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In a Manner Worthy of the Gospel

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For His Thoughts are Not Our Thoughts and His Ways are Not Our Ways

This statement from our Old Testament lesson in the book of Isaiah is a truth that we often are forced to wrestle with in our Christian walk. Sometimes we are forced to wrestle with this idea on something that is doctrinal. We don’t understand a teaching perfectly and we submit to scripture and accept that the way in which God works is different from the way that we think. We may even think this way about our salvation. Our natural inclination is to think that our status before God is based upon what we earn and because we are a good person. But, when we look at God’s word we realize our fallen state and that God has chosen to save a people for himself not through the work of us fallen creatures. Instead, we are saved on the merit of Christ for us. It is different than the way we think and we can struggle with it but we remember that God works in a way contrary to the way in which we operate. He is God and we are not and so we do our best to understand and, most importantly, conform ourselves to holy Scripture. But there is a time when we are forced to wrestle with this idea where it becomes more difficult. There are those times when we come face to face with something in our lives and we struggle deeply with what is happening. As the earth turns on its axis and as we make our laps around the sun we experience things in this life that are hard for us to understand and deal with. Just in this room I am sure we could tell stories of things that we have witnesses that cause us to question the goodness of God. We can sit back and wonder what God is up to. Of course, we know the answer. God works all things together for the good of those who love him but in the moment of hurt sometimes that is a difficult pill to swallow.
As we think about these passages this morning we see what we are called to be. A people of God who trust in the sure promises of God. Our Old Testament lesson this morning brings us once again to the book of Isaiah.
Isaiah 55:6–7 NIV
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
Isaiah 55:6 ESV
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;
The people of God are to seek him out while he may be found and while he is near. The prophet is informing them that there will be a time when it is too late for them to repent. The people has forsaken God and he is going to come and punish them for their sin and unbelief. They have broken their covenant with God and they have turned to false idols. The prophet Isaiah is calling them to return and repent. Notice the emphasis here. There is a poetic feel to this. Twice they are called to return to the Lord. Twice they are called to repent. Twice they here that God will show his grace towards them if they return to him. It is mind blowing that God would show grace to a people who was entrenched in idolatry but yet he will do it. They are called to have confidence in their God his ways are higher than his.
Isaiah The people of God are to seek him out while he may be found and while he is near. The prophet is informing them that there will be a time when it is too late for them to repent. The people has forsaken God and he is going to come and punish them for their sin and unbelief. They have broken their covenant with God and they have turned to false idols. The prophet Isaiah is calling them to return and repent. Notice the emphasis here. There is a poetic feel to this
Isaiah 55:
Isaiah 55:8–9 NIV
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
The grace of this God that they are called to return to so amazing that they cannot even fathom it. Despite what is going on around them he will show grace to them. He is God and they are not. This something that we can easily forget. That God does what he does for a reason. He has a purpose and his purposes do not fail. We understand this with what goes on in our lives but we are to root this trust in God in his mercy and grace. Because God has shown himself to be merciful and gracious we can trust that what he does is for our good and his glory. We look to God’s love for us in Christ and can have confidence that his thoughts are higher than our but they are also better. We would not have imagined this amazing salvation we have in Christ and yet God has given us this glorious gift because of his love. We can trust a God that, despite our sin, brought us to himself through the work of Jesus.
We see this theme lived out for us in the our passage this morning from the first chapter of Philippians. As we see from the first verses that we have read Paul is writing this letter to the church in Philippi while he has been imprisoned for the cause of Christ. If anyone could come to his circumstances and say “What is going on God?” it would be Paul. He is out proclaiming the gospel to the Gentiles under threat of his life and all kinds of things are happening to him. Instead, in the midst of persecution and imprisonment he writes a letter to encourage the church in Philippi. In that equation if anyone should be writing letters of encouragement it should be churches writing to Paul. What happens though is Paul writing a letter that would become holy scripture.
Philippians 1:12 NIV
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.
Look at what he says here. What is going on with him is actually being used of God to advance the cause of Christ. What? How could that possibly be? I mean, why would God use the imprisonment of Paul to advance the cause of Christ?
Philippians 1:13 NIV
As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.
Because he is clearly proclaiming the gospel to anyone around. The word has gotten out that the reason that Paul is in chains is because he has the audacity to say that Caesar is not Lord, Jesus is. He has the strength to proclaim that all have sinned and because of this Jesus suffered and died to pay the price of those sins. He is proclaiming that death could not hold him and he rose again on the third day and that this same Jesus, the Christ, is still alive and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
If I’m honest this whole concept is really hard for me. In our culture if you want to prove the validity of something you connect it with success that is numerical or financial, right? A business is a success if it is booming and Google or Amazon wants to come and buy you up. A sports team is successful not only if the win column has a larger number than the loss column but when the seats are full. A pastor is considered successful when the seats are full and the offering plate is overflowing not when he has rightly divided the word of truth and proclaimed the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. To see Paul showing such enthusiasm for what is imprisonment is humbling.
He is excited that the name of Christ is being proclaimed. Not only by himself but also by his co-laborers in Christ.
Philippians 1:14 NIV
And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
It is his chains that have given them confidence to proclaim the gospel. Again, how contrary is this for us? How many of us would see one of us going to prison for the proclamation of the gospel as a reason for us to go out and have more confidence and proclaim the gospel? Clearly these first century Christians saw an urgency in the gospel and didn’t regard being put in chains as a reason to be silent.
What comes out more than anything through this is that Paul wants Christ to be proclaimed. Even some people who oppose him are preaching Christ and he doesn’t care that it is because they are against him he just wants the Christ to be preached.
Philippians 1:15–16 ESV
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.
Philippians 1:15 ESV
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.
Philippians 1:15–18 NIV
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,
We don’t know what the circumstances were between Paul and these people but he clearly is not concerned with their doctrine. We can look at what Paul has to say about those people in some of his other writings and it isn’t pretty but these folks are just opposed to him and still preaching Christ and so he is pleased that even his rivals are out there proclaiming Christ.
And that is precisely his point. All that matters is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul has high expectations for his deliverance.
Philippians 1:19 ESV
for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,
He knows that no matter what happens to him Christ will be honored. Again, what a difficult thing for us to understand. We have such difficulty understanding hardship and persecution and yet throughout the ages our brothers and sisters in Christ have faced hardships in the same way as Paul. They have undoubtedly gone forward at difficult moments in their lives with verse 21 as their guiding principal.
Philippians 1:21 NIV
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Paul knows that whatever happens to him will bring glory to God. If he lives he will live for Christ. If he dies he will be with Christ and as he says, that is far better.
Philippians 1:
Philippians 1:23–24 NIV
I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
He knows that this imprisonment could lead to death and that he will receive an eternal reward but he understands that at this point he knows that is necessary that he remain here that he might lift up the Philippian church and the rest of the body of Christ.
But the purpose of all that Paul has written them so far in Philippians is to tell them something very important.
Philippians 1:27 NIV
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel
It turns out that the Philippians church has something deeply in common with Paul. They are going to face persecution and hardship too and in the face of it they are called to live their lives in manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. They are called to rejoice in the deliverance that they have in Jesus Christ regardless of their circumstances. We see here just how significant the idea that the gospel orients our life is. The gospel is not only for getting saved. It is something that shapes us and molds us. The gospel is our joy in the good and the bad. The gospel informs how we live our lives even in the face of suffering and hardship. We see that Paul tells the Philippian church that they are going to suffer.
Philippians 1:29 NIV
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him,
And it is seen as something good that they have been granted. This is what frames the entire letter to the Philippian church. There are so many verses in Philippians that we know and love. When you stop and think of them in the light of persecution being the context in which Paul wrote them they take on new meaning.
Philippians 4:13 NIV
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
P
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me sounds a little different when you know that Paul is encouraging them to stand firm in Christ in the face of persecution doesn’t it?
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me sounds a little different when you know that Paul is encouraging them to stand firm in Christ in the face of persecution doesn’t it?
Philippians 4:8 NIV
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
The same with . Takes on a different character when you know that Paul is telling to do these things in the face of being persecuted for the name of Jesus. To have this character he is describing in the face people wishing you harm really frames it with a new perspective.
As we come around to think what this means for us it can be summed up with living our lives in a manner worthy of the gospel. We don’t know what we will face but we have a confidence that whatever it is God’s ways are higher than our ways. Whether in times of plenty or in times of hardship God is working all things together for his glory. We live lives worthy of the gospel because that is a message that works at any point in your life. In the good we praise God because we know that he has saved us and all good things come from him. In the difficult times we know that we have a faithful savior who loves us and keeps us regardless of what happens to us.
There are those that teach that if something bad happens perhaps you are not living correctly or that you aren’t naming and claiming your success. That simply doesn’t work with the clear teaching of the Bible. God’s ways are higher than our ways. He did the unthinkable. He saved us through suffering. Our own savior, the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, suffered and died. And he didn’t do it because he was powerless to do anything about it. Instead he went to suffer and die willingly for you. So when hardship comes and in some way or form it will, know that you serve a God who is with you. A God who chose suffering.
Already this year I have pulled out my catechism to look at question and answer number 1 but I am going to do it again. We just started catechism with the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students and we went over this question last Wednesday night and it is a good refresher for them and for us to read the truth of this questions because it truly expresses a life lived in a manner worthy of the gospel.
That I am not my own
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong - body and soul, in life and in death - to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
That I am not my own,
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
but belong -
Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and make me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
body and soul,
This is what Paul is driving at. That no matter what happens to us we can trust that we are Christ’s own. His ways are higher than our ways and so we are free. We don’t live every moment wondering if we have pleased God because something bad has happened to us. Instead, we humbly remember every day that we are Christ’s and because he has us ,we are willing and ready to live for him.
in life and in death -
This is what Paul is driving at. That no matter what happens to us we can trust that we are Christ’s own. His ways are higher than our ways and so we are free. We don’t live every moment wondering if we have pleased God because something bad has happened to us. Instead, we humbly remember every day that we are Christ’s and because he has us we are willing and ready to live for him. That is where the challenge comes in. What does this look like for each one of us? What does it look like for you to daily live in a manner worthy of the gospel? It will look different for each one of us but it starts with being daily reminded of the grace of God that has been shown to us in Christ. It begins with a daily understanding that we are not our own and no matter what happens to us we are Christ’s own. This will shape how we interact with our spouses, our children, our parents, our co-workers, our friends, and even those people we aren’t particularly fond of.
That is where the challenge comes in. What does this look like for each one of us? What does it look like for you to daily live in a manner worthy of the gospel? It will look different for each one of us but it starts with being daily reminded of the grace of God that has been shown to us in Christ. It begins with a daily understanding that we are not our own and no matter what happens to us we are Christ’s own. As you live this way and strive to serve and love God by loving your neighbor, God will be glorified.
to my faithful savior Jesus Christ.
In preparing to teach catechism this past Wednesday
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of
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