Saturday, September 20, 2008

Worthy to Suffer

For all who follow Christ, but especially for my friends in Pittsburgh—
27Whatever 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 one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel 28without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, 30since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

worthy of the gospel (vs. 27). Here the Apostle Paul is exhorting his readers to live lives that are in keeping with the standards and character of the Gospel—the good news of Jesus Christ. That standard, as we read elsewhere in the Scriptures, entails the characteristics of holiness and righteousness—two words we Christians like to throw around a lot without ever stopping to define them. The result is that many people don't know exactly what they mean, or sometimes view them as interchangeable or synonymous. They are complementary, but they are not synonymous.

Holiness means "set apart," and there is a two-fold connotation: set apart from the world by our integrity and purity, and set apart for God by our complete and total dedication—thoroughly and unreservedly belonging to God.

1 John 2:15-16 says,
"Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever."

This is the essence of holiness, not loving those things that our fallen nature (our flesh) craves, nor those things that are alluring to our eyes, nor those things that appeal to our egos (the pride of life) but instead having our hearts totally fixed on God.

Righteousness (vs. 27) is related to "rightness"— letting God's priorities and values be our thoughts and values, and letting His Word and His will direct our thoughts and actions to the exclusion of all else.

in one spirit... (vs. 27). Having a common disposition and purpose with other members of the Body of Christ so that we are one, even as Christ and the Father are one (John 17:20-22).

contending as one man... (vs. 27). Particularly where the Gospel is being attacked, Christians need each other. They must stand together and let their unity in the Truth be a witness to the world.

without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you (vs 28).   "...for greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed... (vs. 28). Persistent opposition to the Gospel is a sure sign of eventual destruction because it is a rejection of the way of salvation. By the same token, when Christians are persecuted for their faith, it is a sign of the genuineness of their faith.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)

granted... to suffer (vs. 29). Given as a gift or privilege, suffering identifies the Christian with Christ, who suffered for our salvation, and with the prophets and saints who have suffered for the Truth of God's Word in every age.

same struggle... (vs. 30). The Philippian believers (and all who suffer today) are undergoing the same opposition Paul faced in his ministry.

Finally, from 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12,

3We ought always to thank God for you, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. 4Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
5All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power 10on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.

11With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. 12We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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