Welcome to Becomning Closer! 

Philippians 2011

To Live Is Christ

Philippians  1:12-30

Lesson audio

The Assault of Satan

Philippians 1:12-18 NASB  (12)  Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,  (13)  so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else,  (14)  and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.  (15)  Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will;  (16)  the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel;  (17)  the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.  (18)  What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,

The Power of the State

Recently (March 2011) a judge's order in the state of Missouri came to my attention. Purely at his own discretion, without a court case being submitted, or any other legal document the judge decided to order all of the state's school superintendents to provide him with the complete list of names and addresses of all Missouri children were being homeschooled. Missouri law requires that homeschooled students register with the local superintendent of schools. The superintendents in question notified the parents of this demand, and asked the parents if they would participate in a lawsuit concerning this matter. Several parents went to a homeschooling association to do just that. The case is now wending its way up to the Missouri Supreme Court, but as you can imagine it has caused great alarm among homeschool advocates. The judge has given no reason for his demand. As most homeschool students are kept that way because their parents wish to provide for religious education or otherwise overcome the deficiencies of the public schools, you can see that such a list is a likely prelude to some sort of process which will determine whether or not the homeschooled student is worthy to stay that way. It is no secret that teachers unions despise homeschooling, and see it as stealing money from the public schools. Interestingly, when California was considering the possibility that homeschool parents would have to be certified teachers, the state was quick to leap to the defense of homeschooling. The reason is simple: there isn't enough money in the budget to do what the homeschooling parents already do for free. The key point for us is this: the enemies of Christ are quick to use the powers of the state to harass and pursue the Christian.

Why should this be so? Because Satan is the Prince of this world. Remember Christ's temptation in the wilderness:

Luke 4:5-7 NASB  And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  (6)  And the devil said to Him, "I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.  (7)  "Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours."

The Christian, therefore, should expect that the state will be his persecutor to some degree or another. This is particularly true in our time. Liberals know that the state is supreme in all things of ethics, morality and religion — and therefore the backwards Christians must be forced (for their own good of course) to accept the state's will in these matters.

Perhaps more disturbing example comes from state of Maine. A mother there, who had been granted sole custody of her child, was told by a court appointed guardian that her child must go to public schools — because she was getting too much Christian education at home. The guardian told the court that the textbooks being used were unacceptable, because they were Christian-based. Eternal vigilance the price of liberty.

The State Against Paul

If this is true for us, it was even truer for Paul. For the first 300 years of the church, Christianity was illegal. This was enforced fitfully, usually at the whims of the local magistrate. But let's see what happened to Paul in this instance; it appears he has a rather cheery view of the results:

·         Well, you got a free trip to Rome out of the deal.

·         More than that, he had a golden opportunity to preach to the Praetorian Guard of Rome. This gave Christianity access to the inner circles of the Emperor.

·         Further, it gave a sense of courage to others in the church, which began to speak boldly for the Gospel.

Infiltration of the Church

Satan, of course, is not going to be content with using the power of the state. We are told that in every age of the church there will be those who appeared to the world to be good church members, doing the will of God, when in fact they are motivated by envy, greed or fear. Paul knows this; we should too. But see how Paul reacts:

·         Christ is preached. Paul sees this as 100% favorable. It doesn't matter about their motives.

·         Those who thought they were going to make Paul envious or distressed should think again. Paul takes to heart his master's word that those who are not against us are for us.

·         So, he rejoices.

To Live Is Christ

Philippians 1:19-26 NASB  (19)  for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,  (20)  according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  (21)  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  (22)  But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.  (23)  But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;  (24)  yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.  (25)  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith,  (26)  so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.

Attitude Towards Death

There is no denying: the Christian attitude towards death has changed greatly since the first century. Then, Christians looked at death as their entrance into Christ. Today, death is sanitized in hospitals, conducted out of sight and out of mind, and very often alone. Our attitude has changed greatly. Consider this writing from Athanasius in the fourth century:

A very strong proof of this destruction of death and its conquest by the cross is supplied by a present fact, namely this. All the disciples of Christ despise death, they take the offensive against it and, instead of fearing it, by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ trample on it as something dead. Before the divine advent of the Savior, even the holiest of men were afraid of death, and mourned the dead as those who perish. But now that the Savior has raised His body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing and prefer to die rather than to deny their faith in Christ, knowing full well that when they die they do not perish, but live indeed, and become incorruptible through the resurrection. But that devil who of old wickedly exulted in death, now that the pains of death are loosed, he alone it is who remains truly dead. There is proof of this too; for men who, before they believe in Christ, think death horrible and are afraid of it, once they are converted despise it so completely that they go eagerly to meet it, and themselves become witnesses of the Savior's resurrection from it. Even children hasten thus to die, and not men only, but women train themselves by bodily discipline to meet it. So weak has death become that even women, who used to be taken in by it, mock at it now as a dead thing, robbed of all its strength. Death has become like a tyrant who has been completely conquered by the legitimate monarch; bound hand and foot as he now is, the passers-by jeer at him, hitting him and abusing him, no longer afraid of his cruelty and rage, because of the king who has conquered him. So has death been conquered and branded for what it is by the Savior on the cross. It is bound hand and foot, all who are in Christ trample it as they pass and as witnesses to Him deride it, scoffing and saying, "O Death, where is thy victory? O Grave, where is thy sting?"

(Athanasius, De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, V-27)

Men in those days live in the power of the resurrection (see Philippians 3:8-11.) They understood that the fate of the Christian is to be raised from the dead, and that death is not victorious over the Christian. This can only have altered their attitude towards death. That changed attitude towards death altered their attitude towards life. They became what I call a "combat Christian." This is someone who is not afraid to speak the gospel of Christ; not afraid to take a risk to do what is commanded; and even (though you may not believe it) risk offending someone for the sake of the Stone of Stumbling and the Rock of Offense. Sometimes this is rather unsubtle – like the guy with the cardboard sign saying the end is near. Sometimes it's just forceful. But it always makes people ask the question, "why does he do that?" What they really mean of course is, "where did he get the guts?"

Simple. He knows Christ. Everything changes.

What Do I Care about?

Most of us are so busy being polite that we can't take the time to spread the gospel. We are worried about what other people will think. Consider, however, what was of concern to Paul:

·         First, that he would not be put to shame. In other words, he would do what he was supposed to do without flinching and without hesitation. Combat Christians always run towards the screaming.

·         Second, the Christ would be exalted. The whole purpose of the Christian's life is to bring glory to God. If that's happening, what does the rest matter?

·         Finally, there is his concern for others — the things which are "necessary for your sake." He is taking care of God's children.

And that's a pretty good summary of what a Christian should be doing.

How to Live This Life

Paul also outlines the three things that he needs to live such a life:

·         First, he needs the prayers of his fellow Christians. Christianity is not a solo flight; combat Christianity is even less so. If you are going to pick up the cause of Christ, the prayers of your fellow Christians are great and valuable.

·         He then asked for the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. The work of the Holy Spirit in us is sometimes mysterious, but always essential.

·         Always, ever, and of first importance is hope.

If you are expecting a list that included car, house, mountain cabin for vacation, etc. — then I think you are highly disappointed by now. This is a life which is in the world but not of the world. Those who live it know the joy of Christ. Those who don't, see it as a terrible burden.

What Is the Christian to Do?

Philippians 1:27-30 NASB  (27)  Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;  (28)  in no way alarmed by your opponents--which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.  (29)  For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,  (30)  experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

Most of us never get the chance to be a great missionary. We live our lives in quiet times (we hope) and hope that the times do not oppress us too much. But just what should we be doing as ordinary Christians? We must begin with looking at the times in which we live.

Are the Times Similar?

At first it would seem that the times of Paul and our times today are not really similar at all. Americans think they have freedom of religion; nobody has shackled us to the wall with two soldiers to watch over us — perhaps we're not that dangerous. But Satan is not asleep. See if you recognize the symptoms:

·         "Everyone knows that Christians are evil." It has been well said in our society that conservatives think liberals are stupid; liberals think conservatives are evil. It is amazing how often liberals see a positive conspiracy among Christians which they feel is inspired by some sort of demonic energy. That demonic energy, of course, is something they deny exists.

·         Therefore, the liberal knows that he needs the power of the state to keep the Christians in check. Times are desperate; the evil Christians will educate their children to be Christians if you let them. We must force them to go to public school so they will learn to be good little atheists (among other things).

·         If you think this has no spiritual dimension to it, think about this: American liberalism is tightly allied with Islam. Islam is a religion which consistently oppresses its people, particularly children and women. The virtue of tolerance is completely unknown to Islam. Yet liberals complain about right wing fundamentalists being the problem in America, as they are intolerant. Moslems, on the other hand, are children of the religion of peace. This is patently absurd. You'd think there was an alliance between the two that can only be explained by having the same potentate at the top of both. Somebody like, perhaps, Satan.

Suffering for Christ

Of course, this kind of life is going to make us suffer for Christ. It can't be helped; but it might be looked upon as an advantage. Why?

·         Suffering is the way in which God perfects his saints.[1] In particular, it is through suffering that the Spirit of God rests upon you.[2]

·         Suffering shows that you are worthy in the eyes of God.[3]

·         You do not get to do this alone. God much prefers that you suffer as part of the church; a shared suffering builds the church. We are to suffer together.[4]

·         When we suffer together, this builds up the church.[5]

·         And, as Paul tells us, the suffering we have in this world is not to be compared with the glory we will gain in the next.[6] Indeed, we are taught that if we suffer with him we shall reign with him.[7]


Paul leaves us with certain instructions.

·         First, we are to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. Have you ever noticed that the world seems to know what to expect the Christian should do? They have standards of conduct for us which sometimes are higher than our own. People might not listen to our words, but they cannot help see our conduct. Therefore, in all things, act as one who is an ambassador for Christ, a representative of the gospel.

·         Don't be alarmed by your opponents. It is the way of the world that our opponents constantly tell us that they are in charge, they are supreme, we are not vain, and why is it that we are putting our feeble, pitiful resistance up against them? He who is for us is greater than he was against us. We are on the winning side. But don't get cocky; even David picked up five smooth stones to meet Goliath.

·         You may not have good leadership skills; what you really need are good followership skills. If you're a leader, be a good example. If you are a follower, follow one. Follow me as I follow Christ, as Paul said.

It's just like high school physics tests: I didn't say they are easy. It's just that they are required. And the suffering of the Christian life is a requirement for the true Christian.

[1] 1st Peter 5:10

[2] 1st Peter 4:13-14

[3] 2nd Thessalonians 1:4-5

[4] 2nd Corinthians 1:7

[5] 2nd Corinthian's 4:11-18

[6] Romans 8:18

[7] 2nd Timothy 2:12

Previous     Home     Next