Pay Much Closer Attention

Model Citizens – Philippians 1:27

Kevin A. Pierpont
Higgans Lake Baptist Church
8/15/04

When Queen Victoria was a child, she didn’t know she was in line for the throne of England. Her instructors, trying to prepare her for the future, were frustrated because they couldn’t motivate her. She just didn’t take her studies seriously. Finally, her teachers decided to tell her that one day she would become the queen of England.

Upon hearing this, Victoria quietly said, “Then I will be good.”

The realization that she had inherited this high calling gave her a sense of responsibility that profoundly affected her conduct from then on. i

As believers we also have a high calling and that high calling should affect the way we conduct ourselves. Paul challenged the Philippian believers to make sure their conduct was worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Let’s take a closer look at this today at Philippians 1:27.

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,

The Greek word translated as conduct literally means to live as citizens. The implication in this text is to live as good citizens or model citizens. Let’s look for a moment at Philippians 3:20.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Worthy Conduct

If you have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior, your citizenship is in heaven. Paul’s use of the word that is translated conduct literally means, live as citizens and is significant. Commenting on this Warren Wiersbe points out that,

It would be a very meaningful expression to the people in Philippi because Philippi was a Roman colony, and its citizens were actually Roman citizens, protected by Roman law. The church of Jesus Christ is a colony of heaven on earth! And we ought to behave like the citizens of heaven. ii

When Paul challenges the Philippian believers to let their conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, he’s making reference to the importance of them acting like citizens of heaven. It was important that the conduct of the Philippians be worthy of the gospel of Christ and it’s important for us today as well. Wiersbe says,

The greatest weapon against the devil is a godly life. And a local church that practices the truth, that “behaves what it believes,” is going to defeat the enemy.iii

We can say all the right things and believe all the right things but if our lives don’t back up our beliefs, we’re not going to be very credible witnesses to those who need Christ. Let me illustrate.

The Princeton Religion Research Center has measured the impact of religion on day-to-day work. Comparing the "churched" with the "unchurched" on a wide range of behaviors like pilfering supplies (stealing), overstating qualifications on resumes (lying), calling in sick when not sick (lying and stealing), and overstating tax deductions (lying, stealing, and cheating), the center finds "little difference in the ethical views and behavior of the churched and the unchurched." What differences there are "are not significant or are of marginal significance." iv

If people look at our lives as believers and don’t see that we’re much different than they are, why will they want to embrace the truth of the gospel—how will they realize their need for change? It’s so vital that we conduct ourselves as citizens of heaven while we live on this earth.

Listen to this truth as expressed in a poem from an unknown author,

You are writing a Gospel,

A chapter each day,

By the deeds that you do

And the words that you say.

Men read what you write,

Whether faithful or true:

Just what is the Gospel

According to you? v

Are we living lives that point others to Christ? Do others look at us and wonder what makes the difference in our lives or are we living in a way that isn’t much different than the world around us?

If we truly wish to have an impact for the cause of Christ we’ll need to be model citizens and our conduct will need to be worthy of the gospel of Christ. When we’re living in that way, we will have an impact in the lives of others.

Paul challenged the Philippians to make sure their conduct was worthy of the gospel of Christ. And this applies to us today just as it did for the Philippian believers. We ought to make sure our conduct is worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Paul continues in verse 27 to highlight three important qualities for the Philippians to model in their lives. They needed to stand fast, be unified and strive together. These are three areas that were important to the Philippian church and they are important for our church here at Higgins Lake in the year 2004 as well.

Standing Fast

Paul lets the Philippian believers know that whether he is with them or absent from them, he wants to hear a good report about their conduct. He wants to hear of them that they stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,

As one commentator points out stand fast…

…translates the single Greek verb steko, which refers to steadfastly holding one’s ground regardless of danger or opposition (v. 28 supports the emphasis on strength in the midst of opposition). The word was used of a soldier who defended his position at all costs, even to the point of sacrificing his life. Figuratively, it refers to holding fast to a belief, conviction, or principle without compromise, regardless of personal cost. Being firmly fixed in matters of biblical truth and holy living is included in this injunction. vi

Oh how we need to stand fast today! We live in a society that is growing increasingly hostile to our Christian beliefs. And it appears that we will face more and more opposition to the truths that we as Christians hold dear. We need to stand fast. We need to persevere and persist and not compromise the truth of God’s Word. It’s tragic to see churches that haven’t stood fast. They’ve compromised God’s Word to accommodate the notions of the world around them. And they become an offense to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As an American citizen, I’m disturbed when I see our Constitution being trampled upon by activist judges. There are those who want to make the constitution fit their own agendas.

As citizens of heaven we have God’s Word to guide us in our conduct. How dare we water down God’s Word to accommodate sin or our foolish notions of what is right and wrong.

We must stand fast. We must keep teaching and preaching the Word and living lives that show others that we truly believe what God has said and we take seriously His commands to us.
Model citizens of heaven are going to stand fast. Regardless of what the society around us does, we have the truth and we must stand without compromising.

Not only do we need to make sure we are standing fast as believers but we also need to be unified.

Unified

Not only does Paul want to hear that the Philippians are standing fast but also that they are of one spirit and one mind. Basically, it seems that Paul is saying they need to be united in their thoughts and actions. They need to share a common purpose and be unified in achieving that purpose. Our purpose as a church is to love God and love people. If we’re loving God and loving people, we won’t be able to help but to point others to Jesus Christ. We exist to spread the good news that Jesus Christ came to this earth to die on the cross for our sins so that by believing in Him we can have eternal life.

We need to be united as a body of believers in sharing the gospel message. We have an important mission and we can’t afford to let disharmony break our ranks and hinder our effectiveness for Christ.

That’s why we’ve been studying how to resolve conflicts Biblically for several weeks now in our adult Sunday School class. I encourage you to join us for those studies. To know God’s truth about how we are to be peacemakers is a necessity if we are to be unified as believers. If we don’t know how to get along with each other and we’re always at odds with one another in the body of Christ, our effectiveness in reaching the lost will be hindered.

The necessity for unity in the church is emphasized throughout God’s Word. Listen to the words of Jesus in John 17:20-23.

John 17:20  "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21  "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22  "And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23  "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

Jesus’ prayer was that we would be one. He knew the importance of our unity as a witness to the world.

Our mission is far too important for us to let backbiting, gossip, grudges, being easily offended, critical spirits and other sinful attitudes to divide us.

Galatians 5:13 says this,

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

If we would make it our practice to serve one another through love, we would know the sweetness of harmonious, unified relationships in the body of Christ.

And as model heavenly citizens we need to be striving together also.

Striving Together

The Greek word that is translated striving together is actually a compound word which means competing together in an athletic contest. The idea of teamwork is brought out here. We’re not in a competition against each other as believers but we are all on the same team working together for a common goal.

A few months ago the Detroit Pistons won the NBA championship. They played a team that was favored to clinch the title due to a couple of talented all-stars. The Pistons weren’t noted for their superstars like many teams are but what was striking about them was their teamwork. Their ability to play together as a team is the reason they were able to win the NBA title.
Every member is important on a team. It isn’t just a few hotshot superstar players out for their own glory, but everyone working together in an effort to win the game.

That’s how it should be in the church. Each one of us is vitally important to the team effort. We all need to be making a contribution to the cause of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:14-27 emphasizes this—let’s look at it for a moment.

1 Corinthians 12:14  For in fact the body is not one member but many. 15  If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? 16  And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it  therefore not of the body? 17  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18  But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19  And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20  But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21  And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22  No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23  And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24  but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25  that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26  And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27  Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

Each member of the body is important. We are all the body of Christ but we are also individual members. Each one of us has an important role to play. We’re all part of the same team and each of us needs to do our own part. We need to be striving together for the faith of the gospel.

It was encouraging to see the teamwork that went into our VBS a couple of weeks ago. We had people who organized, others taught, others used their creative abilities, and some displayed their servant’s hearts by helping wherever they were needed or serving refreshments. We had those who helped with games and puppets. Many gave generously so we had nice refreshments and prizes to offer. Many upheld the week in prayer. There were a variety of things that were done so that we could minister through VBS. We had many people involved in different roles but they were all important to the team effort.

And that is the way it needs to be in the body of Christ. It was important that the Philippian believers were striving together for the faith of the gospel. It’s just as important that we strive together here at Higgins Lake Baptist Church for the faith of the gospel.

Are we model heavenly citizens? Are we standing fast refusing to compromise? Are we unified refusing to harbor sinful attitudes that would divide us? Are we striving together as a team realizing the importance of each of our contributions?

Maybe you’ve been challenged this morning that there are some areas you need to work on in your life if you’re going to be a model heavenly citizen. Maybe you haven’t been standing fast. Maybe you’ve compromised so you would fit in better with the world around you. Maybe you struggle with unity—you have a hard time getting along with others. Maybe you aren’t a team player—you’re just sitting on the bench, watching your teammates do all the work.

As we’ve noted many times before, the theme of joy permeates the book of Philippians. If we step up to the challenge of being model citizens who are standing fast, unified and striving together, we’re going to be living lives full of joy.

What was needed in the church at Philippi is needed in the church today. What was needed in the church at Philippi is needed right here at Higgins Lake Baptist Church. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if others could say about our church that we, stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,

May the Lord help us this morning to be model citizens. May our conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.


i (source unknown)

ii Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"–Jkt. (Php 1:27). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

iii Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"–Jkt. (Php 1:27). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

iv (William Hendricks, in Christianity Today, Nov. 25, 1991, bible.org; illustrations)

v (source unknown) Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"–Jkt. (Php 1:27). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

vi MacArthur, J. F. (.). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Philippians (electronic ed.) (Php 2:1).