The Insurgent’s Mission Sermon Notes

Posted: January 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

How do revolutions come about?  According to historian Noel Park there must be: (1) a breakdown in society; (2) a clear direction of change; and (3) agents to produce the change.
We don’t normally think of Christianity as revolutionary but the Roman Empire viewed it as such.  
The book of Philippians was a letter written by Paul who was in prison as an enemy of the state.
Paul is facing execution and he writes to a church he planted.  So, the words are those of a dying man.  
Let’s look at Philippians 1:1-26:

1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: 

2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 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 in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Notice how many times Paul refers to the Gospel in the opening paragraphs of this letter.  This is already a church spreading the Gospel but he wants to hammer home its importance because they, like us, faced pressure to keep quiet.  

Why don’t we share the Gospel? Do we not believe that society is breaking down? Do we not believe in the message? Do we not believe that with the assistance of the all-powerful Holy Spirit we can be agents of change?
Selfishly, as D.A. Carson writes, we tend to only want enough Jesus to save us from Hell and make us happy.  We don’t really want enough to make us sacrifice anything of importance.  Our sinful nature screams to just do enough to get by.
Moreover, we live in a world where there is pressure to keep our faith to ourself.  We fear looking strange or pushy or judgmental.
But the culture of the Roman Empire in which Paul was writing was no different!  What is different about our church and the church at Philippi?

Maybe it has to do with its founder and pastor and his vision.
Take a closer look at verses 3-19.  
As D.A. Carson writes in his great little book on Philippians “Basics for Believers”, these verses make it clear that Paul puts the Gospel at the center of his relationships. Paul doesn’t get to know anyone without sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with them.  How about you?

We all have neighbors but few of us know them.  We may deem to give them a little wave or a head nod now and then as we walk into our homes for another night of food and TV.  But what if we pulled into our driveways and noticed that our neighbor was trapped under his car? What would you think of the person who just nodded or waved and walked into his or her house without helping? Pretty jerky and cowardly, right? 

Yet, if we believe the Bible and believe in a real place called hell that those who refuse to follow Jesus are condemned then by not sharing the Gospel with them then, in a way, we are cowardly passing them by in their time of need.
Look at verses 4-5, “partnership” is a commercial term or a shared goal that unites them and it was such from the very beginning.  The church Paul planted began spreading the Gospel as soon as it took hold of them.  We tell ourselves that we will wait until we are older and know more but this church rushed out right from the beginning and so should we.
Consider verses 9-11, Paul places the Gospel at the center of his prayer life. What do you pray about? Health? Loved ones? Sins? Things you want? Do you pray about who you will share the Gospel with and how? Do you pray for others to? Paul did. 
Look at verses 12-19, Paul places the Gospel at the center of his ambitions.  What are your ambitions? I am ashamed to say that sharing the Gospel is not usually at the center of my own deepest desires.  Typically, my dearest wants and wishes have to do with satisfying myself at the moment.  But I pray that I grow until, like Paul, the spread of the Gospel is truly my innermost desire.
What is the Gospel? See 2 Cor. 5:21.  It is God becoming man to die on a cross to take the punishment for every wrong we have ever done and then granting us his perfect life so that we are judged by it instead of our own. This is the Gospel or “good news.” 
This Gospel was the creed of this underground insurgency that would eventually overtake the mightiest military empire the world has ever known.  It still revolutionary power.

I think Paul was clear from the founding of the church at Philippi that this was to be a bold, revolutionary movement that demanded no less than total loyalty even under the threat of death.  What about churches today? Do we make it clear that there are expectations? Do we make it clear that we have a mission to which we will be held to account? Do we make it clear that people’s eternities are truly at stake? Or do we just focus on enough Jesus to make us happy and hopefully get us out of hell?

Well, maybe it was just something that happened way back then and times have changed?
Consider the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 

Just a generation or so ago, Bonhoeffer was a brilliant theologian with an appointment to teach at a prestigious university in New York City.  He had a beautiful fiancée.  Life was promising.  But Bonhoeffer was German and was concerned for the soul of his country as it languished under Nazi rule. He returned to Germany to help lead an underground resistance to Hitler. Illegally, he continued to share the Gospel and disciple men and women under the nose of the dragon known as the Gestapo.

Eventually, he was imprisoned.  One day, while sharing a cell with several people, two Gestapo guards came and called Bonhoeffer out by name. Everyone knew what this meant–he was going to the gallows to die. He turned to those around him, some were atheists who he was sharing the Gospel with, and said, “This is the end…but for me the beginning of life.” 

Just a few decades ago, this man went to his death fully submissive to the will of God because he understood the Gospel.  He understood his mission was to live out the Gospel and to share with all those around him in word and deed.  He is a hero in heaven. What will you be? A revolutionary too? An insurgent in a war that has already been won? What do you pray about? What are your ambitions? There is still time to fight.

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