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"To live is Christ. To die is gain." Does your life reflect this truth from Philippians 1:21? As we finish the first chapter of the book of Philippians, Todd Wagner walks through verses 18-30, teaching us how to both live for Christ and believe that death is gain.
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"To live is Christ. To die is gain." Does your life reflect this truth from Philippians 1:21? As we finish the first chapter of the book of Philippians, Todd Wagner walks through verses 18-30, teaching us how to both live for Christ and believe that death is gain.
In the last seven days:
Pick one of the questions from above and commit to doing something so that your answer will be different seven days from now.
Well hello, friends. How are we doing? I am fired up about today. This is one of my favorite sections in all of Scripture. As we get ready to dive in, I'm going to tell you a story. A number of years ago, I was with a buddy who was driving north. As guys in their 20s (it was 30 years ago) are prone to do, we were fairly spontaneous. We were approaching Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and we saw a sign that said, "Skydiving," and we said, "Why not? I've always wanted to do it."
We pulled in, and we got in there, and we found out all we could about it and decided to sign up right then. This is before the days when they did tandem jumping where you awkwardly strap yourself to another guy and jump out of a plane. I didn't want to do that. I wanted to jump out from as high as I could by myself and a little later got to do that.
To start, you do what's called a static line jump. At least that's what we were doing in that day way, back in the day. A static line jump is where, basically, there is a wire that is tied to your parachute. When you jump out it's on a static line inside the plane and it deploys your chute for you. There are still things that can go terribly wrong. So they want to put you through a series of tests and training to make sure you would know what to do if things go wrong.
It turns out just myself and one other guy wanted to do it. My buddy was along for the ride to take pictures. That's what he decided to do. The guy that I was going through this with was a Vietnam vet, and it was about 15-20 years after being out of 'Nam. He had PTSD and some other issues, and he thought he would deal with it by facing some of his fears. The last time he jumped out of a plane it was into combat, so he was there just to do that again as part of his healing.
My new friend and I were going through the training, and at some point they put you in harnesses. While you're sitting there in that harness, they throw different problems at you that could happen. The first problem they threw at us was, "Horseshoe." Horseshoe is when the chute deploys but it wraps around some part of your body (your arm or, more typically, sometimes if you're at the wrong position, even your leg). It doesn't deploy very well, and you don't float down appropriately, and you often end up really hurting yourself.
I did what I was supposed to do to shake free of the horseshoe and whatnot in this harness, and my buddy just locked up. This ex-Vietnam vet had a bit of a flashback and didn't move at all. So the jumpmaster gets up in his grill a little bit and says, "Listen, buddy. If you want to get on that plane with me in just a little bit, you have to know what do. I have to know you're going to be to respond if things don't go right, because things don't always go right. You could die or be seriously maimed." The guy went, "'That which doesn't kill me only makes me stronger.' Nietzsche," All right, now that was weird. I'll just say it; It was weird.
So I'm like, "I'm glad that dude is hung up right there and tied down like that." We went, "Okay, man. Uh, on we go with the training." Then they threw out another deal. This one was a streamer. A streamer is, basically, when the chute doesn't fully deploy, and there are some things you have to do to release your main and then go to your secondary chute and all that different stuff.
I didn't do exactly what the guy wanted me to do. I got a little out of order, so he gets up in my grill. He says, "Hey, did you hear what I said to him? If you can't do this, we're not going to put you up there. If you're not dead, you're going to wish you were as hard as you hit." I went, " '…to live is Christ, and to die is gain.' Paul." So we had a good laugh out of that, and I had a chance to talk to those guys about the gospel. We sat there and hung out by each other (literally) and talked about Jesus and the hope that we have.
I want to tell you that that perspective I had, which is… As I heard a friend of mine say this weekend, "No one likes to get hurt. It hurts." I don't want to get hurt. I don't want things to not go well, but life is not always going to go well. What I want to share with you is this little section of Scripture, because life won't go well with you if you don't live with the mindset of Paul in Philippians 1:22-30. It is Paul telling you how he is doing and how you can experience life, indeed.
Last week, JP did a great job. We talked about how there's a Harvard Business Review article that just came out that said a leader's mindset and mood and behaviors is what drives the moods and the behaviors of everyone else. Paul was writing this book to his friends and he wants them to know his mindset, his mood, his attitude, and his joy in the midst of what hasn't been an easy life to this point.
I hear this from people all the time. They go, "Todd, where is this abundant Christian life? Where's this fullness you talk about? Jesus said, 'The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,' but I'm not feeling the abundant life." Typically when I lean in and ask people why they're not experiencing abundant life, it's because they don't think like Paul.
Literally, Philippians 1:21 is translated to, "Live…that's Jesus. I'm all in with him. Die…gain." That's really all he says. Paul is saying, "This is my perspective. This is why my life is rich. This is why it's full." Henry David Thoreau is the guy that said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation." I'll tell you I have seen that. For you to live for anything other than that which isn't fleeting and momentary is going to make you question, "Where is the abundant life?"
Having somebody teach you what it means to follow Christ in a way that is not consistent with Scripture is going to make you ask the exact same question as people who don't know Christ at all. What I want to do today is help you understand what it means to truly follow Christ. Here's, basically, what it means: Are you alive? It should be all about Jesus.
My friend Howard Hendricks, who influenced a lot of guys who are leading in the church today, is the one who said, "My fear is not that you would fail, but that you would succeed in doing the wrong thing." I want to tell you. I think that's God's fear for you. You're not going to experience life as he intends. You're not going to flourish as he intends if you don't live the way he wants. Being alive and living are two very different things. Just because you're breathing doesn't mean you're alive.
It's been said by a lot of people, "My biggest fear in life is not that I would die, but that I would die without ever really having lived." I want you all to really live. We have a lot of podcasts around here. One of them is the CLP, the ChurchLeaders Podcast, which I highly commend to you. Why? It's what we do to equip churches that come and hang out with us throughout the year to help them be strengthened in what God wants them to do. Our ChurchLeaders Podcast is every place you can find podcasts (iTunes and other spots), and I would encourage you to check it out.
We started a new one not long ago. My friend, Nathan Wagnon, in the Equipping ministry started an Equipping podcast. I don't know if they'll ever produce another good podcast or not, but this one I'm about to tell you about is worth your time to listen to. Nathan interviewed a guy named David (and actually Karen) Eubank. David and Karen lead a ministry called Free Burma Rangers, which are really interesting.
David was a Ranger in the United States military. While he was United States military he was all over the world building relationships and serving in our government. Some of them have lead him to go back to places where there is incredible crisis. They primarily live in Myanmar, which is what most of us know as modern day Burma, where they work with the Burmese people.
Every now and then he'll get a phone call. For example, he has a friend who's a general in the Iraqi Army who used to fight alongside Saddam Hussein, who, when Saddam Hussein was eradicated, continued to stay as a part of the army and really wanted to see freedom come to his land and a lack of oppression to his people, but their resources are limited.
He has called David and said at one point, "David, listen. ISIS is overrunning our country on more fronts than we can handle. I'm not asking you to come and go to war with them, because you really can't do that, but I'll get you in the country if you and your team of operators will go and live and care for people and rescue them every time you see ISIS come in."
So David Eubank and his wife, Karen, said, "Well, that's where there's a need. We have a friend who's asked us to come," so he and some of his ex-military friends and his family of five moved to Mosul. Here they are. There's a picture of them. There's David and his wife, Karen. He has his 18-year-old daughter up there, Sahale; his 15-year-old daughter, Suuzanne; and his 12-year-old son, Peter. Peter wasn't 12 in that picture, but you get the idea.
I'm listening to this podcast about this family that lives in Mosul during ISIS's occupation of it. They're in there because when there's crisis they're trying to extract people and protect them. I listened to this podcast with my kids (at least a couple of them) as I was driving Friday with them somewhere, and we started listening to what they were experiencing.
Nathan specifically asked them questions like this. He wisely said to the kids, "What's it like? Here you are teenagers and you're living in the midst of all this chaos." They said, "Listen, we're not really concerned about Xbox and we're not concerned about whether or not we just won the last Fortnite battle. We're trying to stay alive. We're not caught up in a lot of the typical stuff that American teenagers are. Our lives are different. We have pet monkeys in Burma. We eat snake and eel. We have friends from all different parts of the world. We have a different perspective."
He goes, "What's it like? Tell us a story of some of the things you've experienced." It was funny because Suuzanne, who was 15 when she told this story… Actually, her sister goaded her to tell us. She said, "Suuzanne, tell him what you said last year when you were in Mosul." She goes, "About what?" She goes, "When you were doing the laundry." She goes, "Oh, yeah."
She goes, "I was doing the laundry one day. The way we do laundry in Mosul is there are no washers and dryers, so we washed our clothes in the house and then those clothes are never going to dry unless you take them up to the roof to hang them. So I went up the roof to hang my clothes. I came down the steps, and I announced to the house (which included some ex-special forces guys who were there in it with us) as a 14-year-old girl, 'Is it too much to ask that a 14-year-old girl could go up on the roof to do her laundry just one time and not get shot at by ISIS snipers?'"
Now you listen to that and you're like, "What? This guy's completely irresponsible that he's taking his kids into a war zone." Listen to the podcast. David and Karen talk about why they're there and what they're doing. I look at my kids. I go, "Hey, has that been your challenge this week? Where are you going that Jesus wants you to go that you're putting yourself as risk in a conversation?"
Here's the deal. Those ISIS snipers know that those folks are there and around there, and they're always looking for people that aren't there to advance their cause. So up on the roof, there's a little three-foot-high ceiling. At night they string across wires so when they do their laundry they can go up there, but army crawl from wire to wire with their clean clothes. They throw it up over the wire and they straighten it. If you put up your hand up there, they know someone's on the roof and they start shooting at you.
This 14-year-old girl is up there loving people in the name of Jesus, rescuing them from the trouble, hanging her laundry, and she comes down and that's what she says. There's was a special forces guy there who said, "Do you have a Twitter account? You have to tweet that. There's no other 14-year-old girl saying that."
I just said to my kids, "Here's the deal. You don't need to go to Mosul to live radically for Jesus and rescue people. If that father is willing to put his daughter at risk to live in that land, and she's willing to do her laundry that way (to have to go up and avoid sniper fire just to dry her clothes) does it challenge you a little bit with how you're living?"
I hear that, and I'm all in. I said to my wife, "That's our next family vacation with a purpose right there. Let's go hang out with the Eubanks." All the enthusiasm in the car wasn't matched with mine (in general), but I'm like, "This is living." I want to tell you, I'm inspired when I hear what Paul did. I'm inspired when I hear what some of you are doing in Frisco and Plano and Fort Worth and here in Dallas. You don't need to go Mosul to be on mission. Frankly, I hit pause right there, and I talked to my kids about how we could live boldly and courageously right where we're at. That's what we need to do.
Let me just say this. The reason I love this message is because if we don't do as a church or we're not the church God wants us to be or we're not the church we should be… Where life indeed is found is in courageous, bold, purpose-filled living marked by love. I want you to experience that with me.
Viktor Frankl, who was a Nazi Holocaust survivor, actually studied the lives of individuals who lived in concentration camps, and he was trying to figure out why certain people survived and why certain people thrived and why certain people just surrendered and wilted and eventually died. He actually wrote a book called Man's Search for Meaning when he got out. What he observed is that the reason that some people survived this gruesome experience of Auschwitz was that the guys who made it out and who got stronger in the midst of it had three distinctives about them. I want you to see what he said.
He essentially said, "The people that did well in Auschwitz had a purpose for their life. Secondly, they loved others. They were marked by a concern for something more than themselves. That was a big part of their purpose. 'I have to stay strong so as I'm strong I can use my strength to help others, to speak to them, to encourage to them, and to comfort them.'
Thirdly, they had a mindset about them which primarily was just a strength of understanding that life was about more in this moment than just the suffering that was there. They had a hope. They had a perspective that helped them deal with disappointment." In other words, this world was not all there is.
What's so interesting about Frankl's observation is that's exactly what Paul wrote about in Philippians. Frankl was not a believer at the time. He was a Jew. I don't think he ever went on to embrace the Jewish Messiah, Jesus. Had he, he would've read Philippians, and he would've basically known how to thrive in a concentration camp. Can I just say this to you? There are all kinds of people right here in your city who are not thriving in the concertation camp of prosperity and the current of this world, and they need to see people who know how to live.
I love to read the stories of people who live their lives with purpose, with meaning, and a perspective that helps them have courage in the face of difficulty. One of them is a guy named C.T. Studd. First of all, because what a great name. C.T. Studd was a world-class athlete. He lived in England in the 30s and the 40s. He was a cricket player, which would put him in the same class as an NBA star or a Major League Baseball Cy Young Award winner-type person.
One of the most famous people in all of England, C.T. Studd, came to a place where he understood this. This is a famous statement by him. He said something to the effect of, "If Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great, and I want to go live for him." He's the one who famously said, "Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell."
He wants to live his life on purpose, loving other people and rescuing them from the concentration camp of that which is stolen and killed and destroyed their meaning and hope and purpose in life. He wants to be an individual who has courage in the face of all the disappointment that comes. C.T. Studd became famous for the way he brought hope to children in China during a very oppressive communist regime. He took the gospel to them, and he actually lost his life there at a very young age.
I want you to hear me when I read this to you. C.T. Studd said when you decide to follow Jesus you'd better know what it means to follow Jesus. "The 'romance' of being a missionary," he wrote, "is often made up of monotony and drudgery." In other words it's a day by day trust and obey.
It's not some whiz-bang, every moment God is parting seas. It is just the monotony of faithfulness and love and self-sacrifice. He said, "There often is no glamour in it; it doesn't stir a man's spirit or blood," just that long obedience in the same direction. He says come be here with me in this life of purpose and of living for Jesus if you feel there is no greater honor than living for Christ, so don't come out to be a missionary as an experiment; it is useless and dangerous.
You need to know this. It is useless and dangerous to just be a churchman. Somebody who's going to dip their toe in and ask, "What does Jesus want for me?" You'll think what Jesus wants for you is to live is to tithe, to live is to go to church, and to live is to listen to KLTY. Oh, man. Please spare me from that.
To live is what I'm going to describe to you today. To live is to be all in. C.T. Studd was saying it is useless and dangerous just to play… You need to really mean live: Christ and die: gain. Unless you have that perspective, you will not be who God wants you to be. Watch what he says. "Only come if you feel you would rather die than not come."
This is what Jesus said. It's why I'm quoting C.T. Studd. Because he's quoting Jesus. "If anyone wishes to come after Me [and follow me, let him die], he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me." C.T. Studd did that. Don't come if you want to make a great name or want to live long. Come if you feel there is no great honor after living for Christ than to die for him. Guess where he got that. "To live for Christ and to die for him." Philippians 1:21. These men inspire me. I'll tell you one more: David Livingstone.
I read these guys because I want to be that guy. I want to be that in my generation. That's why I need you to pray for me that I would become more radicalized for Christ. I'm going to show you what it means to be radicalized for Christ. It doesn't mean that you're going to do crazy stuff and hurt people who disagree with you.
It means you love your enemies more and more. It means you'll speak the truth in love more and more. It means you're willing to suffer for the sake of the gospel more and more. It means that you'll bring joy and strength to people and be the salt and light God intended you to be. You need to pray for me that I'd be more radicalized for Christ.
You need to know something. If you don't want to become more radicalized for Christ, don't be a member at Watermark because that's what I'm praying for you. I'm praying for you that if God calls you to Mosul while it's occupied by ISIS you'd go, "I'm in. As long as I know that's where Jesus wants me to go." Listen to why David and Karen think they should be there. I know today, God has me right here, and I want to be as faithful on my rooftops hanging my laundry and loving the people God has me in the presence of as I can be.
David Livingstone, as a doctor left the comforts of England with all his education, and he went into the darkness, into the center of Africa where nobody would go. There was only one group actually that had gone into Central Africa. You know who it was? People who were to live just to make profit. How'd they make profit? They went and they took Africans, they kidnapped them, and they sold them into the slave trade.
He said, "Cannot the love of Christ carry the missionary where the slave-trader carries the trader? I shall open up a path to the interior [that they may know Jesus] or perish." I'm like, "You go, David." This is 1800s. He lost his son on a journey there. His wife died. He died there on his knees. The African people loved him. They carried his body 900 miles across Central Africa to the coast to mail it home after they cut his heart out and buried it underneath a tree. They're saying, "The heart of this man, the heart of our God who we've come to know through him, is going to stay here."
Let's go. That's who I want to be. The only way you're going to be that is if you get Philippians 1:21-30. If you understand who Jesus is, if he is God and he died for you, than to live is his. Let's go. I'm going to remind you when Paul comes out at Philippians 1:18. This is where we were last week at the very end.
Paul says, "What then? You think I care that I'm in prison? What then? You think I don't care that people that are slandering me and taking advantage of the fact that I'm in prison and maybe preaching the gospel out of an ulterior motive. No, I only care about this. Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed. You want to make me be happy? You want to see me rejoice? Tell me that Christ is being proclaimed. I will rejoice."
Verse 19. "I know this is all going to work out for my deliverance, my ultimate salvation, wherever this thing goes." I'm going to get to live for my King, which is going to be the first thing I'm going to ask him, for the privilege of doing is going back to earth and live for him, which he's not going to let me. It's going to be "all bless him" forever.
But I know if I see with eyes that know him in all the fullness that he knows me right now, the first thing I'm going to want to do is go live for him on earth and to tell friends in the heart of Africa, in Mosul and in Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano and Frisco I'm in to let them know about the love of Christ.
He says, "I need your prayers." There's something supernatural that happens when we pray for one another. I need you to pray for me that I would have a lion's heart like Paul, that I would be like Henry Martyn, that I'd be like David Livingstone, that I would be like David Brainerd, that I would be like Charles Spurgeon, and that I'm more of what Jesus wants.
That's why we're going be here tonight on our knees praying that God would strengthen us and convince us, and that we would lions for Christ. That's why when Alexander the Great ran up against men who had purpose and courage in the face of disappointment he said, "We're in trouble."
Alexander the Great is thought to have said, "I am more afraid of an army of 100 lambs led by a lion than an army of 100 lions led by a lamb." I want to be a lion. I want to strengthen people. I am a lamb or a sheep who is led by a lion, and it strengthens me. I want to be that. I want to Jesus see multiplied in you and me. This is the amazing thing. We should pray for each other that he would.
Secondly, look what it says. "…and the provision of the Spirit of Christ would be the means through which you could do this." The word there is epichorēgia. It's one of my favorite words in Ancient Greek. Chorēgeō is where we got choreography from. When you think choreographer, don't think Paula Abdul or don't think Michael Jackson in Thriller.
In Ancient Greece, a choreographer was a very wealthy benefactor who lived in the city. The chorographer would give money (he would endow money) to the arts. He'd build both stages and hire script writers and buy costumes so that community could put on plays that would teach values and would instruct, through the arts, great truths that would cause people to give that community renown. A choreographer is one who brought all the resources for you to dance in the world in such a way that people came to watch you.
Paul takes that term and says the Holy Spirit is that. Your prayers are used by God along with the provision, the epichorēgia of the Spirit of Christ. He is the one who gives us the ability to do this. It's not the courage of Todd. It's not the courage of David Eubanks or David Livingstone. It's the Spirit of God, the Lion of the tribe of Judah who lives in you and you follow him and decrease that he might increase that produces a Philippians 1:21-30 life. Watch what he says.
"It is my earnest expectation…" That word is great. It's like, "I extend my neck." That's literally what it means. "I'm looking forward to…" "I'm hoping that I'm not going to put to shame in anything." Why? Because I know who wins. I know I will not be disappointed. I can't lose. God plus one is the majority. If God is for me, who can be against me. This is not going to turn out poorly for me if I live like Jesus, because to die will be gain.
I love this. "All I care about is that with all boldness, Christ's will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or death." Can I get an amen? That's who we ought to be. This is what he says. That's why he gets to verse 21. "For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Paul basically says, "For me, life is Jesus. For me, death is gain." Now he's going to walk you through that a little bit.
Verse 22, "But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me…" Let me ask you a question. It's November 4. We're going to gather in here corporately tonight to pray (hopefully) so our hearts can be more of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, but we're going to be back here again in a week (November 11). What will have happened between November 4, 2018, and November 11, 2018? If it is not fruitful labor for the King of Kings, you have lived a life of quiet desperation.
Paul says, "All I know is I'm going to get after it. I know what I selfishly want. I hope I don't get out of these chains. I hope there's a kangaroo court who says I'm guilty and they lop my head off." That's what he says basically right here in verse 23. "But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better [than staying here] …" Why does he say that?
You need to know this about Paul. Let me just remind you of Paul's life up until this time. When he was writing to the Corinthians, he reminds them in chapter 4, verse 17. He said the momentary, light afflictions that you're going through? That's what he said everything on earth is. "It's a momentary, light affliction, and it produces for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison." I'm ready for these light afflictions to leave me.
What are the light afflictions of Paul? This is two chapters later in chapter 6, verses 4 through 5. He says this. "…but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger…"
He gets to chapter 11 in the same book. Go ahead five more chapters, to verse 23. There are people accusing him of not being God's servant and God's apostle. Paul says, "Are [these guys who are saying this about me] servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane [because I'm about to basically give you my resume] —I more so [than they are] ; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments; beaten times without number, often in danger of death."
This is Paul. This is why he's saying I'm ready to die. If the chute doesn't open, that's awesome. He just says, "Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes." You can't receive 40, because the Jews believed no man could endure 40 beatings (40 lashes), so they always stopped at 39, because they didn't want to kill you; they just wanted to teach you to stop living the way that they didn't like the way you were living.
"Three times I was beaten with rods…" Lashes weren't enough. "…once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;
I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and third, often without food, in cold and exposure." I've been shot at by ISIS snipers. I've been criticized by my friends. People said mean things about me about me on social media. I'm not as popular as I once was to my old friends. "Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches."
"Day and night, I pray for you." That's what he implies. I see why he goes, "I'm not really sure I want to get to get out of here if this is the end. Take me to glory, because I've lived for Christ." Most of us aren't hard-pressed by the two things that Paul was hard-pressed from. That's what he says right here in verse 23. "But I'm hard-pressed from both directions…"
Here are the two directions that Paul is pulled. "I love God. I long to know to know him more and be with him forever. But I love you, people that Christ died for. I want to continue to stay here and suffer hardship and beatings so you can know more of Jesus. Most of us are like, "I'm torn. I'm torn between my love for the world and being a churchman." This one will make you live lives of quiet desperation, and this one is nothing that God ever called you for.
Paul says, "I am all in, and I want to be what he wants me to be." That's why you pray for me. Pray that Todd would not love the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the boastful pride of life. He would not love the world or the things in the world, but that the love of the Father would be in him. That's what I'm praying for you. So our lives would count. So our lives would matter. So we would not die without living.
God is calling you to the greatest life imaginable. You want the abundant life? Live for something that's never going to fade and never going to pass away. You be a minister of the King of Kings. I love what Livingstone said. At one point when he was talking to people, he said, "If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?" There is nothing that should be considered a sacrifice if we're living the way Jesus wants us to live because we're getting to honor and serve him.
It's why Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who stood up against Nazi oppression and fascism in the 30s and 40s said this. "Not in the flight of ideas…" That's what churchmen talk about: philosophy, Bible study, and Scripture. We should know the Scripture, but we shouldn't just talk about it. We should be like Livingstone again. This is what the natives said about Livingstone. "Livingstone lived the life of the book that he carried and preached."
See, Philippians 1 is living the life of the book that we're preaching through right now. Bonhoeffer said, "Not in the fight of ideas, but only in action is freedom. Make up your mind and come out into the tempest of the living." This is where life is. Paul's saying, "It's better for me go."
Verse 24: "Yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake." So Paul says, "I'm pretty convinced I'm going to hang around here. I don't get the sense that God is done with me yet." He was right. He eventually wasn't tried. Probably because the Jews didn't want to follow him all the way from Caesarea to go testify against him in Rome when he appealed to Caesar as a Roman citizen. That's what he did, and they probably never showed up. The Romans didn't take lightly a false accusation. They knew they couldn't defend what they were going to say about Paul. So eventually his case was dismissed. He was set free.
What do you think Paul did? I'll tell you what he did. He went back and visited the churches he had daily concern for. Then he went further into Spain and further to the west where the gospel had not gone yet. Eventually he was rearrested by Nero, who'd become more and more maniacal in his senility. Paul was beheaded six years after he wrote this letter, but he had work to do and some living for Christ to do. While he was living for Christ, he believed that his living was going to be a blessing to others.
I want to stop right here and ask you again…What's your living going to do this week? Is it necessary for you to be alive in your context for others to see the kindness, the power, and the truth of who Jesus is? Or are you going to be (basically) largely somebody indifferent: a churchman who came today and goes back to be obsessed with the Cowboys playing tomorrow night or why Texas keeps losing?
Or are you going to just say, "I might enjoy a Cowboys game just for a little bit, but I'm going to get back to war. I'm a soldier, and I'm not going to entangle myself in the affairs of everyday life that I might please the one who enlisted me as a soldier"? That's where life is found. I'm going to go to work, and you should go to work, and you should be excellent.
Whatever you do, do heartily for the Lord, not unto men. You don't want to live just to make the stock price of your company go up. Be excellent in what you do at work. I believe the work of the church is the church at work. The way we work ought to be a blessing to everybody around us, but not just because we do our jobs well.
We're not so heavenly minded that we're no earthy good. No, we're heavenly minded, and we know we honor Jesus by doing everything with excellence, but the most excellent thing we can do is be in touch with our people who are maybe caught up in a world and concentration camp of promotion and the next thing or the next car or the next fleeting relationship or the next strip joint.
You need to rescue them from that concentration camp and they respect you because they see you're great all things and you love them. You have a purpose to your life. You're focused on who they are and you have a courage to face disappointments they can't explain. The world needs those people. Paul said, "That's why I'm not going to die. Because I have some living to do for Jesus."
I'm going to stop right here and insert this quick story. The church who doesn't do this…that bastardized, feckless, compromised church…is why the world doesn't really respect Jesus. They don't see us love the way he loved. They don't see us live with purpose the way he lives with purpose. They don't see us having hope.
They see us on as much antidepressant medication as they're on. They see divorce happening in our communities the way it happens in theirs. They use us being trapped and caught up in the current of the ways of the world and the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, just like them. "What do you mean you know this lion King?"
When the church doesn't do its job, people suffer. In 2008 I got a phone call from my friends in Africa. Our partner in Africa is African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries. We'd actually been in Africa a number of years earlier not far from where Livingstone went. It was a little bit safer time and a little more comfortable journey for me than it was for Livingstone.
In 2006, we were in Kenya up in the northern region by Mount Kenya in Nyeri. We had did a pastors' conference where we talked about leadership conflict resolution, forgiveness and the role of the church in restoring and maintaining peace. Kenya was bastion of hope in the middle of chaotic Central Africa. You guys might remember in 1994 there was a great genocide that happened in Rwanda.
Racism in America is typically related to skin color. Racism in Africa has nothing to do with skin color, but it's every bit as offensive and prevalent today in Africa as it was then. In fact, in 2008 this stable country (Kenya) that wasn't as murderous as Rwanda had been and Burundi had been and other nations around them had been, went into a real crisis. It happened when President Kibaki's party claimed victory in an election that was still being disputed over: a guy named Odinga's ODP party.
In Kenya there are all kinds of tribes. We would just say, "I thought they were all Kenyans." They go, "Oh, no. We're not all Kenyans. There are Kikuyus, there are Luhyas, there are Luos, there are Kalenjins, and there are Kisii. There are all kinds of tribes that are there in Africa. They are not Kenyans first, typically; they are Kikuyus first or Luhyas first or Kisiis first. It shouldn't be that way in the church.
What happened when this election was disputed was there were certain regions where the Luhya people were the majority and they were sick and tired of being sick and tired, so they became violent against Kikuyu brothers. The violence spread out all around the country. Interestingly enough, outside observers said there was one region of Kenya that didn't get as violent. It was in Nyeri. They said it was because the church has played a role in Nyeri that they didn't play in other places, and they brought peace and calm to the people.
We had been there teaching in Nyeri two years before. They called us and said, "Would you…just one other person…come over here and go into Kakamega? " It's western Kenya in the Rift Valley right there on the boarder of Uganda where the most murderous part of this uprising had happened. "We need you to in there and do some of that same training and teaching and helping people."
I remember before I left some folks said, "You're crazy." I had a 15-year-old, a 13-year-old, an 11-year-old, a 9-year-old, a 7-year-old, and a 3-year-old at the time. I wrote them this note actually the night before I left. Here was the note, "Remember that you are immortal until the Lord is done with you." That's a David Livingstone quote that he actually stole from Henry Martyn, who inspired David Livingstone to do this.
Then I have this quote by Spurgeon (who was inspired by David Livingstone) after it. It said something like, "If the Lord is more witness for you to bear, you're going to live to bear it. Who is he that can break the vessel which the Lord intends, again, to use? If there's no more work for you to do for your master it cannot distress you that he's about to take you home and put you where you will go beyond the reach of your adversaries."
In other words, "There's going to be a day, Paul, when there's going to be no more rods and no more beatings. I'm going to take you out of the hand of your adversaries. I know you want to come here, but I have work for you to do." It looks like the Lord had at least 10 more years of work for me to do. So Kakamega wasn't my end.
I wrote this to my kids. "But your witness-bearing for Jesus is your chief concern, and you cannot be stopped until it is finished. Therefore, be at peace. Cruel slander, wicked misrepresentation, desertion of friends, betrayal by the most trusted one and whatever else may come cannot hinder the Lord's purpose for your life. He stands by you in the night of sorrow. You be bold for Christ."
Then I wrote one thing for each one of them, and then I went and got on a plane and went to Kakamega. I got there and there was still chaos, there were still fires, there was a huge population of people in IDP camps (internally displaced person camps), and we just gathered the church and started to teach them.
One of the very first people I met with was a guy named Bishop Nicolas Misai who was a Luhya (the tribe that was causing most of the violence at this time). I sat with him, and I asked him what he did during this time. He had a guy who worked with him whose name was Daniel who was a Kikuyu, and they worked together in the church, and they got along just fine until the riots started. Then the Luhya eldership and pastor and bishop came to Daniel and said, "You have to get out of here. We're not going to protect you. The people are wanting Kikuyu blood."
They said, "You've got to leave the church, Daniel. Not only do you have to leave, but we're not going to help the Kikuyu people." So I asked him the question, "What would've happened if you would've helped them." The guy said, "I don't know, but we couldn't bring him to the church because they were burning to the church." I said to him again, "What would've happened had you brought them to the church? He says, "I don't know what would've happened."
Then I said to Nicolas, "I'll tell you what would've happened, Nicolas. One of two things. Either the church would've stood strong, the people would've come to their senses, and healing and hope would've rushed into the Kakamega and the church would've been made more famous and effective and brought healing to the people, or you would've been burned with all the other Kikuyus and murdered with all the Kikuyus in the area and your blood (like the blood of the martyrs in Uganda in 1890) would've started a revival in your country. Either way you would've gained. Jesus would've been made more famous and the gospel would've gone forth."
So did you hear what I just asked that guy to do? I had asked him, "I bid you to go and die and stand for what the church is." He looked at me, and he said, "Todd, we would've lost our church building. They would've burned it if we told them the Kikuyus were in there with us when they we're looking for them.
I said to him, "Can I suggest to you something? You don't have a church. All you have is a building. You're to love people not buildings. We can let them burn buildings. You can't let them kill and burn people." He said, "This was a crazy time. It was a moment of testing and I, like Peter, failed."
I said to him what the Harvard Business Review later wrote about. I said, "Nicolas, the hearts of the people will never surpass the hearts of their leader." The mood and behavior of the leaders is going to be mood and the behavior of the people, and it was the church that was part of the murderous gang. He started to weep and say, "What do I do?" I said, "You get on your knees and you ask for forgiveness." You go and tell people that it's going to stop. You're going to start to love your Kikuyu brethren. You're not going to be part of a tribalism, because you live for Jesus."
This bishop went and sought the forgiveness of his people and acknowledged what had happened. I said, " You mentioned that you were like Peter who struggled in a time of testing. Let me tell you about Peter. When Jesus was crucified, we all know that Peter betrayed him, but later when that risen Lord came back, he told Mary, 'Go tell the disciples and tell Peter specifically that I'm risen.' In other words, 'It's not over. He hasn't betrayed me forever.' When Jesus saw Peter, he said, 'Peter, do you love me? Then tend to my sheep. Be a lion. Care for my sheep.'"
I said, "Nicolas, here's what happened. That same Peter who failed him like you just failed that same Jesus, he became God's man and he started to lead a church that changed the world . So can you, but it's got to start with you figuring out who you love. You'll lose your brethren or your Lord."
I'll just compare and contrast them to this guy. I was in El Salvador last week. I don't know if you guys know this thing called the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala). It's the most dangerous place on earth right now. There are more homicides per capita right now in that little Northern Triangle than anywhere else on earth. El Salvador is the worst of the three, and the district that we went into in San Salvador, the capital city, was the worst of all those districts.
One of the church leaders I met with a week ago today was this guy, Miguel. Remember I'm doing all this out of this idea…Is it necessary for you to be alive? Because Kakamega didn't need a compromised church underneath Bishop Nicolas. It needed a lion leader just like they have here in San Salvador. This is my friend Miguel.
Seven years ago, Miguel's only son was killed by MS-13, and he was angry with God. He said, "I can't tell you how many nights in a row I stayed up crying and complaining to God that he would let my son die." He said, "Finally one night…I can't explain it to you…the Lord spoke to me. It wasn't in audible words, but he said to me, 'Why are you crying Miguel?'" He said, ''I'm crying because of my son,' and the Lord said to me, 'You will see your son again, but for now you have work to do.'"
What happened is there was an MS-13 guy who got out of jail (he had an 80-year sentence). He got out because of intimidations inside the legal system, and this guy was trying to see if he could make a change to his life. So he went to Miguel, a guy who was part of the gang who killed his son, and said, "Will you help me?" Miguel said, "Yes. I have work to do." He loved him, he sheltered him, and he discipled him.
This guy went and said to the rest of his gang, "You have to come meet this guy, the one whose son we killed." It turns out, not long after that, 300 MS-13 gang members started meeting with Miguel. He shares with them the love of Christ and why he forgives them and why as a man he wants to hate them but for him to live is Christ, and they have judgement coming, and he wants them to know who he is.
There was a revival inside the MS-13 gang in that region. They actually came to him and told him, "We've just killed the guys who killed your son. They were never supposed to kill your son. Your son just happened to have the same name of somebody else who we had told them to go hit, and they didn't do their work. So we have executed them."
I asked Miguel, "How many of these people in your church have been affected by MS-13?" He said, "Every single person has lost a family member to them." I go, "What do they think about you loving them?" He goes, "Some people have left my church, but the church of Jesus once in San Salvador is still here."
I went to preach at a young adult gathering that night. The MS-13 gang got word out saying to any young adults, "If you go to that thing, it's not going to go well with you because Satan's a punk and he's scared to death of Jesus." They know that they cannot handle the power of Christ who goes into the city. The government doesn't know what to do, the military doesn't know what to do, but I'm going to tell you what is making a difference in San Salvador. It's thefaithful true church of Jesus Christ.
That's what's going to make a difference right here in Dallas. We have to live crazy radically like Miguel to forgive those who murder our sons. Paul says in verse 25, "Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith…" Let me say this to you again. If you're here for a week, do you exist for this reason? To help other people progress in their faith and bring joy to them?
I spoke in Australia this summer. The model of this church that I was speaking at at one point was, "We exist to bring glory to God and joy to the city." That's why all of us should be here. You're not here to make a living; you're here to make a difference. Scripture says, "If you're alive and you live as you should, it should be for others' progress in the faith and joy." Will you bring that?
Paul says this in verse 26, "…so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again." In other words, you're rejoicing, you're exhalating. The thanksgiving you bring to God will be because I'm in your midst.
We're going to have a Thanksgiving table in a little bit. Will your kids, your wife, your extended family, your neighborhood go, "Thank God we're going to spend time at Thanksgiving that this person, this representative of Jesus, is a part of our family. This loving father, this devoted spouse, this gospel advancing, radicalized Christ follower… We don't know what we should thank God for, but let's start with this. This person is in my midst"?
How would you like that? That's what God wants for you. So how does that happen? I don't need to go long in application here, because Paul did it. Paul's now going to stop describing who he is as an example to your mood and behavior in the midst of his world, and he's going to tell the Philippian church, "This is the application."
So he says this, "Only conduct yourselves…" That word conduct is a great word. It has inside it the word politēs. The word politēs is where we get the word politic. It's the word for citizen. Paul is saying, "I want to remind you citizens of heaventhat you should act like you are a citizen of heaven, not a citizen of Philippi. You should conduct yourself a a citizen of heaven in a manner worthy of the gospel of your King."
"…so that whether I come and [live with you again in Philippi or not] , I will hear that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents…" Let me tell you the application is here. He says, "Be steadfast. Remind yourself who you are. You don't go to church; you are the church. You live in Philippi, but you're citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Walk and act like it. Don't be sucked into the world like everybody else in Philippi. Little Rome, you are little Christs, and it's your chance to live for him."
So he says, "Be steadfast and be together. Love one another. Your community should be marked by love, and you should live to love other people." Then he says in verse 28, "Don't be alarmed by those who slander you and who tell you they're going to make your life in Philippi miserable. Who cares? You don't care. Philippi is an artifact. Philippi is not going to last. When you act like they can't control you because they've threatened to not make you popular in Philippi, it's a sign to them that you know something they don't know."
What do you know? You know that God is coming again, quickly, and his reward is with him and he will recompense men according to their deeds. Be steadfast, be together, be bold, and be not surprised. I end with this (verse 29) because Paul did, "For to you [Christians, citizens of heaven and Philippi] it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…" It's why I hate the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. There's nothing in the Scripture that says if you trust Christ your life is going to get easier and better.
No, Jesus says, "In this world you will have trouble. You're still going to have people betray you. You're still going to get cancer. You're still going to lose your job. It's going to be a tough world. Don't make it tougher with your own rebellion towards me." Peter said, "Don't be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you." Paul is writing to the citizens of the kingdom of the heaven in Philippi, "You will suffer." He bids them to come and live in the midst of the suffering because that's where life is found.
When you live for the only thing that matters, that they would experience in them the same conflict which Paul says, "You saw in me and now here to be in me, but I'm doing good. I've got purpose. I'm marked by love, and I have courage in the face of disappointment," do you think that church would change the world? I do, and I'm praying this one does.
Father, would you let us be your church? Would you have us not play games, but would you help us live for Christ? Let it be. Let it be, Lord, that the first name I call is the name of Jesus in the morning and the last thing I say is, "Jesus, let me live a useful and fruitful and productive life again tomorrow." Let us be your people. Let it be in Jesus' name, amen.
Todd & JP walk us through the entire book of Philippians, a love letter from a pastor to his congregation.