid his hands on the head of the sacrificial victim, the sheep, and confessed his sins, do you come to the altar of Calvary and confess your sins? You sinned specifically. Do you confess specifically? Do you trace your sins back right to the root core of the heart and confess that before the altar of Calvary where the blood is flowing for your forgiveness? “Oh, Lord. Forgive, my Father. That I should ever think that I know better how to live my life. Forgive my pride that I should ever think that I deserve better than what I'm getting.”
Folks, we deserve hell. Period. Period. We must come and confess that we've been discontented. We've been peevish. We've been unsatisfied. We've been ungrateful. That one affliction has caused us to lose the wonder of a thousand mercies that we're receiving from our God. We confess our waywardness. That we stray. That there's still something in me that that wants to go my way instead of your way, and we bring it to the cross and we cast it upon our Savior. Forgive me, Lord. It's rebellion. And rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. It's arrogance to try to throw You off the throne. And arrogance is like the evil of idolatry, and I'm making myself an idol. I'm putting myself in your place on your throne. Forgive me. Forgive me. I come and confess my sins.
How many days out are you? How long has it been? So only as I come fresh from that altar of Calvary with a kiss of mercy and forgiveness and love that I'm then ready to meet you. Ready to meet my family. Ready to meet my church family. Ready to meet the world. Treat them as I have been treated and as I want to be treated.
You see, we sing that song, "We stand forgiven". Where? "At the cross.” Don’t we? We stand forgiven at the cross. That's the glory of the gospel. Well, I'm telling you now as we stand forgiving at the cross. Because the two are connected. I will not forgive you unless I am appreciating how much I've been forgiven. Didn't Jesus tell a parable about that? And ended with the fact of, "God have mercy upon me as I have had mercy on others…and if I'm not merciful toward others, You won't be merciful.” And so it's only here that receiving mercy that I'm ready and I'm equipped to conduct my life in a manner worthy of this gospel that I just delighted in, and that I've come away melted and warmed and shaped by.
And so I sing, "Jesus, keep me near the cross..." There I'm equipped for conduct worthy of the gospel. Let's get to the cross every day. Oh, we can be so flippant, so shallow, so quick, "...and forgive my sins and thanks for dying for me." I don't know about you, but that doesn't cut it with me. I don't last long in conducting myself in a manner worthy of the gospel when that's all I give.
Well, that's a general idea then of how this all-inclusive rule of conduct is to be applied. Next week we'll notice how the apostle applies it to the specific situations in the church at Philippi. And we're going to find that we're not so much different in our needs as them.
If you're here without Christ this morning, the answer for you is much the same. What does the gospel say to you? Well, we've just been explaining what it says to you. Forgiveness is free. Free to you, costly to Jesus. The gospel is about the love of God, about the grace of God, the mercy of God...for the ungodly, for idolaters, for sinner's. So could I urge you in behalf of Christ, to conduct yourself right now, in this moment, in a manner worthy of that gospel? To come to this Jesus and to cast yourself upon His mercy. That's conduct commensurate and in line with the gospel. Do you know what's being offered to you this morning? It is the precious gospel. There's nothing more precious in the world than the gospel. To have all your sins forgiven. Never once brought up against you in judgment. Do you know what that means? Well, it might mean nothing to you now, dear sinner friend, but in the day of judgment that will mean everything. Absolutely everything.
So let me encourage you to conduct yourself this morning in a manner worthy of this gospel, and to come and receive the Savior and this free grace that's found in Him. A full and free forgiveness. And then you, too, will join us in declaring the excellencies of Him who's called us out of darkness into His light. And He will give you the gift of forgiveness, and the gift of light, and life…abundant life, eternal life…and the gift of the Spirit. To enable you more and more to live in a manner worthy of the gospel.